Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Amazing Women. Write Their Names In Capitals

Just when you think you have seen all possible variations on capitalization you come across one that takes the concept of honorifics to a whole new level. Respect and achievements are the product of hard work. They cannot be earned any other way. As an antidote to all that silliness I made a small list of amazing women I admire.

"If you are feeling helpless, help someone"

"I tend to believe that One must be very selective as to what One believes as truth on the internet."
Typo you assume. After the second 'One' you think the author must be joking. Maybe she should consider writing 8ne instead of One. That is two O's stacked on top of one another. Must feel high and mighty. I'll even provide a ladder to help you get of your high horse. I really do not get it and I do not like it either. Below are some women who I think are amazing. It is a random selection and there are many more but this selection helps clarify why I think the above capitalization is misplaced.

The Mother
Mother Theresa, perhaps the most famous woman in recent history, was a nun who devoted her life to to serving the poor around the world. Recipient of the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize, she founded The Missionaries Of Charity in 1950 to to give "wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor."
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
― Mother Teresa
All moms are amazing by default and some are more than just that. Dutch papers tell the story how a mother rescued her daughter from Syria in October 2014, without referring to herself as the one.

The Lady: Aung San Suu Kyi
Change is the result of the efforts of many. But change also needs a catalyst. Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the most admired women in modern times, has been that inspiration for change in Myanmar. The Burmese junta kept her under house arrest for 15 out of 21 years.
In 1991 Aung San was awarded the Nobel Prize, but the military dictatorship did not allow her out of the country. In 1999 it was just the other way round. Her British husband was denied a visa to say farewell to his wife. The last time she saw him was in 1995, four years before he died of cancer. Just before his death the regime offered her to go to Britain to visit her dying husband. Knowing she would never be allowed back into Burma she declined.
On 2 May 2008, after Cyclone Nargis hit Burma, Suu Kyi lost the roof of her house and lived in virtual darkness after losing electricity in her dilapidated lakeside residence for over two years until Suu Kyi was released from house arrest on 13 November 2010
Last year Aung San Suu Kyi has announced she wants to run for Myanmar’s presidency in 2015. Even though the outcome matters greatly it is not nearly as significant as the fact that she can announce that she will stand or what she has achieved so far.
Even if it was fate meeting destiny or pedigree, her father, General Aung San was an independence hero of Burma, at any single point during all those years she could have thrown in the towel, but she choose not to. She and her loved ones suffered greatly for what they believed in. Her strength, determination and perseverance make her one of the most impressive women of modern times. Iconic.

The Lady from the movie
Supporters often refer to Aung San Suu Kyi as “The Lady”. In October 2010 filming began on a movie about her life, one month before she was released from house arrest. In one of those gestures where the universe teaches us the limits to our understanding director Luc Besson had just finished a scene where Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest as he was watching the real lady being released from house arrest on television for real life.

Michelle Yeoh portrays Aung San Suu Kyi so convincingly that at times it feels like watching a documentary. Yeoh is an impressive woman, member of an exclusive group of Bond girls. She featured in a number of martial arts movies, often performing her own stunts. She is also one of the few women Jackie Chan allows to do her own stunts. Anyone who has ever seen the ‘bloopers’ at the end of a Hong Kong movie knows how impressive that is, even more because Michelle Yeoh has no martial arts training, her background is in ballet. I absolutely love “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” in no small part because of Michelle Yeoh.

In 2012 shortly after the movie was released Aung San Suu Kyi finally delivered her Nobel Acceptance Speech, 21 years after she was awarded it. Let’s hope it was the universe sending us another message that given enough time things will work out.


The Brave Young Woman: Malala Yousafzai
After the Taliban banned girls from attending school, teenager Malala Yousafzai became an advocate for women's education in Pakistan. It almost cost her her life. Two generations separate Aung San Suu Kyi and Malala Yousafzai but they are connected by standing up for what they believe in under the most difficult of circumstances.

In 2009, when she was about 11 years old, Malala started a blog for the BBC, writing about life under Taliban rule. Between 2007 and 2011 more than 400 schools in the valley where Malala lives, were destroyed by the Taliban. Her outspokenness not only made her famous but also a young woman the Taliban hated. One day in 2012 they carried out a assassination attempt on her life. On 9 October, a Taliban gunman shot Yousafzai as she rode home on a bus after taking an exam in Pakistan's Swat Valley. The masked gunman shouted "Which one of you is Malala? Speak up, otherwise I will shoot you all",and, on her being identified, shot at her. She was hit with one bullet, which went through her head, neck, and ended in her shoulder.

If you take a step back from all the hype what happened is terrorist thugs under the pretence of religion, tried to kill a 14 year old girl who just wants the opportunity for herself and others to go to school. Shot in the face and miraculously escaping death, she did not back down nor did the assassination attempt on the teenager's life silence her, it created global awareness but just like Mother Theresa before, views on her in Pakistan are not uniformly favourable.

Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize is political by nature but the committee biggest mistake ever is to award the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) rather than Malala Yousafzai. The Pakistan Taliban who previously had renewed their threat to target and attack her again, said they were "delighted" Malala was not awarded the Nobel Peace Prize but also accused her of not being brave or having courage. Grrr.

Prior to the announcement of awarding the OPCW the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize, Yousafzai told CNN she didn't think she deserved the title. Now compare that to the poster unable to speak out of character and bestowing honorifics upon oneself. It rubs me the wrong way.

