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Archive for February, 2010

Really people, there are no tigers in Africa. And we don’t have lions walking in the streets of our towns in South Africa. And it doesn’t always rain in England. And Germans do have a sense of humor. And the baseball World Series really do include the best teams in the world. Okay, maybe the last three pushed it a bit too far. But I am really getting sick and tired of ad people getting it so very wrong when they try to paint a global picture. Or when they try to grab the ‘mysterious Africa’ in their ads. I don’t mind them trying to put an African face to it. Hey, I was born in Africa and appreciate it when people use the images of Africa to inspire others. But, really people, just get the basic facts right when you do include Africa or when you try to include an African story into your ad.

One ad that was so bad that I blocked the company name from my mind was up in Back Bay Station in Boston for a few months. (I know it was a financial company.) It tried to tell the story that they can turn the tables on conventional thinking and conventional actions. And one specific ad had a Kenyan Masai (or Maasai) warrior run across the Serengeti. Being chased by a tiger. The ad is trying to tell us that the sometimes the tables are turned, and that they can help you turn the financial tables. BUT the Masai is well known for hunting LIONS for their entry into manhood. LIONS people. NOT tigers. THERE ARE NO TIGERS IN AFRICA. Can someone hunt down the ad guy who had this moment of ‘brilliance’ please. And then feed him to the tigers. Wherever they might be – try Asia as a start…

Sometimes it is simple mistakes. Unknowingly trying to capture a bit of Africa into your product. And that is especially true when the product comes from Africa. Nothing wrong with that. Except when you associate the wrong part of Africa into the product. For example, Teavana recently opened a store close to where I work. (Or I just walked past them almost every day for the last year and never noticed them.) I really like the shop. Good and healthy teas from everywhere around the world. Problem – they have a rooibos tea from Africa. Well, to be more specific, all rooibos tea come from a small area about 100 kilometers from Cape Town. Right at the bottom of Africa. I know this because I come from that area and my brother-in-law still farms with the stuff. The logo that Teavana use is an elephant. You know, elephants are all over Africa. Hum, not really. No elephant at all in that area. None, nada, zilch, zero. Never had any elephant. Never will. But it doesn’t stop there. The bloody elephant they use is not an African elephant. It is an Indian elephant. The smaller ears gave it away, you see. Teavana’s slogan is ‘Opening the Doors to Health, Wisdom, & Happiness’. I am not happy and therefore not healthy. No wisdom to be found in their messy logo for their rooibos. And I’ll close the door with that.

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As you know I lean to the left. Okay, less of a lean than a complete body-and-soul kinda jump and stance… And damn proud of it. Part of the definition of liberalism (according to the Webster dictionary) is “One who is generous”. But not everyone agrees with that. I can’t recall how many times people will tell me that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. And they love using a study by Arthur C. Brooks called Who Really Cares to prove their point. Aah… That study…

No. Arthur C. Brooks isn’t some right-wing nutcase. Yes, he has been a Republican registered voter in the past. But he has also been a Democrat registered voter in the past. And the study is actually pretty good. I can go into some detail on his use of statistics and data but that isn’t the point. But just in case…

“When it comes to giving or not giving, conservatives and liberals look a lot alike. Conservative people are a percentage point or two more likely to give money each year than liberal people, but a percentage point or so less likely to volunteer” (Brooks, A.C. Who Really Cares: America’s Charity Divide; Who Gives, Who Doesn’t, and Why It Matters, Basic Books 2006: pp. 21-22)

One slight problem with his data. He uses the 2000 Social Capital Community Benchmarking Survey (SCCBS) data to back up is claims. I am skeptical of using SCCBS as the foundation of any argument, mostly because it reports that liberal families make more money than conservatives. He should have used the General Social Surveys (GSS), which are a much more representative sample of the US. The GSS also shows that conservative families make $2,500 to $5,600 a year more than liberal families. Blah, blah, blah… Lies, damn lies and statistics. But that isn’t really the point of my argument. It never is, is it?

But let’s assume that conservatives give more to charity than liberals. Let’s just go with it for a moment. And please remember I know that most people don’t fall into either bracket easily. Shades of gray more than black and white. So we are talking more about those at the extremes. Maybe. Whatever. You know what I mean – let’s just agree with the study and that people fall nicely into a pigeon hole for a minute.

