Colorfulifesite responds: Is spirituality compatible with wealth accumulation?

My automatic answer would be: NO. Why? because of the simple reason that wealth is expressed in what’s physical and ephemeral, whereas spirituality concerns itself with the intangible and eternal (like a memory, a proverb, or values passed on from generation to generation).

Yet upon deeper pondering, it occurred to me that it might be just the way we choose to understand the question. Let me explain: in what way are we inquiring about the compatibility of spiritual interest with the burden of accumulating wealth?

As a mother, I see both matters as compatible. Accumulating material things would help me raise my family (cat included!) more comfortably. This would give them a feeling of safety, and being loved, as they are well-provided for. And with our basic needs covered, we could “worry” about the next-level needs such as esteem and self-actualization, both of which are strongly connected with spiritual growth. 

This is only me, of course: a career-woman living in a developed country, lucky enough to have a livelihood and a strong social network of support.

What about the woman who’s the exact opposite of me? a younger, single female, living in a poorer country, with no job and no one to rely on? would she have a stronger or equal faith than/as what I have? would she be more spiritually mature than I am? is she holding on to spirituality as her means of consolation, or is she really maximizing her full potential in spiritual development because she’s not distracted with “worldly” and “material” concerns?

SPIRITUAL WEALTH MENTAL WEALTH FINANCIAL WEALTH PHYSICAL WEALTH WORLD PEACE LIVE AND AFFECTION

Image courtesy of: http://love-peace-gratitude.blogspot.com.es/p/spiritual-wealth.html

As a citizen, my stance only became more confounded the day I read the Dalai Lama utter the following statement:

The economic system of Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability. Marxism is concerned with the distribution of wealth on an equal basis … as well as the fate of those who are underprivileged and in need, and [it] cares about the victims of minority-imposed exploitation. For those reasons, the system appeals to me, and it seems fair. (“Of course the Dalai Lama’s a Marxist”, The Guardian)

because wealth distribution is only feasible after there has been prior accumulation! (Karl Marx actually predicted that capitalism would evolve in a more socialist/communist system and the material wealth that has been accumulated would make a fairer redistribution possible.)

Therefore, to be able to apply the moral principles the Dalai Lama spoke of, it is necessary (but not limited) to have “something” with which to materialize those concepts. For instance, buddhist households must have enough rice to give alms to the monks, if they want to express compassion. And how would they have “enough” rice to share if they hadn’t previously saved and accumulated it? Although this is not the only way compassion can be practiced, it is one very important aspect to consider.

Inspired from the same above-mentioned article about the Dalai Lama, I started to form my final conclusion. It also noted that:

[…] relief of suffering can only come from the realisation that pleasing ourselves doesn’t bring happiness – instead we must try to work skilfully and compassionately with others, as part of interwoven systems of connectivity that bind us together.

I believe that the accord between material abundance and spirituality boils down to the INTENTION of accumulating wealth in the first place.

Individuals who aim to earn a lot of money to fulfill their roles as breadwinners are not only executing their obligation, but they are also practicing generosity, compassion and patience towards others. This undoubtedly cultivates the spirit.

Households who save and invest their money to guarantee a good future for the younger members are exercising generosity and sacrifice, to say the least. This sets an example for other family members and therefore expands the cause of spirituality.

A society that allows the public use and enjoyment of environmental wealth (forest and seas, for example), who redistributes existing richness to the less-privileged are implementing social and economic justice to its citizens. This makes indiviual spirituality flourish, may it be through the soothing effects of being surrounded by nature, or the satisfaction of being assured of one’s survival.

My final answer then is a YES. Accumulating wealth is compatible with spirituality provided that the intention for doing so leads to practicing moral principles and advancing the cause of spirituality.

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Hidden-nomics (5): the unlisted, immeasurable, unfathomable value of the environment

Forest_Enchanted

Image courtesy of: https://josemariasison.org

Dear Reader,

The poem I shared was written by Jose María Sison, founder of the Communist Party of the Philippines. (I think it later turned into a song) I hope you would overlook his political inclination and appreciate how beautifully and realistically he depicted the struggle of our natural environment through the forest.

