It’s Friday night and Fred, Frank, Tom, and Ted are drinking beer with their regular friends at the Hullahoo bar, talking about the issues of the Me Too Movement. Cindy sitting across from Frank yells, “Me 2 is taking over boys. It’s role reversal. You better take notice.”
“Scary, Cindy, I did,” Frank says. “I stopped dating for fear of being broadsided or perhaps even castrated.”
“Right,” Ted added. “Broads do that nowadays. What are we going to do about love?”
“You guys are all babes in the woods,” Marlene scoffs. “Me 2 wants real men that do not assault or belittle women like calling us broads.”
“Oh yeah?” howls Frank. “You mean those real men with their naked torsos trunked on romance novels?”
“All written by women, including erotica,” Ted adds. “The three Ls: Love, lust, and lasciviousness. Are they also members of the Me 2 movement?”
“You’re hallucinating,” Marlene’s friend Melissa says. “Me 2 women have their own sense of self-esteem, even if they write erotica.”
“Ha, ha,” laughs Fred. “If I write an erotica novel, I’ll be called a pervert and if you do it, it’s called art. Call that a double standard.”
“When I walk the corridors in my office,” Ted says, “I look straight ahead now and say nothing anymore to the girls passing for fear of being accused of sexual harassment.”
“I won’t open the door for any woman anymore either,” Tom says. “For fear of being told off that she can do that herself. And when I am in the elevator, I won’t even try to let the woman exit first. I rather travel up or down to the next floor. For fear of being told that I’m making inappropriate advances.”
“Me 2 is a serious movement,” Cindy buts in. “You guys shouldn’t make fun of it. It responds to a longtime abuse of women in the workplace or domestic violence, and nobody did a damn thing about it. Thanks to the Me 2 Movement they do now.”
“We’re not denying that, Cindy,” Fred argues. “To the contrary, we agree and I personally am glad that this screwy matter has been put in the limelight. But Me 2 has thrown a wrench into the courting ritual. It’s like lighting a firecracker on the Notre Dame square with all this social media hype. Ever seen male pigeons pursuing female pigeons? Aren’t you guys denying nature’s procreative role?”
“Humans are rational people, animals are not,” Melissa says, raising her voice. “Men have been denying female rights for far too long.”
“You say,” Frank exclaims. “What about those female empresses that sent their lovers to the gallows?”
“Kathryn Dunoova, that French movie star, also said Me 2 had gone too far,” Tom says. “You’re throwing your loverboy away with the bathwater.”
“It’s Catherine Deneuve, you butthead,” called out Emily from the other side of the counter. She pretended she could speak French. “She later apologized for critiquing Me 2.”
“Okay,” Tom responds. “Maybe she did. But she and some ninety-nine other famous French women said the usual male courting rituals shouldn’t be called sexual harassment, and that’s what’s happening here in the US. It’s killing our romance. I guess French women are different from their American species. I’ll be moving to Paris.”
“I was going to propose tomorrow at the top of the Empire building,” Ted announces. “But for fear of being laughed at I may just as well throw myself over the railing.”
“Why should you guys have the exclusive right to propose?” Emily wonders. “Why can’t I propose? Waiting for someone nice to propose is very frustrating for women.”
“I’m sure that most of us men were already proposed to in bed by our girlfriends after our cummy, whispering let’s get married,” Frank says. “Most of us would be too embarrassed to say ‘no.’ So Emily, get your act together.”
“Would you like me to try?” Emily asks, her eyes full of seduction.
“Are you proposing?” Frank asks, among loud laughter.
Emily comes around, pushing his friend Fred off his seat and sits next to Frank. “Yes, I am,” she says. “Pay me a drink to seal it.”
The Hullahoo friends raise their glasses, cheering, “Long live Me 2!”
ENCHANTING THE SWAN – REPRINT BY SUN HILL BOOKS.
” A very enjoyable read. Could make a great movie” – Neal Cary.
” A fine romantic thriller” – Daniel Dwyer
” A heartbreaking love story” – Vera Wilson
Get it on Kindle: https://amzn.to/2UID9dQ
PAPERBACK COMING SOON!
THE LOST CHILDREN – LES ENFANTS PERDUS – ENFANTS DE LA RUE or STREET CHILDREN OF AFRICA.
Hélène Pieume, left on the picture below, was an essential Cameroonian staff member of our Transport Sector Project team. She worked in the World Bank’s Resident Mission in Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital, and after retirement, she started GivHope in 2014 in Yaounde to keep orphaned children off the street and help impoverished families find employment and a better way of life.
