HONOURING THEIR OLYMPIC DREAM


 

A mosquito.

A tiny, seemingly inconsequential flying creature, commonplace across the globe. Simply a prick of a pain in most parts, barring those where Malaria is a very real risk to lives of locals and visitors alike. But otherwise, just a nuisance, normally.

But for countries across the globe, especially in the Americas, this little pest has had a paralysing effect. Travel and tourism: cautioned. Family planning: delayed. Olympic dreams: debated.

Zika. It has become a globally known name of a virus up until now ‘out there‘ but seen as far from risk to the ‘here & now‘. Its pesky, prickly carrier? Those once tiny, troublesome little mosquitoes are now the source of terrifying prognosis for hopeful parents, and heartbreaking probability for hopeful athletes. The competitors at the moment, fighting out the debate re. Games go/no-go? WHO, CDC, IOC, and so many other entities.

But the Zika virus is not the only pestering problem. Brasil, host country to the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, is bruised on many sides at present. Health & safely. Economy. Politics. The list only grows.

Sadly, while the reasons for woes may differ, the pre-Games distraction does not. And with that, the complete disregard for what the Games mean for the thousands of athletes from across the world who have put in hundreds of thousands of hours of training, hoping, dreaming, crying, trying and trying again and again, to get to the Games.

How is it that the athletes, the heroes of the Games, are repeatedly forgotten? How has it become possible that their blood, sweat and tears dreams are so easily set aside to give space to the drama?

Whether London, Sochi, Athens, or elsewhere, and now Rio, challenges to LOCs re. infrastructure readiness, citizen support. Now, in the case of Rio, government and economic collapse, not to mention the threat of the Zika virus, push away the dreams of athletes to allow for pre-Games debates on Games viability. These are the debates that directly, disappointingly, devastatingly take the oxygen out of the hope and inspiration that Games can and do so naturally generate.

And yet, once again, it is the athletes that are the losers in the pre-Games game playing.

Their training will continue, their dreaming will continue, most likely until the last possible minute until which the verdict can be delivered. They, the athletes of the 2016 Games, are not prepared to quit, even if the rest of the world is ready to quit on them.

Sadly, even now, there are so many emotions pushing back on their dreams. The natural momentum of skepticism, pessimism, negativity, are increasing the level of debate, and levels of concern, the list of reasons why the Games should be postponed or relocated.

And through it all, the athletes, and their dreams, are left as silent, innocent bystanders.

What will the final result be? Who will win – the athletes, or the antagonists? The dream, or the debate?

2016 is no different to 2012, or 2008, or any other Summer Games….or Winter Games, for that matter. Somehow we need to find a way to protect the dreams of these Olympic hopefuls, honouring their endless efforts to get to their version of gold, honouring their dreams.

Citius, Altius, Fortius“. These are the words, in Latin, that define the essence and dictate the slogan, of the Olympic Games.

“Faster, Higher, Stronger.”

These words apply not only to the athletes, but to a world of onlookers who, like the athletes themselves, should be working daily to win in the race of hope & glory over debate & disappointment.

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

WHY WE CRIED THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED


 

Why the tears?

Why the worldwide wave of shock, and the enduring mourning? Why the news cycle take-over? Why such unedited expressions and unfiltered images of sadness from celebrities and civilians alike? Why so many tears?

There’s something about the passing of a musician that stirs the spirit of the world. It’s like the passing of no other type of celebrity. Something that, for some reason, hits the hearts of millions, and unites strangers in memorial songs of celebration of a life once artistically lived, and now all too soon lost.

It is happening right now, at this moment. Across the world icons have been turned purple, music downloads are pouring through the internet, doves are crying.

Prince, just days after his last concert, just days after simple flu stopped his footsteps and sent him for medical care. Just 57 years of age.And David Bowie, and Maurice White, and Glenn Frey, and so, so, so many others. And this is in the first four months of 2016 alone. Some are defined as ‘legends‘, some less known.

We never really knew them, who they really were, the person behind the personality. Their personal lives were theirs. Granted, many were far from discreet. Still, while we may have seen through the news, read through the tabloids, what they were up to, the world never really knew them, not in way that warranted such profound outpourings of grief.

So why the tears? Why such a feeling of loss?

