Blogging: The New Face Of Governance?

Someone asked this very important question:  should governments use blogging as a tool for public service? I answered yes so here goes…telling an all-too-familiar story another way.

The all-too-familiar story told another way...tingim.

After 30 years in public sector work, I present to you the ruminations of a dinosaur with one eye open. Close your eyes…now, aherrm both eyes please…and come with me on this journey…

Just imagine receiving a blog from your local MP…

Can’t help it…got to say it! I can just see the title of my next tune beckoning in the distance: Blogging Me! Blogging You! Uhuhhhhhh’. For now, try singing/humming (whatever), these words with that famous ABBA tune ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You, uhuhhhhhh…’ See…not difficult is it?

Where are we? Oh yes the MP’s blog. Yes the blog is in your face and you seeing his/her face on your computer – for the first time! Wow! Some of these MPs don’t visit their electorates as often as they should once elected. So we need to think creatively to keep on reminding them about who gave them their mandate.

Unfortunately for most, they are all over you like a rash and in your face just before elections. Sometimes that is not so bad as someone’s got to put their best foot forward and declare their intention to lead. For some it’s more like willingly offering themselves for a life in a fishbowl, or go down in some quarters like the season’s pickings to be chewed up and spat out! Quite unceremonious goings on but that as we know comes with the territory.

Anyway, wouldn’t it be great for your MP to tell you what his/her vision is for your electorate for the next 5 years, and tell you about his/her hopes, concerns, issues, hobbies, interests, good causes, family, challenges and hardships they themselves or you put them through etc. MPs are human too. Yes, but human or not human is a small part of the commitment they made when they stood on top of trucks with loud hailers bleating out promise after promise for a better life that is only possible through them, disrupting traffic, disturbing the peace with loud noise, littering the sidewalks with their posters…etc.

Back to Le Blog, I could imagine a couple of engaging MP blog titles such as:
‘Getting to Know You’ (is this a line in a musical or what?)
‘Meet and Greet’ (hmmm…too wishy washy)
‘Coming to You Live from…(name of electorate/village)
‘Today With You’ (too suggestive perhaps)
‘Spanning Our Tribal Bridges’ (oooh…that’s heavy)
‘With Love From Me to You’ (maybe not…) and so on and so forth.

Gradually, election fever is no longer life-threatening, the warmth of the ballot paper becomes cold and the loud hailers are silenced and tossed aside in some dark damp corner for another 5 years or so. Promises become challenges and a 4-5-year uphill battle, more like every year, to meet election commitments prevail. The mandate to govern becomes blurred with self-indulgence and extreme liberties.

The electorate once more fades into yet another 4-5 years of the same old same old…as the loyal voter cries out over and over again: where is the road, the school, the aidpost, the airstrip, the drugs for all manner of illnesses etc etc? Why are we suffering when our country sits on gold and oil deposits, our rich forests and oceans teeming with bountiful harvets of tuna etc. That’s right! the promises that were coming over the loud hailers not so long ago. Why?, where?, how? — on it goes day in day out like a broken record.

Now I got to thinking as an avid blogger: Could blogging change this ever so familiar negative scenario? Most may answer maybe or yes, followed by how soon! And from the zealous ones: how about yesterday?

So this ‘new face’ (dispela ‘niupela pes’) that I’m talking about or rather agonising over – what about it?

Just think of yourself, the blogging honest voter let alone a citizen in your MP’s electorate telling him/her or rather blogging him/her about your successes, hardships, challenges, your family, taxes, your community and the beat goes on – day in, day out.  This goes on for what seems like an eternity.

Then one day, voila! you get a response! A response from your MP! Oh my gosh, your lips form these immortal words, slowly and with great emotion and no sound emanating from your mouth. Your heart is beating faster than usual, you are not sure whether to laugh or to cry! As you reach for the Kleenex your heart is full of wonder and love…yeah love…imagine that too. The blogger and bloggee in contact with eachother in perfect harmony…hmmm.

As you log off you wondered...

