Feb 202018
 

Today is known as World Day of Social Justice or Social Equality Justice Day, a day recognizing the need to promote efforts to tackle issues such as poverty, exclusion and unemployment. The United Nations General Assembly voted on 26 November 2007 to observe 20 February annually as a day for promoting social justice worldwide. The declaration reads in part:

For the United Nations, the pursuit of social justice for all is at the core of our global mission to promote development and human dignity. The adoption by the International Labour Organization of the Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization is just one recent example of the UN system’s commitment to social justice. The Declaration focuses on guaranteeing fair outcomes for all through employment, social protection, social dialogue, and fundamental principles and rights at work.

The General Assembly invites Member States to devote the day to promoting national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit for Social Development and the twenty-fourth session of the General Assembly. Observance of World Day of Social Justice should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication, the promotion of full employment and decent work, gender equity and access to social well-being and justice for all.

Social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. This is measured by the explicit and tacit terms for the distribution of wealth, opportunities for personal activity and social privileges. In Western as well as in older Asian cultures, the concept of social justice has often referred to the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society. In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, the emphasis has been on the breaking of barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets and economic justice.

Social justice assigns rights and duties in the institutions of society, which enables people to receive the basic benefits and burdens of cooperation. The relevant institutions often include taxation, social insurance, public health, public school, public services, labor law and regulation of markets, to ensure fair distribution of wealth, and equal opportunity.

Interpretations that relate justice to a reciprocal relationship to society are mediated by differences in cultural traditions, some of which emphasize the individual responsibility toward society and others the equilibrium between access to power and its responsible use. Hence, social justice is invoked today while reinterpreting historical figures such as Bartolomé de las Casas, in philosophical debates about differences among human beings, in efforts for gender, racial and social equality, for advocating justice for migrants, prisoners, the environment, and the physically and developmentally disabled.

While the concept of social justice can be traced through the theology of Augustine of Hippo and the philosophy of Thomas Paine, the term “social justice” became used explicitly from the 1840s. A Jesuit priest, Luigi Taparelli, is typically credited with coining the term, and it spread during the revolutions of 1848 with the work of Antonio Rosmini-Serbati. In the late industrial revolution, progressive U.S. legal scholars began to use the term more, particularly Louis Brandeis and Roscoe Pound. From the early 20th century it was also embedded in international law and institutions; the preamble to establish the International Labour Organization recalled that “universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice.” In the later 20th century, social justice was made central to the philosophy of the social contract, primarily by John Rawls in A Theory of Justice (1971).

The theme for 2018 is Workers on the Move, thinking primarily about the plight of migrants: https://www.un.org/en/events/socialjusticeday/ 

There are many websites with suggestions for recipes for social justice. One theme is, of course, fair trade ingredients. I am going to take a different slant. The key element to social justice is equality. How about a recipe that involves equal proportions of all ingredients? This would be a little tricky in baking where one cup of flour, one cup of sugar, one cup of baking powder, one cup of eggs, one cup of butter, one cup of vanilla essence etc. would certainly be unpleasant. But soups and salads based on the equality of ingredients would be just fine. In fact, that is often my method with salads. I do not like one ingredient to dominate in a conventional salad. Put in a cup of each of the ingredients, diced or chopped, mix them together, and then dress them with extra virgin olive oil. Or make a soup of equal parts of onion, beans, potatoes, meat, celery, carrots, parsnips etc. I guarantee it will be good. Call them Social Justice Salad or Social Justice Soup.

