Amanda Gorman’s nod to Derek Walcott

It’s hard to imagine Gorman not growing up with Walcott being recited at home.

The opening lines referencing time, the internalisation of the challenge ahead, the humility of looking introvertily at one’s weaknesses and embracing the imperfections of oneself echoe Walcott’s Love after Love.

I could almost go as far as to say Walcott’s self healing treatment laid bare a platform on which Gorman was able to accelerate this message out of oneself and into the wider healing sense sought in community.

I’ll say no more.

Both poems are copied for your enjoyment.

Derek Walcott’s Love after Love (1940’s)

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Amanda Gorman’s Biden inauguration poem The Hill We Climb (2021)

When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?

The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.

We’ve braved the belly of the beast.

We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.

And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.

Somehow we do it.

Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.

We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.

And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.

We are striving to forge our union with purpose.

To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.

And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.

We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.

We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.

We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:

That even as we grieved, we grew.

That even as we hurt, we hoped.

That even as we tired, we tried.

That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.

Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.

Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.

If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.

That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.

It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.

It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.

We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.

Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.

This effort very nearly succeeded.

But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.

In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.

This is the era of just redemption.

We feared it at its inception.

We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.

So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’

We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:

A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.

We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.

Our blunders become their burdens.

But one thing is certain:

If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.

So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.

With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.

We will rise from the golden hills of the west.

We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realised revolution.

We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.

We will rise from the sun-baked south.

We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.

In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.

When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.

The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.

If only we’re brave enough to be it.

Things I would have done differently if I knew we’d have covid-19.

Ibiza – a beautiful island, full of hidden gems. Sunsets by the lapping water, jumping off the rocks. I would have gone to raves and danced til the morning.

Oman, Malaysia and Myanmar – I should have jumped on a plane in November 2019/January 2020 to see a couple of familiar faces and smell the sweetness in the air.

Friends and parks and parties – could have gathered together more, drunk more together and danced, dropping the pressure of prioritising what we now know are very unimportant things in life.

Philosophy – read more ancient Greeks and a lot more Edward Said, a whole lot more of Said. They are good for the soul and got it all worked out. If everyone spent one hour a week doing this, the world would be much more prepared for this than it is now.

Notting Hill Carnival 2019 – I would have gotten out of bed at 7, arrive by 9 and put that big costume on offer to me to dance the day away. Still got to dance, but not in the band bc couldn’t get there due to overcrowding which also led to soundsystems being switched off early. Hot days in London…my carnival family which I miss so much.

It’s a tough time for everyone looking ahead from 2020.

May all your moments and wishes evolve into your reality.

Love to you all for a peaceful quiet Christmas and a kinder year ahead.

Christmas shopping list – let’s go!

OK guys. You must have had your November pay by now. We are only a few weeks away from the big X and the new year. It’s come around quickly hasn’t it?

We all know this will be a different one. And most importantly it needs to be a meaningful one. So pack away ideas to spend on more tat and cheap stocking fillers made by child labourers god knows where and emerge yourself fully into local vibes, as covid-19 prescribes, with wisdom…

GIFT SHOPPING

Shop gifts from online charity shops. There are loads out there, my favourite ones is RNLI for obvious reasons, but there are loads more. Been watching something that inspired you? Does your local air ambulance have a site? How about your local hospice? Go digging out some local gems or important self-funded services and do your bit. If you can’t get inspired locally, sponsor a small business entrepreneur or plant some tress here or abroad. Make your gift mean something tomorrow and for the next year and the one after too.

FOOD SHOPPING

OK everyone aims to eat senselessly this time of the year, and perhaps drink as much. With lockdown having saved you a few pennies, add a fiver or a tenner to your food shopping budget and buy some extra essentials like dry food, tins, cans, oats, pulses. Go searching again for your local food bank. Come on, it’s not hard to find one within 3-4km of where you are nowdays. They are popping up like never before. And we know why. So do your bit, take a bagful of goodies in person and drop them off. They will thank you and you will feel less selfish for sharing some of your food with someone who you may never meet. Isn’t that kind of super cool?

