Growing Up in a Fatherless Home

JrPsychology Professor Dr. Jordan B. Peterson underlines the importance of the image of a father figure which is fragmented throughout society in friends, books, movies, sports and education. It is tough to grow up without an actual father and all families are certainly not equal.

Video: original source


Why Unemployment Must Fall in Eastern Cape?

My dream for the #EasternCape: Create 2 million jobs over 20 years. 

So many of us, after graduating, move to Johannesburg, Cape Town or even overseas and never come back. 
So many of us leave for greener pastures, start families and only visit during the holidays. Those visits become less and less over the years as we become accustomed to the distant lands where we find ourselves. Our memories of the Tsitsikamma and the Transkei fade over time and we’ve become tourists in our hometowns.
So many of us wish to move back or give back, and yet the lack of opportunity prevents many from taking the first step. Opportunity is not given, it manifests when you take the first step. 
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

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TEDxPortElizabeth launches in Nelson Mandela Bay

[Port Elizabeth, Monday, 27 June 2016] – Sharing a world of dreams with the global TED and TEDx community, TEDxPortElizabeth will launch their first conference this year with the theme Through the Looking Glass in partnership with the new AFDA Film School in Port Elizabeth.

TEDxPortElizabeth continues on from TEDxNMMU (2012) and TEDxSummerstrand (2013), both organised by students from NMMU. TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design) started in 1984 in California as an elite conference for visionaries and innovators. By 2012 TED Talks had been viewed more than 1 billion times online.

This TEDx conference features 15 speakers and performers from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, George, Jeffrey’s Bay, Uitenhage and Port Elizabeth.

TEDx Conference Port Elizabeth 2016

The audience will be captivated by international business coach, Deshun Deysel, who will open the conference speaking on Peak Performance. Her family moved from Uitenhage to Johannesburg when she was 12 years old. She powered into the history books in 1996 as a member of the first group of South Africans to plant the new democratic flag on Mt Everest.

Another highlight is Farah Fortune, known in the entertainment industry as the “pit bull in heels.” She is the CEO of African Star Communications, with offices in Lagos, Nigeria and Johannesburg and her clients include AKA, Casper Nyovest and Pam Andrews.

TEDx 2016 Conference line-up

After attending the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania in 2007, I have become very active in speaking and organising TEDx events in China and South Africa,” says Ramon Thomas, TEDxPortElizabeth founder. After returning home with an MBA degree from China, Thomas started recruiting a team of enthusiastic volunteers from Nelson Mandela Bay.

Speakers from Port Elizabeth include mama Nomhle Nkonyeni, who recently won a SAFTA life-time achievement award; Xhosa poet Siyabonga Ngcai aka Gqoboz’imbawula Mbawula, Alexander Road High school learner; Thulani Ndzotyana who wants to be the first female president of South Africa in 2044; and youth artist, Mdali group.

Speakers from Uitenhage include 7-year-old child palaeontologist Caleb Zealand; Mr Joe Slingers, who was featured in the book, Great South African Teachers by Prof. Jonathan Jansen; Mrs Elizabeth Muller, head librarian for 25 years until her retirement in 2009; and artist Colleen Grewar.

TEDx Conference Port Elizabeth 2016Wikipedia editor, Bobby Shabangu, contributes to the world’s largest encyclopedia writing articles in isiSwati and English. “I discovered that if I don’t edit, no one will edit,” he says. “[I wanted] to activate people into talking about Wikipedia and the work they do and everything that’s actually how I got involved with the whole thing.”

AFDA is sponsoring the venue for this conference. Their students will film all the speakers and performers and the videos will be uploaded to the TEDx YouTube channel. This is an opportunity to showcase Nelson Mandela Bay’s talent on the global stage.

The 2016 TEDxPortElizabeth conference takes place at AFDA Port Elizabeth campus, 28 Bird Street, Central on Friday, 1 July 2016. Only 100 tickets for this conference are on sale online.

Event details:

  • Venue: AFDA Port Elizabeth campus, 28 Bird Street, Central
  • Date: Friday, 1 July 2016
  • Time: 09h00-15h00
  • 15 Speakers, Performances, Networking and 4 curated TED Talks
  • Our Social Media: Facebook | Twitter | Google+ | Website

TEDxPortElizabeth 2016 Conference line-up

About TEDx, x = independently organised event. In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organised events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organised events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organised. (Subject to certain rules and regulations.)