The hours pass by and you go back to your usual routine of checking your emails and Facebook and anything fun or witty. Then you log off your computer and wonder about your MP blogging back…well what a humongous surprise…you feel the lump of emotion in your throat again. You stand up from your desk and in the silence of your office you wonder….

What would future elections look like and what would elected leaders be like? If you were all blogging for 5 years after he/she got elected. Yes, what kind of church, community and youth leaders, public servants, newspaper editors, office managers, donor agencies, technical advisers, volunteers, project managers, departmental heads, CEOs, and politicians – the elected representatives etc, would a blogging community produce. It could go the other way too…we could create monsters. Yeah that too, but let’s just focus on our hopefully benevolent and caring MP, please.

That’s all very well. But what if the MP doesn’t have a computer? Is there another way? Do we need to give every new MP a crash course, say, Blogging 101? Do we need legislation to introduce blogging as a form of government communication? Prepare a Cabinet submission on this? Allocate a fraction of the budget for blogging resources? Or should we as law-abiding citizens exercise our human and civil right and just do it, that’s right! Go ahead and blog with our MPs to our hearts’ content every minute, everyday, every week, every month and so  on. Well, it would all makes sense if we were receiving our MPs’ responses, right?

It all boils down to this: MPs are duty bound to communicate with those who are and may be potentially affected by their actions and they are morally bound to be accountable for their actions, right? Yes, it’s all good…but MPs are just one aspect of governance. And mine just one perspective.

So the more than a million quid question is: Could blogging be the ‘new face’ of governance? Could blogging empower us to create cultures of good governance?

My mind journeys on, long after the flames of my gas heater burn low and another night to create in slumber my world of happiness, wealth and prosperity. A title of another blog perhaps?

Up Close And Personal: Paul Nicklen Meets The Leopard Seal…

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I love this video – the photography, the story, the incredible encounter. Man’s triumph over fear.

 This is the most humbling and endearing nature story I’ve ever heard or read about. This video is an incredible visual account of Paul’s encounter with a leopard seal. The Book Bench says, “…four-day experience with a leopard seal” – about 13 feet long and 3 feet wide. Yikes!

 The leopard seal is a dominant predator in its environment. Found mostly in the frozen Antarctica – but also found in some warmer climes – South America, New Zealand,  Australia and South Africa. The females are larger than their male counterparts. The gestation period is about 9 months to birth and the baby is called a pup. It is not a team player, mostly a solitary predator but gets together with other leopard seals during the mating season.

 To think that the seal had his camera and head in his jaw. Makes you want to cry – it’s that awesome!  An edge-of-your-seat kind of story. As I watched the video and followed his narrative, I was absolutely mesmerised by the sheer courage and beauty – a humane interaction between man and animal. It was like a friendship waiting to happen.

 I am an island girl and am familiar with fishes and animals in the marine environment I grew up in. But this has to be the bomb! I hope that Paul’s book “Polar Obsession” nestles among our favourite coffee table collections and private libraries.

 As someone who is an avid amateur-ish photographer, I can say, standing at the low-end of the chain, that the photography in this post is the highest-end of great professional photography. There is also something about Paul’s photography in this video: heart-warming and awesome-ly spiritual. The Book Bench says of the class of photography, “…one of the best of shots of his career.”

 When I read about his life and experiences in this part of our world I can understand why the empathy for nature becomes second nature to him. It’s a spirituality that reaches beyond photography. His heart is telling the story.  The camera helped and enabled him to share this  incredible experience.

 This is a story worth sharing.

Police – Friend Or Foe?…Anna Shares This Pearl

Police state utopia.

I loved this blog because of the subject and also because it came from another expat blogger – Anna Nicholas, living in rural Majorca, Spain. Her blog is called ‘Majorcan Pearls’. What a lovely name for a blog.  You know sometimes the things we take for granted as locals make a totally different impresssion on expats. 

This are the sorts of occasions that make up my magic moments in the UK. Sometimes the most mundane and mediocre events or situations make a great story for an expat blogger. Expats could either put a negative or positive spin on something that appears to be part of the woodwork.