The issue here goes beyond the hidden (read: unmeasured/unmeasurable/subjective) value of the environment. It’s the fact that most of people don’t even take the time to stop and wonder what natural resources mean to their existence.

Without clean air, they would be breathing toxins that would make them sick, rendering them perhaps sterile and sickly in the future.

Rising seas would eventually diminish land area, increase housing prices and affect agriculture, industry and services (imagine how the tourism sector would fare!) among others.

Wide-spread droughts would expand desertification and turn fertile soil into waste territory- useless for human, animal and plant alike.

Are more examples needed?

In Sison’s poem, the forest could have perfectly been substituted by the sea, river, plateau, mountain, meadow, ricefield, and so on. He would’ve talked about water nymphs, trolls and Bigfoot. He would’ve invoked fishermen, woodcutters and farmers as brave warriors protecting their homes against villains. He could’ve even talked about you, defending your own house from shameless vandals who would try to ransack it, empty it, and destroy it, leaving you homeless and bereaved of resources.

So why is it that some people still can’t relate?

The first time I’ve been made aware of the environmental problem was when I was 10. Since then, I haven’t stopped reading about forecasts, as well as materials about immediate and longer-term responses to the detected problems. I remembered being so impressed with what I read that I started then and there to voluntarily clean the beach near where I lived, reduce my fresh water consumption and recycle as much as I could. I would also scold people in my school whenever I saw them throwing trash on the ground. I took everything very seriously.

I remember handing stickers to my classmates and telling them about the things I learned, the dolphins and whales that are becoming endangered, the dodo bird that got extinct because of game hunters… some of my peers believed me, some just considered me a geek. Nevertheless, I know some of them took note and became more aware of their actions towards their surroundings.

23 years have passed since then, more than 2 decades since that first Greenpeace pamphlet I read explaining the locust plague. The same types of campaigns are still being carried out, but the effect is not the same. I ask myself what the problem could be (don’t you?). After all, the information was fact-based; data seemed solid and the campaigners didn’t scrimp in using alarming vocabulary.

Then it dawned to me: the constant bombardment of intense information, based on massive data has lost its effect. Perhaps in the ’70s, that kind of messaging was able to shock passersby. But in this millenia, people just look, read and go on with their lives, appearing to be desensitized.

How to reverse this? Go beyond speaking to the people individually: beat messages of empowerment and directly thank the citizens for their little daily efforts. Make them realize that when many small actions are summed with the rest of what others do, the outcomes become a great, big help to the environment! 

It is of no surprise that people feel a great weight on their shoulders, pressuring them, forcing them to save the sea turtle, the baobab or the elephants- elements that probably seem so far and unfamiliar to them. The fact is that when it comes to discussions on environmental issues, the initial reaction would be enthusiasm, then anger, followed by a common call for action. Afterwards, bewilderment will rise into their eyes when they start to hear about the tons of water they could save a day, the thousands of species disappearing each hour, or the volume of greenhouse gases they could help prevent from being emitted.

So why not, instead of asking them to DO, also thank them for what they’re currently SACRIFICING to contribute to the cause?

We should all gear towards the turning point. We should resist their despair. We should retaliate their common cry, “There’s no way we can help because a million others would be doing the opposite” with, “You’re already doing your best. Congratulations! Thank you! Keep it up! And when you feel ready to do more, go ahead and do it!”.

Let politicans do what they do best: politics. Let lobbyers influence decision-makers that their agenda is far more important than anyone else’s. Let the activists raise their voices in protest. Let the researchers continue their work on just how fast we are nearing to doomsday.

In the meantime, you, me, us, we can simply be more aware of our actions towards the environment. I’m not even talking about the Amazon rainforest or the Arctic. I’m talking about our immediate environment: how do we consume? what do we consume? what do we do with our waste? do we defend our immediate environment when harassed? do we tolerate vandalism?

