This is an original short story written by Edward Fagan.

The accident happens 

The accident occurs as Ryan hears a loud sound which makes him very alert. He thus is suddenly aware once again that he is driving. He is unable to give an account of his driving for the last couple of minutes. Ryan did not lose consciousness during this time due to any illness.

Ryan thinks he fell asleep while driving and struck an object. He struck this object, whatever it is, very hard given the loudness of sound heard. Ryan wants to know what object he struck.

It is 02: 15 a.m. and outside is chilly and dark. Ryan is traveling on a long stretch of winding road that runs through a large, forested and ecologically diverse area. The forest contains wildlife, and there is a lake and a river in the area. This forested area is located in a remote country region.

The accident and its background

Ryan was driving toward home while he was under the influence of alcohol. He had spent several hours drinking at a pub in a nearby county prior to the start of this journey.

Ryan stopped drinking at pubs and bars in his home county just over a year ago. He stopped because his drinking and behaviour had given him a bad reputation there.

His drinking and behaviour were also affecting his relationship with his family and his work. Ryan’s wife threatened him with divorce, and his boss warned him about the prospect of dismissal from his job.

He even once injured one of his neighbour’s sons while driving under alcoholic influence. He, however, made an out of court settlement with the boy’s family over that accident.

Ryan promised his family and his boss that he would not repeat that mistake. He also promised to control his drinking and change his behaviour. Ryan, therefore, can not afford to become involved in an accident where he is driving under alcoholic influence. He even more so, can not afford to become involved in an accident that causes injury or death to someone.

The accident, Ryan conducts an investigation

Ryan is very apprehensive about the accident. He slows to a stop, takes his flashlight from the cubby and leaves the twin cab pickup truck. The object he struck, is what Ryan is trying to find out.

He slowly walks around the truck, looking carefully on the ground. He expects to discover any fixed or moveable object struck by him while he was driving. Ryan also looks underneath the truck.

He does not see any object, animate or inanimate, that he might have struck while driving. Ryan then decides to check the truck for any sign of damage caused by collision with an object. He now carefully focusses the flashlight’s beam on the pickup truck itself, slowly and meticulously.

Before completing a full circle around the truck during its inspection, Ryan sees damage. He sees two dents that he’s sure weren’t there before. One dent is located in the area of the upper to lower part of the front bumper. It is equidistant from both bumper ends. The other dent is located in the area of the upper to middle part of the grill. This dent is just above the dent in the bumper.

Ryan continues to inspect the truck and completes a full circle of movement around it. He sees no other damage. He struck a movable object, no doubt, but what and where is it?

The accident and Ryan’s further investigation

Ryan parked on the right hand side of the road. He struck the object, whatever it is, on this side of the road. The middle of the front of the vehicle is the part that struck the object. This is so based on the location of the dents on the vehicle.

“I don’t have any clues concerning where to start looking for the object I struck. Perhaps I should start looking in the wooded area to my right.”, Ryan thinks. “Standing close to this area, maybe I could start here.”, Ryan reasons. Ryan starts to walk away from the pickup truck in the direction in which he was driving. He thus walks along the right hand side of the road.

Using his flashlight as he slowly walks along, Ryan looks attentively into the wooded area to his right. He looks as far as the flashlight beam would allow him to see. Walking steadily, he only stops occasionally to pay closer attention to some area that looks darker.

Sometimes he sees a fallen tree limb, other times he sees a small clearing. Hikers and campers do make these clearings at times. He even sees the decaying, partial remains of a deer.

Ryan continues walking slowly and steadily, carefully checking and stopping for a while every now and then. Still, he sees nothing unusual. He does not even see an insect or small animal of any kind.

Then, he sees something that looks unusual; and he starts to worry. Ryan sees a freshly made, narrow foot path. “Who made this foot path and why did they make it?”, Ryan wonders. “Where does it lead?”, he asks.

The accident scene and Ryan’s discovery

Ryan decides to walk off the road and through the tract to its ending. “I hope this isn’t the worst that it can be.”, he says to himself. He worries more and more about a painful outcome from this walk. He worries as he goes deeper into the woods and toward the end of the tract.

Ryan continues using his flashlight as he did earlier. Suddenly, in the faintly lit distance, he sees something that looks unusual. He wishes it offers the prospect of hope rather than that of despair.

Ryan walks ahead and sees what looks like the end of the tract leading to a small clearing. In this clearing, Ryan sees a motionless human-like object. He continues walking toward the clearing and the human-like object. Ryan sees something that extremely shocks him when he finally gets to the clearing, and he faints.

He returns to his normal self but remains in a state of acute fear. He looks at a fully dressed human, a male, who appears to be in his 40’s. This man is lying on his back and motionless. Ryan draws closer and examines him but does not see any external wounds, bleeding or other evidence of physical injury.

