Friday, 5 May 2017

France Presidential Elections 2017


“Ideas govern the world, or throw it into chaos”- Auguste Comte
The global tide of populism sweeping across much of Europe and to a lesser extent the North American continent continues to reverberate throughout much of the capitals of Europe. The centrist and relatively newcomer to French politics, Emmanuel Macron, and the far-right and rather polarizing politician Marine Le Pen have both have made it through to the run-off election to choose the next president of France. Le Pen is controversial for many reasons. Le Pen’s core principles are steeped in an anti-globalization, anti-immigration and anti-European Union mould and have found favour among a significant percentage of the French electorate. It can be argued that many French citizens are disillusioned by the traditional political parties and are quite fearful of the future. The on-going political instability in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria, which has subsequently led to a refugee crisis, have provided much fuel to the notion of nationalism and have nurtured a culture of France for the French. The recent attacks on Paris, as well as, on other European capitals by terrorist groups have also led to a growing spirit of nationalism throughout France and Europe. Disturbingly, the uncertainty of the future has given rise in incidents of anti-Semitism not only in France but across much of Europe. This trend has become rather unsettling for the Jewish communities in these countries, especially for France which has the largest Jewish population in Europe at around 500, 000 strong.   
Origin of the European Union
The European states began to unite in the 1950’s after catastrophic world wars. The Schuman Declaration led to the formation of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) of 1952 was the first effort to coalesce European states in the 20th century. The European Union, (EU) came into being after the Maastricht treaty, formally, the Treaty on European Union or (TEU), was signed on February 7, 1992 by members of the European Community in Maastricht, Netherlands. The European Union (EU) is a unified trade and monetary body of 28 member countries, this number will reduce to 27, after the United Kingdom leaves the EU following Brexit.  It is noteworthy that the EU eliminates all border control between members, as the Schengen Area guarantees free movement to those legally residing within its border.  The people of France are at a crossroads. The paths are clear, retreat and give into fear and insularity or pursue the route of engagement and a having a meaningful global presence.
Gender and Politics
France has never had a female president. Some posited the view that Le Pen’s rise in the National Front Party is as a consequence of her father, the founder of the National Front party not having a male heir. Le Pen by not having a brother benefited from this fact, nonetheless the world patiently awaits the results to see whether or not she will create history. Is Le Pen gender a liability in this presidential election? The culture in France is very much chauvinistic and driven by a sense of phallocentrism much more than other countries within the European Union. France undoubtedly has a hyper- masculine culture steeped in patriarchy. The ego of French male is not easily soothed and this unquestionably will prevent a significant number of men from giving support for a female to become head of the State. France still has a very far way to go in breaking the class ceiling. Interestingly, all the leaders of the main political parties in France have urged their supporters to back Macron. In fact, former President Barack Obama has also given his support to Macron to succeed Francois Hollande as the next president of France. In spite of the comparison to Joan of Arc, Le Pen’s path to the presidency will take a miracle for her to overcome and defeat Macron on May, 7, 2017.  The National Party has had a history of anti-Semitism and racism and it will be quite interesting how the intersection of race and religion affects the outcome of the presidential elections.
On the issue of gender equality, it must be noted that France adopted gender equality rather late compared to their European counterparts. Additionally, France’s strong religious association to Roman Catholicism and the country’s focus on the family instead of the individual are factors which have contributed greatly to gender inequality. Female participation in politics still remains as a major concern with regards to gender equality. According to data supplied by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), France has a 25.8 per cent female participation in politics. Despite having had a female Prime Minister in Edith Cresson, women have long been underrepresented in French politics. French women became eligible to vote since 1944. On June 28, 1999, articles 3 &4 of the French constitution were amended. The law promoting equal access to men and women to elected office was adopted on June 6, 2000.  It is rather ironic and unsettling that France lags behind their European neighbours regarding gender equality, despite having given the world feminist icons such as Simone de Beauvoir. The French culture continues to resonate with a high degree of sexism and will not change anytime soon.  “Men are viewed here as a social group active in changing or maintaining the social inferiorisation of women, rather from the standpoint of recomposed masculine identity or forms of masculinity”. (Devreux 2007). 
France’s political establishment has been hit hard by Macron, who is often compared to Obama and Trudeau for his youthfulness. Macron’s meteoric rise has been rather amazing and time will tell if he becomes the next president. His political party En Marche, formed last year has generated a movement like culture which many believe will usher him into the Elysee Palace come May 7.  There has been a rejection of traditional old style politics and this dismissal will be played out in many more elections to come, many more surprise presidents and prime ministers are lurking in the wings. The world saw last year Donald Trump, a rather unconventional businessman turned politician becoming president of the United States of America. While the world anxiously awaits the outcome of the French presidential elections we are told not to wager on a female presidency. The French society is divided and as such the next president of France will need to embark on a programme to try and to mend fences and bridge the political divide after a bruising election. The way forward for France must include a closer interpretation and implementation of Sustainable Development Goal number 5 which speak to achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.  Marine Le Pen would have inspired an entire generation of girls not only in France but also the international community. One’s gender should never be a barrier to any achievement especially in 2017. In the words of the French philosopher Voltaire, the true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.
Au Revoir!
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
www.wayaine.blogspot.com
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo
#France #racism #gender #politics #religion #masculinity #sustainabledevelopment #Brexit #Europe #Immigration #refugee #feminism #globalization #populism

