Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The M-Pesa is the model for future digital currencies

A misconception about digital currencies (or "crypto-currencies") is that they will be adopted first in the developed economies of the world, those with the technological financial "infrastructure" already in place to enable wide adoption of a digital currency.  The irony of digital currencies (which, because they are based solely on mathematics, are very technical) is that their adoption won't come from tech-savvy people (or countries). It's going to be in the third world.  The M-Pesa was proof of that principle, because 1) it is used like cash, 2) like cash, it is easy to use.

The M-Pesa was introduced in Kenya in 2007.  Since then (in a mere 8 years), 2/3 of all adults in Kenya have used it.  And wrap your brain around this:  25% of Kenya's gross national product is now in the form of M-Pesa transactions.

And, here's the real thing:  the rapid adoption of the M-Pesa didn't come because Kenyans are tech-savvy; far from it.  It happened because nothing more technical than a smartphone app is required to use it.  Like cash, you store your M-Pesa in your wallet, which is, in nearly every case, a smartphone.  Most M-Pesa users have no bank account. They are their own banks. That's the whole reason digital currencies exist ... so that we can all be our own banks.

Of course, digital currencies will not be widely-adopted until nearly everyone carries a smartphone.  Oops, that's already happened!

It's not futuristic.  It's now.

Monday, December 28, 2015

2015: the year I abandoned all hope

2015 will go down as a landmark year for me.  2015 was, I believe, the year in which I abandoned all hope of seeing a better world someday.  What an empty dream; what a false hope.  That ended sometime this year.  And I'm all the happier for it.

It is quite absurd for any reasoning mature adult to believe that there will be an end to the series of wars that the United States has led the world into.  These wars were, from the very start, intended to last forever; and they will.  There will always be new (and, often, imaginary) "imminent threats" to counter; new enemies among us and massed along the US border, waiting to invade.  That is the frightening world that is intended to become normal; accepted by everyone as inevitable and immutable.

I was an utter fool to ever believe that time and truth would change anything.

Focused on an impossible goal, it was hard for me to see anything but failure in the attempts to achieve that goal.  Yet, there are successes all around me; triumphs of courage and spirit; all based on the values that guided the most difficult decisions I've made in my own life.  I believe these are the successes of people who have refused to yield to the temptations of the propagandists, those authoritarians who promise security from our enemies (and who identify those enemies for us).

Nowhere else in this world do I see people rising above the hatred born of fear, and of self-doubt and insecurity, like right here in Canada.

Last night, in an interview aired by CTV News, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke to the politics of fear and of division that he believes Canadians elected him to abolish (at least as official government policies).  He said:

You cannot pretend to be a free and open country and say that you're going to discriminate against people based on their religion. I think the Americans are starting to ask themselves questions about what kind of country they are and who they want to be.
The question he was asked, and Prime Minister Trudeau's full response:

That's hope; that's optimism for the future, but it's not a declaration that Canada will attempt to stop America's foreign wars of intervention; it is a call, rather, not to change the world, but to change Canada.  To change who we are.  To change what we can.  To resist becoming what we deplore.  And in that comes triumph; victory. Avoid being changed by the haters, those who thrive on violence and chaos.  Don't bring it here; we don't want it.

There have been extremely encouraging changes in the world; many in the United States; many among Americans.

First and most importantly of all, there are serious cracks appearing in Americans' wall of ultra-nationalism.  The cult of soldier worship remains strong, of course, but at home, the worship of police, the agents of state power and control, is seriously eroding.

Americans are realizing that daily police shootings of unarmed citizens is a reality that has only recently been brought to public attention; largely through the ubiquity of cell phones, which permit anyone with the presence of mind to capture these incidents on video and make them public.  These things happen, every day, but in most cases they are buried, concealed, covered-up.  People know this, now.

I tried to explain America's gun culture to Canadians, who are absolutely baffled by it ... and the fear and insecurity it evidences.  Canadians simply don't understand the mindset of those who live in a continuous state of fear in their own homes, communities, and streets.  That's just not Canadian.