Jade Redcliffe, Communications Manager

Mobile 072-5659132



Does Money Buy Happiness?

Does money buy happiness or just a big mansion? This funny video by blogger Victor Pride reminded me to always think differently from what Bill Cooper called “the sheeple!” And so after watching this video, think about it for a while, and ask your friends to get their reaction. You will notice the clear bias against money in our society. There’s a built-in guilt that society places on people who want money. Remember “Greed is Good!” and how that became a negative stereotype from the first Wall Street movie with Michael Douglas?

Radio host Tom Leykis truly believes money does buy happiness. Not working and being a slave to the man. Professor Leykis sounds pretty happy when you listen to his old shows on YouTube or his new show, streaming daily via the Tom Leykis show mobile app.

What do you think? Is Tom Leykis right?

When you listen to one of his older shows, you may start to question this common falacy. Religion is not really to blame for this belief, instead I believe it’s our society’s belief in altruism. Ayn Rand was one of the biggest opponents of altruism in the history of the world. And she is still vilified about her books, interviews and opinions on helping others to your own detriment.

Do you remember the safety advice on your last flight? In case of emergency take the oxygen mask and put it on your own face first before you try to help children or anyone else like disabled people.

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Grow Your Confidence with Toastmasters in Ningbo

This is an my first column published in Ningbo Focus magazine.

Madam Toastmaster, Ladies and Gentlemen…”, is how many speeches start at a Toastmasters club meeting. Two years ago when I arrived in Ningbo there was only one club with 5 guests. In 2015 there are five Toastmasters clubs, who meet regularly, from Book City to Ningbo University to University of Nottingham Ningbo China.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs. Members deliver speeches to enhance their Communication. They take roles in the club e.g. president, treasurer, or meeting roles like Timer or Ah-Counter, to enhance their Leadership skills. Worldwide there are over 14,000 clubs and in China the rate of growth has been tremendous since launching in 1999.

Chuck Tidiane Ndiaye Toastmaster in NingboNingbo is a prime example of this growth with over 100 people who regularly attend meetings. Some clubs focus on Chinese Mandarin, some are English only, and many are bilingual. So why do people join Toastmasters in Ningbo besides the obvious learning environment?

What we learn in Toastmasters is really useful in our life. With all the presentation and communication skills I’ve learned in Toastmasters, I managed to enter one of the largest private companies in Ningbo and then start my own business. Toastmasters has helped me find my passion.” says Weiwei Yang, former president of Ningbo #1 Toastmasters club.

Many of my Chinese friends are not from Ningbo or Zhejiang. Some like Nina are from Hunan, and others like Lillian are from Gansu province in the north West of China. Toastmasters allows them to make high quality friends, sometimes with foreigners like me. The members of the clubs are all interested in personal development, they are confident and lead by example.

In fact the most popular phrase we use is “learn by doing” and every activity in a Toastmasters meeting reminds you of this. It’s a safe place where you can make mistakes and correct them easily. There are no teachers and everyone may provide some form of feedback either verbal, on the stage, or in a written form. The agenda for the meetings are followed closely because “time” is one of the most important values in our meetings. By being on time, it shows respect to your audience.

Ningbo University Toastmasters club China District 85It turns out Toastmasters helped me to reduce my culture shock after moving to China. The people I’ve met have become my best friends. The activities are always fun and my confidence around Chinese people has improved tremendously. The value of this group increases over time.

To join one of the next meetings, simple email add me on Wechat: rjthomas


Superheroes, Superman and Synths

Gemma Chan Humans Robot SynthRecently I’ve been watching a new TV series from the UK, Humans. It shows an all too familiar future where robots (or Synths as they’re called in this show) are meant to aid humans in their daily lives with mundane tasks. Far away is the future predicted by Blade Runner, et al where AI robots are doing the dangerous jobs humans cannot do in outer space.

Where does this leave us? Do Androids dream of Electric Sheep? I don’t know but it seems the the Overlords of our Entertainment industry certainly believe we are incapable of helping ourselves.

We live in a world that’s dominated by superhero stories. They are the modern incarnations of the ancient gods from myths and legends. They have powers beyond normal human being and sometimes they have some character flaws, usually those who are more human.

You cannot look at any cinema and not see a new action-packed story about some superhero you’ve never heard of before. For example, who’s ever heard of Ant-Man besides some geeks or nerds who actually read comic books? This year we will see the Batman vs Superman and other stories regurgitated from Hollywood.