Their mission: One child, one family, one community …
Pieume Helene, who Founded GivHOPE in 2014 believes GivHOPE project falls in straight line within the framework of government’s guidance and the strategy set up in the Cameroon’s Vision Document for Development Horizon 2035 on the one hand and the Cameroon Strategy Document for Growth and Employment 2035, (DSCE) on the other.
GivHOPE wants to break the silence and takes the lead in the fight against social exclusion of street children by the implementation of local initiatives for assistance to these socially vulnerable children, including via the Gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Whoever has visited African cities has seen little children roaming the streets begging, often led by ‘pimps’ to collect money for them, and growing up into criminality and hopeless poverty. They are driven to cities from all areas where war is waging or parents have stopped caring for them. GivHope is a wonderful undertaking to combat this abominable situation. State ministries are trying to address the fate of these children but the bureaucracy is not able to handle it all and private organizations must help. GivHope is doing that and has developed into a sustainable organization doing much good, succeeding in putting poor children in school and finding work for youngsters. Some pictures follow below.
Seed money for micro-enterprises from donations.
Hélène with “her” children.
Hélène discussing with her team.
‘Espérance’, a young girl, providing for herself and her child with a “carry out” cookery.
Young mother with children taken care of by Hélène at GivHope.
Hèléne with a young man successful in carpentry work.
Participants in GivHope showing credentials on how much they achieved.
GivHope can be reached on FaceBook under https://www.facebook.com/Givhopeafrica
You can donate on their website! All bits help to keep orphaned children off the streets and struggling families and single moms to find a rewarding employment using seed money from GivHope donations!
And so Meghan and Harry are married, like “we did.” “Royally.” Meghan, a mixed-race American woman and Harry a royal British prince. A fascinating story many are calling a ‘Cinderella’ story. Well, Meghan was not exactly washing dishes and cleaning house, nor was Joy. Meghan is an accomplished actress and a gifted person, and Joy was a clever and adored World Bank front office staff-assistant. Both are extremely charming. But it does sound a bit like a Cinderella story: Meghan is a mixture of a Caucasian father and an African mother. The gripping marriage scenes under clear skies (what a gift from Heaven to the UK!) beautified this ultimate contemporary event, which would have been impossible some forty-five years ago, when we married.
What a difference! I remember watching just-crowned Queen Elizabeth visiting Amsterdam with her Prince Philip in 1958. (The story goes she met him, a second cousin, in Greece when she was 13 and fell in love with him at that time already, writing letters to each other). The state visit to the Dutch Royal family was all stiff pomp, though cordial. Then followed the problems with growing-up children: Charles and Diana’s disastrous divorce, followed by Diana’s tragic death, Andrew and Fergy’s divorce, and daughter Anne’s divorce from Captain Mark Philips. Her third son, Prince Edward, is the only one remaining married to his first wife (Sophie Rhys-Jones). Queen Elizabeth reportedly acquiesced in Harry’s marriage for love to a US commoner of mixed race because she was tired of facing her children’s unhappy marriages. Harry and Meghan’s wedding pictures show that the royal protocol has fundamentally changed.
I can feel that difference probably more acutely than others: Joy Jaundoo – a Guyanese of East-Indian descent – and I, a Dutchman from Amsterdam, married in Washington, D.C. in 1974.
The only person reacting positively was my mother seeing her picture: “Wat beautiful children will you have.” The majority in stiff Holland was upset and against. “He better stay in America,” one noble uncle said. “Why doesn’t he marry one of our own,” one prominent American uttered (many Dutch said the same). An American friend walked out of the elevator when he saw the two of us together. “Don’t do that! You break your family’s bloodstream forever,” another friend offered. “Why don’t you marry a French girl,” a boss said. In Georgetown Guyana, the reception proved a lot warmer. It was mostly more accepting in the World Bank, an eminent multicultural institution where we worked. “In fifty years the whole world will be brown,” a supportive French girlfriend said. Working in a multi-cultural institution made adjustments to each other’s cultures surely a lot easier!
Guyana beach: Drinking coconut water is an art you have to learn before messing up.
Well, perhaps we had the foresight and were ahead of our time: what would that Dutch uncle say now? However, Meghan and Harry will find that mixing cultures and race does have its consequences. Their children will grow up in privileged circumstances but will still be faced with the fact that they are different from their peers born out of same-race families. As parents, they will have to compromise perhaps more than others. The mixture of different bloodstreams causes unmistakably unintended fallouts: how do the children feel internally towards others, to whom do they ‘belong?’ Do they resent the cards that they were dealt with by their parents’ decision? How do they adjust in their childhood and puberty, can they find a partner in their split world, how do they think about being put on this world still full of bigotry? All children and young adults have growing problems but biracial children perhaps more, requiring close parental attention.