Yes, conservatives give more to charity. So what? Who cares? Hum… Conservatives apparently. Seriously though. What does giving tell me? I don’t give much to charity. What does that tell you about me? Here is the difference. I have a great job that allows me to try and be part of making the world a little better. I try to work to make the world a better place. I put my life forward to try and make the world more just. Fair enough, it’s not just me but the whole bunch of great people I work with and for. But this is what I do. To work with others to make it a little better. To bring equality, liberty and freedom to all. I fight for peace. I live to love. I am because we are. I don’t pay for my conscious. I work for my conscious. I speak out and fight injustice no matter where they are. Sometimes loudly and sometimes a little bit more quietly and strategically. It would be easier for me to “just” give. I can make more money doing something else. And then I can give more money than what I can afford right now. But would that make more of a difference than me trying to fight the good fight? I work to give. I give not money. I give my life.

It reminds me of the days back in Apartheid South Africa. It was unbelievable how many people who supported Apartheid went to church on a Sunday. They pray and they worship on a Sunday and then go on exploiting on a Monday. Oh, and on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. And they do it again when they watch rugby on a Saturday. But the Sunday cleared them of all their sins. A prayer will make it all right then I guess. No matter what you do on those other days.

Giving to charity does not mean a thing. Not if you are a bigot on the days when you don’t give. You can’t give your $10 or $50 or $100 a month and think that it is okay. Or even a foundation of a million or billion dollars. It does not make you a good person just because you are giving. It does not absolve you from your duties as a human being. You can’t just carry on with what you are doing with the rest of your time. Your responsibility to your fellow Americans and the world goes beyond money. You can’t buy absolution. You can’t buy forgiveness. You can’t buy justice. You can’t buy equality. You can’t buy freedom. You can’t buy liberty. You can’t buy life. And you can’t buy love.

Do you give because you feel sorry for those poor souls who don’t have as much as you? Who aren’t as lucky? Don’t. Don’t feel sorry for them. See them as your equals. See them as the human being they are. See them as people. People who want the same things you have. Not the material things. Rather things like opportunity. Freedom. Equality. Pride. Justice. Liberty. Peace. Life. Love. They don’t want your money. They want you. They want Ubuntu. I am because we are.

Of course there is the little issue of who do you give to? It’s not really that important. I know that conservatives don’t just give to religious groups. They don’t. They give across the whole range. But make sure you are diligent in your giving. Don’t give because it is something you believe in. Give because it is something they need and want. They know better than you what they need. Give to help them be themselves. Not to be you. Give because we are.

Do you know the story of the Good Samaritan? He first went to bandage the wounds and poured on some oil and wine (Must have been pretty strong “wine”!) He loaded him up on the Biblical pick-up truck, the donkey, took him to the inn and cared for him. And then he paid the innkeeper. He took action. He didn’t throw money at the guy. He took action. He did something. He cared by first doing what was right.

But it goes further than that. There is this old saying we all know – “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for life.” It is even more important when it comes to giving. If you give money you only sooth your soul for a day. If you get involved and help make this world a better place. If you fight for equality every single day. If you spread liberty each day. If you push for freedom every day. If you stand on the side of justice every minute of every day. If you spread peace where ever you go… That is how you teach to fish. That is how you sooth your soul for life. By being part of it. Not by throwing money at it.

Have you noticed that the “heroes” in the movies and books are people who do things and not just throw money at it? But you can even look at real heroes. Nelson Mandela. Gandhi. Martin Luther King Jr. Mother Theresa. They did things. They are known for their actions and not their money. Not their money giving. But for their soul giving. For their work and deeds. They do. It’s an action.

Giving money or giving yourself. It’s the difference between giving medicine to treat the symptom or trying to find the cure. By all means, fight the symptoms, but be like a heat-seeking, radar-driven, laser-guided missile and find that cure. Or else we will never stop giving them bitter pills to swallow. Charity is dealing with the symptom. Involvement and commitment and fighting side by side every single day is finding the cure. It’s systemic. It’s going to the heart of the problem. Not just trying to make the heart go on for a few days longer.

I see too many people trying to buy their way into the good books. Big powerful people starting big powerful charities or foundations. With money that they got how? Run that past me again? And what do you do with your time when you aren’t giving? Who suffered for you to be able to now do the right thing? From the ashes left behind flows a money trail.

It’s like telling your wife or husband or partner that you love them when it is Valentines Day. Or hugging and kissing your children when it is their birthday. Sending flowers on an anniversary. Buying presents at Christmas. Those “special” days. Giving is your special day. It shouldn’t be. Every single day should be your special day. Like loving, hugging and kissing your partner and kids every single day.

Please. I know that I might have offended some people with this. It is not meant to offend. I admire people who give so much. So much more than money. And I admire people who ensure that they gives for the right reason or reasons. I have had the pleasure to work with some of the most admired minds when it comes to giving. And they all give money and themselves for the right reason. A just cause. Doing the right thing and giving for the right reason. Now that is the way to go. It is neither liberal nor conservative. Both sides can do more. One can give more to what is truly needed in this world. And the other side can do more to what is truly needed in this world. Liberty. Freedom. Equality. Justice. Peace. Hope. Opportunity. Life. Love.