Dec 102016
 

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Today is Human Rights Day celebrating the proclamation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the United Nations in Paris on 10 December 1948 (General Assembly resolution 217 A) as a common standard of achievement for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, in clear language, the fundamental human rights that are to be universally protected and it has been translated into over 500 languages. Sadly, the resolution was non-binding, making the United Nations a rather toothless tiger. But it was a start for a fledgling world body to come together under a common banner with a common goal. The full text of the declaration is here: http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/

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Ancient cultures had complex legal systems, but, despite spurious claims by some scholars that documents such as the Cyrus Cylinder are declarations of human rights, the concept as it is understood now, was not formulated until the development of humanist thinking and Protestant ideology in the West beginning with what we now call the Renaissance and the Reformation. Its ideals crested in Enlightenment philosophy in the 17th century and in key documents such as the English Bill of Rights (1689), the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (1789), and the Bill of Rights in the United States Constitution (1791).  Preceding documents such as the Constitution of Medina (622), Al-Risalah al-Huquq (659-713), Magna Carta (1215), etc., all contains germs of the idea, but the notion that a person is born with inalienable rights regardless of gender, color, creed, or religion does not emerge full blown until the late 17th century. However, even the documents I have cited are equivocal. The U.S. Bill of Rights, for example, was passed by slave holders, but it put the principles in place.

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The word “Man” is troublesome. The documents cited seem to be a bit vague in this regard. Are they using the word “Man” to mean Homo sapiens, or just men (and not women)? You can waffle all you like; they meant men, and the word when used now is still sexist, even if unintentionally. I don’t use the word to mean humans; I use the word “human” – end of story. These are HUMAN rights, not the Rights of Man. It’s not difficult to say “human” rather than “man” or “humankind” rather than “mankind.” A few extra letters won’t hurt you. If you need convincing look at these sentences:

In prehistoric times man was a hunter.

Man is the only species that menstruates on a 28-day cycle but is receptive to sex all the time.

The first sentence seems all right, but the second one looks odd. Why? Both show gender bias, but the first gets a free pass and the second gets a question mark. The first is fair enough in that both men and women have participated in hunting historically, but . . . hunting is (and was) predominantly a male activity in forager societies. Thus “Man the Hunter” seems all right and has been used as the name of a classic text in anthropology. “Man the Menstruator” doesn’t sit well.  Case closed. Talk about HUMAN rights.

It would be nice if traditional musicians would get the memo. The “Rights of Man” is a classic Irish hornpipe that is very popular at music sessions. Irish tunes in general have catchy titles that have nothing to do with the music. That said, I will rename this the Human Rights Hornpipe:

There is a basic human right to food.  This is subsumed under the basic human right to life. Food, water, and shelter are the most basic of human needs to support life. What form food comes in is not relevant as long as it is free from harmful contaminants and is plentiful enough to avoid hunger or malnutrition. This means that there is no human right to banquets or fancy dishes. In fact there are a lot of people (and cultures) in the world that are not interested in diversity in food. I don’t understand people who want the same food all the time, but I respect their habits. The domestication of plants led to cereals being primary staples worldwide with wheat, barley, corn, and rice topping the list. In many world languages the word for the local staple is also the general word for food. The Lord’s Prayer asks: “Give us each day our daily bread.”  The word “bread” here means food, and “daily bread” means enough food for the day. The basic character in Chinese, 饭, is pronounced fan (4th tone), and can mean rice in particular, or a meal in general.

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So, frankly, I don’t know what to present as a recipe du jour. The times in my life when I have had almost no money to live on (too many for comfort), I’ve usually resorted to a bowl of rice per day. It’s a bit bleak but I’ve always found ways to dress up plain rice. Stalls that sell bowls of rice in Asia always have condiments of some sort – sauces or pickles. I usually opt for a fiery hot sauce and some pickles.

Sep 062015
 

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Swaziland, officially the Kingdom of Swaziland, sometimes called kaNgwane or Eswatini, is a sovereign state in Southern Africa. On this date in 1968 it became fully independent. Its neighbors are Mozambique to the east and South Africa to the north, west and south. The country and its people take their names from Mswati II, the 19th-century king under whose rule Swazi territory was expanded and unified.

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At no more than 200 kilometres (120 mi) north to south and 130 kilometres (81 mi) east to west, Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa. Despite its size, however, its climate and topography are diverse, ranging from a cool and mountainous highveld to a hot and dry lowveld. The population is primarily ethnic Swazi whose language is siSwati.

