Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Understand Electricity - Jargon Busting Electricity and Renewable Energy

Know what to say to your potential contractor or installer, Jargon Busting Renewable Energy and Electricity.

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibilities: written by me: 18 April 2004

Every person has a right to life, a right to freedom of association, a right to freedom of religion, a right to liberty, a right to travel, a right to protection by the state, a right to equality, a right to an education, a right to freedom of speech.

However, along with these rights come certain responsibilities:

• A right to life implies the duty or responsibility to protect that right; the responsibility not to endanger the lives of others (without their consent); the responsibility not to murder; the responsibility not to violate others’ space, is not to commit adultery and not to steal;
• A right to freedom of association implies the duty not to interfere with another’s organisation, unless it is physically interfering with you or endangering your way of life;
• A right to freedom of speech implies the responsibility not to incite hate, not to cheat another person, not to lie and not to gossip;
• A right to liberty implies that some people might be in different positions to our positions, may have a better way of life, or may have a different way of life. We must not be greedy for this way of life, but rather honour it and if our inclination is such, strive for a similar way of life through honest and hard work, conscientious application of our selves, aiming for 100% in everything we do; and thus enjoying the fruits of our labours, whether these be monetary or spiritually;
• A right to freedom of religion implies the duty to respect and admire other peoples’ religions and their choices in life;
• A right to an education implies the responsibility to study and attend school;
* A right to hospital care implies the responsibility to be as healthy as possible;
* A right to drive a car implies the responsibility to behave on the roads.

Monday, 23 March 2015

"How can I be generous now?"

Dear all

I just wrote this email to my Sangha, i.e. the group of people who I practice with at my local Buddhist Centre and I want to share it with everyone. Everything "private" in it is about me and my thinking, so I am happy to share it.

The "Bodhisattva Project" is a program that the Kagyu Buddhist Centre in Kenilworth, Cape Town, started in 2010. Some of us have stuck it out and are in our sixth year. Some people have left and come back. Some new people have arrived and some have gone on other journeys.

There are two ways to achieve Enlightenment. One way is the path of the Arhat. The Arhat's path is to achieve enlightenment for their own sake, although I must say that them being enlightened has a profound effect on the world. The other way to achieve Enlightenment is the path of the Bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva makes a commitment to achieve Enlightenment in order to help others. The Bodhisattva achieves enlightenment or Nirvana and then returns to help others achieve and follow this path. It is a difficult path and one can take thousands of lifetimes to achieve it.

In my opinion, it is a worthwhile path.

This year, our Bodhisattva class is about "The Six Paramitas". The first Paramita is Generosity. And the question "How can I be generous now?" is a practice we are currently doing where one should ask "How can I be generous now?" as often as possible or when one remembers. Generosity isn't just about charity, ie the money kind. There is also the "being charitable" kind, giving someone the benefit of the doubt, or not making assumptions, or not changing ones "view" because of the negative thoughts someone else might feed one.

And so here is my email to my Sangha:

After 5 years on the Bodhisattva Project, and thinking that I have forgiven everyone, I watched this video

and realised that I had unfairly judged this person, Monica Lewinsky, even now, 17 years later.

I watched the video and I cried. I'm ashamed. I judged based on hearsay; and I am so against hearsay. I wasn't generous with my compassion.

I am so much against blaming others for our mistakes, for example, "it's Eskom's fault" or "it's Rhodes' fault" or "it's the government's fault" and I have been saying for so long rather say "its our fault" or "its my fault". I can make my own electricity just like you can. I can decide that perhaps Rhodes had flaws, but look at the incredible legacy he left, and I can blame the government for the pothole outside my house, or I can just have it fixed.

Monica says that we live in a culture of shame and humiliation, and I think she is right. But it is also a culture of blame. Something that is probably as old as the story of the Garden of Eden. Who was to blame there? The snake? The two trees? God?

We constantly judge, yet Christians and Jews, amongst others, learn that there is only one True Judge. The rest of us just don't really get the big picture.

As Buddhists, we too learn the power of compassion, but I wonder how many of us have been ungenerous in our thinking about Monica and other people like her who "made a mistake at the age of 22"? She says in her talk: "who of you didn't make mistakes at the age of 22" and not one person puts up their hands.

My friends and colleagues and Sangha. I love all of you. And you are part of me and part of my life, and part of my Refuge. Without you all, I wouldn't be where I am today.

Monica has also just become part of my prayers, part of my life, but more truly part of my thinking in a non-hearsay way.

I was bullied at school. I know what its like. I know what its like when you tell the school psychologist about it and the bullying gets worse the next day! I also know about wanting to destroy this child who became a man. And plotting for decades how I was going to "hurt" him. And I also know that one day he had a party and I gate crashed it and I went up to him and I said: "I forgive you for what you did to me, all those years ago." And with tears in his eyes, he hugged me, and he apologised for what he had done; and he said to me that he had no idea how to apologise to me!