It really boils down to what lives we want to lead, and what world we would like to leave behind for our children, or our neighbor’s children, if you don’t plan on having your own. The point is, we should start factoring in the environment when making decisions. Even if it just means saving on our monthly water and electric bill.

It couldn’t be too hard. Human nature has a great level of plasticity, in the sense that it is equipped to adjust according to the circumstances. We just have to will it. We just have to want it.

And as usual, dear reader, I will end this one by encouraging you:

Think about it.

 

 

Once my dreams have come true, what’s next to do?

dream-come-true

Image courtesy of: http://www.goodvibeblog.com

1. At the onset

I was once told by a psychologist that not only negative occurrences in life can cause stress. ANY change in one’s routine, habit, and even a realization that would modify a long-held belief could also be stressful. My face must have had the look of a bewildered fish because then she added, “To be clear, even positive changes can be a cause of stress. Of course, it will be of a different kind, but still stress, nonetheless”.

I’ve been turning this conversation over my head because of my everyday gratefulness for a dream coming true- getting to write for a living. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon it, I can say that yes, when that ambition materialized, it demanded so much time and energy from me, aside from a reallocation of other resources (getting a nanny for Leo, transferring him to a better school so his needs could be better attended to, buying nicer clothes for work, etc…). And in a way, yes, it caused me some stress.

It’s not the dream come true that stressed me. THAT empowered me and simply made me want to be better. What caused the stress is the fact that I have to live through that dream: I signed a contract, I am committed to that agreement and I have to prove myself worthy of having done so (more on that later). So, in having to do all of those things, I found myself changing my habits, my routine and my way of thinking so I could adapt. THAT was the cause of stress.

However, there were proactive responses that helped me mitigate stress (and keep it under control):

  • Having taken the time to enjoy my triumph- I celebrated by eating out, skipping on household chores (even if they accumulated the next few days, haha!) and even treated people to a celebratory meal.
  • Facing the new reality- Once the initial excitement started to ebb, I laid out my plan. I started to look for a nanny, I drew up a monthly budget that I commit to, I inquired for a more suited school for Leo and our new situation. I also talked to people so I could verbally express my joy, concerns and most of all, so that the smarter friends I have could help me think things through.
  • Thankfulness- Each time I got daunted by the possibilities, or someone’s scary stories well-intentioned warnings got to me, I said a prayer from my grateful heart. It never failed to put things into perspective.

2. Living the dream

The first article I wrote that got published were actually four articles that got published almost simultaneously. I had to write them in Spanish and then translate them to English. They were life stories of four Latinamerican entrepreneurs- inspiring, invigorating and absolutely the best subject any newbie writer could ask for. I didn’t worry (that much) about the grammatical errors, I just let myself embrace the assignment and took a peek into the lives of the people I was writing about. I created my very own writer’s heaven.

When the drafts were edited, I saw the result and it looked like it was dipped in blue ink. It was so full of errors! and the most common feedback was that I use long sentences to explain something that could be expressed more briefly. It was so fun! The narrator in me felt a pang of hurt, of course, but the pragmatic in me encouragingly said, “This is journalism, not novel-writing! this is a corporate article, not a blog!” And life went on, with me knowing more and having learned many new things.

What I’m trying to say is that when I was writing, I was focused on the task, and every fiber in me had the intention of writing. And when my work was being corrected, no matter how hard it was at first, I was focused on the feedback and every fiber in me had the intention of listening to what I was being told. After that, I went on rewriting, focused on it, with every fiber in me… you get where I’m going, dear reader, right?

This is what philosophers, mothers, coaches, soulsisters or shamans mean when they say, “Live the moment”.

3. When they try to bring you down…

Some people find it hard being happy for others when the latter’s dreams come true. Some people don’t care, and others would actually try to rain down on your parade and even throw in a few lightning bolts and thunderstorms. It’s normal. It’s human nature. (I cannot for the life of me understand it, but it must have something to do with survival, as is with everything in our lives. But I haven’t discovered the link yet.)

In my case, I won’t say that somebody tried to bring me down. I honestly believe they weren’t even aware of the effect their words had on me. But I was brought down, for 10 seconds, that is. Because at the end of the day, I have the choice to be affected or not.