Bending over, Ryan checks his pulse and body temperature, and examines his eyes. Ryan thinks he’s dead. “I just killed a man in a vehicular accident”,  Ryan whispers in a sad tone.

The accident and Ryan’s response to his discovery

Ryan glances at his watch and notes that it is 03: 30 a.m. Ryan worries that he has now killed a man while driving under the influence of alcohol. He knows that he has a much higher level of alcohol in his blood than the legal maximum level. Ryan fears that the sheriff’s office will notice his state of intoxication if he goes and reports the accident.

“What should I do? Should I report this accident to the sheriff ‘s office? Should I dump the body in the nearby river and continue on my journey?”, Ryan asks in silence. Ryan makes a decision “I’m going to report this accident to the nearest sheriff’s office immediately.”

The accident and Ryan’s action after his discovery?  

Ryan returns to the vehicle and drives toward the sheriff ‘s office. He drives in the direction in which he was traveling at the time of the accident. He notices a bear lying motionless on his side of the road and it seems to have died recently. It is about 35 yards from where the accident occurred.

Ryan gives a truthful account of the accident after arriving at the sheriff’s office. He is glad that he complies with the law in doing this. Ryan is accompanied by two sheriff’s deputies back to the location of the accident. They are to conduct an investigation there. Ryan is still sad, and fearful of the consequences of this accident.

On their way to the location, both deputies take note of the bear lying at the side of the road. They note that it seems to have died recently. Ryan and the two deputies arrive at the location of the accident.

Ryan is fearful of the consequences of this accident. He thinks he is guilty of the motor manslaughter of the man whose body he discovered in the woods. He thinks that some of the evidence that will lead to his prosecution, will come out of this investigation. Ryan thinks that the rest of the evidence will come from the autopsy that will follow it.

The accident and Ryan’s relief 

He takes the deputies to the clearing in the wooded area where he saw the body of a man. He believed the man was dead. The body Ryan saw is no longer there. Some one removed the body without a trace. Ryan is surprised and confused.

” There was the body of a man right here in this spot.”, Ryan says to the deputies. He is pointing to the exact spot where he saw the body. Both deputies believe that Ryan saw the body of a man in the spot as he claims.

The two deputies quietly carry out their investigation and take photos; after which they ask Ryan to return with them to the sheriff ‘s office. At the sheriff’s office, the deputies tell Ryan that there will be further investigation of the accident. There will also be further investigation of the claim of discovery and disappearance of the body of a man.

Ryan is praised for reporting the accident early, and telling the truth about the accident. He is praised for telling the truth about his drinking prior to his last home-bound journey. He is also praised for reporting his discovery of a man’s body.

The deputies warn Ryan, however, about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol. They also remind him that the practice is illegal. The deputies promise that they will not prosecute him for driving under alcoholic influence on this occasion. Ryan thanks the deputies for pardoning him for driving under alcoholic influence.

The sheriff’s office also refuses to charge him with any other traffic offence. There is no evidence that he is guilty of any such offence; and he thanks the deputies.

The accident and what follows

Ryan tells the deputies that he continues to have fears about the accident. He worries that he might be responsible for the death of the man whose body he saw in the woods. One of the two deputies who visited the location of the accident spoke with Ryan. He reminds Ryan that he could have struck the recently killed bear seen close to where the accident occurred. He, instead, could have struck the man whose body he discovered in the woods.

Ryan agrees with the deputy and finds some hope in the thought of his having struck the bear. He prefers to have struck the bear rather than the man.

The sheriff ‘s office promises to contact Ryan if necessary, concerning the continuing investigation into the accident. The sheriff’s office also promises to contact him if necessary concerning the claimed discovery and disappearance of a man’s body.

The sheriff’s office does not charge Ryan with any traffic or other offences. He continues to experience a sense of sadness, but now, is beginning to also experience a sense of joy.

The accident and Ryan’s final thoughts about it

Ryan wonders about a few things as he drives toward home. He wonders if he caused the accident by not being sober and falling asleep while driving. He also wonders how the accident would have gone had he been sober and awake when it happened.

“Did the vehicle collide with the man or the bear, and if it did, whose fault was it?”, Ryan asks.

Ryan thinks this accident leaves a few questions unanswered. Some of these questions pertain to the discovery and disappearance of a man’s body. Some of these questions, likewise, pertain to the presence of a recently killed bear near the location of the accident.

Ryan is wondering if this accident and its implications might just be the final wakeup call. Is this a warning for him to stop driving under alcoholic influence before something much more serious than this happens?

By Edward Fagan

 

This is an original creative composition written by Edward Fagan. (It is based on a personal experience.)

Arrest and the accusation

Arrest of Earl is not on his mind as he drives the truck to the junction and stops. Earl is driving on a road which runs adjacent to one which is busy with traffic. He patiently awaits the clearing of traffic on this road. Earl does not know an arrest awaits him following these few moments he spends at this junction.