It is not about how much you give. It’s whether you give yourself. It is about what you do.

So… Who really cares? Do you? Or do you just give money?

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Note: Don’t stop giving money! Those working at charities across the world still need support. But they want your hands and soul in it as well. There are people out there doing amazing work who needs your financial help to allow them to keep on doing what they are doing. Support them. Believe in them. Hold them accountable. But most of all… Be part of them! Be the change you want to see. Don’t try and buy the change.

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Social media? Web 2.0? This idea that the web will facilitate communications. Allowing us to share information. Make new connections to each other. Yeah… right…

It started off so well. Finding new ways to connect via the web. Brilliant. Facebook allowed me to stay connected to my friends all over the world. To be connected to them in new and wonderful ways. Have fun via virtual touching. I could even follow their thinking and random ideas on Twitter. I can tell them what I like on Digg. And I can blog to just dump my thoughts and emotions in written space. It was good. Really good. Being connected. Being part of each other.

But it also bugged me a bit…

A few things have developed that makes me think we are moving Web 2.0 to Me 2.0. The Me of self. But only “better”. Being obsessed with ourselves. The individual over the group. The god complex coming out to play in virtual space.

I just see too many people disconnected from all of this. Especially my people from Africa. That’s not new. That’s all “fine”. It’s not as if they were connected before. But what happens now is that those voices are not even drowned out anymore. They are just not present. Because they are not connected to the others who have and who are connected. You live in a shack in the DRC? Tough luck buddy – no squatting in virtual space for you. Kid working the farm in Brazil? Sorry, no ideas for you to plant in our little space my friend. Sweating in the shops in Vietnam? No place for you to raise your fist in anger over here.

Oh get off it. I know the stories they tell can be found somewhere on the web. Mostly through the eyes of some do-gooder who are connected. But the problem actually goes deeper than that. It’s not just about them not being here or them being represented by other voices.

The places where we go – Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Whatever.com, Myopinion.net, Idogood.org – we filter our interactions. We filter it to the bare minimum of our thoughts. The bare minimum of our interactions with the world. We can carve it nicely into little blocks of interactions for every part of our ego. An application for every self-interest. A site for every self-absorbed soul. Your life and meaning in a 140 characters. If you sweat in the factory or you work on the farm or live in the shack – sorry, you take too much space and I only have 140 characters for you. No character, only characters.

And so we filter away to basic interactions. Random thoughts in 140 characters. Fun interactions with friends and followers. A Digg at the other side. And the “people” who make us are left behind somewhere in between the tweets of virtual space. We update our status and forget who defines us. I am because we are.

I am because we are…

It remains true to Web 2.0. It becomes Me 2.0. We becomes me.

We define the “we” as those who can tweet and follow, update statuses and poke us, Digg us a story of fake depth – those who are connected. The new “we”. The real we being replaced by the virtual we. The faces of the masses drowned out by the faceless numbers on the net.

We started off with good intentions. We paved the road to hell ourselves. This new we that we live with. A virtual space made for our ego to be seduced to me-me-me.

I could still live with the potential of all of this. Because we could use this to spread our words. Be the voices of the voiceless and hope someone will listen when we shout into the dark virtual world of Web 2.0. Maybe find an audience and some new ubuntu friends to tackle the problems in the world. Random friends become us. Ubuntu grows to be more people defined by us.

But it didn’t stay that way…

We’ve always had the narcissist hanging around the net. That’s just fine. But what worries me is people turning into narcissists without even knowing. Without even realizing they are selling their souls for a tweet. Without knowing they are feeding the ego through an update of self. Becoming so obsessed with number crunching their followers. Turning into me-me-me. And that’s what worries me. People changing. And taking control without knowing their impact because they don’t see the mirror anymore.

Good people are turning into self absorbed ego-driven maniacs without even knowing what they have become. Because Web 2.0 has become the drug for the ego. Like a true ego addict they don’t even know they are addicted to the self.

Now we have these others taking over and infesting others with their neo-narcissism. The “me” crowd. It’s all about look how big my following is. Look at what I have done. Self promotion through the web. Decent people are being seduced by this idea that they are the centre of the virtual universe. I just published a book. Look everybody! It’s me! I just got a great idea. Look everybody! It’s me! Me-me-me. Goddam bloody me. People are becoming self absorbed by their own cuteness and their own sharp idea and their own bloody ego. And most of the time they don’t even realize it because this Me 2.0 is like a cancer that slowly eats up the real you and it turns you into something you don’t even see. It’s inside and you can’t see it. And you don’t feel it or hear it. But it is written in between your keyboard hits.