The mind is a very powerful muscle, and if we train it hard enough, we can block many psychological attacks that come our way. It’s not easy, just like boxing trainings or self-defense sessions aren’t easy either. We will still get hurt and it will still bruise us, but if we practice everyday, it will hurt less and the bruises won’t bother us much anymore.

I chose not to be affected. I could’ve thought that the person had a bad intention for having told me those harsh words, and it could’ve been true, too! but I chose not to care about the intention and pray for that person. That they may find peace of mind and that their dreams come true as well. I also took a very clear mental note not to trust that person anymore, if I could help it.

4. The “ideal” situation has turned into a routine

I haven’t really entered into this phase yet so everything in this part is what I think I’d do.

I suppose the first thing I would do is to acknowledge my privileged situation and be thankful once again. Then I’d try to remember and thank those who helped me get to where I am: family and friends who cheered me up, my boss who put total faith in me and who keeps on empowering me, my colleagues at work who have my back and who trust in me to keep theirs safe, and you, dear reader, for always dropping by this site and letting me share my thoughts with you.

(Seeing that you’re already here, though, I might as well say it now: THANK YOU!)

And then, I would…

  • Find that bucket list and see what things need to be ticked off it
  • Open myself up to other endeavors and opportunities for learning
  • Mentor anyone who could put up with me
  • Read and talk to people to see what others are up to– that should inspire me to aspire for something new

Regaining momentum

The time I spent apart from the blog has been dedicated to research and meditation: research so that the future topics I’d share would be substantial and useful, and meditation, so that I could fulfill my purpose without treading on anybody’s sensitivity.

What I found out during my brief hiatus gave me many a mixed feelings. For instance, I still couldn’t sleep with the thought of the sterilized indigenous women in Peru during the ’90s. Yet at the same time, I am inspired by the forceful solidarity shown by the country’s women groups and the strength of the victims despite being abandoned by their husbands and being impoverished in the process.

I was also saddened upon realizing how many lives of Jewish people cost the preservation of Paris and its monuments during the II World War. But I am currently amazed at how the Jewish community seems to have overcome the betrayal and chose to live peacefully with the rest of the city’s inhabitants.

I am so disappointed at Aung San Suu Kyi for her non-reaction to the Rohingya persecution in Burma, but I am hopeful that the refugees could soon build a new life in a new place where they will be respected and accepted regardless of their religion and beliefs. What’s more, I have faith that the effect on the following generations may be the emergence of more open-minded people, tolerant and willing to embrace diversity.

I am frustrated at the  Philippine Government where the current president Rodrigo Duterte is proving only to be a different Chief of State (not PNoy Aquino, not Erap Estrada, not Gloria Arroyo, and so forth), but is not really intent on constructing a different society. His actions divide the country instead of uniting it, he is a classic populist who has to resort to creating an enemy so he could stay relevant, and his supporters seem like blind, rabid dogs who are unable to objectively evaluate his actions. But all these have given me the chance to prove once again how resilient the Filipinos are. It just makes me wonder at what point a genuine revolution would take place, not to repeat historical patterns of dirty politics, but to really bring about change that would benefit the people.

I am flabbergasted by the Catalonian situation and quite worried about the future of Spain, the country that has hosted me for almost half my lifetime and who has given me what I have now. I’m sorry but I’m still on the process of thinking what good this is doing or bringing to me, personally. It still hasn’t occurred to me as of the moment. People are currently stressed, the uncertainty is depressing a lot of them, and logic seemed to have disappeared from the minds of the separatists. It’s heart breaking… it’s like seeing one of your siblings disowning your family and not wanting anything to do with you anymore.

Other news have had the opposite effect: making me happy at first, and then at least pensive after some time. Like the time I read that the Philippines will send a candidate to the Reina Hispanoamericana beauty contest. I was happy to think that finally, my country’s common history with other former Spanish colonies is being recognized. I’ve always believed that Philippine schools should at least incorporate 4 hours in the Philippine History curriculum talking about the many parallelisms between us and the Latin American countries. But then I asked myself: beauty pageant? Really?