His three passengers and fellow workers, two male and one female, and himself talk and laugh until the road clears.

The road finally clears and Earl exits from his stationary position while turning right onto the adjacent road. A female shouts something and flares her right hand in an angry manner. She does this from a vehicle traveling in the opposite direction. This female thinks he failed to stop at the junction. She, therefore, suggests this in her statement, and hand gestures intended at Earl.

Earl slows to a stop “I stopped at the junction Mam.”. She stops and disagrees “No, you drove straight through onto this road.”. Earl repeats his position a few times. He does this in response to her accusing him several times of not stopping at the junction.

She leaves her vehicle and walks to Earl’s and shows a police badge. “Switch off the engine and come out of the vehicle.”, she orders. Earl complies. “I’m Police Constable Lia Connell.”, she says, in a stern and somewhat angry tone. She’s young, perhaps in her mid to late twenties, and perfectly beautiful.

Arrest of an innocent man

“You failed to stop at the junction and that’s an offence.”, she says. She is violently poking her finger in Earl’s face and toward his eyes. Earl disagrees, “I stopped at the junction and exited after the road cleared.”. He then says “Do you see how dangerously close to my eyes your fellow officer is poking her finger?” “She’s not touching your eyes though.”, the other officer responds.

Constable Lia Connell opens a book and looks at Earl in an angry manner, “What’s your name?” “Earl Farley”, Earl answers calmly. She writes it in the book. “You failed to stop at the junction, why are you denying it?” Earl is surprised and upset at her behaviour. She demands to get a confession of guilt from him, and he wonders why. She even forgets, or otherwise refuses, to take his address.

“I stopped at the junction before driving onto this road.”, Earl insists. “OK fine! Arrest and handcuff him!”, she says angrily to one of her two male passengers.

A policeman handcuffs and places Earl in the unmarked police vehicle. Earl is surprised at his arrest; but he does not know what is yet to come. He sits in the rear between the two male passengers. It is 03: 00 p.m.

Arrest and the journey of brutality

The police speedily drive off Earl to the police station with the vehicle’s siren blaring and its beacon flashing. Earl sits with handcuffed hands in lap. There is silence in the vehicle. The phone in Earl’s top pocket rings. He attempts to answer it, so he takes it out and presses the answer button.  It is Earl’s boss and he hears the vehicle’s siren and suspects that Earl is under arrest.”Don’t let him answer that phone!”, Constable Connell angrily states. Earl does not expect what happens next.

Simultaneously, the outer hands of both male passengers grab Earl’s throat and start to choke him very tightly; while their inside hands tightly grab his handcuffed hands and start to take away the phone. He’s in intense pain and unable to speak. They also completely restrict all of his body movement by very forcefully pressing inward toward him. The police prevent him from speaking to his boss on the phone.

The two men who choked Earl take him to an interrogation room at the police station. The choking shocks and sickens Earl. “Why did you arrest and choke me?” he asks. “We can do you anything without having to answer any questions you ask us.”, answers John Bailey. He seems the more wicked and conceited of the two men.

Arrest and retention in a cell 

Sergeant Alvin Springfield gets Earl’s name from constable Lia Connell and calls Earl.”Earl Farley”, he calls, “I’m Sergeant Alvin Springfield. Can I take a statement from you or have you answer some questions?”. “I prefer not to give a statement or answer any questions. I thus wish to exercise my right to remain silent.”, Earl politely says. “Well, if that’s your position, I have to accept it.”, The Sergeant says. He slowly closes his notepad, gets up and leaves the room.

The police place Earl in a holding cell during the afternoon. They later charge him with failing to stop at the junction, and refusing to give his name and address. The police then give him a date for the first court-hearing of these charges, and release him on bail. They release Earl from the holding cell during late evening, 09: 30 p.m.

Arrest and court hearings

Earl visits a leading ear, nose and throat specialist on the day after his release.  The medical examination, expectantly, reveals throat and neck injury caused by the police choking him.

Hearing of the case continues for several months. Earl represents himself and is glad for the opportunity this gives him to question the police concerning the incident.

During one of the hearings, Earl questions Constable Lia Connell. “Constable Connell, did you enter the main road from the junction above the one from which I entered it?” “Yes I did.”, she replies. “Are you aware that there is an outward bend in the stretch of road which lies between the two junctions?” “I do not remember it.” she says. “Are you aware that this outward bend completely blocks the view of vehicles exiting both junctions from each other?” She hesitates, then slowly answers, “No, I’m not very familiar with the roads in this area.”

Arrest and court hearings continue

At this point Magistrate Robin Simpson makes a comment. “I may say something here,” he says, “I know this road very well, having grown up in the area. Motorists at one junction simply can not see vehicles at the other junction. It is therefore impossible for someone at one junction to know, by seeing, what someone at the other junction does.”