Visiting home in Holland in 1979
We are blessed with two good-looking and successful children, with each showing the ‘remnants’ of our individual backgrounds. At my and my sister’s eightieth birthday anniversary last year in Holland at the Maarten Maartens House in Doorn, they were a tribute to today’s changing world. The pictures below of Joy, our children, family and friends clearly show that we and they are no ”exception” anymore. That has been royally confirmed.
Below follows a slightly revised column I wrote in 2014 at the time of the Hamas intrusion into Israël. I repeated it in 2017 in view of the anti-semitic resolution adopted by the UN Security Council, orchestrated by the outgoing Obama Administration and the disturbing anti-Israël speech by John Kerry. I repeat it again in the face of the Hamas riots regarding the opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem. Noticing the continuing appeasement themes of the ‘liberal left’, it seems many still don’t see Hamas is mistreating its people by throwing them into the line of fire.
The UN is generally biased when it deals with Israël. Jerusalem was from millennia times in Jewish hands and was overrun by Arabs when Islam emerged in 630. The Holocaust was instrumental in assuring the Jews a State of their own in 1948. Jerusalem became “Arab” in 1949 when Jordan’s King Husain’s superior army overpowered the then still small Israëli army and annexed the Jewish capital. Israël took it back in the 1967 six-day war. The UN Security Council condemned this in the famous Resolution 242 which required Israël to “withdraw from the territories occupied in the recent conflict.”
ENCHANTÉ has Palestinian and Islamic friends. We sometimes agree to disagree but remain good friends. At a personal level, it works. At the political level, the Israeli-Arab conflict seems insoluble. Much is due to the anti-Israël media of the West, but also American and European antisemitic political forces. (more…)
In the midst of all the hoopla about border control of the seven Middle East countries, among which Iraq, I want to repeat a column I wrote in September 2014 (well before Mr. Trump came on the scene). Much what I said in that column is relevant today. It occurred to me how important it was to shed light again on the “good Iraq.”
Frankly, I felt hurt that under Obama Iraq had been listed as one of the dangerous Middle East countries; and that as a consequence it became part of an immigration ban for 90 days by the Trump administration until effective immigration procedures could be assured.
Much has changed since I dealt with Iraq at the World Bank. Already during the period that I collaborated to implement a diversified project portfolio in Iraq from 2003-2009, Shiite and Sunni rifts hampered execution, and covert Iranian meddling became increasingly ostentatious. Then Sunni ISIS grew exponentially after the US allied forces left.
It broke the camel’s back. Iraq became a wholesome mess with unsavory characters threatening and terminating the life of many. Iraq’s relationship with the US changed from partial partner to full-fledged terror. I felt horrible for my good friends over there, with whom I had worked so closely to get things going in the right direction. It’s always the bad guys that spoil it for the good guys.
In 2003, after the US invasion of Iraq, the UN allotted US$450 million to the World Bank, to devise and help implement basic needs development projects (water supply, school construction, education, health facilities, administrative reforms, technical assistance and training, road rehabilitation and construction, environmental protection, etc.) This relatively small donor-led operation, subsequently enhanced by a US$500 million World Bank soft loan, lasted through 2010 when the funds were exhausted. It was a period where both the World Bank and Iraqis strived to rebuild and upgrade the country’s decades-long retardation to modernize the economy and administration. The operation started out in the most difficult circumstances of growing insurgency. Eventually, after the “surge” in 2007, it reached a stage where both sides began to see the fruits of the hard work. This was achieved through regular exchanges on project development and implementation, a mutual desire to learn how to do things better, how to succeed, and relay the lessons to local and national economic management.
When the US and allied military support disappeared in 2011, much of what had been achieved was destroyed again in the growing sectarian strife and the ISIS insurgency.
Let me repeat the blog of 2014. It shows what is possible in Iraq, in the right environment of mutual give and take by religious sects, and given a chance to succeed:
“Iraq The Beautiful – As an introduction, some photographs of Iraq sent by a close friend.
Baghdad Museum and Northern Iraq
More of northern Iraq
The Marshes, near Nasiriya, Iraq — Marsh Arab Village — Image by Nik Wheeler/CORBIS
Marshlands area in southern Iraq
Imagine you are a teacher with an economics degree, bagged with worldwide experience in economic development and project generation. You are tasked to teach a class of people not speaking your language, with a fractured background of religious strife, totalitarian rule, and years of outdated statist management with the mantra “if you don’t do it my way, there’s the door”, in a region that is entirely different from yours.