Feminism and gender equality are on the rise, much more than in the past thanks to social media awareness along the entertainment industry’s efforts to boost such awareness.  And this thought made me so happy I slept really well for weeks. That was until I started to keenly observe how some feminists keep on imposing their beliefs on their fellow women. I thought that the basis of this movement was empathy? This made me feel disillusioned (and  made me decide to not be a feminist but be a humanist instead).

I’m glad that Trump is so dumb, he can’t actually help but show his true, stinking colors reacting the way he did about the plea for help coming from San Juan’s (Puerto Rico) mayor. I’m glad that people (especially his voters) are having a chance to see it for themselves. But I am mad at how many vulnerable people (babies and children, old men and women, the sick and handicapped, etc) are suffering more than they should because of this person’s uselessness. And I also realized that most of his supporters would just be blind apologetics anyway…

At this moment I’m so overwhelmed, I can’t even classify my feelings towards the oppressed Venezuelans, our Muslim brothers who thirst for peace as much as we do, the victims of the Mexican earthquake, the online bashing received by the infanta Leonor because of her taste in books (or something to that effect), people doubting about Karl Marx’s relevance to modern economics, the absurd fragility of the coming generation, why nobody (read: developed country, most probably European) is taking responsibility of how f*cked up Africa is, how come the worst judges of women are her fellow women, the beautiful but complex rainbow that is gender, how people claiming to be Communists could live in a capitalist society (how do communists live in Madrid, Spain, for example?), and finally and building on that, how come so many people defend neoliberalism yet they can’t find any artist to sing about what they fight for (this one I read in Facebook)…

These are just few of the topics that keep me up at night. What about you, dear reader? Would you like to share what you’ve been up to lately, and what tickles your mind these days?

– The end –

Despite a huge technical setback (a broken computer), I do hope to regain momentum and be back in the blogging sphere. Thank you for understanding. I missed this, too. 

Personal Interview

It was a fine Monday morning when a dear colleague from Human Resources approached me quite excitedly. I honestly thought she was going to ask or share some tips about child rearing, as we are both first-time moms. Never did I imagine that she would ask me if I wanted to be interviewed for the official, internal blog of the Foundation where I work.

Clearly at this stage of my life, I have already had various interview sessions both as the interviewer and the interviewee. However, this is the first time I got interviewed with the aim of sharing the content (ergo, my thoughts) to the public! I had to pause with disbelief. I’m a very opinionated person but then I thought, “Who would want to bear with me and my craziness on purpose?” I mean, would you dare, dear reader? If you would, then without further ado, let me share with you the translated version of the said article. (For those of you who wants to read the original version in Spanish, just click the following link: Entrevistamos a Karessa Ramos, Comunicación y Relaciones Externas _ Nos-otros)

-*-

We interview Karessa Ramos, from the Communications and External Relations Department

DSC_9470

L-R: Leo, Carlos and Karessa, taken along the Coulée Verte (Paris 12ème)

Briefly tell us: how would you describe yourself?

According to me, I’m flexible. According to Filipinos, “Marunong makisama” which roughly means someone who knows how to get along well with others. Lastly, according to my family and friends, tenacious.

Imagine that you could only have one hobby. What would it be? and why would you choose it?

Cooking and baking. I love the whole process, from going to the market to buy the ingredients, to tasting the finished product (of course). I don’t know exactly why I like it. Perhaps it’s because sharing food is vital within the social life of us Filipinos.

How did you come to work at the BBVAMF (BBVA Microfinance Foundation)?

I started out as an intern, hired to work for a few months in Bancamía (the Foundation’s entity in Colombia), with the Finance Department in 2010. Luís Germán Linares was still VP for Finance at that time. (Did you know that I got an offer to work for them?) When my “apprenticeship” ended and I had to return to Spain, I consulted  whether there was any vacant posts I could vie for in the Foundation. It turned out that a vacancy just opened up at the Finance Department and that was where I started: collaborating in the elaboration of the Annual Consolidated Financial Report, with my first mentor, Ana Nogueras.

