Monday, October 25, 2010


I recently watched the movie Invictus. For those of you who have not seen it, I recommend it highly. In a nutshell, the story is based on the newly elected President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, and his use of the South African Rugby team to unite his country.

For this blog, I would like to touch on two of the main themes which I took away from the story.

First and foremost is the portrayal of Mandela's understanding that he must convince the black citizens of South Africa to forgive the white minority for its years of Apartheid. In one scene, he responds to his security staff's request for more men by assigning a number of white officers. When the chief of security rightly points out that these men were most likely active in the arrest and harassment (and possibly worse) of blacks, Mandela asks him to forgive them and that only through this most powerful weapon, forgiveness, can the country be united. Later in the movie, when Mandela hears of a decision to suspend the rugby team (the Springboks), its colors (green and gold) and its national anthem (an Apartheid inspired song), he pleads with the committee to reconsider their vote. He explains that the team is part of the identity of the whites and that by denying them that identity they are acting no better than those who promulgated the awful Apartheid system. He tells the committee members that they must be better than their enemies and that, in fact, the white minority are no longer the enemy but partners in the new South Africa.

Perhaps we should all consider this example when we next seek revenge against someone who wronged us. Whether it be on a personal level or country on country, the world would be such a better place if we acted to unite rather than fight.

The other main point is that when Mandela is reminded that he is risking his presidency because the very people who elected him want an end to the Springboks,
Mandela responds that the moment he worries about losing his elected position is the moment he loses the right to be the leader. He also says that sometimes the people are wrong and that it is his job as their leader to show them the correct way.

Of course, I know this was a Hollywood portrayal of Mandela and was certainly enhanced to make him appear bigger than life, but from what I have read the description of his capacity for forgiveness and for his great sense of responsibility to unite all of South Africa, I would bet it is not too far from the truth.

Is it at all possible for our current president to act this way? We know he has the capacity to discern right from wrong. His push for more equal access to health care, his attempts to reign in the powerful money makers of Wall Street, his forward looking policies of creating green jobs and preserving our environment, and his moral (yes I said moral) understanding that discrimination against gay Americans violates our great founding documents all indicate the possibility of greatness. But to be called a great leader, one must take the populace forward, sometimes by telling them that they are wrong. And not just by saying it, but by telling us why through the use of plain words and personal examples. My bet is that for those on the fence, those that sense there is a rightness to Obama's agenda, this approach will be enough to earn him their respect and support.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Doing what we have to..

More than a month has passed since my last blog. Economic conditions were such that it was necessary for me to take a part time job; I am now delivering the Philadelphia Inquirer. (Yes, I am aware of the irony). This particular job requires me to awaken by 3:00 AM, drive to the warehouse in Doylestown to pick up the papers and do some prep work then I drive back to the Perkasie area and service my route. The route entails much more driving that I expected, and is taking much more time than I anticipated, but is paying more money that I was looking for so the trade off is equitable. And since the work is done in the early morning hours, it doesn't effect my full time job as those hours are diverse, ranging from 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM to as late as 1:15 to 9:15 PM. The key seems to be to maintaining the discipline of getting to bed by 9:30 (yes, even if the Phillies are on TV). Also, on most days I can sneak in a nap before going to the full time job. While it makes me sad that I have less time to write it is necessary so that we can stay economically comfortable.

A recent survey of Americans tried to establish the point where the happiness derived from income levels off. In other words, does more money make you happier. The research study questioned tens of thousands of people from all economic strata and established $75000 as the level of income where happiness does not improve commensurate with an increase in income. If you google "money and happiness" you will see many reports on this study and you can choose any of them to get a slant of its meaning. If you have read my story The Change, then you know where I stand on this issue.

For us, before losing my job in January of this year, we were above that magic number and we were comfortable. We had paid down many debts and did not find too much month at the end of our money. Since then, we have fallen below that level and have found it necessary to examine very closely all monetary outputs. While I have never been a pursuer of money for its sake, I have certainly experienced more angst this past year as I try to maintain my family's standard of living with creative economics. But in the end, the numbers are the numbers, hence this second job.

Like any new job or new experience, delivering newspapers before sunrise has presented a number of surprises. First and foremost, there is a lot of wildlife out there that we never see in the daytime. Deer everywhere, especially in those new cookie cutter developments. Also, skunk, raccoon, possum, mice, moles, cats, dogs and cows. I can't see into the trees for fear of hitting one of the above (or a tree), but I would bet that there are many fowl about as well.

Also, I am beginning to like the dark. There is much less traffic, which enables me to drive on all parts of the road, but the dark itself seems much more comforting that I ever thought. At times, I resent the appearance of the sun as it brings out obstacles to my pleasant morning.

Finally and much to my surprise, people still tip their newspaper carrier! In the four pay periods I have earned so far, I have received tips amounting to about
$75. It makes me mad at myself that I had not tipped my carrier before I began delivering my own paper but provides further proof that people are mostly considerate and good hearted. For those of you who have tipped in the past, whether it be your newspaper carrier or some other service provider (especially those unseen providers) congrats on your generosity. And for those who haven't, perhaps you might want to consider showing your gratitude in the future.