Before I dance with Death… (+de)

Tafel 45 des Totentanzes auf der Spreuerbrücke in Luzern - Panel 45 of the Danse of Death series on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.
Der Bauer: Tafel 45 des Totentanzes auf der Spreuerbrücke in Luzern – The Peasant: Panel 45 of the Dance of Death series on the Spreuer Bridge in Lucerne.

Ach Pur wie sur gwünst du dein Brot. – Ich gwüns mit Arbeit Angst und Not. –
Wil läben doch lieber ein Pursman. – Als gstorben für ein Edelman.

(transcribed in: Der Todtentanz: Gemälde auf der Mühlenbrücke in Luzern, 1881) Continue reading “Before I dance with Death… (+de)”

Map it out – the extent of obvious misery

Here I am in the Kensington area of Philadelphia.

The row houses in the Kensington area were originally built for workers in the vicinity of the factories that employed them. They are a monument to industriousness and dignity. The factories were not social institutions, but apparently it was possible for many families to live in their own little house in the neighbourhood. It was a short commute to the workplace. There were many little corner stores selling things of daily needs, and bars for those who had daily or occasional wants. Some avenues were commercial districts with a variety of stores and shops. I have seen a library in a park, schools and a hospital – all in a similar architectural style making use of brickwork, just the way the factories were built. And there were many churches to comfort the ones hit by hardship and to celebrate with the ones who were able to make it.

Industrial Beauty - a restored factory portal in Kensinton
Industrial Beauty – a restored factory portal in Kensington

Continue reading “Map it out – the extent of obvious misery”

A Better Yukon for All – the governmental strategy for social inclusion and poverty reduction

A critical review by Othmar F. Arnold

(All mentioned documents are linked directly to the original source.)

The preamble to the new strategy document outlines very nicely what a better Yukon for all means: “A socially inclusive society is one where all people feel valued, their differences are respected, and their basic needs are met so they can live with dignity. It is a society where everyone has the opportunity to participate and to have their voice heard.’ (p. 8) And it continues with deep insight about social exclusion: it “is the result of barriers in the social, economic, political and cultural systems” (p. 8).

In the introduction, the scope of the strategy is presented as a guideline to social policy development; or in other words, how government will facilitate a way of meaningfully living together. From the research the government conducted, it concluded that service delivery and access to services appear the main reasons for the fact that some people in the Yukon do not feel included. Furthermore, “poverty is one of the most obvious factors contributing to social exclusion, but social exclusion also stems from and is exacerbated by inadequate education, housing, health, social participation, employment and access to services (p. 8)”.

Continue reading “A Better Yukon for All – the governmental strategy for social inclusion and poverty reduction”

The time for giving – global needs you would have never dreamed of

Over the last few days, I came across several writings in the blogosphere about aid. It started with the blog from a Norwegian family that inquired whether providing employment for a person from a marginalized context (read: Third World country) could potentially constitute a form of development aid at the private, most direct level.

Is hosting an au pair the most direct form of developmental aid maybe?
I´m not being cynical. It is a sincere question. (from Au pair host: “Development Aid?“)

In response, I offered some of my own thoughts for finding an answer:

…However, I have some doubts about the notion of development aid. In the first case, the mother and child have migrated from the less affluent to the more affluent context due to marriage. They have uprooted themselves to significantly improve their social and hopefully economic standing – this is what I call upward mobility. There is no development in Kenya associated with that.
In the second case, the young woman has returned with hard earned and saved cash and is able to run a family business. At least that will have a development effect in the country of origin. But the process is a form of migrant labour, or maybe another form of remittance.
I think that if a person from a marginalized country comes and works as au pair in a highly privileged country and is treated like a human being and not simply as cheap labour, it is a noble exchange.
But it does not constitute charity:

Nick Negerli - the ubiquitous guilt-absorbing church collection boxes of a recent past (photo credit:
(photo credit:

Continue reading “The time for giving – global needs you would have never dreamed of”

Don’t waste your time!

I was brought up with the mantra don’t waste your time. My parents were quite insistent that their children make the most of their time (and definitely not waste theirs). Only now do I realize that this attitude was not something purely utilitarian – a way to make it out of misery and to the top. It actually has biblical roots:

Make best use of the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5:16 (ESV)

For my parents’ and grandparents’ generation making most of their time seemed to have worked. They all have roots in an agrarian lifestyle – something that for the most part excluded options in life, and was equally associated with a good measure of back-breaking labour, servitude, misery and poverty. But they overcame the burden thereof and created for themselves a much more comfortable worldly existence.

Continue reading “Don’t waste your time!”