Because while their lives were mysteries, they, in their musically penetrating way, were an open-book part of ours. We might have been too young to understand the lyrics, but still, they spoke to us – to our emotions, our fears, often finding a voice when words were otherwise impossible to find. Lyrics linked to personal moments of life, of death. First love, first heartache, last moments, last memories, everlasting memories…

To hear music of now lost legends is to hear times of our past now gone. All it takes is a few notes, and a song can take us right back, stirring up memories of people, places, passions, pains. Musical links, deeply embedded in our lives, creating a personal soundtrack.

And so, the day the music dies, we cry. Not only for a musician’s life now lost, but a part of our lives remembered with tears – some sweet, some bitter, some long gone, some just an arms-length away – and what that musician brought to those times, without knowing it.

Today the tears are purple, tomorrow the colour will differ depending on whose shoulder the hand of fate next rests.

Whatever colour the tears, in our hearts they are a release of loving appreciation of what one person, one stranger, brought to our lives.

They are a tribute, a moment of pause to think of who they were, who we were back then, when we lived with their music filling our ever-shaping lives. And who we are today.

They are a quiet  moment alone to say a prayer of thanks.

They are the physical representation of the sound that can be heard when doves cry.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

HOPE COMES ALIVE IN A HANDSHAKE


 

Numbing. The feeling was simply numbing. And it was becoming all too familiar.

First a high. A high that would carve a line in the history books of the 21st Century. And be a defining moment for millions looking on. Never did they, we, never did we all think the day would come.

As global media looked on, the sounds of pure, personal excitement in their voices were unmistakable. Real, raw. Almost relief. This was a moment they official voices of global networks would be forgiven for getting emotional. They never thought they would see the day. Air Force One’s wheels touched the runway of Havana’s José Martí International Airport airport with a profound feeling of exhale, the strength of the Boeing 747’s brakes feeling almost as though a metaphor of the strength of the brakes being put on a long, heated history of distrust, disrespect, deprivation, and for millions, imposed distance of peoples. AIR FORCE ONE LANDS HAVANA – MARCH 20, 2016

As President Obama and his family descended the staircase and walked onto Cuban soil, the first visit of a US President in almost 90 years, the promise of possibility was released. As the following hours of protocol, appearances and press conferences unfolded, history was being rewritten second by second. But no moment more powerful that when the hands of President Obama and President Castro reached out. With one simple handshake and a look into one another’s eyes, the words of the US President made clear that nothing was ever going to be the same again, saying with the sound of hope in his words,: “We have half a century of work to catch up on.

It was, and will remain, a moment where just a for a moment, the world seemed to be looking forward as one. Hope comes alive in a handshake. Higher and higher eyes looked up, hearts soared.

And then it came  – the low that would send the world’s hearts crashing down.

Half a world away from Havana, the people of Brussels would wake to look horror in the eye. First an airport bombing, and then within the hour, a metro station. 60 minutes, 30 lives taken, 230 lives escaping end with only injury, yet still shattered.

Within a period of 24 hrs the world saw, felt, shed tears, as the highs of possibility of peace and partnership, people coming together despite the history and the odds, turned into the depths of horror as terror pushed people into dark, desperate corners, grief of the day beyond comprehension.

With it, worldwide, acknowledgement of the exhausting continuation of what has become a merciless means of uniting the people of the world in terror – a terror that tries over and over to divide with its modus operandi of death and destruction. All shamefully and unjustly in the name of religion.

Now. just a matter of days on, as the experts and analysis dig deeper into what happened, why, and because of whom, the only certainty that the global community can around what lies ahead comes from one human truth: we need one another.

Across the globe, people are turning to keyboards to express their confusion, their compassion, their hurt & heartache, and their undying hope that this horror can stop. Theories around how to protect ourselves are emerging on all sides. So too are expressions of care and camaraderie for those suffering. One month it is Tunis, the next Lebanon and Paris, the next Istanbul, now Brussels….and soon, who knows. In so many ways it feels that nowhere is safe, no one is safe.

But putting up barriers, physical and psychological, will not keep us safe. Quite the contrary – this is where the danger breeds. Through judging others, damning others, and seeking to be apart from others, we lock ourselves into dangerous bubbles of ignorance, intolerance, inhumanity. We fuel the fire.

How will our world find a way to stop this tragic story of terror from writing future chapters? How can the roots of extremism be pulled from the ground, deprived of oxygen? How can the meaning of one of the world’s great religions be brought back to its true meaning as it is meant to be lived, celebrated, no longer linked to the selfish, barbaric motives of those using faith as a shield to hide behind, falsely fighting for its protection and preservation, pushing separation over diversity within unification?