Web 2.0. It was a great development. Getting us connected in new and innovative ways. But it has changed the me into Me 2.0. Where we can drive our own image online and become even more self centred than before. What was hidden because of public “frowning” before is now let loose on the web because the ego goes unchecked. We’ve always lived this dangerous life where we think we know better and are better. It was checked by society. Now there is no one to check it because we can hide our faces behind our screens. The saddest part of it all is that we don’t even notice it. We don’t even know it. And we will fight this idea because it can’t be me right?

I mean really. Do you bloody well think you are God because you have followers? Do you expect these followers to become your diciples? Bow down before the might virtual God.

This is what I fear. That something that started as a new way to connect us actually tears us apart without us even knowing or taking notice because we are too absorbed in our own little virtual world where we are God. Something that makes information democratic becomes just another way for the individual ego to replace the ubuntu. You see it in little ways as peoples “updates” move from conversations to self promotion and ego boosting random self-perceived “wisdoms”. We don’t use Twitter to share random thoughts with our friends and converse with other. We now use it to create followers by the thousands so they can hear our wonderful stories and so that they can feel the glow of our 140 character Bible.

It’s in the nature of people I guess. We create something we think could be good. We start off doing good. And then we get seduced by the power it gives to our ego. We create something good but we don’t know how to control it. Actually, we don’t know how to control ourselves. It’s not in our nature to control ourselves. Even when we think we do and can. We are so easily duped by our own ego. We don’t even know it or see it. And we become like the people we despise. Those people who only think about themselves. Those same people who say they do it for “the people”. We become them. We just don’t see it. But it is hidden in those Tweets. In those updates. In those… hitting of the keyboard sending our ego into virtual space. Like a drug for the self-centered soul.

Me is the new religion of the internet.

Web 2.0 is turning us into Me 2.0.

It’s not social media. It’s self media 1.0.

Don’t update your status. Update your life. Don’t tweet the ego…

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Okay, I doubt hell is actually eco-friendly. I think their climate has already changed dramatically. Apparently it’s hot in there. Maybe even more than just simple plain old global warming? Anyway…

This “eco-friendly” stuff really gets to me. Every single day we are bombarded by someone telling us to be more eco-friendly in our lives and in the choices we make. But can we really be eco-friendly?

Maybe the problem starts with what we define as eco-friendly. Do we mean something that is good for the environment or something that is just less bad than the alternative? Too often we are told something is eco-friendly when it is really only eco-friendlier than the alternative. For instance, anything made out of plastic will have an impact on the environment – even the biodegradable stuff. In fact, almost everything uses resources and will have a negative impact on the environment. So it can’t really be eco-friendly. Right? Or can it?

You drive a hybrid – is that eco-friendly? Not in a million years would you suck on the exhaust pipe – it still has some bad stuff blowing out that old metal pipe. Give me a C… Give me an O… And another O… What do you get? Anyway, it is just better than the alternative Hummer.

You’ve changed your light bulbs – does that make you a tree hugger? Hum, it still uses electricity that will most likely not be from a renewable source. And don’t forget the bad stuff insight that “green” light… Ever heard of mercury?

You eat organic foods – makes you feel green doesn’t it? Hope you planted that yourself because they don’t get to the shop or your house via wind power you know. No matter how many beans you eat…

But it doesn’t mean that these things won’t be more positive for old mister bunny rabbit down in the woods. Or something better for the kids playing in the park. It’s just that we will have an impact on the environment – whether we want to or not. We won’t be able to go back to the “good old days” when everything was green and lions roamed the streets (hopefully Will Smith was only acting). And I don’t think we want to either. People want their stuff – tv, fridge, dishwasher, computer etc. I know I want a bigger telly one day. Angelina looks so much better on a bigger screen. Anyway… And even if they don’t want this level of technology – remember, even books don’t come with a zero impact. Trees being chopped down and all that ink…

It’s more about achieving some sort of balance. Nature has always healed itself. Trees provide us with oxygen, oceans clean oil spills, chickens have eggs (and eggs have chickens). We will run out of some things – oil and coal to name a few. But that’s okay, we’ll find new ways to travel and heat up. We always have and, hopefully, always will.

While being eco-friendlier won’t make a tree hug us, it will allow for the tree to continue to grow. And it’s the little things that can make a difference. Cut your emissions by turning the lights off when you don’t really need it. Save water by taking more showers than baths. (Remember the “Share A Shower” campaign? Maybe we should start that again…) Save on electricity and water by not filling the kettle to the top when you really only need a cup of water for your coffee – or tea if you’re from England. Find your own little thing to adapt or change – and don’t give up living at the same time. It won’t change the world overnight, but it will all add up if we all become a little eco-friendlier.