Thank you Anna for this post. I’ve never been to Spain or Majorca but I’ve learnt something useful for when I visit in the not too distant future. I’m sharing it with my readers and visitors to this blog because it is a lovely story and because it comes from a fellow expat blogger albeit separated by a fair few miles between London and Majorca.

Use Innovation To Empower Not To Overpower! Say What?

PopTech: popcasts.

This inspiring reminder comes from one Alec Ross. Who is he? His short bio says that he is the Senior Adviser on Innovation to the US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton and was a force behind US President Obama’s campaign and now the new US  Administration. In his own right, I guess amongst other brilliant stuff, he is co-founder of One Economy a non-profit organization ‘devoted to closing the digital divide’.

I came across this video presentation, ” 21st Century Statecraft” via Twitter, on 17 November.  The link is: http://tinyurl.com/ycaxns2#poptech.

Watching this video, I was really amazed not only at the frankness of his presentation but also of his ideas of innovation as a catalyst for change and development everywhere. Bridging the digital divide is a topical issue for many organizations engaged in development work – development partners. It is a also topical issue for development practicioners around the world. Ross cited and showed examples of the positive results of technological innovation in Togo, the Congo and others. However, I think what made an impact on me was his candid challenge to American policymakers and politicians alike and the brains behind US foreign policy to use technological innovation as tool for ’empowering not overpowering’.

He said that America’s foreign policy must focus on empowering rather than overpowering via techonology. This is powerful! This is the bomb! He poses the challenge, more like throwing down the gauntlet, for re-imagining America’s engagement of the wider world – its relationship and role. His invites people to think seriously about  “How innovation can be applied in America’s foreign policy…”.  Music to the ears of many likeminded people I s’ppose.

What, who by the way is PopTech? it’s brief intro says that it “… is a unique innovation network – a global community of cutting-edge leaders, thinkers, and doers from many different disciplines, who come together to explore the social impact of new technologies, the forces of change shaping our future, and new approaches to solving the world’s most significant challenges. We are known for our thriving community of thought-leaders, breakthrough innovation programs, visionary annual conferences and deep media and storytelling capabilities”.

Their mission is “…to accelerate the positive impact of world changing people, projects and ideas. We do this by creating transformational experiences that showcase the ideas, trends, challenges and opportunities that are shaping the future”. For more information on PopTech visit their website: http://www.poptech.org

The video is a must see and a must hear! Thanks Alec for an inspiring presentation!

“To Nottingham, To Nottingham To Find Robin Hood…

…but alas found a locked door that for me was no good!” (ME130909). 

Above the, The Tales of Robin Hood museum was this sign ”Medieval Banquet’. It was sorry-looking and I wondered whether the sign was for real which meant they held medieval banquets or were they just going through the motions for the tourist traffic however big and lucrative that may have been. 

The Robin Museum - close to the city centre
Medieval Banquet...sparked my interest but...

 

But since the museum was closed I wondered why? – did it do well as a tourist attraction? Mmmm…so many questions why this place was closed. Why? why? why?…. 

I hope it opens again soon. I am still determined to visit again but I definitely will find out if it is open before I plan my next visit. 

So let’s go back to the real reason I braved time and traffic to get to Nottingham. I was determined to find something about him – anything that will satisfy my curiosity and make one of my dreams come true. 

Tales of Robin Hood...the museum
...so disappointed it closed down before I visited Nottingham.

 

Why, am I so keen on this guy? This Robin Hood. When I was growing up on Kwato Island (Kwato Mission) in the Milne Bay Province, PNG, we used to listen to stories of heroes and heroines in history…English history that is – those were colonial times and in the 60s mind you! 

Anyway, one of my favourite English stories or legends was about Robin Hood and Nottingham Forest. I don’t know how many times and how many movie versions I’ve seen. But each time I saw a movie about the life or part of the life of Robin Hood I imagined how one day I could be in England and what  privilege it would be to travel to where this hero or villain, whichever your perspective is, lived. 

