Connect with us

New Social Compact

The Afternoon of Shakespeare’s Mind (Part 3)

Abigail George

Published

on

Perfume.

Coming back to you. Half of my life’s work so far has been written in the vein of tragedy and when I have tried to write comedy. People laugh. They come to the theatre and they have a good time.

They pay good money to have a swell time but the thing is I am always thinking of putting in a love story. Every play has to have a love story. If it does not then I know it will be a failure and then I would have failed too. It is like flirting with disaster. Walking, dancing on glass. I have not written about you to you enough in this letter. You my future wife are adored and admired by an eternal romantic. A ghost story, my Eve, a haunting postcard, a joyful sonnet in the hands of a scholar or poet discovering it for the first time, my future wife and I am the one with all of this restless and frustrated energy. You are my poetry, the end of the history of violence, my familiar catalyst and my connection to reality.

What is reality anyway? All I can spell out is its unholy demise, ‘dismays and rainbows’. You can say that you love a woman and that she is perfect for you but what happens to all that sincerity when she gives birth. It blossoms, it flowers into something else and a tenderness opens in the floodgates of a man’s heart. How do you know that you are with the right woman? You are sensitive towards her when you are the insensitive brute amongst men. You just know that you care about her and love her in a jaded breakthrough, triumphant way. You leave your cynicism behind and reform. You are happy with your newfound hope and happily leave all despair and the costumes that people wore and did not wear, the people who let you down and disappointed you behind. You discover you are no longer restricted by writing.

Now you are also a family man and the expectation of that leaves a spell on you. I am writing to you about all of this because I think that you know me best. I do not know what you will make of it but know that it is written sincerely and with tenderness. History concentrates too much on heroes and not enough on the family man. There is so much focus on hell, madness and despair. There is so much war. Good men have died and I am certain that they have gone to heaven’s gates, knocked and were let in but I cannot understand is why we have sent these good men to war in the first place if the only reason was for them to lose their lives. All I know is that you have never injured me. Men injure men a great deal. Men insult men but the relationship between a man and a woman who are going to be husband and wife it is a little bit different.

Sometimes it is a bit depressing in my room and then I think of you and the sun comes out. Sometimes when it rains and the London streets are filled with mud all I can think of is the lotus flower. I hope I do not sound pompous or arrogant when I say these words. It is a gift. Writing is a gift and I am a gift to this world. When I write there is also detachment and I rather like using this as a shield when people (fools) want to make an engagement with me and ask me silly questions. Gobbledegook. These geese. Why do they not read more, these illiterates I ask myself instead of interrupting me from my work? It is not in the reading, it is in the meditating on what you are reading. It is concentrating on not feeling superior but they will not listen to me when I talk to them like this, which is a bit depressing. They have what is called ‘the ego’ and there is nothing that I can do for them.

One fellow was telling me about how he fell in love with a duchess who was older than he was. It sounded interesting but only, if only he had got around to writing down some of it. I listened to him. I know how important it is for any playwright just to be given an ear. He just spoke on and on and on and would not stop. Dramatic. It sounded good though. There were parts that sounded phenomenal. I guffawed along with the rest of his entourage. I would even say he went as far to impress me. Yes, I would say that in all honesty. I love meeting knew artists. Pity he did not get a head start on writing it. All this must bore you. What keeps you busy these days (besides thinking of me in my drafty room in London)? When it rains, I think of your tears. When I look at the River Thames, I think of you. A bouquet of baby’s breath, white lilies and roses in your hands.

When I see horses and carriages, I think of us finally being married in a church. Having said those vows and then I will put forth all the matters of my domestic life, I put it in your hands against the backdrop of Stratford-upon-Avon. I do not know how you feel about that word ‘ego’. Do you think that I have it within me not to be associated with that word? They call me an artist but I do not know what that word really means. They laugh and I think there is a part of their soul that is laughing at me. All artists are insecure. Anchors will snap. The solidity of the blue sky disappears with every sunset. I remember the long days and the even longer nights when loneliness, fear, vulnerability and negativity brushes up against my mental faculties killing me. Stopping me dead in my tracks. You are beautiful and I do not think I say it often enough.