Earl continues his questioning, “Where was my vehicle when you first saw it?” “Your vehicle was on the main road.”, she answers. “Did you see my vehicle at or driving toward the junction, at any time?” “No, I did not.”, she replies. “I have no further questions to ask, your honour.”, Earl declares.

Earl calls his three passengers as witnesses during this same hearing. They confirm his claim that he gave his name when asked to give it. These three passengers also stated that Constable Lia Connell never asked for his address. They were consistent in their answers to questions from both Earl and the prosecution.

At this point during the hearing of the case, Magistrate Robin Simpson asks the prosecution a question. He asks them if they have any further questions for any member of the defence. “Your honour, the prosecution does not have any further questions for the defence.”, answers a member of the prosecution team. Magistrate Simpson adjourns the case for a week.

Arrest and establishment of truth

A week later, hearing of the case resumes. The prosecution give a brief summary of their position in the case and Earl does the same. Finally, Magistrate Robin Simpson states his position in the case., “Why is Mr. Farley accused of not stopping at the juncture? Why are the police accusing him of refusing to give his name and address? The police arrested and placed him in a cell at the station, why? He certainly did not commit any arrestable offences.”

He arranges some papers on his desk and pauses for a moment. “The police brought three charges against Mr. Farley that are not justified. Mr. Farley did not commit any of those three offences brought against him. The police should not have arrested him; his arrest was therefore unwarranted.” He turns his head in Earl’s direction and looks at Earl rather calmly. “You are therefore free to go Mr. Farley.”

By Edward Fagan

Friendship is the most fundamental element in all successful human relationships.

Friendship is perhaps the most common of all human relationships. Friendship is also the binding quality that is found in every relationship that is working and whose members get along.

Friendship includes such qualities as understanding, patience, forgiveness, sensitivity, tolerance, kindness, sympathy, empathy and so on. Friends will choose peaceful, harmonious interaction over interaction that is troublesome, conflicting and confusing.

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Practical friendship involves friends performing acts of helpfulness and kindness toward each other and forgiving each other when mistakes are made or wrongful acts are done.

The members of any type of relationship which does not have the binding quality of friendship will experience conflict within that relationship. Those members will tend to drift apart from each other and eventually the relationship will end. A marriage, for example, can break up because its partners failed to be friends for an indefinite period.

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All types of relationship can benefit by having the binding quality of friendship including: romantic, family, workplace, professional/client, business, seller/buyer, social/sports club and religious groups.

This binding quality can repair relationships whose damage results from the absence of friendship. Such relationships include marriages in which partners are not friends. Members of such relationships need to become friends and develop the qualities of friendship and perform the acts of friendship as mentioned above.

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Friendship’s binding quality can also repair relationships whose damage results from causes other than the absence of friendship. Here’s an example: Mark and David are very good friends; each owns a small building contractor company; an important tender for a contract is advertised; it is the kind of contract of which both men dream; they both bid; both men are interviewed several times and asked to offer an alternative quote; finally, after both men wait with bated breath, David’s bid is accepted, he is offered the contract; Mark is saddened; he gradually ends his friendship with David; David is unhappy about losing Mark’s friendship; he forgives mark and offers him some of his newer contracts; Mark accepts David’s offer of these contracts and is happy once again; and finally, Mark resumes his friendship with David.

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The importance of friendship as a relationship or as a part of all relationships should never be overlooked. True friendship embodies all of the best qualities we can have and all of the best acts we can perform toward each other. The qualities we develop and our mastery of the acts we perform when we practice true friendship are transferable to all other types of relationship. We should therefore use every opportunity we get to practise true friendship.

By Edward Fagan

 

Forgiveness is a quality we need to have, and a practice we need to apply.

Forgiveness of others involves our showing them unconditional mercy and refusing to hold against them, the wrong they have done to us. Such wrongdoing against us can be accidental or deliberate. We refuse to seek revenge against them but may ask them to correct a course of action to restore a state of just behaviour toward us.

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We may, for example, (especially if the wrongdoing was deliberate) ask them to return property they have taken from us or ask them to compensate us for that property. We may also ask them to promise that they will not commit such wrongdoing against us in the future.

Forgiveness is not a reserve of religion. Its principle can be embraced and it can be practised by everyone including theists, atheists, skeptics and agnostics. It also is not peculiar to a particular people or culture.

The underlying principle of forgiveness is good and worthwhile in itself; and it is universal and timeless. When we practise forgiveness we further develop it as a quality thereby contributing to the development of true character.

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The practice of forgiveness is related to and may involve the practice of such other qualities as sympathy, empathy, forbearance and so on. The practice of these qualities also contribute to the development of our character.

