September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

September 11th: reflecting on individual narratives

Over the past week, I’ve been listening to the personal stories of victims of the crash on the World Trade Center on the radio.  Although 9/11 nearly instantly became an event that connected New York with America and America with the rest of the world, albeit each briefly, local media coverage over the past few days reminded me that coming of age events, which characterize a generation, are actually personal moments that reverberate further. As expected, many of the stories I have heard have filled me with mournfulness and contemplation.  More importantly, though, the narratives have communicated a message of resilience, optimism and belief in the future.  Many children of those who were killed have been determined to right the injustice of 9/11 and fulfill their potential in varying ways.  Such qualities of passion, generosity and virtue mingled with rebellion are inherent in the American consciousness and uniquely characterize the American ideal of freedom. From nearly it’s inception, the US as a nation has felt a responsibility to play a role in human history.  Our founding fathers had a vision of offering people the possibility of equal self-esteem. Yet, over the past ten years, society and culture have become more contradictory and polarized rather than united.  As we grow more interconnected and codes of conduct are relinquished, we simultaneously seek to individuate, to leave our mark and stand out through the unique expression of our individual identities.  We join forces virtually to change things for the good of the community and the good of the world while at the same time our focus on developing self-esteem moves away from...

Britons, embrace your inner American!

We were back in England this August.  Although we were lucky enough to miss the carnage caused by the hurricane and earthquake we landed in the UK in the aftermath of the riots.  Everyone I spoke with there expressed a sense of disbelief and palpable anger at the wanton vandalism and destruction that had spread like wildfire across Britain’s streets. The politicians were playing the blame game.  The right wing were blaming the parents of the youths and their apparent inability to instil moral values in their children while those left of centre were blaming the credit crunch, the slow economy, poor jobs market and lack of prospects many of the young face.  Others were blaming social networking and the safety net provided by social security benefits which, in their view, induce a lack of personal responsibility. Whatever the spur, teens and early twenty-something’s face long term economic insecurity not experienced for decades.  Their frustration and anxiety is not unique it’s just manifested in different ways through every demographic segment.  Concerned pensioners see their capital challenged by rising inflation and low interest rates, pre-retirees watch helplessly as share prices seem to collapse more frequently than in living memory, and experienced, skilled workers face the constant fear of job loss.  Although these are worldwide issues I got the distinct impression Britain’s spirit is more badly broken than in other countries.  It’s suffering from a negativity that needs to be halted before it becomes endemic and repeatedly passed through generations. This lack of confidence was reflected across the media in the UK while we were there.  The business pages reported Dyson,...
Vacation with amusement included, please.

Vacation with amusement included, please.

Labor Day.  The last day of summer vacation. Officially, yes.  But in practice, no more.  During the nine years we lived in the UK, Labor Day seems to have lost much of its meaning as the flow of summer changed in the US with shifting school calendars.  Whether you’re in university or first grade, other than a few exceptions, it’s highly likely you returned to school before Labor Day. And, the idea of summer vacation.  Does it even exist any more?  Leisurely days with no obligations. Nothing scheduled. Relaxing on the beach.  Running barefoot in a stream.  Leaving the worries of daily life and the world behind. Even before the recession this was hard.  Between the choices for summer camps and classes and wireless devices does anyone really leave all their cares behind any more?  Certainly not in the US.  And, although I have many English friends who would strongly argue the opposite, in Britain (and even more so Europe) the summer holidays, and school holidays year-round, seemed more sacred. For both children and their parents. Interestingly, the word each nation chooses to use to describe time off from work or school seems to capture some of this cultural difference. As many people know the word holiday comes from holy day - haliday (c.1200), from O.E. haligdæg “holy day; Sabbath”- and in the 14th Century came to mean both religious festival and, my favourite, day of amusement.  In the mid-1800‘s people started to holiday and the word became a verb. The roots of the word vacation are a bit more complex. It too stems from the 14th Century when...