A woman needs to hear it all the time from her beloved. I know that sometimes you feel you lose me to London. You lose me to the world of artists but most importantly, you have my heart. For whom am I keeping this self-preservation? For no one. For no one. I want to give you everything-everything. There will never be any real love in my life beside you. You, God, and that is it for me. I am lonelier than ever. In London, all those beautiful men and women can surround you but they are all too arrogant for words. They are shallow. You would not believe how mean-spirited some of them are. How highly they think of themselves but just try to have a conversation with one of them. Words will be coming out of their mouth with no rhyme or reason. London folk think they are brilliant. They do not really care about me very much then, I think to myself except when they want something to amuse themselves with.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

Continue Reading
Comments

New Social Compact

Hunger and obesity in Latin America and the Caribbean compounded by inequality

MD Staff

Published

on

For the third consecutive year, the number of those chronically hungry has increased in Latin America and the Caribbean, while 250 million – 60 percent of the regional population – are obese or overweight, representing the biggest  threat to nutritional health, said the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on Wednesday.

Speaking at the launch of the 2018  Panorama of Food and Nutrition Security report in Santiago, Chile, FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegue said it was an “appalling” threat to health overall, affecting women and indigenous groups the most.

The Panorama, published annually by FAO, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Food Programme (WFP), explores strategies to halt the health threats posed by hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean.

According to the report, hunger, malnutrition, lack of micronutrients, and obesity largely affect lower income families, women, indigenous communities, Afro-descendants and rural families.

Principle causes of malnutrition amongst the most vulnerable, can be traced back to changes the food systems have experienced in the region, from production to consumption. With a greater strain on the demand for nutrient-rich food like milk and meats, many resort to less costly options which are often higher in fat, sugar and salt.

“Obesity is growing uncontrollably,” Mr. Berdegue said.

Maria Cristina Perceval, who serves at the regional director for UNICEF in the region, said stunting correlates closely to inequality and poverty levels, and being chronically overweight “is also increasingly affecting the poorest children,” highlighting that lower income families have unequal access to healthy diets.

Obesity has become the greatest threat to Latin America and the Caribbean when it comes to nutritional health conditions. Nearly one in four adults are obese and more than seven percent of children below the age of five are overweight—higher than the global average of 5.6 percent.

To address the exacerbation of hunger and obesity, a “multispectoral approach is needed,” Director of PAHO/WHO, Carissa Etienne said, adding that the solution requires addressing social factors just as well as water quality and access to health services.

In response to growing malnutrition, partner authors on the report call on countries to implement public policies that combat inequality while promoting health and sustainable food systems.

Continue Reading

New Social Compact

Mind-Reading, Mood Manipulation: Grounds for Caution and Optimism at the Frontiers of Science

MD Staff

Published

on

Eight areas of scientific research with the potential to have the greatest impact on life on earth are today highlighted with the publication of the World Economic Forum’s inaugural Future Frontiers 2018 survey.

The list is an attempt to show how the simultaneous coming of age of a range of technologies is already affecting our future in ways beyond their original premise. By focusing on frontiers with negative as well as positive implications for life on earth, the survey’s findings are also an attempt to galvanize efforts to put in place safeguards to prevent future misuse.

The inspiration for the list comes from a survey of 660 global experts from the Forum’s Global Future Councils and Young Scientists community as well as users of its Transformation Maps. Tellingly, many of the technologies that caused respondents most concern stem from breakthroughs designed to solve problems. The question of how to regulate the “dual use” of technology without stifling research that could lead to sizeable societal benefits is becoming one of the greatest challenges for leaders in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“The frontiers of science should not be seen as barriers, but rather opportunities to enable collective action in pursuit of solutions to the challenges facing our world today,” said Lee Howell, Head of Global Programming at the World Economic Forum.