There is no one solution, no one focus that will yield triumph over those resorting to such horrific means to make us stand apart from one another, in fear, inflamed by intolerance.

But there is one truth that cannot be overlooked: Ours is a world to be shared.

Time and again, history has shown us that separation only causes our decay as societies, and as economies. We need to keep working at understanding our differences, being able to be secure in our celebration of others, recognising that while externally so much may seem to differ, our hearts are the same. We love, we laugh, we dream….we cry, we grieve, we bleed.

While completely unconnected, the events taking place this week in Havana and Brussels do, in fact, share a vital connection. Events unfolding, shaking the course of history, changing the lives of millions. One – Cuba – showed how, at a time when so many forces are pushing us apart, rewriting history based on fear and fundamentalist thinking as witnessed in Brussels, there are those working to shape a future as one. This same spirit, this same determination to extinguish fear and find a peaceful way forward, is needed to face this latest challenge.

How can this happen? How can a movement of understanding occur, defusing fear in differences and setting alight appreciation of diversity of thinking and living, take off? It already has – through tourism. At its essence, tourism is about going to places unknown, exploring and understanding others’ lives, lifestyles, loves, getting to the heart of what makes them who they are, and in so many ways, discovering how similar that is to oneself when it comes to core beliefs and values. Here too, hope comes alive in a handshake.

Today two of the most previously ‘locked out’ nations across the globe – Cuba and Myanmar – now represent two of the most sought after destinations for not just travellers, but also investors in the travel & tourism sector. At the heart of opportunity for the Cuban people is the tourism industry. Not only will it bring much needed jobs, investment, earnings, essential skills, infrastructure and taxation to and for the people of Cuba, it will bring invaluable respect and appreciation for the Cuban identity. And it will bring a change to the nation that will allow it to blossom as a member of the global community.

Underlying the reengineering that needs to take place around Cuban policy, economy and industry is the very human component that will form the foundations for the future of the Cuban people. A foundation that will make the real difference when it comes to ensuring longterm change. For as was optimistically said by President Obama while standing alongside President Castro, just days ago in Havana,:

“I have faith in people. If you meet Cubans here, and Cubans meet Americans and they’re meeting and talking and interacting and doing business together, and going to school together, and learning from each other, then they’ll recognize that people are people, and in that context, I believe that change will occur.”

With a hope, a prayer, and a passport…

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

A LAST WHISPER BEFORE A LIONESS RESTS


 

This past week Africa lost one of its magnificent lionesses.

A force of nature, a woman of great strength, courage, grace and class, this young and vibrant lioness spent her last years fighting. Her fight, sadly, recently ended, the great lioness shutting her eyes far, far to early for a creature so ‘alive’. Shock immediately swept through the land. How could a life so full, free, fiery and fanciful suddenly be no more?

To people in shock across South Africa and the world, the passing of Sindiswa Nhlumayo has been a stark reminder of just how bold the assumption of tomorrow can be. And how such boldness can leave one speechless, literally and figuratively.

Yet the tendency to defer action for another time occurs so frequently, so naturally, and so understandably. Because the reality is this: each and every morning, everywhere, a new day welcomes a new list of things to be done, places to go, people to meet, priorities to be held central to our day’s events. Busyness eclipses being still, both in body and mind. The sense of ‘always there‘ makes it possible to push off the message of an inner voice until later. Surely there will always be more time.

This past week, as the lioness quietly left our lives,  a whispered message followed her sultry steps. This message, channelled through euology written simply too early in life to honour a now-celebrated life passed on, still lingers since its first moments of composition: do it now.

If you think of someone, call them now.

If you love someone, tell them now.

If you feel someone needs help, reach out now.

If you are with those you love, hug them now.

If you have a dream, live it now!

Tomorrow, the next day, next year, is a bold assumption.

A last message shared in last moments.

One so gratefully received. x

 

 

In loving memory of a life that brought such love, laughter, and a whole lot of style! Rest well, dear lioness.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

MIRROR MIRROR ON US ALL

It’s hard to believe he could have ever imagined such a response. And yet literally overnight, on the eve of Australia’s national day, the video link of Stan Grant’s address at Australia’s IQ2 Forum on Racism in Australia three months earlier set the internet, and debate, on fire.