Just the fact that I was generous allowed him to be generous back!

Unfortunately he committed suicide a few years ago and left a wife and children behind, so perhaps there were demons in his life and I and others just didn't understand.

One of the 37 practices of the Bodhisattva says that when someone bullies you or tells you "bad stuff" about you, or perhaps tells others private stuff about you, or even unfairly drags your name through the mud, that you should treat them as your greatest teacher and guru! Well that exact thing happened to me today. Someone was upset and told me some stuff today, and I said to myself "How can I be generous today?" "This person is my greatest teacher." And I didn't say anything. I also didn't dwell on it. And later tonight she sent me an apology. Unasked. Just because of compassion.

One of the other things Monica talks about is something I really feel strongly about: Rights and Responsibilities. I have believed for a long time that for every right there is an associated responsibility. The right to life means the responsibility to protect life and not to murder. The right to an education means the responsibility to learn and not to break. The right to hospital care means the responsibility to be as healthy as one can be. The right to owning stuff means the responsibility not to steal. etc.

My dear Sangha. Let us know and understand what we have done to the Monica's in our lives and let us practice our generosity and ask "How can I be generous now?"


Sunday, 22 March 2015

"This page intentionally left blank" - paradox

Light hearted thought for today.

One of my favourite paradoxes of all time: "This page intentionally left blank".

Actually the opposite page should say "The opposite page intentionally left blank."

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Rhodes University Name Change Discussion

This from Rhodes University re the Rhodes University Name Change Discussion and the UCT students wanting the statue of Rhodes to be removed.

VC acts swiftly to avoid racist storm at Rhodes

New Rhodes University vice-chancellor, Dr Mabizela has acted and moved swiftly to diffuse a potential racism storm brewing on campus.

Dr Mabizela, the Director of Student Affairs Division and SRC president held an open Student Body Forum to discuss transformation issues with hundreds of students on Thursday night.

It was a very positive discussion with views and opinions expressed by all parties and stakeholders.

“The debate was conducted in very good spirit. It went off without an incident. I’m very proud of our students and am so deeply honoured and privileged to be the Vice-Chancellor of this University. I’m confident that we can work through all the issues raised with all constituencies and stakeholders to make the best decisions for our University. I was deeply hurt by one student who made a homophobic statement. I must make it abundantly clear that our University will not tolerate racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic or any other form of bigotry, prejudice or chauvinistic behaviour.” – Dr Mabizela.

The Vice-Chancellor made it clear that the University will be taking all the issues very seriously and will not sit on them. He commended the student leadership for organising the forum in which important and, at times, uncomfortable issues could be discussed.

“I am aware that there are students and parents who are worried, anxious and afraid that the statements appearing in the social media might lead to racial tensions on campus. My own view is that there is no need for such anxiety and fear. We must engage in robust debate and discussion, avoid making unjustified generalisations and unfounded, injurious and racist accusations. Above all, we must respect each other’s views.” – Dr Mabizela.

The hastily organized discussion followed “Rhodes Must Fall” quickly becoming a social media phenomenon this week. It started at UCT, where students were protesting against the statue of Cecil John Rhodes, and what it stands for. It eventually moved to Rhodes University, where the changing of the name "Rhodes" became a central issue of transformation. In the past 20 years there have been occasional debates on the name of the University and the position has always been that there were far more important and pressing challenges for the University to address than divert attention to the issue of its name. On Tuesday, Rhodes University students gathered on the front lawns in protest against the University's name, and standing in solidarity with UCT.

Some students took if further with placing posters on campus.

From day one as VC, Dr Mabizela has been a strong advocate of transformation and he may be softly spoken but is hard on this issue.
“We must, in the first instance, embrace diversity and celebrate difference. However, as an institution of higher learning we must go further than that and use the power of civil and reasoned argument, logic and debate to engage differences with a view to narrowing them, breaking new ground and enhancing and deepening shared understanding.
In 1994, our country emerged from a great struggle against racism, hatred and inequality. Many lost their lives in that struggle. As a nation, we cannot afford to go backwards and, as a place of knowledge and an institution of higher learning, Rhodes University has to take a stand against any attempts to do so, however conscious or unconscious they may be.
We have made significant progress in the transformation of the demographic and social composition of the student body. The ‘race’, class, gender, ethnic, national, linguistic, cultural and religious composition of our student population has changed and will continue to change given our imperatives of social equity and social justice.
As academics, do we see that the students who sit in front of us in the lecture and seminar rooms of our campus are different to those who sat beside us when we were students? Have we adapted our pedagogical approaches to ensure that every one of those students is included as an equal in the learning that goes on in our classrooms? Does our approach to diversity of participation, and to diversity of knowledge, assist our graduates to provide leadership for a more sustainable and resilient society? These are the kinds of questions we need to be asking as we move forward into a more equitable future.” – Dr Mabizela

The issue of the name change is very sensitive and potentially divisive and everyone has their own opinion, which they are fully entitled to.