The others
You do not have to be a political activist to be an amazing woman. Iran is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and its women are drop dead gorgeous. The intensity of their eyes is unrivalled. An Iranian friend of mine once told me how her mother was sentenced to a public whipping for wearing sunglasses. Her crime? She looked "too Western." After that her mother decided she wanted a better life for her daughter and fled the country. Now her daughter studies Business & Design. She works really hard to pay her way through college. Her day starts around four in the morning and she goes to bed around ten. I have seen some of her work and she is exceptionally gifted. Two amazing women for the price of one. That Western excuse is the same argument the Taliban used to defend their murder on Malala: "She is a Western-minded girl...."

The saddest example of an amazing woman and one of the saddest things I have ever seen was in India. You need to see the sun rise over the Taj Mahal or so they told me. Around half four in the morning the streets were empty except for some homeless people. Two kids were sleeping on the pavement, isolated from the cold by a bit of card board beneath them and a dirty rag to cover part of their bodies. The boy perhaps three or four years old, the girl maybe two years older. The little guy slept curled up in her arms. Those streets are not safe and when our noise woke her up she meticulously redressed the rag that served as a blanket over the boy, making sure he was OK before she fell asleep again, holding him even tighter in her little arms. Six year old. So much responsibility. That is wrong.

The many musicians
In music there are to many names to mention. Debbie Harry (Blondie) is a 1980s punk singer, who took a few years of to care for her partner. That probably cost her her career. She is also known from the rather unsettling 1983 move Videodrome. Madonna, the most successful female artist of all time, is not only a provocative artist but also an excellent business woman. Singer Beyonce who is one of the best entertainers in contemporary popular music and she achieved all of that through hard work. Thirty years earlier Patti Smith; pioneering punk musician, poet and political activist broke through the male punk movement without chasing fame or money. Grammy Award winning, Benin born, Angelique Kidjo may not be that well known in the West, is an Unicef Goodwill Ambassdor and has her own foundation for the advancement of secondary and tertiary education for girls. Nina Simone, highly influential in the fight for equal rights in the America of the 1960s, is one of the greatest jazz performers ever. She left a number of true gems like "Ain't Got No/I Got Life" and "I Put a Spell on You".

The many artists
There is an equally long list in other arts. There is Michelle Yeoh but also actress Angelina Jolie who is at least as famous, if not more, for her humanitarian work as her movies.  "I know why the caged bird sings" is Maya Angelou's first of seven autobiographies. That beautiful title is all you need to understand her talent. She also writes poetry, read "Phenomenal Woman". In her acclaimed autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis Iranian born Marjane Satrapi tells the story of her childhood in Iran and her adolescence in Europe. Read it and you'll understand why she is in the list.

The many politicians and activists
Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Malala Yousafzai are predictable choices when it comes to politicians and activists just like Rosa Parks who in helped start the American civil rights movement when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger in 1955. Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is a much move divisive figure. You do not have to agree with her policies to admire her. Following the Winter Of Discontent, in 1979 the Conservatives were catapulted into Number 10 and Thatcher became Prime Minister. In 1984 the IRA detonated a bomb at the htoel where she was staying with the intention of killing. Five people died and the Prime Minister who narrowly escaped, rather than cancel the conference, climbed the stage next morning, defiantly, making good on her word four years earlier how "The lady is not for turning." One can learn a thing or two about dominance from the Iron Lady.

Fifteen year after Lady Thatcher left office, her antipode Angela Merkel became the first female chancellor of Germany. Born in Eastern Germany that must have seen very improbable at the time. Not only is she the de facto leader of the European Union, she also was named most powerful woman in the world and second most powerful person in the world in 2013 and is credited with playing a pivotal role in managing the global financial crisis.

The many scientists
In science Marie Curie usually comes to mind. The papers that once belonged to her are still so radioactive, 75 years after her death, that they can't be handled without special gear. Florence Nightingale founder of modern day nursing and the pie chart is often mentioned as well. Lise Meitner discovered the process of nuclear fission later used in atomic bombs but refused to work on the Manhattan Project saying "I will have nothing to do with a bomb!" In possibly the most egregious example of a scientist being overlooked for a Nobel Prize, it was Hahn who received the prize for the discovery of nuclear fission, not Meitner.

Not ranking the stars sweetie
It would unjust to any of these amazing women to compare or rank them. It is also impossible. That is why first place is reserved for the fictional character of River Song, wife of doctor Who. Anyone who holds a doctorate in archaeology from Luna University is automatically awesome in my book. Add to that the ability to fly the Tardis and being more adept at it than the doctor, the ability to handle guns and get in and out of the universe most secure prison and you have a winner.
The doctor's female companions have become more independent over time but are still a long way from anything resembling an equal partner. River Song is the only character who is clearly his equal and sometimes more than that. A strong personality, confident in her abilities and hard to intimidate, she is an impressive woman, even if she does not really exist.

Her tragedy is that she loves a time traveller. Every time River sort of finds the Doctor, for whatever reason, she is never 100 percent sure which Doctor it is she's going to be meeting and what they have already experienced together or not. Because time travel isn't linear she is progressing to a point where the Doctor will not know or trust her any more. Maybe that is not very real world but it is very impressive.

"Let's kill Hitler"
Finally
The funny thing with capitalization is the more you need it the less you deserve it. There is nothing wrong with a hedonistic lifestyle. But do not confuse it with being impressive. As for honorifics: the Burmese word “daw” is used for mature women or women in a senior position like Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. And yes that is a little more appropriate than referring to yourself as “One”.


I wrote this post about a year ago but did not publish it. Every time I read that sentence about "the One" it got me cross. After a year I still resent "the One" which means it is time to post the article. Other than two recent news items it is largely unchanged.
The good news is that in the mean time the Nobel Prize Committee has come to their senses and awarded Malala Yousafzai the Nobel Peace Price. Sadly Maya Angelou passed away in May 2014.

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