Saturday, September 30, 2006

Sir Peter Fawcus

Peter Fawcus was in many ways an unconventional man. First of all he was not a 'typical' member of the aristocracy. Peter Fawcus spent a significant part of his life in then Bechuanaland (modern Botswana) which was a British colony. He was neither a wealthy plantation lord nor a missionary. In fact, Fawcus was the resident Commissioner of Britain as of 1959. Fawkus falls under our definition of 'bad europeans' yet he is far from deserving it. Here is why:

"Fawcus and a few other dedicated officers identified with the democratic, nonracial aspirations of the BDP [Botswana Democratic Leader] leadership and were poweful allies of the African leadership. Fawcus' well-documented history of encounters with the whites, the chiefs and, sotto voce, the British government, show his deft hand in moving along. Fawcus also fought for financial resources for Bechuanaland, increasing annual expenditures in the protectorate by twentyfold between 1954-1965." (Lewis, 10-11) Fawcus also played a critical role in administering the JAC (Joint Advisory Council) which was established in 1951 and produced a constitutional arrangement for Bechuanaland and was also involved in the Constitutional Conference that took place in 1963.

When it comes to development, Botswana is viewed as the "African exception". A democracy for many years with high levels of economic growth, Botswana is "the second least corrupt, after Chile of the developing countries and is higher on that list than Japan, Spain, Belgium, Greece..." (Harrison, 123). Lewis (and Harrison) argue that Botswana success is to be found in some aspects of its culture such as an inherent democratic character, in the sound economic and social policies, in the peaceful practices with regard to conflict resolution, and, in the British administration and the personality of Peter Fawcus.

Peter Fawcus was not the average colonial administrator; he was 'the exception that confirms the rule'.. Yet it is important to make a reference to such a charismatic leader, a true gentleman, who impacted the lives of many, particulalry given the abundance of colonial personel that took advantage of or mistreated the indigenous population. Peter Fawcus stands out even when judged by our modern standards, for, how often is it really that we see people taking advantage of their position for personal gain/benefit? Fawcus could have been one such man, but he chose not to.

I end with a quote from Lewis with regard to British legacy in Botswana: "There was no large settler community claiming political power, no bureaucracy of privileged civil servants, no large houses of colonial rulers, no inheritance of inferiority..." (Lewis, 9).

Note that Botswana shares borders with such states as Zimbwabwe and South Africa...



Harrison, Lawrence. The Central Liberal Truth. Oxford: OUP, 2005.

Lewis, Stephen. Explaining Botswana's Success. Developing Cultures: Case Studies Ed. Harrison and Berger. London: Routledge, 2006. pp. 3-22.

Additional Information: [site of the government, icludes the obituary of Sir Peter Fawcus]

Thursday, September 21, 2006

21/09 World Peace Day: In Memoriam?

And we all thought that the end of World War II would bring peace...

But, since then, peace has died in Korea. Peace has died in Cambodia. Peace has died in Sudan. In Congo. In Ethiopia. In Afghanistan. In Rwanda. In Bosnia. In Iraq. In Sudan, for the second time now. Peace died just a few months ago in Lebanon. Worst of all: Peace does not die, we kill it.

We kill peace every day, by allowing war to thrive: We provide weapons (6 of the G8 countries are in the top ten of arms export) or simply we play the silent/mute game, "didn't see, didn't hear anything". And whenever we decide to do something, it is usually when cost is really negligeable for us: We bombed Serbia, because it was easy. It is true that to undertake major operations is no easy think. But to safeguard peace and most importantly to save the people that go in the graves when peace dies, we need to take firm positions against war, at times with economic or other cost. Unless of course we collectively decide that human life does not matter...

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International may argue that the conflicts in the world are gradually decreasing, but when we fail to agree on universally preserving some fundamental standards for all people regardless of race, color, religion, culture, can we hope that everlasting peace is no longer an illusion?

Confined in our secure bubble-world, occasionally listening to some John Lennon to lift up the spirits, well we cannot go very far this way really. We need people that can think beyond that, people with vision that will provide realistic solutions to some of the world's most tough dilemmas. We need trained individuals, but with a big heart. We 've had our share of economists. Now we want people to take charge, for we want peace. We really do.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Learning to know whether you love apples or pears... critical.

This might sound as an awfully dumb statement, and perhaps weird too, but it is sadly true. How often is it really that we realize that our mistakes would have been impeded, that we would made a wiser decision or simply that, in a given moment we would be 'better off' had we known what we really wanted at a crucial point? Job, interpersonal relationships, parenthood: you name it.

Of course this is not to say that people act irresponsibly, fortunately. And this is why most of the people, in such crucial decisions as marriage or children decide wisely. However, the (increasing) rate of divorces, abortions and general level of discontent among people allow for a further discussion of the matter. At the same time, there is a whole other category, of the not-so-important pivotal moments that we all face in our daily lives and we do mess up, fortunately with significantly less cost.

Is that people care less about themselves? This I cannot accept as an answer, particularly in today's world where examples of selfish behavior abound. Is that people are not able to make wise decisions? Continuously increasing levels of education in (virtually) all countries of the world seem to suggest the opposite. In addition, people are acquiring versatile experiences, which in theory make them stronger and wiser. Is that decisions become harder by the day because of the sheer amount of options? This is partly true, but would someone relinquish the amount of options just to make the decision-making process easier?

My take on the issue is quite straightforward. A significant amount of 'mistakes' or 'wrong choices' result as a consequence of the individual's inability to appropriately reconcile the given situation and his personal needs/desire, with an emphasis on the latter. The akward position of not being able to decide (or to deide badly) that we often find ourselves originates in an inability to order/rank our needs/desires.

I am not suggesting that our parents' (and grandfathers') generation were all 'too right' or for the matter 'too wise', but they had two considerable advantages over us. First, they had a hierarchy system imposed on them. Be it a religion, a society code, a 'faux-pas' system, a savoir-vivre, previous generations were much more constrained than us when it came to decision-making. Second, the amount of options presented to them and the influences exerted (of whatever nature) upon them were also far less than what people today in modern societies face.

Of course I do not blame modernity and the options that we have, neither of course do I suggest that we should go back to the old times. What I am thinking instead is how wiser it would be if our education, the way we raise our children and nurture our own selves was based more on building a sound relationship of the individual with one's own self. Spiritually or secularly, through reading or exercising, alone or in company: there are very many ways. Unless one selects the path of simply 'not caring' about himself or is in good terms with fortune, knowing one's true needs and desires is crucial in avoiding pitfalls, solving dilemmmas and ultimately improving the quality of life.

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