Imagine also that you can’t see your class and have to do everything by telephone and e-mail. Imagine further you are working with sometimes squabbling but very intelligent and technically capable Iraqi teams of diverse ethnicity. World Bank staff consisted mostly of capable Arab and Palestinian engineers, educationalists, health specialists, and economists, with similar diverse backgrounds and opinionated opinions about the invasion of Iraq. Imagine lastly that everything has to be done by yesterday.
That’s how I felt when I joined that team in 2005. But in spite of this list of near-paralyzing limitations, the team managed to identify, prepare and help execute a broad-based project portfolio of some 25 projects.
Underlying this effort was a strong push for capacity building and technical assistance. None of this could have been done without the support of (a) carefully selected Iraqi consultants who courageously inspected the project sites and assisted in strengthening the ministerial administrative capabilities of procurement of works, goods and supervision consultants, and (b) dedicated Iraqi counterpart teams in the ministries who were in charge of project implementation.
During the insurgency of 2005-2007, work continued, even though Shiite and Sunni participants were shooting at each other in some ministries, the Central Bank in Baghdad was bombed, and contractors and supervision consultants were threatened and even pursued on project sites. Some of the local consultants got wounded in Baghdad’s almost everyday bombing that caused long delays in just organizing one meeting at an implementing ministry on a given day that would take just a few minutes to arrange in Washington D.C. and an hour or two to finish.
The Iraqi counterpart teams met with the World Bank teams and consultants in Jordan and Lebanon (security reasons prohibited missions from meeting in Iraq) to discuss project progress, crosscutting issues, and necessary changes in design due to continuously changing circumstances. These conferences proved extremely useful, as they were the only real life contacts with Iraqi administrators as a group. It gave the Iraqis the opportunity to talk to their colleagues of other ministries and implementing agencies about common problems they faced and made them feel owners of their programs. You may notice the translation boot in the back.
Meetings with Iraqi counterparts in Lebanon and Jordan (Dead Sea) as security did not allow meetings in Baghdad.
Beirut and the Dead Sea shore
In 2007, a one man hero World Bank mission was set up in the Green Zone in Baghdad, and when security improved in 2009, it was extended to a formal resident office. Some missions took place in Baghdad and Erbil in the Kurdish area which was relatively safe.
The experience of meeting with the Iraqi counterparts, even if taking place mostly through simultaneous translation, convinced me personally that with a sustained effort over the longer term, it would be possible to turn well-educated but held-back Iraqi technocrats into modernized administrators, taking on modern rehabilitation and economic development.
The relative success of the projects, compared to sometimes overly complex design and over-estimated results, surprised many. Some projects, such as irrigation rehabilitation where farmers had a direct incentive to get better, succeeded remarkably well against all the odds and poor expectations.
But politics and religious strife took priority over rational thought. Soon we were back at square one and the spread of ISIL put everything in question. As a pilot enterprise, the hands-on effort in Iraq proved that it is possible to do it right if you give it a chance, but its future looks somber. It was a drop on a hot plate with an uncertain sustainability.
We are now at a point where the Middle East, including Iraq, has to decide how it solves its internal issues. Some Middle Eastern nations realize that ISIL is not the answer. But will they be able to stop the brutal reactionary insurgency?
Mesopotamia was rich in agriculture. Eve gave Adam the apple in Paradise in Iraq, but there was also a snake spoiling the fruits. Ominous foreboding for later Iraq? At one stage, Iraq’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers made it the grain storage of the Middle East, until oil drove the incentive to rigs, and the rivers became polluted because of environmental neglect and were drying up fast. Still, agriculture was and still is Iraq’s largest employer. Oil dependence drives out diversification as often happens in similarly endowed countries. Because of sectarian strife, politics, and tyranny, priorities get distorted, and the general population suffers.
Can a religiously divided Middle East overcome ISIL’s barbarian Sunni frame of mind? How can Iraq continue its economic development? Should we not let them fight it out among themselves? For centuries the UK, France, the Habsburgers and later the USA got their fingers burned in the Middle East. If there had not been oil, what would the Middle East have been now? But ISIS has killed in Europe and the US and operates among others from Iraq. The US and Europe cannot let that continue.
The US is not eager to get into a new war in the Middle East. The Trump Administration intends to erase ISIS, but what action can we expect?
Meanwhile, my Iraqi friends are left in the doldrums, knowing that we could have achieved a lot more if they’d been given a chance. That’s the sad realization.”
Southern and northern areas in Iraq
ISIS has occupied large slices of Iraq. The fight on Mosul is still going on. I watched Iraq reaching stabilization after six years of hard and idealistic efforts, and am saddened by the fate that many of my good Iraqi friends now suffer because of what cruel people do to them and that the US has to close its borders to make sure that those cruel people do not enter the US.
I hope the current administration finds a modus vivendi for Iraq.