The kingdom was established in the mid-18th century under the leadership of Ngwane III and the present boundaries were drawn up in 1881. After the Anglo-Boer War, Swaziland was a British protectorate from 1903 until 1967. The country is an absolute monarchy, currently ruled by Ngwenyama Mswati III. He is head of state and appoints the country’s prime ministers and a number of representatives of both chambers (Senate and House of Assembly) in the country’s parliament. Elections are held every five years to determine the House of Assembly majority. The current constitution was adopted in 2005.

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The Swazi settlers, then known as the Ngwane (or bakaNgwane), before entering Swaziland had been settled on the banks of the Pongola River. Prior to that they were settled in the area of the Tembe River near present day Maputo. Continuing conflict with the Ndwandwe people pushed them further north, with Ngwane III establishing his capital at Shiselweni at the foot of the Mhlosheni hills. Under Sobhuza I, the Ngwane people eventually established their capital at Zombodze in the heartland of present-day Swaziland. In this process, they conquered and incorporated the long established clans of the country known to the Swazi as Emakhandzambili.

Swaziland derives its name from a later king named Mswati II. KaNgwane, named for Ngwane III, is an alternate name for Swaziland the surname of whose royal house remains Nkhosi Dlamini. Nkhosi literally means “king”. Mswati II was the greatest of the fighting kings of Swaziland, and he greatly extended the area of the country to twice its current size. The Emakhandzambili clans were initially incorporated into the kingdom with wide autonomy, often including grants of special ritual and political status. The extent of their autonomy however was drastically curtailed by Mswati, who attacked and conquered some of them in the 1850s.

With his power, Mswati greatly reduced the influence of the Emakhandzambili while incorporating more people into his kingdom either through conquest or by giving them refuge. These later arrivals became known to the Swazis as Emafikamuva. The clans who accompanied the Dlamini kings were known as the Bemdzabuko or true Swazi.

The autonomy of the Swaziland nation was influenced by British and Dutch rule of southern Africa in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1881 the British government signed a convention recognizing Swazi independence despite the “Scramble for Africa” that was taking place at the time. This independence was also recognized in the convention of 1884.

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Because of controversial land/mineral rights and other concessions, Swaziland had a triumviral administration in 1890 following the death of King Mbandzeni in 1889. This government represented the British, the Dutch republics and the Swazi people. In 1894 a convention placed Swaziland under the South African Republic as a protectorate. This continued under the rule of Ngwane V until the outbreak of the Second Boer War in October 1899. King Ngwane V died in December 1899 during incwala after the outbreak of the Boer war. His successor Sobhuza was four months old. Swaziland was indirectly involved in the war with various skirmishes between the British and the Boers occurring in the country until 1902.

In 1903, after British victory in the Anglo-Boer war, Swaziland became a British protectorate. Much of its early administration (for example, postal services) being carried out from South Africa until 1906 when the Transvaal colony was granted self-government. Following this, Swaziland was partitioned into European and non-European areas with the former being two-thirds of the total land. Sobhuza’s official coronation took place in December 1921 after the regency of Labotsibeni, who then led an unsuccessful deputation to the Privy council in London in 1922 regarding the issue of land rights.

In the period between 1923 and 1963, Sobhuza established the Swazi Commercial Amadoda which was to grant licenses to small businesses on the Swazi reserves and also established the Swazi National School to counter the dominance of the missions in education. His stature grew with time and the Swazi royal leadership was successful in resisting the weakening power of the British administration and the incorporation of Swaziland into the Union of South Africa.

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The constitution for independent Swaziland was promulgated by Britain in November 1963 under the terms of which legislative and executive councils were established. This development was opposed by the Swazi National Council (liqoqo). Despite such opposition, elections took place and the first Legislative Council of Swaziland was constituted on 9 September 1964. Changes to the original constitution proposed by the Legislative Council were accepted by Britain and a new constitution providing for a House of Assembly and Senate was drawn up. Elections under this constitution were held in 1967. Swaziland was then briefly a Protected State until 1968, when independence was regained.