The placards and posters said one thing, some said something else.

As one student put it:

“The name Rhodes is not a reminder of our terrible and humiliating past. The name Rhodes represents US. Our present and our future. I am proud to be anti-racism. I am proud to be pro homosexuality. I am proud to be pro gender equality. I am proud to be a RHODENT.”

Students have a right to freedom of expression.

SRC on twitter: The Student Body has spoken! A statement with a mandate will be released, with a detailed timeline. #YouHaveSpoken #RhodesLetsTalk

Dr Mabizela is confronting the issues head on and his interview with 702 on the subject can be listened to here:

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

South African Job Opportunities hurting people

How Job Opportunities are hurting lives:

A so called "Job Opportunity" destroyed our Gardener's working life, which he is now rebuilding.

He used to work for us and for another 4 people. He also had painting jobs and other work.

Then about 2.5 years ago he got a "Job Opportunity" with a contractor doing cleaning for the City of Cape Town.

He suddenly had a regular income and apparently he earned more with them than before. And during this time his "wealth" increased and he incurred debts. He didn't realise he was on a contract and after a year the contract was renewed, but after the second year the contract was not renewed. Someone else got a "Job Opportunity" which as far as I can tell is illegal. You cannot simply replace someone with someone else in terms of our Conditions of Employment Act, but perhaps this Act doesn't apply to government!

As far as we know, he currently only has one job: us!!

This "entrepreneur" got a Job Opportunity. But he didn't understand that it wasn't permanent.

But during this Job Opportunity he incurred debts. The debt providers didn't care that he had a Job Opportunity. All they cared about was that he had a regular income and a pay slip.

This Job Opportunity situation MUST be explained to people, especially voters and perhaps our President and his merry men and women will work hard to create the environment needed for Permanent Jobs and not Job Opportunities.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Israel Apartheid Week and my Friend's Frank's comments

Frank displayed a Israel Apartheid week poster on his Facebook page and said the following to a comment on his page: " I am afraid not all Jews share your views - there are many in Israel and outside of Israel that support the view that Israel's behaviour towards the Palestinians has been nothing less than atrocious."

I am Jewish and perhaps I should hate and be a coward, blaming others and not addressing my problems. or the problems at home, e.g. with electricity, corruption, joblessness, etc. But I forgive, but I don't forget. I have regrets, but almost no guilt.

Guilt is in the moment. Regret is because of something that happened long ago that I was guilty about for a while. If I still had that guilt I would have learnt nothing.

God's very first lesson is forgiveness. And that should be our very first lesson. Our next lesson is in the 10th Commandment, do not covet: do not get angry; do not be jealous. Buddhists say these things are Mind Poisons and I agree.

Jewish people's main philosophy in life is to teach their children; to put themselves at work 16 hours a day, 6 days a week and to work to pay for their children's education.

Jewish people don't blame their oppressors. They find ways to work around the situation. In the late 19th Century, pogroms in Russia sent hundreds of thousands of Jews to New York, sometimes with just a suitcase and often with nothing. The Jews were not allowed to join the guilds in America which were for WASPs and others; a form of Apartheid. They bought or borrowed sewing machines and started making clothes, shoes, etc. Their children owned shops. Their grandchildren owned department stores. And their great-grand children are doctors, lawyers, etc. By 1950, the Jews owned the textile industry in New York.

Did they start with nothing? Perhaps. But no, they started with a culture of persecution, of being thrown out, and of starting again and again and again, for 5,000 years.

And I feel privileged to be part of this crowd.

Just because Frank is misinformed or ignorant of the facts of Israel, doesn't mean that I must hate him. Hate is another Mind Poison. I must love him. I must treat him as my greatest teacher. I must try my best to understand where he is coming from and why he is saying what he is saying. And I pray that perhaps he will cancel is skiing trip in December and rather go to Israel and see for himself and his family what its like to live and be in Israel, to visit the West Bank and Gaza as I have done. To do the most incredible tours and meet the most marvellous people. To be at a building site in Tel Aviv and meet the local "Palestinian" people who shared their coffee and a chat with me.

There is real love in Israel. There is hardly any violence, hardly any robbery, hardly anyone gets kills in road accidents.

Its time for the Frank's of this world to go visit Israel. To visit Jordan (the East Bank), Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and other countries of the region and to get their own feeling and feel for what is going on there.

It's time!