STAN GRANT Address – IQ2 Debate, October 2015

He says it himself – he never could have imagined the response,:

  • the over one million views of the address,
  • the national, regional and international interest,

and,

  • the strong responses of viewers, both supporting and scathing of his clearly and poignantly expressed point of view.

At the heart of his address was his people, people who seemingly needed him to turn the volume up on an issue felt to be muted. With remarkable passion of expression, somehow able to prevent cracking of voice and shedding of tears considering the emotional fire of his delivery, he told his story. Their story. Their sense of continued exclusion.

The issues expressed, the work he felt still needed to be done exposed, made clear the belief of the need for the nation to continue to look into the mirror, honestly, with eyes and heart open, and question, “Are we done enough for all?

The question posed, grounded in the clear sense of injustices still felt, have ignited a debate that many Australians feel needs to be reopened, Stan’s address questioned by the Sydney Morning Herald if it was to be “Australia’s Martin Luther King moment’. Many, on the other hand, feel it needs to stay closed. It is up to the Australian people to decide if they wish to look into the mirror and face wherever reflection looks back at them.

Watching Stan’s stirring address and the subsequent news coverage generated by its response, the story appearing as headline worthy within a line-up of global news stories representative of the challenges of our times, it was impossible not to feel that the discussion around ‘are we doing enough for all’ needs to continue.

But it is not only in Australia. Nations across the world from down under to far up north need to, in these challenging times, be stopping to ask, often.

Every day, national composition and conscience is seeing changes. Elections across the globe calling in new eras of leadership, industrialisation, and especially immigration, is putting not just economics and identity into question, but humanity. Stopping to look at who we are as a people, wherever that may be on the world map, and asking ‘who are we, what do we stand for…and are we doing enough for all’, is a critical part of a nation’s ability to move forward.

Fareed Zakaria, on his powerful GPS programme on CNN, recently shared that at last count 244 million people across the globe, effectively 3% of the world’s population, live in country other than that in which they were born. Integration has become one of our generation’s greatest issues – not if, but how. And, always asking, ‘are we doing enough?’

Countries, both those long established and those reborn, should never lose sight of this question. Whether the UK or countries in Europe finding long lines of refugees desperately knocking on their doors, the US or Canada with new leaders ready to set these nations on new paths of opportunity while subtle signs of dissatisfaction around perceived exclusion continue to bubble (as seen with recent raising of voices of discontent around The Academy’s diversity-deprived list of nominees for the 2016 Oscar Awards), or newly (re)born countries such as South Africa now approaching its 22nd birthday in April 2016 as voices rise around the nation’s fading rainbow, across the globe nations old and new are needing to look into the mirror.

Transformation, true transformation, does not come through politicians, or policy. These are people and structures there to help facilitate what must come, ultimately, through compassion of citizenry. The genuine desire to ensure that all citizens feel a valued part of society, without judgement, without ranking, with eyes shut and hearts open, is everyone’s responsibility.

Importantly, because of the ever-changing nature of our world today, people and places evolving to reflect the social, economic, environmental and political times in which we live, the process of transformation is never one to which we can say “we’re done.”

Whether the Australian dream, the American dream, the German dream, the South African dream, the Indian dream, the dream of any person in any nation worldwide, all people in all countries hold in their hearts a dream – a desire for a life that offers they and their loved ones safety, security and possibility of a better tomorrow.

It is the bold voices such as that of Stan Grant that reminds us to keep the mirror close by, working with a spirit of ‘we‘ so that all people of a country can look into their eyes, in their country, and instinctively smile.

Idealistic? Perhaps. But is idealism not an essential part of the DNA of a dream?

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

THERE IS ONLY ONE


 

2015.

A year of immense joy, and intense ache, is counting down its last days, and hours….

In its last 60 days alone, global events have shown how inseparably interconnected our world has become. As but one example, in the first days of November, the eyes and hearts of the world were focused on Paris as terror eclipsed the city of light’s deep, passionate, persistent glow. One night, one tragic night, connected the world through tragedy, through tears, through hope for a way forward in unity and peace.

One month later, the world once again turns to Paris as the world comes together once more to craft a historic accord to protect our world from the man-made, manufacturing-based, undeniable and inescapable forces of Climate Change.

Just one city, as one small example, of how our world has been so deeply grounded in the reality of one. To move forward, to look to 2016 with a sense of separateness, a sentiment of ‘I” rather than “we“, would cost out world exactly what it needs to survive the challenges of the day: our coming together as one.