Every year that goes by there seems to be less and less original stories. Every story is now being told in trilogies. So how can we relate to these superheroes? So much of these stories seem to be mindless action and special effects. There seems very little morality as compared to the legends of Zeus or Hercules. In the multi-verses created by the story tellers with time travel and other gimmicks the stories become so difficult to comprehend let alone relate to other people.

The shared experience is after all how you hypnotize a whole planet. What bothers me is the question of humanity. Superman is the all-powerful alien boy who landed on Earth, and supposedly due to his small-town upbringing in middle America, doesn’t become a tyrant who wants to subjugate all of humanity to his whim. Yes, for every Superman there must be a Lex Luthor.

A reflection on human nature and its maybe superhero stories are supposed to be the antidote to our biggest weakness as humans: fear, greed, etc. Superheroes are above such humanity, even Batman who is in fact just a very smart and rich man, dressed up in a costume.

So do we really seek saviours from other planets or our own? When do we learn to save ourselves from the learned helplessness? The story of Prometheus Revealed as told by Jon Rappoport had a profound impact on my thinking about gods, saviours and superheroes.

Inside of every human being is an unlimited imagination. Consciousness has no boundaries and is not centred inside our brains. The vast majority of history shows a clear determination of the elites who rule on our behalf working towards a control, a limitation on the unbounded imagination.



Linkedin LIONs no longer Roar

It’s about 10 years since I first joined LinkedIn, the social network for business professionals. Over the years it’s grown in leaps and bounds to over 350 million users. Not surprisingly LinkedIn it is not blocked in mainland China, and has a solid integration with the mobile messing app, Wechat.

LinkedIn LessonsAs one of the websites I use on a daily basis, I’ve finally had enough of increasing spam. I have only 24 hours per day to do what we need to do and reading yet another Inbox filled with clutter is not high on my values. So because of “Information Overload” it’s imperative that I cull my social media usage often.

You won’t be missing anything earth shattering if you do the same.

Back in 2006 I read an ebook on the benefits of open networking in LinkedIn. It is based on the work of Mark Granovetter, a social scientist, and his Theory of Weak Social Ties. This theory made a big impression on me, and I decided to put it onto practice in my every day life. This lead to a rapid expansion of my online connections.

My own approach led to competition with my good friend Brian Carl Brown. For several years we competed to see who had the most LinkedIn connections in South Africa. In 2015 it turns out this has become a meaningless measure.

LinkedIn, the company, is listed on the stock market. Therefore its doing everything possible to increase users and usage as one important metric for a public tech company. It automatically pulls in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and other online contact lists. It’s constantly suggesting “people you may know” and in most cases, you can connect without their email address.

This brings me to LinkedIn LIONS. A life time ago this was the best way to quickly expand your network reach. One of the attributes of LinkedIn is that you can only see people who are 3rd level connections. So you can never search the entire database of users and you can never by found by everyone on the website, not within 3 levels. Your reach grows exponentially as you grow your first level, direct connections.

Today I removed myself from the TopLinkedIn group. LinkedIn LIONS promise to accept all invitation – this is open networking. However, this is one of the biggest sources of unsolicited requests that just fill up my Inbox. For the last 3 years I have been unable to keep up with the number of connection requests from LinkedIn.

So as it continued to grow, the value of my LinkedIn network has negatively impacted my experience. The more people I am connected with, the more spam I received.

Recently I deleted several hundred people without photos, without profile headlines. Most of us have too many online connections and profiles. A clean slate is not always possible, so the next best thing is prune your profiles regularly.

If you’re no longer connected to me, it’s probably because we’ve never met, or never had a telephone conversation. In case I don’t see you, good afternoon, good evening and good night.


Chappie is not Deus Ex Machina

Chappie movie 2015Since I can remember I loved science fiction aka sci-fi stories. Maybe growing up on comic book superheroes helped. Usually Sci-Fi are stories without limits or boundaries. And yet the “science” part implies some possibility that it may happen, could happen, in some near or distance future. In recent years we’ve seen the excessive use of CGI – Computer Generated Imagery taken to a whole new level of realism.

Chappie (2015) is a new film by South African director Neill Blomkamp. Once again like District 9 it’s set in Johannesburg. Once you’re able to recruit A-list Hollywood actors like Matt Damon and Hugh Jackman to your films, you must be on your way up in Tinseltown.

