A short story of self

uganda
Uganda.

I remember the moment I started really thinking about inequality. I was 22 years old and part way through a year of teaching in Uganda. As cliched as that year has the potential to be (for the privileged expat that I am) and as eye-glazingly pathetic as this anecdote might come across, I’ve thought it through a fair few times over the two decades since, and it was out there, halfway down the main orange dustbowl of a road outside of the room I rented behind a local bar, that things changed for me.

It took only one minute – and it will forever raise the hairs on my arms.

It was Sunday, and I was walking into the local town – Kiboga – with Julius, the headmaster of one of the schools at which I was employed as an English (and football!) teacher.

As was customary, a walk into Kiboga, on any given day, would involve multiple greeting stops, and smiles and gestures to my neighbours. Students on bicycles might swing past me shouting “yes, Master!” or a group of half dressed toddlers would canter several metres towards me from out of their houses yelling “Mazungu! Mazungu! how are you Mazungu?”     Continue reading “A short story of self”

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The Future of CSR?

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Hong Kong’s imposing skyline just before the typhoon

The sight of Hong Kong’s vast oblong buildings, stood proud and squashed in front of a backdrop of dark green mountains and low lying clouds, never ceases to take my breath away.

That McDonalds and Starbucks franchises exist in great numbers, alongside century old tea houses, underneath these imposing corporate towers, makes the city one of the ultimate “East Meets West” urban epicentres.

There is a constant shuffling of life to be found at street level in Hong Kong, a happy human beat of old and young, rich and poor, foreigner, tourist, and the local shoe-shiner, all jostling through their everyday tasks, zigzagging between narrow alley and subway, the Kowloon trams and the famous Star Ferry.

I have been in town this week to speak at the annual CSR Asia Summit, holed up, as these things always are, in varying degrees of 4 or 5 star hotel finery, glacial air conditioning and windowless rooms. Continue reading “The Future of CSR?”

The Inequalities of Capitalism

cartoon credited to www.keepthemiddleclassalive.com
cartoon credited to http://www.keepthemiddleclassalive.com

“The growth of equality demands something more than economic growth, even though it presupposes it.  It demands first of all a transcendent vision of the person.”

One of those great quotes that you wish you’d said. But who uttered these words? Martin Luther King Jr, remembered this week on the federal holiday that marks his memory each year? Jeffrey Sachs, revered globally for his economics and humanitarian work?

No, it was the Pope. Yesterday, in Davos, where he addressed many of the world’s corporate elite at their annual meeting, with a narrative designed to make the room redden with a collective blush. The tenor of his point being that “modern business activity,” for all its virtues, often has led to “a widespread social exclusion.” Continue reading “The Inequalities of Capitalism”