The practice of forgiving and the attendant development of our character can be of benefit to both the forgiver and the forgiven. Such ability to forgive and the corresponding enhancement of character can also benefit all of our relationships. The practice of forgiveness can also benefit the social units to which we belong and the wider community in which we live. At the community level, physical violence, crime and incarceration and the economic cost of these areas of activity are but a few of the areas that can benefit from the practice of forgiveness as it is viewed above.

By Edward Fagan

Farmers and the authorities can take these simple steps to greatly reduce the present level of praedial larceny.

Farmers and the authorities working together and significantly reducing the current level of praedial larceny across our communities is testing but not impossible. There are some simple steps that we can take through legislation and its enforcement that can significantly reduce the level of this type of theft.

Our vegetable farmers play a very important role in our community and the wider society. They produce food for our consumption thus helping us to become more self sufficient in the area of food production.

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They are hardworking and dedicated people. They make many sacrifices and often undergo much hardship and difficulty. Some of this hardship and difficulty is caused by vegetable thieves who often reap and make off with whole crops. The thieves sell these crops to unsuspecting buyers for easy profit. The farmer suffers an even greater loss.

We can not afford to lose our farmers through their giving up on agriculture because of this problem; we need to act now.

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We need to legislate for and enforce the following approach to deal with this problem:

Registration of each of the following categories of individuals and businesses who are involved in vegetable retail and or wholesale and who:

  • Produce to retail (Register of Producers who Retail)
  • Produce to wholesale (Register of Producers who Wholesale)
  • Buy to retail (Register of Buyers who Retail)
  • Buy to wholesale (Register of Buyers who Wholesale)

Individuals and businesses can be registered under more than one category and at more than one address and location if necessary.

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Registration of individuals and businesses must include registration of their address and location. The address and location of individuals and businesses must be inspected and verified before registration can be completed.

Registered individuals and businesses will be issued with documents of registration and identification cards. These documents and identification cards must be shown on demand to businesses, government officials and law enforcement officers.

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It will be a criminal offence for anyone to even attempt to retail or wholesale vegetable produce without being registered and in possession of the relevant documents and identification card. It will also be a criminal offence for anyone to purchase vegetable produce from a retailer or a wholesaler who is not registered and in possession of the relevant documents and identification card.

The type and extent of punishment of offenders under this new legislation is left to the legislators and law courts.

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This type of legislation and its enforcement are similar to the type of legislation and enforcement that serve to register and regulate drivers and motor vehicles.

It is necessary to create and share a database of registered individuals and businesses who are involved in producing, selling and buying vegetables. Prospective and unknown sellers can be checked against the database information. Information on known offenders can also be stored and accessed on this database.

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Drones should be used to increase security of cultivated areas during both day and night. Drones can be fitted with lights and very powerful cameras for easy and accurate detection and video recording of people and other objects. This recorded information can then be passed on to the police.

Enacting into law and enforcing the suggestions offered above will assist our farmers in their attempt to be free of the menace of praedial larceny. Our farmers, our communities and our economy stand to benefit when this happens; let us therefore look forward to the day when the suggestions offered above are written into law and enforced to the benefit of all.

By Edward Fagan

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Support given to the elderly and disabled freely by persons in the community is commendable.

Support giving is discussed by Rita, Musa and Monica while they wait in a long queue of vehicles at a service station under a heavily over cast sky. They would rather not be in this queue at all but are patient and understand the importance of people getting their hurricane supplies.

A hurricane is expected to reach land within the next two days. The prospect of a hurricane reaching land within such a short period always results in a rush to get extra hurricane supplies, including petrol and diesel for generators.

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“I am concerned for the welfare of the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, the mentally ill, the incurably ill, those who are confined to bed because of illness, babies and very small children.”, Monica says.

She continues, “These groups are the most vulnerable among us during disasters such as hurricanes so they need our support more so than others during such disasters.””Our support can also be helpful to them when life returns to normal in the community following a natural disaster.”, Rita adds.

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“The kind of help that we can give as individuals in our community especially to the elderly and disabled can be very useful now.”, Rita says. “This is so because some of these people are being neglected or have been abandoned altogether by relatives.”, she continues.

“The healthcare and social services collectively provide modern professional health care and related assistance.”, Monica says.

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“The collective support of these services should be complemented at home by the support of individual family members.”, Rita adds. “Where such individual support is not available in the homes of our elderly and disabled, it can be provided by volunteers within the community.”, she continues.

“Our giving personal support to the elderly and disabled under normal conditions in our community is quite simple.”, Musa says.

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He gives a few simple guidelines to follow,”Care about the people we are supporting; be honest with them at all times; become friendly with them and get to know them well if they are not so well known to us; support the number of persons that we can practicably support; keep a list of the persons we are supporting in our community; and carefully record the necessary information about the persons we support such as the illnesses from which they suffer, the clinics they attend, the foods they must avoid and so on.