Being eco-friendlier will give the environment the time it needs to heal itself. The problem right now is that we are getting to a stage where the time needed by nature for healing can’t keep up with the pace of our (and nature’s own) impact. Be a little friendlier and give nature a bit more time. Even if you don’t like nature, remember it serves as a central place for human life. We won’t make it if we didn’t have the trees, the animals, the water. No shelter, no food, no beer. Think about that last one… Can you really live without that?

But don’t be all starry eyed about nature either. Remember, nature isn’t human-friendly. If a branch falls it doesn’t check if you moved the car. If a forest burns it doesn’t check if your house is in the way. If a volcano explodes it doesn’t check if the villagers moved out in time. If a lion hunts it doesn’t check if you can run faster. It does what it does. It is what it is. We shouldn’t park under the tree. We shouldn’t build in fire prone areas. We shouldn’t stay so close to the volcano. We shouldn’t live so close to the lion. But we do because we all share this world – and sometimes we are just plain stupid or have no alternative. And anyway, we rule the world and they don’t. Live with it.

But if you insist on being eco-friendly – some advice… Go bury yourself out in the woods. You will have minimum impact, except for the disturbed soil and life cycle of the shovel. But you will be eco-friendly – pushing up daisies. I’ll be eco-friendlier and water the plants. With a watering can. It’s eco-friendlier than a hose.

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You want to hug a dolphin? Or maybe plant a tree? What about buying a goat for a village in Ethiopia? Or a desk and chair for a school in Banda Aceh? No. Mm-mm, difficult one. Wait, I have just the thing for you – how about supporting the Foundation for the protection of Swedish underwear models?

And you think I am joking about that last one. It might be tongue in cheek, but this cause has over 400,000 signed up members globally. Okay, it is a Facebook cause – but one of the most supported causes. They even managed to raise some money for their nonprofit – after specifically asking for NO money. Yes, this is a nonprofit and their aim is the “promotion of international understanding”. No, I really am NOT joking.

The point I am trying to make is that we now have a cause for every taste and need. And then some. Once you find your cause – which organization within this cause do you want to support? And so on, and so on. The list just gets longer and longer.

This shouldn’t be a problem. People can now match their passions with the right organization. And there are enough charities out there to still have a slight different individual flavor that makes you so much more different from the plebs who support Oxfam (joking people…). Oh no, you support Project Africa – because it is so much more than a goal, it is a mission. A cause that goes with your evening dress and another that goes well as a car refresher hanging from the rear-view mirror.

And it makes life so much easier if you run a company. All you have to do is pick your cause and adopt the charity or nonprofit that is still available. You feel strongly about education for kids? Make your pick – we still have EduKiddiCare and KEDUCare available. (Man, how many times can someone focus on education before we run out of charities or ideas?)

But the growth in charities and causes can have a bad impact as well – apart from the bad jokes (sorry). Firstly, it waters down the important stuff and diverts attention. Instead of tackling the real big issues facing the world – Climate Change, Abuse, Poverty & Hunger, War, Disasters and Health (the Big 5 plus Climate Change) – we tackle every issue that comes to mind. Can we really justify saving the dolphin, battling bottled water, fighting immigration, protesting GM crops and anti/pro-abortion marches (the Little 5) while people are dying of hunger, disease, abuse, disasters or war? Of course all these other issues are important, but more important than people dying right now in this world we all share? I don’t know – your call.

Even more important than the long list of options and diverting attention – the diversion of funds. Two dynamics stand out. Firstly, aid only increases marginally each year – and even then it goes to certain causes that are important, but not really charity for the needy. For instance, where do you think 80% of US federal ‘aid’ go? A handful of countries that are not really on the most needy list – Israel, Pakistan and Egypt. And oh, it includes military aid… And it gets worse because the money is now spread across and even wider range of causes and organizations. Each year another nonprofits comes along that wants a piece of the pie – and reduces the share of the next one.

But the single biggest problem I have with the proliferation of charities? They divert money away from Africa and other places of need. Instead of the funding going directly to the charity in the country suffering, it goes via other charities and donor bodies first. And everyone takes their cut. The money for empowering women farmers in Zambia doesn’t go to Women for Change. Oh, they might get a small amount. But the money first goes to DFID or USAID or GTZ – or whatever government agency. And then it goes to Oxfam GB or US or Germany. And then it goes to Oxfam Southern Africa. And then it goes to Oxfam Zambia. And the leftovers go to Women for Change.

