Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10th, 2014

 Fresh Air Matters... with Capt. Yaw

I am pleased to be a citizen of Planet Earth, also known as an 'Earthling'. I am not pleased at the bizarre passport name and colour bias nonsense that exists within so called 'countries' on our planet. The stigma, pride, arrogance and at times outright obnoxiousness that people put around their passport and so called 'nationality' frankly irritates me. Accidents of location of birth appear to have such a massive impact on how people are perceived, treated, mistreated and given opportunities - often beyond that of colour or gender. Sadly, we see that, far too often, those 'with money and influence' are able to transcend such barriers, but not so the general population. Worse still, 'country-centric-isms' have become a rooting medium for hatred, isolation, unrest and, ultimately war. Recent international news provides proof positive of this observation.

It always amazes me how many barriers to travel are put in the way of genuine travellers, yet those with less than honourable intentions seem to manage to teem across the political borders drawn arbitrarily across the planet. Perhaps it has more to do with money than personality? More to do with modern day greed, than modern day need.

Let us voyage backwards in time 120 years:- 

No aeroplanes - the Wright Brother's first flight was in 1903.

No mobile phones - the first 'mobile' phone was in the 1970s, but was not very mobile at all, and reasonable handhelds emerged in the 1980s. Actually, even land-line telephones for the masses were not common until the well into the twentieth century, despite the invention of the telephone in the 1870's. 

No electronic general purpose computers - ENIAC, Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, was first operational in 1946, and the IBM Personal Computer was not born until 1981.

No television - John Logie Baird got that started in 1926.

No BBC radio broadcasts - they only began in 1922! 

If you wonder about motor vehicles - well, we have Mrs Bertha Benz doing the first 'long distance (106km) motor vehicle ride' in 1888 .... and the first mass produced car, the Model T Ford was not introduced until 1908.

So, 120 years ago, it was complicated to contact people, go places and communicate in general. It took longer to send a note to the person across the street then than it takes to send a text message to anybody on the planet today. To get a letter to Australia, 120 years ago, would take months - compared to the fraction of a second that our modern communications systems permit not just text, but also images to travel. People would take days, weeks and months to go places, and thus travel outside of a fairly limited radius was restricted to all but the wealthy. 'Visa and passport controls' were not common. Movement control was far more 'practical' than 'political'.

If we consider a country like France, 120 years ago, it would probably have taken longer to travel from the south to the north then, than it takes a citizen of Ghana, today, to travel to the other side of the planet. 

It is easier to travel today, work mobility is more acceptable - and needed, travel and social integration has reached a higher level of maturity than ever before and technology has made our planet, in effect, the size of a small country of 120 years ago.

Aviation, telecommunications and information technology, have created a planet where we must reconsider our 'nationality' - and our attitudes to those who migrate around the globe to work, study and, in most cases bring with them positive economic development through their movement. 

Sadly, negative aspects of nationalism, wide spread racism, deep rooted xenophobia (fear / hatred of foreigners or strangers) and simple ignorance, all continue to block our planet-wide growth, peace and security. Where we hear calls for 'nationalistic protectionism', we realise that there is a lack of understanding of direction in regards to the 'new planet' that we now live on.

I have lived and worked around the world, and am happy to call Ghana 'my home corner' of the planet. I know others who prefer 'cooler climates', and those who prefer 'more convenient living conditions', but for me there is no place like my home in the bush lands of Ghana! Sadly, I do not always feel welcomed - but nor do others who have travelled to a new home elsewhere.

My wife and I have a good friend in London, who is regularly insulted and told 'go back to your own country'. She has a darker skin than me, originates from Ghana, and has lived in the UK more years than me. She has probably contributed more socially, and paid more tax in the UK than me too! She is torn between living in London or Ghana. Yet, when she visits Ghana the work and employment ethic drives her away to the more 'transparent and functional' life in the UK.  

Conversely, I first came to Ghana twenty years ago, have paid my taxes, and contributed freely to the society here - far more than in any other country or region that I have lived in. Of course, I also get told 'go back to your own country' on a regular basis, since my skin is a little lighter. I find it most offensive when I hear folks saying, in effect, that 'Ghana does not need the rest of the world'. For the record, this planet is my home, and I enjoy helping the people here. I am helping people from my planet - those who I see in need - regardless of their nationality, skin colour, gender or creed. I am a proud, contributing, citizen of Planet Earth - who has settled in a part called Ghana! I really do not give a jot about the colour of peoples skin, shape of their eyes or noses, type of hair, their passport or religious books - I care about people, the people with whom I live and work. They are people, from my - our - planet. We are all Earthlings, so please let us consider ourselves to be 'of one tribe'.

Nonetheless, we all live and die under the rules and regulations of the part of the planet in which we dwell - for better or for worse. I look at the current 'nationalistic' sentiments that appear to be driving changes in policy in this part of the world - particularly currency, investment, visa issues and, with it, development. I must admit to being concerned at the rising potential for isolation from these developments. If our politicians were to remember that we live on 'one planet', would they take a more 'cosmopolitan' approach to our policies? 

If we look at the so called 'more developed' nations, we see a much greater integration of 'foreigners' into their systems. The United States of America is a shining star of a multi-national society, they operate a Green Card lottery to bring diversity to their shores - they regularly 'embrace' their illegal immigrants even - giving them citizenship and full integration! People from all over the world have been integrated into the European nations - and enjoy that same full citizenship, land ownership, employment and business opportunities - with it a sense of belonging - all the time contributing widely to economic growth in the corner where they live. Such countries have rules, but it appears to me that the 'more you integrate diverse cultures and people' the greater 'growth and development' is enjoyed by all. It is not without its problems, but the benefits really do outweigh the disadvantages.

Please remember that we are all Earthlings, and that the sooner we see a truly global freedom of movement of people, goods and services, the better our planet, economy, and prospects for future generations will be.

Capt. Yaw is Chief Flying Instructor and Chief Engineer at WAASPS, and Pilot/Engineer with Medicine on the Move, Humanitarian Aviation Logistics ( e-mail

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