Monday, 17 April 2017

Sometimes The Face of Depression Is In Your Mirror

“I can’t remember the last time I was happy. I have never been happy for 24 hours straight, ever in my life”. These are the words of ‘Paul’, a forty year old university graduate who has been battling depression for most of his adult life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 300 million people living with depression, an increase of more than 18 per cent between 2005 and 2015. The WHO states that depression is the leading cause of disability worldwide and a major contributor to the overall global burden of disease. Depression is just one of the many common mental disorders that affect a significant percentage of the Jamaican population. Data shows that 1 in every 4 Jamaicans will experience some form of mental disorder throughout hi/her lifetime. Depression can begin just about any age and can have serious implications for the depressed person as well as for his/her family. Nonetheless there is a distinction to be made between the daily emotional challenges of life and the short-lived sadness which are a direct response to such stresses. Recently, Paul and I sat down in Kingston for our discussion.  Paul is approximately 5 feet 6 inches, a rather unassuming man.  Paul vividly recalls not wanting to attend school in grade 6. While many of us can fondly remember our days in primary school which was characterized by a state of happiness and excitement at the thought of attending high school; the opposite was true for Paul, his life of depression was just beginning to take root and would haunt him ever since. Paul’s tone changed from one of eagerness to one of subdued caution as he brought to mind the many days of feeling sad during his primary school days. “I felt like I just had to deal with it, there was nuttin I could do, I couldn’t fight so I just dealt with it. I didn’t know I could tell my parents, even if I did I am sure they would not have done nuttin”. In dealing with depression at an early age of 12 years, Paul said “I just went to school and did my school work the best way I could”.
Persons who are depressed do not walk around with a placard announcing this fact. The face of depression is that face that looks back at you when you look in the mirror. Depressed people look like you and me. Many depressed persons manage to hold down a job while fighting the demon of depression. Sadly, not many depressed persons have been so diagnosed. Paul, however, was diagnosed with depression in his 20’s. The stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness often serves as barriers to treatment. These hurdles frequently prevent those who experience the symptoms from getting medical intervention necessary to adequately manage this medical condition. In many instances our association with mental health comes from seeing an insane person on the road eating from a garbage bin.  This perception of mental illness needs to be interrogated and brought into reality that a vast number of mental disorder persons do not live like this. Whether we choose to believe or not, in every family there is at least one depressed individual.
Symptoms of Depression
The American Psychiatry Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5) defines depression as a common and serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think and how you act.  Depression is known to be caused by an aberration of neuro-chemicals (serotonin norepinephrine) in the brain. The symptoms of depression identified by DSM- 5: are depressed mood most of the day characterized by sadness,  emptiness or hopelessness; irritability or frustration, lost of interest or pleasure in most or all normal activities, such as hobbies, sleep disturbances, whether increase or decrease sleep, frequent or recurrent thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, trouble thinking, concentrating or remembering things, fatigue or loss of energy every day, feelings of worthlessness or inappropriate guilt nearly every day, significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain. DSM-5 indicates that if you have 5 or more of these symptoms, one of which must include either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in activities