Brand Baby 5: Never fly with young kids or babies

The show biz saying goes never work with animals or kids. A similar adage could be applied to flying and kids. As part of our relocation package we’re fortunate to get annual business class flights back to the UK for all the family. This has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. During every one of the flights we’ve taken so far our fellow passengers have made negative comments about our travelling in business with our three young boys. They range from the passive, said by a fellow passenger to their travelling companion in a slightly too loud whisper - “if they’re near me I’m asking to be moved” through to the personal and aggressive. One female passenger accused us of being inept parents when our then three year old laughed loudly at a film. Perhaps muzzling or sedating him would have been preferable for her? These experiences made us feel like social pariahs just because we’re travelling with kids. The knock on effect is the memory of them has transformed flying from a pleasurable experience into an anxious one.  We plan meticulously, booking flights that fit with the boys sleeping schedules, preferably at night, deciding who sits next to whom, the order we go and off in, and our hand luggage has swelled threefold as we pack every trick in the book designed to distract or occupy the kids  – iPods, ipads, pretzels, colouring books and Ring Pops spill out of our bags at security. For our annual transatlantic flight we’ve always plumped for Virgin’s Upper Class specifically because of its reputation for being family...

Brand Baby 4: Apple a day keeps mommy’s psychotherapist at bay

Deeply asleep.  My eyelids are pried open. Two huge blue eyes meet my hazy gaze. They belong to my cherubic two-year old son.  I glance at the clock, and groan - 4.50am. IPAD, IPAD he says persistently.  Until a few weeks ago he could barely say his brother’s names, yet the clarity of his articulation when it comes to brand names, and the range of names he knows would make a speech therapist stutter. Without flinching I drag the IPAD from its residence under the bed. He deftly strokes the screen, whispering in delight – IPAD.  He’s totally absorbed by its’ apps.  As a child it must feel good to be in control.  Especially as a two-year-old, when most of your day is determined by others. I stop intellectualising and enjoy the opportunity to eek out sleep. Later in the day, my six-year old returns home from school.  A blood-curdling yell reverberates around the house.  “That’s MY toy”.  “ It’s mine now or I’ll break it” replies his four-year-old brother.  I intervene - trying by-the-book parenting tactics; counting to three, time out, reminding them of their reward chart, and that screeching at one another isn’t exactly good social protocol.  Nothing works.  Now it’s getting bloody – they’re pulling at each other’s hair and punching - hard.  I take the desperate tactic that never fails to work - “Anyone like some time on the IPAD”?  Suddenly they are best of friends plotting a “strategy” for their shared game of Angry Birds. I’m relieved to make dinner without acting as a referee. On occasion, when the IPAD is being charged, the...

I’ve got… BMW envy

Last year we moved from the UK to the States. There’s not much I miss about England – certainly not the British weather, whining as a national sport or even the National Health Service.  Yet, one thing I miss more and more is our BMW.  We were proud owners of a silver 5 series touring.  It could comfortably accommodate our rabble of boys and its capacious trunk warmly coveted the significant amount of gear that comes with a family of five. However, being a BMW owner isn’t cheap, the purchase alone could pay three lots of annual school fees and the servicing bill used to bring on a migraine.  Little wonder one of the acronyms for the brand is Borrows My Wallet. So when we moved to New York we decided to plump for a more pragmatic version of premium.  We bought an Acura MDX (for those outside the Americas, an Acura is to Honda what Lexus is to Toyota).  So what was its main attraction?  It met our practical requirements as a family, it was cheaper than a BMW, and unlike some of the American luxury car brands, I didn’t feel like I was driving a bus or a tank.  People told me an Acura was an equivalent car to the likes of BMW, Mercedes, Audi and Volvo.  In my view BMW uniquely delivers an aligned brand experience that leaves its peers at the green light. The experience of being in our BMW was like taking a long deep, calming breath.  I often hypothesized if every person owned a BMW road rage would be a thing of the past...
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