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Personal support we can give to the elderly and disabled within our community includes: ensuring their safety and wellness by daily visiting them in their homes; returning their phone calls; talking and listening to them; ensuring that they take meals, take their medication, keep appointments, meet basic commitments like bill payments, and access available and needed services; minimizing their transportation difficulties; and performing chores and errands for them.”

“Other points of assistance can be added to the ones identified here but these few are sufficient for us to start giving personal support to those who need it.”, Musa concludes.

By Edward Fagan

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Thought and action toward mentally ill persons should be without stigma.

Thought: why do we stigmatize mental illness and then in an attempt to avoid stigmatizing our relatives and friends who are suffering from mental illness, deny that they are suffering from such illness?

The answer to this question may be obvious, but would it not be better to stop stigmatizing mental illness? Would we not then be able to admit that our relatives and friends are suffering from mental illness without having to worry about the stigma of mental illness?

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We do not stigmatize diabetes, cancer, heart disease or high blood pressure. We thus do not see any need to deny that our relatives and friends suffer from these diseases. Mental illness is another disease like any other; it does not have to be stigmatized.

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Should we stop stigmatizing mental illness, this would allow us to seek professional help for our mentally ill relatives and friends at the earliest opportunity. (There would be no stigma to prevent us from admitting the presence of the disease in the early stage.) This early help could be sought without our experiencing a sense of shame due to the absence of any associated stigma. This early help should also allow the mentally ill the earliest and best chance of either recovering from their illness, or otherwise learning to live with the reality of the permanence of that illness.

By Edward Fagan

 

People need not be subjected to name calling, stigma and prejudicial treatment.

People and their welfare is a favourite subject of Douglas who sits peacefully on his patio with his friend David. It is a quiet Saturday afternoon and the weather is fine; both men are off from work and relaxing while chatting in their usual friendly manner. Both men like thoughtful conversation and several topics are discussed by them this afternoon. During their conversation, Douglas raises a topic from a former conversation which is of particular interest to him, “Naming People”.

“Why are people given names?”, ask Douglas, as David is about to place the magazine through which he is browsing on the table before him. “I think people are given names so that they can be identified from among others.”, David answers. “In a world of only two persons neither one of them would need a name as there would be no chance of a mistaken identity.”, David remarks with a smile.

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“Are there any other reasons for which names are sometimes given to people?”, asks Douglas with a rather innocent look on his face. David answers after a short pause, “Yes, two such reasons come to mind.” David continues by saying that “The first reason has to do with an attempt to indicate one or more peculiarities of the bearer of the name.” David then says, “The second reason has to do with an attempt to stigmatize the bearer of the name (individually and or collectively) by giving them a name that is by nature derogatory and belittling.”

“Let us look at the first of these two other reasons for which names are sometimes given.”,  David suggests. Douglas agrees, and David continues by saying “This is not so much of another reason for giving a name to a baby but rather an attempt to give the baby a name which, not only identifies him but more specifically tells us something about one or more of his peculiarities.” David continues to say that, “In some cultures, names are selected for babies based on the meaning of the name and its relevance to some physical or other trait of the baby or an aspect of the baby’s life or circumstances.”

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David continues by reminding, “Remember that the following list of categories of baby names that is mentioned here and used in some cultures is not exhaustive.” David then states, “Some of the categories under which baby names are selected for a more specific indication of any of the baby’s personal or circumstantial traits are: body, birth, family background, circumstances, geography and the hopes and fears of the parents.” David continues, “Here also are some examples of names, with their meaning given after them, that are chosen for the relevance of their meaning to personal or circumstantial traits of the baby: Ham (black) Augustus (born in August) Moses (drawn from the water) Omar (first born) Muhammad (most praised one).”

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“Now let us look at the second of these two other reasons for which names are sometimes given.”, David remarks. He takes a sip of a glass of orange juice which he is served by Douglas. Douglas clears his throat and nods in agreement. David continues by saying, “This second reason for giving a name is not like the first reason in that it can sometimes be a bad reason. The reasons for giving names in this case are often to derogate and belittle the bearer of the name. Such derogatory and belittling names are given to groups and individuals in order to stigmatize them.”

David continues by saying that, “Names only identify a person, they do not shape or mold him. They do not determine how or what a person is; and they do not determine the choices a person makes or the outcome of those choices.” Pausing for a sip of orange juice, David then continues, “Derogatory names are no exception to this rule even though they sometimes succeed in stigmatizing the bearer of them.”

