Sunday, April 18, 2004

Honestly good!

Some of you may know that I’m not a big fan of reality TV. However, in my view one of the best programmes that I’ve seen on TV recently is the BBC’s ‘Make me honest’. The programme differs from many other reality television shows by attempting to use the TV medium as a way of communicating and facilitating personal change. We’re not talking about short-term ‘fake-it’ type turnarounds. Instead, the programme concerns itself with the theme of mentoring.
Mentoring is a relationship between two individuals in which one person gives their time to support and encourage the other. This usually occurs at a time of transition in the ‘mentee’s’ life and the mentor counsels and assists the mentee throughout this period.

There are many types of mentoring modes. Corrective is normally associated with high right and wrong disciplines. Job related mentoring can involve on the role/task/job focused activity. Academic mentoring often involves learner and teacher relationships, but tend to be one way, from instructor (knowledge leader) to apprentice. Needs based is quite common but does assume that both parties, Mentor and Mentee have something to gain from the sharing and development activity.

Mentoring is a great way to impart self confidence and development. In particular, where parents are either unavailable or unable to provide responsible guidance for their children, mentors can play a critical role. The lack of appropriate adult role models is thought to be one of the factors influencing those who end up in the youth justice system. Mentors can fulfil this role, showing offenders an example of positive, acceptable behaviour.

The BBC’s Make me Honest programme was broadcasted every Thursday from 9pm to 10pm on BBC2. Last weeks programme focused on how abandonment can lead to rage and crime. The Mentor was courageous to take-on a 6 month mission. The mentee was constantly on edge and at one time I believed was beyond recovery. In the end perseverance, determination and a positive result surfaced.

Back in the 80s during heavy rioting episodes often community leaders would work with the local youth and authorities to develop their confidence in resolving issues.

With rising drug related cases and violent crimes, the mentoring principle could be used today but in a preventative manner. Therefore, instead of waiting for a problem to be resolved through a needs based situation, we have an opportunity for role models to share their experiences at schools and colleges. Many may position the ‘lack of time’ argument. Availability of mentors could be made an essential service, provided by Corporations. If corporations are willing to visit Universities to seek talent during the year, why can’t they also be encouraged to set and examples of integrity, it may have a two way ethical and moralistic impact.

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Monday, April 05, 2004

No refunds

On a recent shopping trip I decided to purchase a pair of jeans. I don’t wish to imply a sense of indecisiveness but during the shopping session I decided to change my mind. I proceeded to return to the shop and ask for a refund. I thought that it would be both immediate and hassle free. To my astonishment the shop manager declared that although he himself considered the policy to be harsh, I could only gain an exchange or a money / credit voucher. He was so adamant about this policy he pointed out the shops policy by guiding me to the cash till. There it stood, a one liner printed on a faded yellow paper. To give it some credit (!) it was clipped in an antique frame.

This whole notion of refunding or not refunding could be consider in the context of the way we approach relationships. There are cases where family issues, border control rights, mutual respective between communities and basic land rights become complex and legally tied. Civil liberties abuses can occur. Politics can also introduce the situation into chaotic insolvable situation.

If we consider many of the problems in the world today, can they be resolved or are the facts and legal issues so complex that it maybe impossible to satisfy all parties.

Sometimes people or social groups can be negative to each other. Can a swear word be taken back. Or better still, isn’t it better to communicate to the abuser the impact of what he / she has said, rather than swear back. Unfortunately often a human reaction is to ‘roar back’ in a survival of the fittest mode.

Can we take back what was said in the past or we actually given an opportunity? Deeper and more horrific are the open court sessions held in South Africa in recent years. Here perpetrators of violence come ‘face to face’ with their victims. Recent rehabilitation strategies with prisoners also involve the criminal being asked to both come to terms with their crime and to ‘look’ the victim in the eye and discuss a level of forgiveness.
All of these examples point to the need to reconsider the cause and effect situation. I’m not suggesting a ‘free and mercy’ policy for criminals, terrorists or human violators. All I’m suggesting is the need to break-down a problem into it’s constitute parts. We need to decipher the chaos. To make sense of the ‘cause’ and the proceeding and possible continuous impact or ‘effect’. Whether it’s the Gaza strip or ethnic cleansing, the spread of aids… the count of the worlds problems is unfortunately long and stressful. I believe that problems can be resolved with effective arbitration.

We have an opportunity to communicate how charitable funds can be used together with suggesting to political systems that some basic steps can take place to ease the world of unfairness. For example, encouraging greater fair-trade and establishing a central think tank to ‘iron out’ complex issues. Refunding nations of their debt is one way of clearing financial burden from poor nations. Just because legally no one has done this before doesn’t mean we can’t make that change. An attitude of optimism needs to exist, especially as there are many that wish to eradicate the notion of any sense ‘hope’. A refund or a better outcome is always possible, one just have to ‘push’ hard enough for it.

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Sunday, April 04, 2004

Are we too insular?

‘Education, Education Education’. This phrase often spouted during electoral campaigns as one of those essential issues that ‘strike’ at the heart of the nation concerns. With the advent of new technology providing new ways of viewing and analysing information there should be no excuse to develop ones interest in a hobby or communicate with each other.

Use of technology is increasing encouraging an insular world. Mobile phones, Mini-disk players, portable CD players, write-less, text writers, Video mobiles and IPOD/MP3 player all contribute to the indifference that we have started to develop to each other. Many are happy to spend an entire journey not even viewing the person sitting opposite them. Journeys can be taken in a constrained silence. This impersonal and detachment approach to appears to be based on an anxiety or apathy in engaging in any kind of dialogue. Part of the problem could stem from the ‘Don’t talk to strangers’. This is especially true, as the world is a dangerous place. Someone who physically appears to be friendly could be a fiend. However, human psychology and experience can provide us with some simple tests to ensure that a measure of caution is considered before engaging in any interaction.

The same maybe true in the way nations consider each other. The United Nations was set up after the Second World War to ensure that the escalation to World Wars wouldn’t repeat themselves. However, the insular nature of the media, available news and attitudes taints opportunities for dialogue or understanding of cultural groups. France’s approach to its own ethnic communities demonstrates insular thinking from a multi-level perspective. For example, the Muslim community appear to have been subtly targeted but they are just as French as the next ethnic originated French person. If no one communicates from a communal perspective, how else can we better begin to understand our differences.

An opportunity for greater education regarding our diversity appears to be missing.
I was recently engaged in a conversation regarding mechanisms for imparting knowledge. Technological aids can help (anyone seen the ‘Every Sikh must have this CD…’ advertisement on one of the Satellite channels?). NB I would like to see this any product or Sikh information official endorsed by a central group. Maybe we’ve missed another opportunity. Why don’t we as the Sangat at Sikh Temples ask for an international central fund to be set-up to help develop educational aids for our local and government organisations. In my view it will be of great value for our current and future generations.

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