Differences will, and do, exist. Different ways of thinking, of living, of dreaming. But differences need not divide. Quite the contrary. It is these differences that can in fact allow us to learn, to appreciate, to respect, to connect, as one fabric that wraps around the globe. One fabric seeking to stay strong by allowing each thread to weave its way through the collective, part of the whole, keeping all strong. For to pull out one thread would to be to weaken the fabric, putting all at risk….

As the new year nears, may this be a time at which we look around and see, with deep appreciation, how dearly we need one another. Call it ‘Ubuntu‘. Call it ‘harmony‘. Call it ‘humanity‘. Whatever it is, it is what keeps our world turning, our lives learning, our spirits feeling.

It is what makes us one – one by one by one.

Happy, truly happy, blessed 2016.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

A WHISPER OF A PRAYER OF THANKS


 

In just a matter of hours, it will be December. And the countdown to the end of the year will be on. In actual fact, in some parts of the world it already is, the location of writing now being the west coast of the USA, one of the last locations of our slowly spinning globe to say ‘goodnight’ to the day. Hours, just hours, and the year will be in its T-31 mode, final TO-DO lists for the year being worked through in sweet anticipation of switching off the work part of the day and brain to allow for playtime…until time to toast the new year, and then move back into busyness.

As this time of heightened energy and emotion unfolds, this year, for so many reasons, the need to pause and say a quiet prayer of thanks is greater than ever before. While technically speaking ‘Thanksgiving’ just a few days ago in the USA, with hundreds of millions of Americans at home and around the world raising a glass over a feast shared with friends and family, to give thanks to all that is appreciated all around them, this year, the reasons for the world to stop, and consider, why billions should say thanks, could not be more vivid. In November alone, the mere 30 days of the month made the world’s nervous system stand on edge with reminders of the value of life, love and liberty.

As November unfolded, the month released a damn wall of emotions. With no warning, highs came crashing down.

Initial distraction from the everyday began as the first hours of the month ticked away. Across the globe, in one of the first parts of the world to welcome a new day, the nation of New Zealand was celebrating its historic win of the 2015 Rugby world Cup over neighbours and rivals Australia. The final whistle of the game played in London, England on October 31st would have been a morning victory cry down under. Across the globe, rugby fans felt a surge of energy be injected into November from the start – some celebrating, some commiserating, all united by the spirit of sport.

Into November we go, with its traditional mid-Q4 buzz and busyness, the days ahead viewed through different lenses… This, all while thousands, tens of thousands, of refugees were walking and walking and walking hundreds of miles. Hundreds of miles walked, bused, trained, perilously dangerously sailed, all in desperate hopes of finding a safe place for their exhausted children to sleep – a place they could call home, surrounded by people who would keep them safe each day even if they kept different ways of living  daily life. A human chain of hope, escaping hopelessness. Day after day, mile after mile.  Mapping – The Refugee Flow Towards Europe

And then, in the silence of hours passing with the hum of the everyday, it happened.

First Beirut.

Then Paris.

Then Bamako.

Then Tunis.

Four far-apart, global capital cities. Four moments during which thoughts, hearts, hopes froze. Four attacks, four fractures of peace of mind, in just one month. Landmarks across the globe became canvases for colours of the flags of nations that had recently suffered. Other nations honoured alongside, including Russia, with its loss of souls of nations in the skies up above Sharm.

Nous sommes 1.

Regardless of the date, whether of one flag or another, for millions and millions the world over pausing to give thanks took the form of a prayer than a toast. The seemingly simple things – our homes, our hopes, our health, our happiness, however that be defined, took on intense meaning, profound value. Each and every cell in one’s body suddenly felt awake, hyper-alive, and bruised. Only prayers seemed to sooth. And whispers of thanks.

Across the world, every day, we are reminded of all that we have to be grateful for. Our lives, our loves, our choices, and even our challenges that ultimately reveal our values and valuables. Still, so easily, these blessings are overlooked. Until those moments happen, macro or micro, that force us to stop, look, really look, and see just how much we have to be thankful for.

November, a month now part of 2015’s history, has made painfully clear that aspects of our lives that we can so easily and passively take for granted – what we wake to every day with a high degree of confidence that it will be there tomorrow just where we left them: people, places, possessions. These are the things millions of others are, today, taking on the greatest risks of their lives, the greatest treks of their lives, to even be able to imagine.