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Douglas shakes his head in agreement and softly taps the top of the table with his right index finger, before he says, “I could not agree with you more.” Douglas then pauses shortly before continuing to say, “Names do not make us, character does. Stigmatization gradually disappears when character appears. Stigmatized persons only need to show true character.” Douglas continues, “Where character has lapsed it must be revived. Where it never existed, it must be developed. Some of the basic areas of activity for practice of characterful development are: willingness to live with others harmoniously, honesty, truthfulness, forgiveness, empathy and general outgoing care and concern for others.” Douglas continues by saying, ” Setting worthwhile goals to be pursued is the next step that should be taken by the stigmatized person. It should also be noted that when persons of character work hard toward achieving lofty goals, they almost always achieve such goals.”

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Douglas pauses briefly after speaking, then gets up and clears the table of the remaining orange juice and the drinking glasses which were used earlier by both men; he takes them into the kitchen. In Douglas’ absence, David gets up and walks slowly toward the rear outer edge of the patio and surveys the surrounding area and the sky. Returning to the table on Douglas’ return from the kitchen, David says, “It is almost dusk. I shall stay for the evening news then I shall be going.” The evening news begins at seven o’ clock. After a short period of silence, both men join Douglas’ beautiful wife in the living room where she is sitting while awaiting the start of the evening news. The evening news ends an hour later and David departs for home after thanking Douglas for a good conversation and his friendly presence; and after thanking Douglas’ wife for welcoming him as their guest.

By Edward Fagan

  

No One is ever born without mental and emotional traits, and without tendencies that will influence behaviour later.

No one is ever even born free of preferences and inclinations toward courses of action and behaviour at the mental emotional and physical levels; even though we can resist and act contrary to them.

Every once in awhile I become involved in a conversation with friends or relatives about the behaviour (usually of a habitual and undesirable kind) of a child or adolescent about whom we care and the question always arises as to who or what is the cause of that behaviour.

My friends and relatives almost always hold the view that the blame is to be placed solely on the shoulders of someone else (for example, the influence from others, peer pressure) or something else (for example, the lack of money or other physical possession). I almost always hold the view that their position is a mistaken one.

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Are people born with any tendencies or potential to develop any tendencies that will later result in or influence the nature of their actions, preferences, likes, dislikes and so on as they develop and mature toward adulthood; or are they born as a blank slate, without any such tendencies or potential to develop any such tendencies?

The answer to the first part of that question seems to be yes, the answer to the second part seems therefore to be no. Such tendencies, actual or potential and so on are sometimes visibly seen displayed in the behaviour of some very small children and even babies.

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As they grow older and mature toward adulthood, such behaviour in those very small children and babies not only remains consistent throughout their development but also becomes more and more pronounced as time passes.

Since that is the case, we can also safely say that in order for something to develop and mature, that-something must first exist, if only as a seed from which the final result will develop.

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Here are two good examples that seem to show the correctness of the answers given to the double question that is asked above. This is the first example: the very first time I heard classical music (I was a very small child who was at the stage of development that allowed him to be able to appreciate music.) I liked it.

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It was heard from a neighbour’s radio. Prior to, and at that moment I had seen no one anywhere listening to or showing any kind of appreciation for classical music. (I actually grew up in a home that had no radio, television or any other type of audio-visual equipment for the first eighteen years of my life.

That experience, by the way, was without any regret as I had access to a world of great books.) My love for classical music became deeper and more sophisticated with time as I matured and grew older.

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The second example is: I started sucking my right index finger and the one next to it at birth (They probably were being sucked even before birth.) and continued to suck them until age eleven. There could not have been any ‘external influence’ acting on and influencing me to start and continue sucking my fingers in this case.

There also is the question of choice. We are free to choose between following our natural born-with tendencies that incline our behaviour toward a certain direction, and following other courses of action (either internally or ‘externally’ motivated) temporarily or permanently.

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(Here is an example of this point: when I stop sucking my index and other fingers after doing so for eleven years as mentioned above, I resisted a born-with tendency and practice for their opposite course of action. That opposite course of action was internally motivated, I decided finger-sucking was not the best practice to keep, and that opposite course of action, giving up finger-sucking, was also permanent.)

Given what has been said above, it therefore seems truthful to say that no one is born as a blank slate, but rather with tendencies that influence and shape our behaviour even though we can resist these tendencies and act contrary to them if we so desire.

By Edward Fagan

 

On why there’s the sad plight and how that plight might be alleviated.  

On the question of the cause of the problems experienced by Africans and the African diaspora all blame cannot be attributed to the slave masters, colonists and colonial powers. Those problems also can not be blamed totally on any racial discrimination that continued after the abolition of slavery and the end of colonialism.

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On the matter of certain choices, it is clear that those made by Africans in the various areas of national development, from the beginning and continuing through time, did not serve their national development interests. The choices they made contributed to their becoming seriously disadvantaged in all areas of national development, including social, economic, political, military and other forms of development. (Two examples of the point made above is that, during and after the Bronze and Iron Ages and well after the industrial revolution, Africans continued to fight with wooden weapons. Africans also never established and maintained clearly defined, tribal/national borders.) Later, the failure of Africans to achieve a significant level of development in those areas mentioned above not only placed them at a disadvantage but was successfully exploited by others in their quest to enslave and colonize Africans.