then you should seek medical attention. Paul is no exception to the rule and during the talk; Paul mentioned having suicidal thoughts on a number of occasions. He spoke candidly about the desire to die in a car accident. He has come to the realization that his driving has become reckless in recent times when he is alone. He stated that his appetite is not what it used to be. He has lost interest in food which is another common symptom of clinical depression. Paul said that the depression has worsened as he has gotten older. He is now forced to write down all he needs to do daily as the depression has affected his concentration and memory.  A lack of interest in most things around him is yet another sign of depression which Paul has and continues to experience. Paul is often up late into the night, he has difficulty falling and or staying asleep. This sleep disturbance is also a typical symptom of depression. This inability to sleep or insomnia is a typical symptom of depression. According to Paul, there is usually a trigger for his depression. His lifelong phobia of public speaking is one such. University was challenging for Paul especially when it came around for him to do class presentations, he remembers painfully getting a C minus for Communication Task in university. A simple unavailability of public parking space is another of his triggers. In addition, Paul who identifies himself as a gay man finds his sexual orientation a significant causative factor for his depression.  The concern about his financial standing and loneliness are also triggers of depression for Paul. He added that he would love to be in a relationship, to have someone to vent his ideas with, and to cheer him up.   
Lacking Support Services
Paul bemoans the fact that there are not enough public health facilities in Jamaica to address the needs and concerns of those who are living with depression. He recalls that the doctor who diagnosed him as being depressed referred to him to a psychiatrist. He visited the facility on three occasions and was unable to see the psychiatrist despite having an appointment. Paul added that while there are more professionals in the private sector to treat depression and mental illness, the cost associated with seeing a psychiatrist can be prohibitive for the average Jamaican. It has become quite common for Paul to be stressed daily for up to two to three weeks at a time.
The Way Forward
Paul needs help! He ended our conversation by saying he often thinks about jumping off the roof. In spite of those frightening and poignant words, there are many success stories regarding life after depression.  Some chronically depressed persons complain of feeling worse when they take the medication, this was also Paul’s experience; as a result he rarely takes his anti-depressant medication. This side effect of feeling worse can be addressed by the physician’s re-evaluation of the medication and making the appropriate changes. The way forward must include an approach which will address the psychological, medical, spiritual, social and emotional needs of the person struggling with mental disorder. Interestingly, he admits that the spiritual side of his life needs attention.  Paul finds some pleasure in gardening and watching old television series such as, “Matlock”, “Murder She Wrote”. “The different mood swings that I have, my moods change quickly and often, maybe I am bipolar, that is why I need the doctor”  “Five years I could have my own company and I hope by then I can beat my depression state or learn how to control it. I don’t see myself married with children and white picket fence kinda life. I know and accept I will be alone”.  Depression is an illness like any other medical condition and need the attention of those trained to treat it. The consensus in the field of mental health is that the best treatment is medication plus therapy.
Here are some somber, confirming words of Adam Ant: I have suffered from depression for most of my life. It is an illness.
Wayne Campbell is an educator and social commentator with an interest in development policies as they affect culture and or gender issues.
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo
#DepressionLetsTalk
#WorldHealthDay