CLOTHES SHOPPING

You haven’t been out since March and you may have picked a few goodies online or during the time where shops opened for a time. Now you look back at your hoarding ability confused as to how you got to become that person. Slowing down does that to us, gives us time to reflect. You know that jumper you didn’t wear when it was minus 2, or that you wear on every other day. THAT jumper needs to get washed and go. If it has holes, it needs to go to the bin. If it doesn’t put it in the charity donation bank. That and all the other jeans, trainers, boots, unpacked and unwanted gift socks. Go go go. Someone needs them and it will make them think and adopt. Now I bet you there is a charity bank within a couple of kms from where you are too. Go there now, don’t leave it until after Christmas. After all everyone deserves something new or different to what they have and you can help with that as you start unpacking Christmas decor to go up, then pack your never or too much work stuff to go too. And your Christmas decorations if you don’t see a point in putting much up this year or don’t feel you need blink to lift your spirits up. Think that you can buy all new next year or treat yourself to something super local like decorative stuff from your local florist or hand made knik knaks from your local crafts stall, if you really need to shop – shop local. No Amazon for god’s sake!

MERRY CHRISTMAS LOVELIES<STAY COOL<DO GOOD!

Autumnal English hews

Noticing the small changes in the way the air’s scent carries cooking smells, perfumes and sound vibrations…

The light moisture chilling the edges off living things…

The light mist flowing through the land, thickening and lightening as it absorbs the wind.

Victoria Park, London

Wood burning in the city, logs burning in the fireplace, smoke climbing up from canal boat chimneys into the gaps of the urban air channels.

The yellowy orange with blues of the sunsets and the sunrises. A sun blessed season eclipsing into the vibrancy of the next. Nature signalling for a final celebration before it returns next year in spring.

Leafy kisses, giggles in the air

The cozyness of the orange, greys, dark purples, bronze and blacks decorating cozy corners energised by alchemy, alcohol and warmth.

Conservation & the coronavirus: Paramount public health

Welcome to the ‘Conservation & the coronavirus’ blog series! In this series we hear from a variety of Darwin and Darwin Plus projects who share candid stories on how Covid-19 has impacted fieldwork and conservation efforts and how projects have offered a helping hand to communities to combat Covid-19 from the Falklands Islands to Uganda. […]

Conservation & the coronavirus: Paramount public health

The case of US diplomacy: What makes coercive diplomacy particularly useful in diplomatic relations? What are its limitations?

I will refer to two recently published articles, from Reuters and Politico, to analyse the developing outcomes as a result of coercive diplomacy in USA’s current international relations. The focus of these two articles is the USA’s negotiating strategies with the European Union and the United Nations International Court of Justice, which I will conclude with a review on the usefulness and limitations of such approaches in the given contexts.

Coercive diplomacy is applied in diplomatic negotiations as ‘deterrence’ or ‘compellence’   (Byman and Waxman, 2008,158 in Holmes and Rofe, 2016) aiming to change the policy or regime of the coerced state. There is a root weakness in coercive diplomacy as it is revealing of intention, and given it is applied in the pre-text of military action, it is also revealing the coercer is on their last option (Kerr and Wiseman, 2013). Coercive diplomacy is often seen as a pre-text for more serious actions (such as military), and is carried on the coersor’s power, military, or economic weight, motivated by a combination of ‘sticks and carrots’ (Jentleson, 2006)

In the Politico article (Cassella, Hanke and Oliver, 2018), the current US president’s application of coercive diplomacy threatens the EU with introducing car tariffs even though in July 2018 the EU and the USA had shared aspirations of zero tariffs between them. USA applied coercive diplomacy through threats of cancelling this proposition, and by attacking EU’s slow decision making, whilst seeking trade deals with non EU states. In the specific three month time-frame, the EU decision making process would not have changed, leading to my conclusion that the USA’s approach is misleading and misaligned with the apparent objectives in which it was applied. 