Businesses always try and streamline their value chain. We should do the same with funding. No more than 2 steps before it gets to the actual people that need it and should benefit from it. Cut out the middlemen. Hey, they make money for campaiging in any case by collecting from door to door and in the streets. It doesn’t mean the end of Oxfam or Care or Save The Children and mates. Just the beginning of the nonprofits who can really bring immediate change to the people who need it most. It will force every charity to focus on achieving real change and doing the bit they are best at. And more of the program money will go to the charities who are closest to the real issues on the ground – they are part of the people who suffer in their community. We just need to streamline the charity supply chain a bit.

Of course there is another reason for my little rant. Is it about caring about something or doing something? The caring bit is about you. But the doing bit is about those who need the help. It’s a slight but important difference. You can pick a charity or a cause the way you pick a dress or shoes – something to fit in with your needs and different tastes. But please don’t forget that this isn’t about you. It’s about those who really need you to be part of them and part of the solution. I worry that the causes are so diverse that we start forgetting who and what this is all about. It’s not a clothing outfit to fit with your personality. It’s about people. And what they need.

Mm-mm, maybe I just found the cause that fits my charity. The AA BARF charity needs your support. Really… The Angry African Beer And Rugby Fund never really got the funding or supporters it deserved in any case. And the money will go directly to the cause it supports. I promise…

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“Oh come on! You can’t call the kids that! They are only kids. Shame, poor them.”

Tough. Fat became a swear word because of the pictures we see in the magazines telling us all that we would be so much better if we all look like Brad or Angelina. Or any of those thin chicks selling us the latest perfume or underwear. Okay, I don’t personally wear the underwear but… Anyway…

So tough. These kids are fat. Toughen up or shed some weight. Or just be happy with how you look. It could be worse. You could be too thin. Oh sorry, that doesn’t exist – according to the magazines that cover our delicate consciousness. But being fat is a problem.

Now we call it a “disease”. The obesity “disease”. Crap people. It isn’t a disease. HIV/Aids is a disease. Eating too much crap isn’t a disease. It’s just eating too much crap.

I know, I know. There are a few people that gain weight because of a hormone imbalance or some serious medical issue. But really… Most cases of “big boned” people are due to an imbalance between the ears. Don’t try to pull that crap on me. I am not thin. Maybe “slightly” over my ideal Barack Obama weight. But I’m still closer to Obama than Rush Limbaugh. In so many ways. I don’t eat too much crap and I don’t talk too much crap. (Stop laughing.) I know my excuse – I’m not fat, I’m just lazy. What’s your excuse?

Crap stays crap. Just don’t believe your own lies or that doctor that feeds you crap stories. Your own crappola of excuses. “Obesity is a disease.” Puh-leeze…

Who told you to stuff your face with that Big Mac or KFC Extra Crispy or donut from Dunkin’s? You ate it. Now live with it. Stop bitching. Stop telling me to not make it sound so awful. It is awful – live with it or stop it. Sorry, you won’t find any sympathy here.

You want to take McDonald’s to court? Sue Burger King for their jewels? Did they force it down your throat? Oh… They didn’t warn you about how bad it is… WTF? Are you stupid?

Stuffing your face with too much food is bad. Stuffing your face with too much crap food is even worse. It is NOT rocket science…

I know, it isn’t really the kids fault. But it sure as hell isn’t the fault of the crap-making fast food joints. Ronald doesn’t sit next to you and force the last morsel of a Big Mac down you throat. And neither did the government. So who should be “blamed”?

Hellooooo… Parents!

Or maybe I shouldn’t call you that. You aren’t parents. You are household engineers. Parenting isn’t good enough anymore. Actually, you are right. You can’t be called parents – because you are not parents. And you haven’t been parents since you had that kid in the first place.

Parenting means you have a kid (or kids) and that you are responsible for them and for how they grow up. Not someone else. Not your mom. Or uncle George the President. Or Ms Burns at the school. It’s YOU.

How can you feed your kids crap and call yourself parents? Here is a hot dog for dinner darling. And a nice oily pizza tomorrow night. How about a nice Mac ‘n Cheese from the box on Saturday? Sunday is so special when we all go to T.G.I Friday’s and eat a plate of more crap. Just after we’ve been to The Cheesecake Factory for breakfast. Don’t forget to go all “healthy” when you gulp down the Diet Pepsi to go with you thick slice of cheesecake – extra cream please. Crap parents feed kids crap food 24/7.

Crap, crap, crap.

That’s what we feed our kids and how we act as parents.