Come on… Tell us a funny moment you’ve had in the BBVAMF.

It was during one afternoon in the office and I was checking some PPT templates. I had my headphones on and was listening to ’80s songs and when Kylie Minogue’s song played, I started singing without realizing it, and my officemates started to stare. I suddenly saw some of them turn their heads down smiling, or maybe they were laughing. Later on, I understood that it was because I sounded like a cat… Well, for me it was funny, but maybe for the rest it was annoying, hehehe! (Let’s ask Victor H.)

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The lessons I learned are my greatest achievements. And among them, I really treasure having learned to be more assertive and empathetic (although a lot of work has yet to be done). If I may add another thing: I am also very proud of the relationships I’ve established through the years. I’m surrounded by good, kind, intelligent and trustworthy people. They help me think, they laugh with me (and at me, I suppose), they cry with me, eat with me… they offer excellent company and I learn a lot from them.

What has been your happiest moment?

When I survived my son’s birth in France. There was a moment when I was actually thinking of leaving final instructions to my husband because I already accepted I wouldn’t last for very long. So when the doctors announced that they could solve my issues, I felt really happy. Most of all, that wave of happiness came when I started realizing I was going to live for at least another day!

Where would your ideal vacation be?

In my hometown, in the Philippines.

If you could learn something new, what would it be?

I’d learn how to ride a horse.

If  you could transform into another person, who would it be and why?

I would like to be transformed into my grandmother, and experience how it is being my own mom’s mother, HAHAHAHA! Seriously now, my maternal grandmother was the first enterprising woman I’ve ever met. She was strong like no other: she separated with my grandfather, taking charge of her four children with a teacher’s salary, she learned how to cook many kinds of plants so her family wouldn’t go hungry… when she retired, she improved her cooking skills and started a catering business so she wouldn’t depend on her children for her expenses. Furthermore, as a teacher, she would stay until late in the school, tutoring the students for free and she wouldn’t go home until they caught up with the lesson. I would like to be a woman like her: committed, intelligent, creative, generous and with the desire to transform her environment. The reason is because I’m seeing the legacy she left behind, the values and principles my cousins and I possess. And I also see how we are trying to pass them onto our own children.

A dream?

I wish for women’s situation to be normalized. That is to say, for us to stop feeling pressured to prove ourselves as valid as men; for us to fearlessly express our femininity whichever way we want to; that our happiness, value and aspirations not be measured with masculine metrics; that we stop judging ourselves and the competition that supposedly exists among us be converted into solidarity and cooperation.

While we’re dreaming… What would be your super power?

I would like to have the power to teleport. Is that how you say it? I like traveling a lot and that would cheapen the fare, hahaha!

Anything else you want to share about yourself?

I love eating. And you know it!

The former interviewee would like to ask you: if you could travel to the past, where and insist period would you have liked to live?

I would like to travel to the Philippines during the precolonial era.

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What do Motherhood, Women’s Issues and International Cooperation on Development have in common?

While the smarter lot of you mentally ennumerate the common denominator of these three most important aspects of my life, let me get ahead and share what’s on my mind: MEDDLERS. I’m thinking about meddlers.

1. Motherhood and meddlers

I’ve only been a mother for 20 months, and one thing I can tell you for sure is that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution to the same problem suffered by babies and mothers. Despite of this fact, there are those who still insist on imposing their beliefs, recipes and answers on other people.

Generally, I’ve observed that mothers are usually open to suggestions. Yet, I can’t help but notice the initial reactions to an advice they reject: insistence, further display of proof on the recommendation’s effectiveness, openly unfair judgement and finally, criticism. Surely, one should not have to go through all these just because they decide not to follow an advice. As for the “well-meaning” purveyors of knowledge… don’t they understand the fact that each of us is molded by our particular circumstances, pasts, beliefs and aspirations? Therefore, the solutions or remedies we end up choosing are adapted to our unique situation.