Now I am in England and the opportunity came up a couple of months ago to visit Northampton which I realised was a stone’s throw away from Nottingham and so I decided to visit Nottingham. Just imagine I was going to  ‘Robin Hood country’ – a swinging prospect! I heard that there was a museum dedicated to Robin Hood in Nottingham not far from Nottingham Castle and the city centre. Well, how absolutely disappointed I was when finally I stood in front of this museum – closed and locked up! I was devastated. I was so looking forward to visiting the museum. But never one to be totally put off by this, a small hiccup, I ventured off to find something that would remind me of my visit to Nottingham especially as I’ve hung out in Robin Hood country. 

The small display at the entrance of the castle.
In Marion's attire...for kids and for the kids at heart.

 

Well, another big surprise, I did not know there was a castle in Nottingham! It was there in my face! Wow…this was a great bonus! Anyway, I asked someone who worked at Nottingham Castle if there was something on Robin Hood inside the castle itself. She said there was but just a small display for kids yeah, and those kids at heart too…hahaha. Another disappointment because I was hoping that if the Robin Hood museum was closed surely they’d have had to move the stuff somewhere and perhaps the castle was the place – uhuh…nothing like that at all. Anyway I got into the spirit of the display, took a photo of my face in the carved out wooden model of Marion and headed off on a self-conducted tour of Nottingham Castle. 

At the end of my tour, imagine my great joy and relief to find the souvenir shop and a Robin Hood toy figure. Well, that was something! Although small and plastic-ky, it felt good in my hand. I felt so grateful. Thank goodness for souvenir shops! I found Robin Hood! – and now he takes pride of place under my computer monitor on my desk at the office. At least I got something from Nottingham to remind me of having been in ‘Robin Hood country’. It has become one of my prized possessions. 

My souvenir Robin Hood...
Takes pride of place on my desk.

 

Some days when I kinda focus on my little Robin Hood figure, I conjure up in my mind pictures of this hero or outlaw on his faithful horse in Nottingham Forest annoying the hell out of the Sheriff of Nottingham and at the same time being in love with Marion – I think those pictures in my mind are scenes from movies I’ve seen. 

My two favourite movies of Robin Hood are  ‘Robin and Marion’  starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn and ‘Prince of Thieves’ starring Kevin Costner as Robin Hood and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Marion. 

As we walked out of the main gate/entrance to Nottingham Castle I chanced to look down at the courtyard – and there immortalised in a metal sculpture is the recognisable figure of Robin Hood – ever to stay in my memory! I realised that all through my wokabaut through the castle and castle grounds I was actually unconsciously looking to see if there was something more at the castle than the little display area of Robin Hood. And there it was a metal sculpture. At that moment of discovery, I didn’t feel so bad about the The Tales of Robin Hood museum being closed. It would have been nice if it were open but…there’s always a next time. 

As I left the courtyard of the castle, I was still wondering whether Robin Hood was the figment of some creative imagination or whether he was a real character in history. I also wondered why if he was an outlaw in his day did his story become such a famous story so much so that I in a faraway land have heard of it. Did he actually exist? Could I confidently say, and sorry this may sound like a cliché, it’s anyone’s guess? 

I think the picture that I conjure up in my mind so vividly, and this is sort of supported by my two favourite Robin Hood movies, is an outlaw with his bow and arrows, a crack shot too and in love with the beautiful Marion – well, as far as the story goes. With my photos and my souvenirs, including a ‘hoodie’ jumper, my trip to Nottingham was not in vain after all. 

The metal sculpture of Robin Hood
...dignified and almost majestic in the courtyard of Nottingham Castle

 

Immortalised in metal sculpture
Sculpture of an outlaw...or was he?

The ICA: About Finding The Hidden Gems

I took out a year’s membership with the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) today. I was a member before but it kinda lapsed. These things do happen. Then last night after the 11th Black Film Maker (BFM) International Film Festival world premier screening of Jason Young’s ‘The Novelist’ at the ICA, I decided to join up. So now I am a member of the ICA.

Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA)
ICA Membership application form

The ICA is described as, ‘… one of the world’s most innovative and influential cultural institutions, presenting a dynamic and daily programme of contemporary arts, ideas, film and culture.’. Established in London in the 1930s, ‘…it continues today as a committed proponent of now, a truly original centre for exploration of the new, dedicated to presenting work from emergent artists, film-makers and radical thinkers in bold and experimental frameworks.’

The screening of Jason Young’s debut feature film last night is testament to this commitment. It is so encouraging that an institution like this can publicise and promote new and innovative creative ideas through film and art etc. Visit their website at http://www.ica.org.uk for more information.

I look forward to making maximum use of my membership with ICA this time around. A great place to stop by for something new, exciting and educational. Here’s to a great year with ICA.

Hunting For Kikkoman-san…

I took a late lunch last Thursday so that I could pick up my favourite soy sauce at the Japan Centre in Central London. Well the morning went by so fast and before I knew it, it was time to head up to Piccadilly Street.

Japan Centre...favourite haunts for soy sauce etc
Japan Centre on lower Regent Street - moved from Piccadilly Street

I got to Piccadilly Street and merrily sailed towards the shop thinking of the many different ways I could use soy sauce and how wonderful chicken, pork, fish and other meat dishes taste with soy sauce. I also recalled how in Port Moresby many many moons ago a kind and generous couple used to invite myself and a few of the neighbours during some weekends to sample the culinary delights from her kitchen. Her roast chicken or fried chicken and pork dishes were heaven on earth! Ever since then, now that was about the late 1970s, soy sauce has become my favourite cooking sauce and use it in almost every meat dish include fish and prawns. Along with containers of salt and pepper and herbs in my kitchen, soy sauce is another must-have item!

Fast forward to Thursday afternoon, London. When I finally arrived at the place I walked through but the shelves had books and all sorts of stationary and other products but no food, no soy sauce. Well I wasn’t one to shy away from asking questions so I asked one of the few very busy people there where the food was. He politely said, go to lower Regent Street opposity Tesco. So off I went – I only had an hour and I reckon with finding the soy sauce and browsing at the new store I hurried out of there on the second leg of my journey.

Precious soy sauce
The bigger one for cooking and the smaller one for the table...

I found the new place – Japan Centre – to my great delight, it wasn’t so crowded for browsing and the line at the checkout counter was not that long. There I was amongst Japanese food lovers hunting around for favourites items.

There are so many wonderful things and fresh food. The range of any one product is amazing. For example, you can find several types of seaweed. I’d like to find the one that is served in beautiful lacquer boxes in sushi bars like they do in Tokyo. They are a great nutritious substitute for crisps. I enjoyed these when I visited Japan many moons ago.

There, at the Japan Centre, I came across soy sauce in various sizes and a bonus find – Japanese curry. Wow! that was a bonus alright – next beef dish with this in it – mwaaaah – slice of paradise!

Japanese curry
My bonus buy!

I used to be able to find small bottles of soy sauce at Waitrose at Kings Road or Knightsbridge and I think one still can. It’s on the aisle where you can find exotic/world food. That was a couple of years ago when I lived in central London. Now I live elsewhere and still work in Central London, so the Japan Centre is much closer and accessible. Besides, at Japan Centre you can get different sizes so one is spoilt for choice on the size of bottles – now for that I’d use my precious lunch hour to get to Japan Centre.

My troubles finally rewarded, I clutched the bag with my soy sauce – one for cooking and one for the table, I headed back to my office. My hunt for soy sauce was not in vain. In fact now I know where the Japan Centre is my next hunt for soy sauce will not be a long walk.

Soy sauce and Japanese curry from Japan Centre, London
Powerful trio...the next meal is going to be a slice of paradise, alright!

So now with this powerful combo, and Kikkonman-san safely in my kitchen, it’s happy cooking Mari na maski long mauswara, yu!