Let me brag for a minute…

Many moons ago we took our youngest daughter to Wendy’s. We were driving up in New Hampshire and decided to stop for a quick bite on our way back. It was going to be our first time at Wendy’s. The youngest one was so excited. Wendy’s! Yeah! She loved the ad with the guy and the weird hair. It must be good! She ordered her burger and fries. Big eyes and all excited – jumping up and down. “I’m gonna have a Wendy’s!” And then the food came…

“Where’s my broccolili?” What she calls broccoli. That was her first question. She didn’t touch the burger because she thought it was crap. Hum… Not her exact words but you get my drift. We haven’t been back since. She doesn’t like crap. And she doesn’t take crap. She’s an African all right.

Six days a week she gets a proper meal at dinner that includes at least two vegetables. And she LOVES broccoli. And peas. And carrots. And she eats a good breakfast. And most of the time she gets food made and packed by my lovely wife for her school lunch and snack. Yes. Home made stuff. I know… It is way out there in crunchy-hippie world for most people…

Once a week we eat crap. A pizza on a Saturday or some burgers. Guess what? Most of the time we make those hamburgers or pizzas ourselves. Hand-made patties and dough. And they help me make the food when I cook crap. It’s part of the fun. And it tastes better than the crap from the joint down the road. Oh, did I mention we spend time together doing this?

Sometimes we order out or we eat out. It is seen as a “treat” when things are crazy otherwise. Maybe Olive Garden or Uno’s where the girls can still make their own pizza. Whatever. It’s a break and not the norm.

And our kids eat what we eat.

We cook dinner for all of us and eat together – all of us. It is the highlight of my day. I get home and we sit together as a family and talk crap instead of eat crap, drive my lovely suffering wife crazy and eat our food. Together. A family. You give our kids the option of eating in front of the telly or at the table together and they choose…. The table! Even when we parents want to sit back and veg in front of the idiot-box and eat our food from a tray… They don’t want that. They insist we sit together as a family around the table. Ha! I am more popular than Spongebob Squarepants! And they are only 5 and 11… Teaching us about parenting.

And we all eat the same food.

How can parents make different food for the kids? You should eat a proper meal if you are old enough to talk. Not some crappy hot dog or a mac ‘n cheese. You are feeding them crap and then you wonder why they get fat or get sick easily. Or do you eat crap to start off with? Why all this crap?

Because it is crap! The food and you!

I am no model parent but this I know. My kids eat healthy food and enjoy eating healthy food because that is what we all eat together as a family. They make a link between broccolili and dad and mom sitting with them around the table and eating – and having fun as a family together. They see good food and think of good times. They compliment their mother (and sometimes me) on the food they have every night without anyone asking. Why? Because they actually like the food!

We already joke when the little one asks, “What are we having for dinner mom?” And you can say anything – chicken with carrots and honey, tomato bredie (stew), goggas (spaghetti bolognese) or whatever. She’ll always have the same reply… “I looove tomato bredie” Or whatever we are having.

They eat crap as well. They are kids. But we know what they need daily to keep them healthy and keep us being healthy parents.

Feed your kids crap and be surprised that they get called “fatty” at school? Who is the stupid one now?

Don’t even get me started on education. Everyone wants education to improve. A better school. A better chance for their kids. “Just get my kid a good school and education. You know a chance to make it in this world.”

Okay, but how about parenting. How about you starting to become a parent? Too many parents see the school taking over the role of the parents. Your responsibility towards your kids does not stop when the kid goes off to school. Being a parent isn’t something you hand over. You take responsibility of that. Sort your parenting out before you start bitching about education. Guess what… Education today is better than what it was 100 years ago – Parenting not.

Do you read to your kid at night? Do you help with the homework instead of ignoring them or (even worse) doing their homework with them? Do you take time to be interested in showing them the wonders of snow? Or point at the stars and the full moon? Maybe hunt for treasure in the forest or park? Turn over stones to see what is hiding? Or ask them what they’ve done at school? Or little things like coloring in with them? Or do you spend your time with them creating more crap?

Crap food. Crap education. It starts where? You guessed it…

All this crap starts with… Parenting.

Parents eat crap. Parents watch crap. Parents learn nothing. Parents do nothing. And the kids follow them down to the gallows.

Fat kids and stupid parents. They go hand in hand.

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For those who don’t believe in evolution – stop reading. No wait! It actually doesn’t matter. My question will stay the same. Whether you do it in the name of God. Or Allah. Or Yourselfishness. Or the Big Emptiness. Or communism. Or the Dalai Lama. Or Ganesha. Or the dog down the road. It doesn’t matter. The question stays the same. 