As December now steadily ticks towards the toasting of a new year, may our hearts never lose sight of just how blessed we are to be safe, to be home, to be loved.

Amen.

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

WORLD IN RWC UNION, COUNTRIES UNITED IN HOPE

 

And suddenly it is as if the city stops. London, October 2015. Official hosts of the 2015 RWC. Game day. Hit the national pause button. And those of nations taking to the field to stand tall and fight hard for their colours, their nation’s rugby honour, their personal dreams.

Whether in front of a television set, fan zone jumbo screen, stadium full of screaming fans, or computer screen following each move and moment, with each refresh of the score the heart seems to skip a beat. And it is only the Quarter Finals stage! As the match progresses, and muscles of the sports warriors on the field in national colours are pushed to points of pain beyond articulation, passion and determination thankfully eclipsing any feeling, so too are the muscles of spectators left feels weary as close, too close, matches play out. Come its final whistle, those not physically involved, at least not involved on the field, cannot help but laugh at themselves wondering why they are feeling so completely exhausted!

How can it be that a sport followed by so fewer than other main games such as football (soccer in US) can generate such fever pitch among followers, and nationals, alike? It is quite remarkable looking at the Top 10 global fan following numbers, Football topping the charts at an estimated over 3.5 billion fans (just under half of the world’s population), with Cricket coming in at over 2.5 billion, and interestingly, Field Hockey at 2 billion. Tennis at half that amount, with Volleyball just under the 1 billion mark, Table Tennis at 850 million, and then a jum downwards for the final four of the Top 10: Baseball at 500 million, Golf at 450 million, Basketball and American Football each at 400 million. Rugby, surprisingly, does not even feature in the Top 10, and yet at this exact moment, as the national anthems are being sung, the world of sport is watching.

Just a matter of seconds now before the RWC Finals begin, Australia’s Wallabies staring down New Zealand’s All Blacks as the Haka marks the call to battle, 80,000 electrifies followers raising the temperature of the tournament in the stadium as millions upon millions watch from across host country the UK, and the world.

This is the magic of sport, the awe of the human spirit being drawn together around a shared passion for not just the game, but for their flags.With an audience of over 750 million, and an event generating over  US$ 350 million, this is truly a world in union, and an absolute win for the global community.

As for the rugby, the champions are about to emerge.

www.rugbyworldcup.com/news/121536

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

AND THEN AN ANGEL FORCED OUR ATTENTION


 

September 03rd, 2015. Across the world one image haunted millions of hearts.

There, on the gently lapping shores of Turkey’s southwest coastline, a tiny Syrian old boy, just 3 years of age, lay face down, emptied of life. His family’s hopes of a future of safety were now drowned in the waters between Greece and Turkey. Tragedy had gripped the life of the tiny tot.

Seeing the image ,the world was forced to look at the consequences of a growing humanitarian crisis: people leaving their homes and lives for the search of, the wish of, the desperate need for, a better life. Call them ‘immigrants‘. Call them’ refugees‘. In the end they are all the same – people seeking for better, somewhere else where safety and opportunity are hopefully waiting.

People dying to live.

This little boy, soon picked up like a little rag doll, his limbs dangling with having given up , was gone. What the soldier’s thoughts must have been, one can only imagine. And one can only assume that what looked like seawater droplets on the little child’s face were in fact teardrops having fallen from the eyes and heart of the soldier trying to keep even the little boy’s lifeless body safe.

Little Aylan left as his last cry the chilling, albeit silent, words of Look at me!!”

How does this happen? How can the world afford to turn away?

These unnatural moments of human tragedy have, sadly, become a critical triggers to finally, finally, activate caring – it takes one poignant image to open one global heart.

And now the world tunes in to watch the latest on the European migrant crisis with greater attention, greater care, greater concern….

Images such as that of little Aylan create for the world a silent yet deafening cry out for help – an appeal to look, understand, and please do something, turning an issue somewhere out there into an emergency everywhere. The need to understand, really understand what is happening, and see each victim as one heart desperately trying to keep beating, is what turns the lost souls in these iconic images into angels.

These little angels suddenly appear and force the attention of the world. And action.