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Easter Sunday

Jamaica over the years despite a move towards secularism still maintains a strong Judeo-Christian culture in which Jamaicans of all walks of life attend church at least twice per year, Easter and Christmas Sundays. Easter is often a time of personal reflection, as well as, spiritual rebirth and bears great significance for Christians worldwide. Today, being Easter Sunday, many Jamaican attended church of various denominations. The sermon today was preached by Pastor Roy Notice. The theme was: The Irresistible Message of the Empty Grave. According to Pastor Notice, there are four critical messages of the Empty Tomb which we must consider and remember at all times. In the first instance, the empty tomb conquers our doubts and fears as Christians and reinforces in us that death will not have the final say. Jesus Christ overcame the grave and the empty tomb and by his resurrection we too have that hope that those of us who die in Christ will also triumph over death and the grave. Secondly, the Empty Tomb conveys the Truth that evil will not win. The real power standing on resurrection power does not negotiate with evil. There is no compromise or middle ground once you are serving the true and living God. The Bible says it best; greater is He that is within us than he that is in the World. We need to spend more time in the Word of God to tend to our daily spiritual needs. The third message of the Empty Tomb is that it confirms the message that the Word of God is true. Jesus is the personification of the Resurrection. Some might be unaware of the term personification. Simply put, personification is a literary device which presents an inanimate object, idea or concept as though it were a person with human qualities and feelings. In other words, a thing or object is given a human characteristic because of some similarity between the thing and the person.  Finally, the message of the Empty Tomb serves as a platform on which we should continue the message of Jesus Christ. As Christians we are empowered and tasked with continuing to spread the word of the Gospel. According to Joshua 1:9 “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.” On this Easter Sunday, I wish for you and your family a Holy and Blessed Easter. I encourage you to spend some quality time to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. -2 Timothy 2:15
#EasterSunday
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Career Guidance and Technology

Undoubtedly, the fast pace of technological changes have made the digital age in which we live, work and raise families increasingly challenging to cope with. As societies progress we are witnessing more and more jobs becoming obsolete and void of job satisfaction, resulting in scores of workers finding themselves in the unemployment line. It is therefore very critical that as a society we place more emphasis on career counselling in our schools, especially at the secondary level in order to better prepare our students for the ever changing work force. Many of our students are unaware of the negative implications of automation can have on society. Artificial intelligence or (AI) is an area of computer science that emphasizes the creation of intelligent machines that work and reacts like humans. Some of the activities computers with artificial intelligence are designed for include: speech recognition, learning and problem solving. We cannot speak on the issue of artificial intelligence without mentioning Robotics.  Robotics is the science and technology behind the design, manufacturing and application of robots. Recently, Jamaica College, the Hope Road based single sex high school did extremely at the United States First Robotics Competition where they won a number of sectional prizes including the inspire and motivator Awards. More of our secondary schools should explore the possibility of venturing into the field of Robotics to expose their students to this new and exciting field. As educators we must redouble our efforts to engender a culture of career counseling within and throughout the education landscape to equip all our students with the necessary available career options. Our students at all levels of the education system must also embrace the changes in technology as they prepare to enter the workforce. It is never too late to engage technology and technological advancements. We must engage our youth with existing technology as we have no other choice. As a society we need to rethink our position regarding employment and work. The society needs to explore and implement more opportunities for employees to work from home wherever possible in a flexi day/week setting. This move towards flexi hours will unquestionably boost productivity levels and give employees an added sense of satisfaction and fulfillment.  Additionally, the society must work towards stimulating the minds of and encourage those students and young adults who are on the verge of selecting careers to to think outside the traditional career option box.  The competition for jobs is on a global scale. The world is a global connected village in which failure to get on board will leave you behind. It is an exciting time to be on the launching pad of one’s career selection. In the words of Stephen Hawking, “everything that civilization has to offer is a product of human intelligence; we cannot predict what we might achieve when this intelligence is magnified by the tools at AI may provide, but the eradication of war, disease and poverty would be high on anyone’s list. Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last”.
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo 