Do you know what a privilege it is to be here on earth? Think about it. You are so damn lucky.  Think about how you somehow managed to pick the one little ball of rock that can sustain life. Billions of years ago. A Big Bang. It took a few billion years for enough dust particles to stick together. And eventually form earth. A few lost comets and debris crashing into this little ball provided the stuff needed to start good old earth. Water. H and little bit of O. And… And the other stuff like hum… metals and chemicals needed to eventually hang around to build this blue looking rock hanging out in space. And it started swinging. Swinging away around the sun. A touch of atmosphere. And it gets to grips with itself – gravity. And it stays just far enough and close enough from the sun to maybe sustain life. 

And it did. Life came to earth. Think back to what it took to get you here. After a few more years. A billion plus. Something stirred. From deep inside… hum… somewhere. And life was born. Not much of a life. Not as we know it. But it stirred. And eventually formed some algae. That at bloody last turned into something with eyes and fins. Got sick and tired of staying in the water the whole time and eventually crawled out. From there it was a hop, skip and a jump to monkey and then man. What a ride. 

Think about it. Your ancestors. From the algae that didn’t get burned. To that thing in the water that didn’t get eaten by our early cousin the shark. Crawled unto land and somehow managed to make it. Not get squashed by big old Apatosaurus. Hid from the saber-toothed tiger while hanging out in the trees. Dodged  bullets during wars. Each and every single day. For billions of years. Your ancestors got the lucky breaks. Always at the right place at the right time. Never got caught flatfooted. Never choked on a banana or a flea picked from our less lucky uncle Earl. Remember him? He “invented” the spear by accident. But it got stuck in his head. In on the one side and out the other side. He didn’t make it. No. Our ancestors always got away. For billions of years. And here you are. Drum roll please. Ta da!  

 We are damn, damn lucky. It took so much effort just to get us here. All the breaks you could ask for – we got it. Talk about being privileged. Talk about knowing the right people. Having the right genes. And here we are. So what are we doing? What are we doing? 

 What are we doing with our lucky break?  

We sit in front of the idiot box and watch stupid stories of murder or love or “reality”. We drive our big fat cars to fit our big fat ego’s. We eat hormone induced meat because we can’t bother to hunt or even know where our food comes from. We sit in our air-conditioned offices and watch the world go by. All the time trying to sell something. To make more money. Selling ourselves. Selling our souls. Selling lies. And we go home and have no time for those we leave behind. We don’t look at them and show them how to make sure we stay lucky. How we can make this little rock last a little bit longer. To make those who will come after us have a chance the way we got our chance. And that’s the good part. 

We fight wars. We kill in the name of whatever. Or Whatever. But in truth we murder and kill in our own name. It’s us. Not Him. Or Her. Or It. We seek war before we put out our hand in friendship. We will rather fight than try to live. We breed hate before we nurture love. Kill before caring. We would step on that algae that made us before we nurture it to life. Thank god Mother Earth does not have our temperament. She doesn’t care. She just does. We care. We care about us. And not others.  

We gather things. Things we don’t need. We live for greed. We stuff our faces and then send the rest down the drain. Garbage disposal. We don’t share with those who might need it more. We don’t think that the scraps on our table that gets thrown away can feed a family that comes from our less lucky uncle Earl. And we live for the need for more. More money. More houses. More cars. A better phone. An iPhone. A better laptop. Better cable. Virtual life on the net. Tweeting on Twitter. It’s us, us, us. More, more, more. We just do what is good for us. And not others.And then we blame. We blame the others when we can’t look in the mirror. When we are so addicted to our lives, but not to life. Addicted to wanting more. And war. And the lies we tell ourselves and to others to make it okay. Okay for ourselves. Because we can’t look in the mirror. What are we doing? 

Why can’t we evolve? Move forward. Laugh at uncle Earl? Not be like cousin shark. Be a little more in it together? 

Why don’t we do our best to make this little world better? To care a little bit more? Why don’t we look after each other? Why don’t we stop the killing? And the dying? And the hunger? Why don’t we know that we are all the same? In the same boat. That it doesn’t matter where you live. Or what you believe. Because, in the end, all we have while we are here and before we die is us. Just us. And our little rock. Why don’t we know that war and hate and blame and greed and… don’t solve problems? That love and friendship and life and caring and sharing and… and… That these are the things that we can leave behind. The lessons to help those who come after us. Because what we leave behind is what will define tomorrow. When we are the ancestors. When our descendants will look back and laugh at how funny we looked. Like Grandpa Algae. 

We are lucky. Always have been. And even luckier that we can’t see the future. And that our ancestors can’t see us today. What would they think? What would they ask? Papa Algae won’t be impressed. 

What are we doing?

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