Recently I watched Ex Machina, another film about Artificial Intelligence (AI). It was a very intellectual film, dark, slow, character driven. It explores the question of how we know whether a machine is intelligent or not, whether it’s conscious or not. The entire movie’s premise is based on what Computer scientists call the Turning Test.

Chappie on the other hand seems to be an action-oriented film with little character development. It relies on the genre the director is known for featuring guns and explosions. The programmer, the maker of Chappie is Deon (Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire). He is a frustrated engineer working for a military corporation, which has successful sold the South African government on using robots to police the streets of Johannesburg.

As someone who lived in Joburg for more than 10 years the setting was very familiar. However, the easy with which Chappie seems to solve the problem of consciousness leaves little to the imagination or the deep thinkers among us. The IMDB thread comparing these two AI movies released in 2015 is funny reading. All of them seem to miss the obvious elephant in the room: AI is the technocrat’s wet dream.

Technocracy can loosely be defined as ruling society by technology. Brave New World author, Aldous Huxley, a convincing argument in favour of scientific dictatorship vs military dictatorship.  Simply put

Good arguments are made for the depth and superficial nature of both movies when looking beyond the immediate settings. I do agree that punk rock band, Die Antwoord – Ninja and Yo-landi, are very irritating during key parts of the film. I don’t enjoy their music nor the genre, so they don’t impress me much as Shania Twain once said.

Chappie may have it’s flaws and yet it tries hard to generate empathy for the robot who suddenly discovers it’s consciousness, let alone it’s mother, father and creator. The plot is not conducive to exploring metaphysical questions like Ex Machina does gracefully. Different strokes for different folks.


Am I My Sister's Keeper?

On 21 April, my birthday, my mother told me about a missing teacher from a local high school, Jayde Panayiotou. She’s since been found murdered and her husband is the prime suspect. My mother casually mentioned that Jayde studied teaching with my younger sister at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

This morning I was reviewing the case from various news sources. And there was many unanswered questions going through my mind, such as, “Why is this so similar to Reeva Steenkamp’s murder?” and “If she was a black teacher, would the media give it the same amount of coverage?”

All I know about this story is what my mother told me, and what the news media has reported non-stop. May Jayde rest in peace. And I trust the courts will confirm the guilt of her husband.

Annuscha MurrayAfter all this, I thought about my sister. She’s engaged to be married later this year to her fiancee. Their relationship had its ups and downs, just like my own. But chills went down my spine, when I considered, this could have happened to my very own sister.

At first there was a sadness, a helplessness that came over me. And afterwards a flash of rage, and anger that I have felt before. As the older brother I always considered it was my blood-bound duty to be my sister’s keeper.

Do I feel responsible for her now that she’s an adult? How can I protect her when I’m living in another city or another country for that matter? What can I do when harm comes to her? It pains me to think about the distance, both physical and emotional, between us since she finished high school.

There are few things in life as precious as family, sisters or brothers.

Annuscha, my sister, I love you with all my heart. When I was 12 years old, you were born. The day you were born I was left home alone, and the adults rushed off to hospital with our pregnant mother. This is a memory so deeply ingrained in my soul I can never forget the day you came into our lives.

Some of the fondest memories I have is how I changed your nappies. And how me and your cousin, Alberton, taped your crying voice, and played it back to you on tapes. Your reaction to this was priceless. Your life is precious and I admire your courage to raise two children.

Wherever I may be in the world, you can always count on me to be there for you.


The Magic of Thinking Big redux

The Magic of Thinking Big by David SchwartzYears ago I read the book, The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz. It was one of the first self help books to shine a light on achieving my goals. It reminds me of this phrase often used by Les Brown: shoot for the moon and you may end up in among the stars.

Years later I believe thinking is not enough. Everyone dreams of a better life and yet not everyone achieves their dreams. Why is that?

Maybe it is the action that’s missing. Action towards the next step to bring you closer to your dreams. But once again, what action do you take? It’s clear now looking back the times I made the biggest progress towards my dreams was when I surrounded myself with people who already achieved similar dreams.

You are who you surround yourself with. My friend and mentor Irfan Pardesi is a strong proponent of: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. So carefully reflect who are your friends, and whether they can help you grow or not.

Life is short and therefore you cannot waste one more day just dreaming, hoping or wishing to be among the stars. Take a good look in the mirror and do the right things to bring you one step closer to the stars.

Lastly, remember the Taoist saying: Don’t confuse the moon with the finger pointing to the moon. Professor Jordan Peteson taught me this in one of his many lectures available online.