While challenges may be localised somewhere on the globe, solutions are global. As strongly stated by Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, praised for her nation’s ‘here to help’, thought-trough approach to the crisis, her hope is that the European values will step forward, all nations, to demonstrate the values upon which the union was created. A life-saving example, and appeal, to the EU, and the world. A very rich perspective on the European crisis unfolding, and how best the European and global community can understand to be able to respond, is offered by the Head of UNHCR on http://www.unhcr.org/55e9793b6.html

The image of little Aylan now joins the world’s photo collection of defining moments of our times, everpresent as haunting reminders of our need to never look away. And to see the faces that grip our hearts as messengers of what needs to take action.

For as expressed by Kim Phuc, a name known by few and yet an image familiar to the world, she being the young Vietnamese girl just 9 years of age captured in a horror-revealing image of 1972 Vietnam war, an image is often referred to as ‘the photo that changed the war’,: “Try not to see her as a symbol of war, but try to see her as a symbol for peace.”

A picture is worth a thousand words, a million cries for help, and the opportunity for millions, millions more to do something.

 

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015

 

 

 

10 YEARS ON, GHOSTS STILL LINGER


 

It is one of those times that makes one recall, like a bookmark in the story of one’s life, “I remember where I was when….”

Whether in the place or not, one was firmly in the moment, wherever they may have been in the world. The world stopped, holding its breathe.

Hurricane KATRINA. One storm, one target. One defining moment.

Even 10 years on, stories, reflections, deep sight of recall, makes tears fall – tears of horror, tears of hope, tears questioning how this could have happened, and tears demanding that this never happen again.

As Mother Nature channeled her fury-filled temper towards the southern coast of the USA, the nation braced itself for a storm that defied fiction, and very swiftly and abusively, defied engineering. The Gulf Coast region tried desperately to duck our of harm’s way, but there was no escaping the damage, even if one happened to escape the storm’s path.

Overnight, as darkness fell and the skies started to scream, people and prayers clutched on to one another. As the sun rose, the horror of what had happened unfolded. The storm had ripped through the region, cutting through and washing away lives, livelihoods, hope. In New Orleans alone, the levees had broken, the water had risen flooding 80% of the city.

As stated by The Data Centre, “The storm displaced more than a million people in the Gulf Coast region. Many people returned home within days, but up to 600,000 households were still displaced a month later. At their peak, hurricane evacuee shelters housed 273,000 people and, later, FEMA trailers housed at least 114,000 households.” In the year following Katrina’s arrival, the population of the city dropped by 50% as families – those surviving – continued to wait to rebuild their lives.

The damage was traumatic, the city and Gulf Coast region, traumatised. In one night, with one wicked lashing, Katrina robbed the people of the Gulf Coast region of their dignity, their sense of security, and for hundreds of thousands, their belief in humanity. Scenes of fury from the Superdome, to scenes of death and decay from the flooded streets, revealed how alone millions were feeling.

While the official counts of costs of Katrina are well documented, 1800 lives and over US$ 135billion in damages, the cost spiritually was so much more. How could this have happened? How could such profound loss occur in one of the richest countries in the world? How could a nation priding itself on embracing those from near and afar be felt to be so uncaring, by its own, in their darkest days? And how could of the rest of the world simply sit back and watch?

It was a time that caused many to look down.

Many across the region, across the country. And across the world.

The learnings around Katrina are many. Preparing for a storm can be done with exceptional confidence that essential infrastructure will not fail. And yet, the scars are still raw, even if the levees are now secure. Those there to help, to survive, reflecting back on those horrific days, know that it is not only the hardware of a city that needs to be strong to survive such storms, it is the software – the spirits of the people, those needing help, and those helping, whether around the corner or around the world.

As the 10th Anniversary of Katrina is reached, many know these learnings all too well. Today, while some of the region’s hardest hit areas are now rebuilt with stronger pride and purpose, their people determined to move forward, the distinct musical sounds of the south filling the air, still, there are some where only ghosts reside. Today, 10 years on, the ghosts still walk the streets, shaking their heads, unable to comprehend how this could ever have happened.

In today’s day and age, there is no country immune to crisis, be it natural, economic, social or political.  May Katrina’s ghosts continue to remind us, everywhere, of the need to never look away, from hope, and from others needing our help.

In times of crisis, sometimes even Mother Nature can be forgiven for inflicting such hurt….but not human nature. Strength of spirit and strength of structure go hand in hand when it comes to rebuilding communities, rebuilding lives.

 

Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2015