The Future Frontiers of 2018 are:

Cause for hope

  • Quantum biology: Birds’ ability to navigate thousands of miles or DNA’s propensity to mutate are examples of how biology has evolved to take advantage of quantum behaviours. Nascent research into the role quantum physics plays in the human brain could unlock some of science’s greatest mysteries.
  • Machine learning through small data:Artificial intelligence (AI) currently requires huge amounts of data to make relatively small advances in functionality. Conversely, the human brain can typically achieve excellent outcomes through its ability to generalize using very little data. Machines gaining the agility of the human mind would be a game changer.
  • Room temperature conductivity:The ability to transmit and store electricity without loss or degradation could herald a clean energy revolution and enable new technologies. Currently, superconductivity is difficult to achieve and prohibitively expensive, a situation that scientists are working to change.
  • Venomics: If only the medicines we use today were as effective as natural toxins and venom in binding themselves to specific targets in the human body. With more than 220,000 individual species producing nature’s perfect “super drugs”, the race is on to harness this potential for good.

Cause for concern

  • Lethal autonomous weapons (LAWS): Drones and robots have a huge role to play in building prosperous, peaceful societies. Unfortunately, they can also be used in warfare. More worrying still, once deployed they could make their own decisions about the use of lethal force.
  • Digital phenotyping: The ability to use technology to predict illness or ailments that are invisible to the human eye is rapidly becoming a reality. The implications for privacy and digital rights are profound if government, companies or third parties discovered a means by which to use the same techniques to secretly capture changes in our mental health.
  • Non-invasive neuromodulation: The ability to stimulate the brain using electrical currents is opening up a world of new treatment for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease or depression. Without clear regulation, the same techniques could be used to deliver unfair advantages, reinforcing inequalities. Worse still, there is the potential for government to use it to manipulate the mental states of specific groups, such as soldiers.
  • Predictive Justice: AI, neuroimaging and big data has opened up a world of possibilities when it comes to identifying individuals and scenarios where a crime is likely to occur. The downside is the risk that the same techniques are used to produce fake evidence and protect the guilty.

Discussion about how to optimize the positive aspects of these future frontiers while mitigating their negative effects will be the focus of a number of workshops and action-oriented sessions at the Annual Meeting of the Global Future Councils which will take place in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 11-12 November.

Continue Reading

New Social Compact

Report: Rich economies not a promise of education equality

MD Staff

Published

on

Primary school children study in their classroom (file October 2007) photo: World Bank/Irina Oleinik

High national wealth does not guarantee equal access to a quality education, a new report released on Tuesday by the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) suggests.

The report incorporates new data from 41, wealthy, member countries of the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Countries were assessed on their children’s access to quality education, and differences in performance among children from preschool to primary school levels.

According to the report, some of the poorest countries surveyed, such as Latvia and Lithuania, demonstrate higher preschool enrollment and more compatible reading performance among its students than wealthier countries.

The survey was conducted by the UNICEF Office of Research-Innocenti, established by UNICEF to gather data in support of its advocacy for children worldwide.

Director for the research centre, Dr. Priscilla Idele said, “Countries can offer their children the best of both worlds: They can achieve standards of excellence in education and have relatively low inequality.”

She added that rich countries “can and must” ramp up their efforts to ensure children from disadvantaged families are meeting education standards, as they are most likely to fall behind.

Circumstances beyond children’s’ control, the report says, are driving some students to outperform others. The poorest households, for example, show lower preschool attendance rates, while first-generation immigrant children struggle more than non-immigrant children.

The report advises modifications to early education programs, aid to low income families to reduce socio-economic disparities, and production of more data on the subject via longer, in-depth studies, to improve overall education accessibility and performance.

This report is part of the Innocenti Report Card initiative, designed to monitor and compare the performance of wealthy countries in securing the rights of children.

This research is intended to help ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education by 2030,a  central focus of Sustainable Development Goal 4 one of 17 global goals set by the United Nations General Assembly in 2015.

Continue Reading

Latest

Trending

Copyright © 2018 Modern Diplomacy