Americans remain an ultra-nationalistic people who continue to view America's over-militarized police forces as "protectors," but that is changing.   And, in my opinion, that change is one of the most important of the last year.  The power of the state, to control lives because they control the media and every aspect of the economy, is eroding.

I'm not saying there's hope for an end to the wars abroad, or the state of fear at home that causes people to relinquish every freedom; every principle, for the empty promises of safety ... I'm just saying that despite that, there are people, in growing numbers, who simply refuse to become part of it.  And I plan to keep my eyes focused on those people; after all, I am surrounded by them.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Michael Oher on courage, and on honour

You've probably seen the 2009 movie, The Blind Side (starring Sandra Bullock), which is the true story of Michael Oher, whose football career was supported by foster parents, Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy.
True story:  In his senior high school year, Oher was struggling to maintain a grade point average that would qualify him to play football at an NCAA Division 1 university.  An essay he submitted for his English class boosted his grade just enough that met the academic requirement for those scholarships.

Michael Oher's paper was written about Alfred Lord Tennyson's poem The Charge of the Light Brigade, focusing on the difference between courage and honor. This was his essay:

Michael Oher on The Charge Of The Light Brigade
Courage is a hard thing to figure. You can have courage based on a dumb idea or a mistake, but you are not supposed to question adults or your coach or your teacher. Because they make the rules. Maybe they know the best or maybe they don’t.

It all depends on who you are and where they come from.

Didn’t at least the six hundred guys think of giving up and joining with the other side? I mean “The Valley Of Death”. That’s pretty salty stuff. That’s why courage is tricky, should you always do what others tell you to do.

Sometimes you might not even know why you do something. I mean any fool can have courage. But honour, that’s the real reason you do something or you don’t. It’s who you are and maybe who you want to be.

If you die trying for something important then you have both honour and courage and that’s pretty good.

I think that’s what the writer was saying: that you should hope for courage and try for honour and maybe even pray that the people telling you what to do have some too.


There is no honour in any of America's foreign wars.  Yet, America's leaders are tripping over their own feet in their eagerness to appear more hawkish than their opponents.  They are wagering that Americans will abandon honour (and reason) in favour of their false claims of absolute security and solace from fear.  In other words, that Americans will also abandon courage, in the face of a fear they cannot master.
It takes far less courage to oppose America's imperial wars now than it did in 2002.  The honour quotient, though, is still there ... I encourage you to speak out against those wars; if only to people who know and respect you, friends, family members, co-workers, those in your church. 

Americans:  End your wars.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Canada welcomes its first Syrian refugees

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship John McCallum, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan, and the Premier of Ontario Kathleen Wynne, were at Toronto's Pearson airport late last night to welcome the first of the Syrian refugees to arrive in Canada. 

"Welcome to your new home," Prime Minister Trudeau said.
163 refugees arrived on a gunmetal-grey Canadian Forces military transport and were in-processed, receiving Permanent Resident certificates, along with social insurance numbers, with health cards giving them access to the national health care system, given the opportunity to live, work, and educate themselves in Canada, and given something even more valuable: an opportunity to become Canadian citizens.

Canadians hope these refugees will choose to stay in the communities that welcome them, and to build new lives that tie them to other Canadians, nearly all of whom are immigrants (like myself) or descended from several generations of immigrants.

This is the cover of yesterday's Toronto Star:

In Arabic,the printed phrase is translated as "Welcome" but it is literally translated as "like family and comfortably."

A Muslim friend told me that means a lot more than 'Welcome".  in Arabic culture, it means "Welcome to my home ... what is mine is also yours." It is an expression of a deeply-held Muslim attitude toward guests or strangers.

And it's a belief that resonates with many Canadians; I believe most Canadians.

Canadians have been dusting off this old Tim Horton's ad and sharing it.

"We define a Canadian not by a skin colour or a language or a religion or a background,  but by a shared set of values, aspirations, hopes and dreams that not just Canadians   but people around the world share.”

 – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, 10 December, 2015