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On the question of admitting their past and present contribution to the situation, they are hopeless. In order to achieve an appropriate level of development in the important areas of life that meets the needs of African people (on the African continent and elsewhere) African people firstly must admit that they still contribute to their current plight by continuing to think and behave in relation to national development as they did prior to their enslavement and colonization.

(An example of this point is the non-existence, both before slavery and after its abolition, of: long-term economic, social, agricultural, educational and health policy; absence of infrastructure for the realization of policy goals and objectives in such areas as economic, social and other development; absence of complex systems for, tribal/national financial accounting, large scale agricultural production, extensive land, coastal and communications development, inter-tribal/national commerce and trade, and tax revenue generation, to name a few.)

African people must create a body of experts for the long term planning and creation of all aspects of development policy, and create an infrastructure for the implementation of the long term development plans of that body.  They also need to realize that because of the non-existence of fundamental and long-term developmental planning and an infrastructure for the realization of economic and other development goals as mentioned above, the changes made and the progress achieved since abolition, colonization and independence are always going to be superficial, fragile and of a relatively short-term duration.

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It is necessary too, that Africans identify the changes in their thinking and behaviour they are required to make at the personal level (both individually and collectively) that will contribute to their personal development and achievement. They must understand the close interconnection between and interdependence of personal development and achievement and the common good; they must therefore personally commit to the common good. This personal commitment to the common good must include understanding the importance of, and practical commitment to moral values (especially the value of honesty, which is necessary for the reduction of certain crimes and the elimination of corruption). Without upholding these moral values in practice, there can be no real development, national or personal.

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The history of the African people prior to their enslavement took the unfortunate turn that it did and continued along that path because Africans failed (for whatever reasons) to follow certain courses of action, to create certain institutions and to adopt certain corrective measures, of which some are mentioned below:

A strong sense of identity of ethnicity and race: Ethnic groups (nations) never took themselves seriously as nations and, consequently, as preservers and defenders of their race.

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Strong, ethnocentric political ruler-ship, sense of absoluteness (sense of relationship of rulers and people to God); know importance of role in, and purpose of, leadership; development or borrowing of efficient and effective political, military, legal and economic systems: they fell very short in these areas but could have borrowed ideas and practices from others, as other races have done. (Example, Africans fought with wooden weapons far too long, up to, during and after the colonial period.)

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Identification and preservation of ethnic legacy, heritage, culture, history, language (Realize importance of creating or borrowing alphabet, grammar, literary tradition) They failed miserably in these areas also, but again, could have borrowed from the other races. (Example, Africans did not create or borrow any alphabet or grammar, their languages did not develop and they remained non literate.)

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A Permanent commitment to establishment and preservation of tribal/national homelands (realize importance of patriotism, nationalism) they failed here totally, too, but could have adopted the better approach of other peoples. (Example, Africans failed to establish and maintain clearly defined tribal/national borders.)

It is hopeful, but not expected in several generations to come, that Africans on the continent and in the diaspora will make the changes suggested above and below for the alleviation of many of the problems from which they are suffering.

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The democratic political system with its various institutions and checks and balances for the prevention of abuse, corruption etc, though not faultless, is second to none; and its accompanying capitalist economic system, though not faultless likewise, is also second to none. The principal and outstanding feature of this twin system is the freedoms it affords the societies who adopt it and those freedoms include freedom to choose which development goals to pursue, and freedom to determine how and when to pursue those development goals. This democratic-capitalist system then, would seem to be the ideal system for African societies.

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That salient feature of the democratic-capitalist system, freedom to choose (in politics, in the economy and in other areas of societal life, within the law) is the very reason why the democratic-capitalist system is not the ideal system for development in African societies. African societies, when left free to choose between development and underdevelopment always choose the latter, some evidence is given above to support this position.

What then is the solution to the problems of African tribes/nations’ persistent underdevelopment and their constant refusal to freely work toward achieving development?  The solution is one that has never been tried before, and one that will never be tried at anytime soon by any African tribe/nation. The solution is a two sided system comprising of a political dictatorship and a non-political, central, economic and social planning body. A sensible, efficient and effective political dictatorship will manage only the political affairs of the tribe/nation; and an independent, non-political, central planning body of experts will formulate economic and social policy; the economic and social policy will then be implemented by the various parts of a well developed and extensive economic and social infrastructure as planned.

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(The standard used by this writer throughout this observation to measure the performance within various areas of activity of the African tribes/nations is met by Biblical Israel and Historical Germany.)

By Edward Fagan