I always wonder whether “wanting the best” for the mother and the baby is the real reason why some people really force their opinion on others. The way I see it, if somebody truly desires the best for the other, then there must first be comprehension: of the problem, of the context and most importantly, of the diversity. This would allow for a better flow of communication. This would facilitate the process of achieving that “best” for the person in need.

In my short experience in motherhood, I learned that happy babies (a common goal for parents) result from being well-fed, well-rested and being around happy caretakers. Equally important is the confidence with which their caretakers do their jobs: if the caretaker is relaxed, the baby is most probably also going to be relaxed. So basically for me, what would really help mothers taking care of a baby is to feel empowered, to have self-confidence and be convinced that they’re doing a good job in raising a human being. The rest can be learned from books and online fora.

I’m lucky to be living where I am, to have resources that I could tap and people who truly support me. This period of my life would be much tougher otherwise.

2. Women’s Issues: when the champions become the meddlers

Currently, I find that that the foundation of women’s rights movement from the past has been eroded in time. I’m talking about solidarity and compassion. These two characteristics are strongly present in the feminine and have fueled the fight for women’s freedom and equality (equity) with men. Lately I’ve been noticing though, that a lot of arguments supporting the advancement of women’s rights sound more of a modern-day colonization than a genuine concern for our sisters’ well-being and progress. By “wanting the best” for all of us women, the very champions for our rights and development are forgetting that even though women may have the same basic needs and rights, the manner of procuring what they need, and the way with which they exercise their rights (if ever they choose to, at all) should be delegated to them- they know better than us what it means in their own societies to advance and progress. They know better than us how they want to live their own lives.

Consider how women’s rights movements started locally, where women gathered and started the battle for a more just treatment socially, economically, and politically, to name a few. When globalization came about, it was only natural for these initiatives to be projected onto other territories, crossing the national frontiers. Even though the intention was (it still is) noble, the explanation of its necessity as well as the method of implementing it are both flawed. Flawed because I believe some activists skipped a couple of vital steps in order to practice solidarity and compassion: inquiring and then listening. One can’t help but think some simply assumed that women in Sub-Saharan Africa have the exact same concerns as the ones living in Phoenix, Arizona.

From then on, a certain type of mentality has been imposed and women who did not adhere to such beliefs were criticized and in some cases, even marginalized by those who were supposedly fighting for their sake. Ironic.

3. International Cooperation on Development: helping or meddling?

When I graduated from college, the main lesson that really stuck was: “There is not a ‘one-size-that-fits-all’ solution to the same problem experienced by two or more different groups/communities. The answer should always be adapted to the specificities of each situation. “

The goal of exerting efforts towards cooperation for international development is to redistribute resources: from those who have them to those who do not. Obviously. Easy enough to understand. Now comes the dilemma of “how” to do it.

Studies have already proven that solutions imposed by developed countries with no grassroots basis usually end up becoming a waste: of money, time, effort and natural resources. Any Developmental Economist would agree that the solutions must come from a collaborative effort between the one who’s helping and the receiving end. That’s why it’s called “cooperation”, right?

However, it has always been the donor “wanting the best”, the donor’s criteria that seemed to dominate in this field: what they believe is “just”, what they think is “effective”, and what they “know those people need”. Thankfully, times are changing and workers in international cooperation are more sensitive to this topic. More and more, the aid given to a target community takes the form of enhancing the existing, local capacities rather than imposing a foreign technique. There is still a long way to go but awareness of this issue is already a big step forward.

Conclusions

While motherhood is a relatively new event in my life, it has deepened many notions in me, and is currently opening up other aspects of my understanding that I never even thought existed. On the contrary, women and development issues have always been part of my life, having grown up in a family whose bread and butter comes from the intent to make this world a better place.

Knowing what I know, I try to believe that it is truly the sense of compassion that moves people to torturously insist on the reliability of their solutions. I try to convince myself that they simply wish to see in others the same fruitful effects of their applied techniques.

Unfortunately, no two situations are equal. So basing on this, the person receiving the advice may consider that the proposed solution doesn’t fit his situation.