Monday, 3 April 2017

Learning Impacting Customer Service

Most of us will agree that customer service in the society leaves much to be desired. However, not many of us have made the connection between emotional intelligence (EQ) and the quality of customer experience or lack thereof that we receive on a daily basis. Dr. Robert K Cooper defines emotional intelligence as the ability to sense, understand, and effectively apply the power and acumen of emotions as a source of human energy, information, connection and influence. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, use, understand and manage one’s emotions in a positive way to relieve stress, communicate effectively with others, overcome challenges and defuse conflict. Interestingly, emotional intelligence differs from how we view other intellectual abilities, in that emotional intelligence is a learned not an acquired skills set. Unfortunately, there is no course of study called emotional intelligence therefore there must be a way or ways found to empower and engender a culture which foster the growth of emotional intelligence among our people. 
Emotional intelligence is the base for a host of critical skills. Among these skills sets are; decision-making, communication, teamwork, empathy, time management, stress tolerance, accountability, trust and customer service. Uncontrolled emotions and stress can and does negatively impact one’s mental health and level of productivity. This can lead to serious health problems such as, heart attack, elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, suppress the immune system, contribute to infertility and speed up the aging process. As a society we need to ask ourselves how do we bridge the disconnect between the lack of attention we pay to emotional intelligence and the education system.  One method in which we can narrow or close the gap is by way of a philosophical shift. A paradigm change is clearly needed to embrace a move towards Constructivism. The constructivism learning theory is based on the premise that the learner produces knowledge and associates meaning based on his/her experiences. Among the key pillars necessary for the learner to produce this new knowledge are assimilation and accommodation. Assimilating causes an individual to incorporate new experiences into the old experiences. As a result the individual develops new outlooks.  On the other hand, accommodation, speaks to a reframing of old perceptions into the mental competence which already exits. Educators who follow Piaget’s Theory of Constructivism must see themselves as facilitators, whose role is to assist the student when it comes to their own understanding. Fascinatingly, there is a focus and responsibility shift from that of the teacher to that of the student as he or she learns. Educators need to move away from the simple recall questions in conducting summative and cumulative evaluations to higher level questions which will force the student to think and respond appropriately. Our students must be challenged in a holistic way to become critical thinkers. It is only by adapting such an approach we will see better customer service experiences in the long term for all of us who are desirous of this.
In the words of the Greek philosopher, Plato, all learning has an emotional base.    
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Bodies, Sexualities and Carnival

Carnival at the University of the West Indies, (UWI), Mona Campus, has grown in popularity since the festival was first introduced to Jamaica in the early 1950’s by students from across the Caribbean. Traditionally, carnival is celebrated the week before Ash Wednesday which is the beginning of the Lenten Season. Interestingly, the space UWI Carnival occupies does not only provide entertainment and fun for the revelers in general, many agree that the spirit of carnival has given a voice to those on the fringes of society, especially in a context of homophobia and transphobia culture in the wider society. It can be argued that carnival brings together a wide cross section of the Jamaican society who otherwise would not have necessarily cross paths. While it is true that those who are immensely engaged in the merry- making tend to be from the middle class, there is no denying the fact that there is a convergence of social classes, especially for the Last Lap, which customarily takes places on the Ring Road of the University of the West Indies Campus. Additionally, it is believed that UWI carnival creates a safe space for those who see themselves as being different as it relates to their sexuality and sexual orientation.  Carnival, whether on the university campus or in general obscures the issues of sexuality, social class, education among other social indicators. Paradoxically, for a few hours there is an inclusiveness and tolerance towards the local lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community as the only label of importance that matters at carnival is that of reveler. There is clearly evidence of androgynous behavior at most if not all carnivals, UWI carnival being no exception, as students, past students and well wishers observe and participate in this festivity of dancing, binge drinking with gyrating sweaty bodies aboard and behind big decorated trucks slowly moving  around the Ring Road amidst the numerous stops. For the most part those in scantily clad costumes are in the minority, yet this does not deter them from entertaining the crowd and posing of pictures for many spectators and photographers. It has become commonplace to see representatives from the various halls of residence and from numerous Caribbean islands along the route as they proudly walk with flags waving as a mark of identification and pride.  There are students from islands, such as, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, and Guyana.  Fascinatingly, along the Ring Road close to the Phillip Sherlock Centre there is the usual water trunk where revelers are sprayed as they approach the vicinity. The revelers are usually geared up as they walk by and are drenched by the forcefulness of the water hose, never missing a beat to the pulsating rhythm of the soca kings and queens of the Caribbean.  The carnival air at UWI is always electrifying and permeated by marijuana smoking males, with a few females too, some barely legal to vote, while members of the security forces smartly look on to ensure the order. The music is predominantly calypso; however, other genres of music, namely, dancehall can be heard blaring from slow moving flat bed trucks. The music tends to be sexually explicit and lewd and oftentimes describe the female anatomy in demeaning ways. Unbelievably, those bawdy comments are of little or no concern to the many revelers, many of whom are females who are there for one purpose and that is to have fun, gyrate, and “get on bad”. Finally, carnival at the University of the West Indies continues to serve as a catalyst for Caribbean integration and cooperation as students from almost all Caribbean islands come together to plan and execute this annual festival in a project of love.
Wayne Campbell
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo
#LGBT #music #marijuana #Caribbean #UWICarnival2017 #sexuality #homophobia #culture #tolerance #education #dancehall



Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Be Bold For Change

The international community paused on March 8 to acknowledge the social, political, cultural, economic achievements of women globally as well as to encourage gender parity. The theme for International Women’s Day 2017 is “Be Bold For Change”.
In many societies women are discriminated against and their voice given a back seat. Disturbingly, in some countries the female fetus is often aborted as many families view girls as a burden on the economics of the family and therefore no preparation of very little is made for girls. The discrimination of girls and women globally is rooted in a patriarchal system in which the male gender is given pride of place along with privileges and benefits attached to being male. Unfortunately, many men still identify women through sexist lenses for the sole purpose of sexual gratification. The culture of entitlement to female bodies served on a platter for men’s pleasure must be interrogated and replaced. It bears thought that sexual abuse, sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances are only some of the issues girls and women face daily.
View Of Entitlement
This view by men to the entitlement to the female body serves as a catalyst for, among other things, the continuation of the barbaric practice of Female Genital Mutilation of thousands of women and girls across the world each year. This violation of women’s human rights has left numerous women scarred both physically as well as psychologically. In an informal online survey carried out recently, women identified safety as being among the most pressing issues they face. In Jamaica, the issue of Gender Based Violence (GBV) is of utmost importance given the fact that many of our womenfolk have been under attack from men in recent times. In order to empower women and girls they must first feel a sense of safety regardless of their socio-economic class. This sense of security must be experience both in the public and private sphere. It only through having more women putting themselves forward for leadership that those societies will be able to break free from the cultural and historic discriminations which have held back so many women. Interestingly, except for the Nordic countries, as well as, Rwanda, female participation in governance in woefully lacking. Women are generally discouraged from entering politics and those who do enter must bear the brunt of unpleasant, sexist and unkind remarks. The society must encourage women to enter business and facilitate easy financing of same. According to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres "closing the gender gap in employment could add US$12trillion to the global GDP by 2025". We can and should do more work towards a more inclusive and gender equal society. There needs to be more engagement of boys and men in discussions on gender relations. At times we are tempted to think that by excluding men from the discourse pertaining to gender and interpersonal relationships that the narrative surrounding women will improve. We need to encourage and foster a culture of conflict resolution in order to arrive at solutions for many relationships which have gone bad. Men need to give more support both in practical as well as in symbolic terms to the concerns and plight of women. Gender equality is pivotal to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the global plan agreed to by almost all world leaders to tackle the challenges we face. Sustainable Development Goal 5 speaks specifically to gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. It is only through attaining financial stability that women are going to free themselves from the vices and mechanisms which are in place to keep them dependent upon men. In being “Be Bold for Change” we need to promote a society and indeed a world in which women’s rights are human rights. In wishing my sisters happy international women’s day I leave the words of Mae Jemison “Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live”.
#BeBoldForChange
#IWD2017
waykam@yahoo.com
@WayneCamo