Outside the trade deal issue, the USA may well have aspirations for a regime change in the EU, thus placing the development of an influential market collaboration with the 27 member state block at risk of stalling altogether.

In a Reuters article published 3 October 2018, (Rampton, Wroughton and van den Berg, 2018), the USA threatened to resign from the Vienna Convention to show discontent in response to Iran’s and Palestine’s complain to the United Nations International Court of Justice about the USA’s upcoming tightening of sanctions against Iran. 

The Vienna Convention has been followed as a prescription of conduct for international relationships, including facilitating a platform for diplomatic immunity. 

USA Secretary of State Mike Pompeo concluded to threaten with USA’s resignation from the Vienna convention, as a result of the application of international law by the United Nations, to unfavourably to the extend it is threatening the domestic security of the USA. Pompeo simultaneously threatens to leave the platform, whilst reminding states they are still very much party to it, undermining the UN.

The application of coercive diplomacy in both situations attempts to manipulate those that have historically been allies of the US. 

This is a standard scenario before military action, contradictory to the USA’s objective. Is coerciveness used to widen the gap between prescriptions, thus creating spaces for exploitation?

Bibliography

Holmes, A. and Rofe, J. (2016). Global Diplomacy. Boulder: Routledge, p.199.

Kerr, P. and Wiseman, G. (2013). Diplomacy in a globalizing world. Oxford University Press, p.6.

Jentleson, B. (2006). Coercive Diplomacy: Scope and Limits in the Contemporary World. The Stanley Foundation Policy Analysis Brief, December 2006, p.1.

Cassella, M., Hanke, J. and Oliver, C. (2018). Juncker and Trump’s transatlantic trade truce falters. [online] Politico.com. Available at: https://www.politico.com/amp/story/2018/10/17/trade-truce-europe-trump-911940 [Accessed 28 Oct. 2018].

Rampton, R., Wroughton, L. and van den Berg, S. (2018). U.S. withdraws from international accords, says U.N. world court…. [online] U.S. Available at: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-diplomacy-treaty/u-s-withdrawing-from-vienna-protocol-on-dispute-resolution-bolton-idUSKCN1MD2CP [Accessed 3 Oct. 2018].

Lesnes Abbey and woods

This gem of a scenery is tucked away a few kms east of Woolwich, in Erith.

Lesnes Abbey is a site of ruins from 12th century, in the Borough of Bexley. At one point a few centuries later on the building was used as a monastery.

The site offers a lot for a day packed with a variety of fun activities. It’s free to visit. Walking amongst the ruins of the rooms from where the abbey once stood, there is plenty of  hide and seek games to be had and reimagining the spaces from past times.

Uphill from the abbey, the path swings to an outlook with the most extraordinary views over the City of London. Bear in mind, this is a very long cycle even from the Eastend, and over 1 hour drive or trip on public transport from central London, yet the proximity apparent in the views tell a different story.

Lesnes Abbey and woods are on the Green Chain Walk route from Oxleas Wood to Thamesmead Riverside. We took a different route on the Woolwich Ferry and cycling east on the Thames Path, through Crossness Nature Reserve.

Lesnes Woods up on the hill are a true sanctuary of old tall trees, ferns and squirrels playfully enjoying the abundance of the nature reserve. There’s a fossil park, a cool tree trunk sculpture of a Green Man, and a plethora of secluded walks through the dense woodland rich in flora and fauna.

At the top of the woods a heath is a welcome flat walk through fern surrounded paths. On the way back, try a different way down. If you get to the clearing with the abbey for a view, you’re onto another special lookout over the ruins.

A Potent Fuel? The impact of faith identity on development programming

Our paper, ‘A Potent Fuel? Faith Identity and Development Impact in World Vision Community Programming’, has just been published in the Journal of International Development. Happily, it’s open access, so anyone can read it by following this link. Written with Matthew Clarke, Simon Feeny, Gill Westhorp and Cara Donohue, it is the result of a […]

A Potent Fuel? The impact of faith identity on development programming