In my constant need to map out methods, this idea occurred to me: within the framework of “helping”, I suggest that under the “advice” category, two sub-categories be opened in the form of advice accepted and advice rejected. Help that was given or offered doesn’t have to end in relaying an opinion and leaving it as that. A person with a real concern to help, to make a change, would see if the other would take up on his counsel or not. And in the case where it is rejected, he would try to find out why; perhaps not to annoyingly try to solve the problem, but to learn.

Advice

Learning would mean the world between the meddlers and the “legit” bearers of help. An informed person in front of another who’s in a dilemma could do more by simply listening, than one who would blindly exert an effort to achieve a change in the situation.

I encourage you to think about it.

Adulting and Money Management 4: The Money that They Owe You

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Image courtesy of: http://www.luckymojo.com

This article is inspired by several Facebook posts pertaining to the irony that it’s the money lender who feels shame when asking their money back, instead of the other way around. Especially when it comes to following up a late payment.

At first, after a talk with one of my friends, I thought that the main problem lies in assertiveness, or the lack of it. And then I thought that perhaps certain cultures encourage assertiveness, more than others but it really is not the question. I didn’t do the numbers, but it’s clear how what I thought was a cultural aspect in lending money, is actually a very personal choice of each son of a man. That is, the choice whether to “donate” or “collect” the amount of money that was lent.

But I’m getting ahead of myself, because even before a payment could be followed-up, there must have first been a pledge to do so.

I myself have rarely lent money to anyone, perhaps because I give the impression of being riff-raff (hahaha!). But whenever I did, I made sure both parties understood and agreed that the money being exchanged was a loan, and not a gift. And in the case where the money were a gift, I also made that very clear.

Risking to state the obvious, the difference between a loan and a gift is that the former has to be returned to the money lender at a given time, with a given interest rate. The latter is simply to be graciously accepted and appreciated.

Now, the problem with some people is they are easily caught by surprise and instead of thinking twice before lending money, they immediately agree to “giving” something that is to be returned “in the future”, “without haste”. In 98% of these cases, no payback ever takes place.

In the world of adulting, taking time to think before acting is basically lesson number 1. In the more specific town of adulting and money management, this moment for reflection becomes as necessary as breathing. Every cent counts, whether it be a past, present or a future cent of a currency. As thus, lending money means sacrificing having the “cents” today with a guarantee of getting them back in the future. In the case of giving, the former sentence would end after the word “sacrificing” and that would be it.

Personally, what I usually do when asked for a loan is to:

  1. Ask how much they need
  2. How urgent they need it
  3. When can they repay me
  4. How will they procure the money to repay me

If I’m satisfied with the answers to the former questions, I tell them that I’d think about it. Afterwards, I ask myself:

  1. How will lending a certain amount of money affect my budget until it gets repaid?
  2. Will I be alright if I never get to see that money again?

If, after analyzing my own situation, I still choose to lend my money, I make the following very clear when I finally decide to go ahead with the transaction:

  1. I make sure they understand that the money has to be returned
  2. I make sure that we both agree on the date of repayment (with or without interest)
  3. I would make them understand that although I don’t need that money now (and that’s why I can lend it to them), I would need it in the future.
  4. Depending on how much I trust the borrower, I would make him sign an agreement including a clause which mentions a possible collateral

(Are you still wondering why people don’t borrow money from me?)

You might be asking: what if, at the agreed date of repayment, the borrower refuses/cannot/does not return the money?

This is where the importance of assertiveness comes in. Being firm in reclaiming what is his own actually helps achieve the goal. And in the case they still refuse to pay you, then this is where a signed document would be useful.

In some instances, no amount of assertiveness can ever get a borrower to pay up. No matter how many touching, beautiful speeches are delivered, they wouldn’t budge. Because the truth is, the list that I wrote above- it’s just me. In real life, and depending on many other factors, the things I just said would be easier said than done.

So what is best advice I could give? be wise, and before you lend an important amount of money, make sure that your finances are sound enough in case you don’t get it back.

Happy lending!