Following the elections of 1973, the constitution of Swaziland was suspended by King Sobhuza II who thereafter ruled the country by decree until his death in 1982. At this point Sobhuza II had ruled Swaziland for 61 years. A regency followed his death, with Queen Regent Dzeliwe Shongwe being head of state until 1984 when she was removed by Liqoqo and replaced by Queen Mother Ntfombi Tfwala. Mswati III, the son of Ntfombi, was crowned king on 25 April 1986 as King and Ingwenyama of Swaziland.

At present human-rights problems in Swaziland include, according to a 2011 report by the U.S. State Department, “extrajudicial killings by security forces; mob killings; police use of torture, beatings, and excessive force on detainees; police impunity; arbitrary arrests and lengthy pretrial detention; arbitrary interference with privacy and home; restrictions on freedoms of speech and press and harassment of journalists; restrictions on freedoms of assembly, association, and movement; prohibitions on political activity and harassment of political activists; discrimination and violence against women; child abuse; trafficking in persons; societal discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community; discrimination against mixed-race and white citizens; harassment of labor leaders; restrictions on worker rights; and child labor.”

Not exactly a model country. But I do want to stick to my new principle of not necessarily condemning a whole country because of the actions of its leaders. Rather it is important to highlight abuses to bring attention to them. Swaziland has a long history of absolute monarchy and attendant tyranny. We can hope that things are changing.

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Swaziland cuisine is based largely on porridges made from maize, sorghum, or pumpkin depending on the season, and meat, especially goat. As is common throughout southern Africa, dried meat, known as Biltong, is very popular.

Indigenous peoples of southern Africa, such as the Khoikhoi, preserved meat by slicing it into strips, curing it with salt, and hanging it up to dry. After European settlers (Dutch, German, French) arrived in southern Africa in the early 17th century, they improved the curing process by using vinegar, saltpeter, and spices including pepper, coriander and cloves.

The need for preservation in the new colony was pressing. Building up herds of livestock took a long time but with indigenous game in abundance, traditional methods were available to preserve large amounts of meat such as found in the eland in a hot climate. Iceboxes and fridges had not been invented yet. Biltong as it is today evolved from the dried meat carried by the wagon-travelling Voortrekkers, who needed stocks of durable food as they migrated from the Cape Colony north and north-eastward (away from British rule) into the interior of Southern Africa during the Great Trek. The meat was preserved and hung to be dried for a fortnight after which it would be ready for packing in cloth bags.

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The most common ingredients of biltong are:

Meat
Black pepper
Coriander
Salt
Sugar or Brown sugar
Vinegar

Modern-day ingredients sometimes added include: balsamic vinegar or malt vinegar, dry ground chili peppers, nutmeg, garlic, bicarbonate of soda, Worcestershire sauce, onion powder, and saltpetre.

Prior to the introduction of refrigeration, the curing process was used to preserve all kinds of meat in South Africa. However today biltong is most commonly made from beef, primarily because of its widespread availability and lower cost relative to game. For the finest cuts, fillet, sirloin or steaks cut from the hip such as topside or silverside. Other cuts can be used, but are not as high in quality.

Ideally the meat is marinated in a vinegar solution (grape vinegar is traditional but balsamic and cider also works very well) for a few hours, this being finally poured off before the meat is flavored.

The spice mix traditionally consists of equal amounts of: rock salt, barbecue spice, whole coriander slightly roasted and roughly ground, black pepper and brown sugar. This mix is then ground roughly together, sprinkled liberally over the meat and rubbed in. Saltpetre is optional and can be added as an extra preservative (necessary only for wet biltong that is not going to be frozen).

The meat should then be left for a further few hours (or refrigerated overnight) and any excess liquid poured off before the meat is hung in the dryer.

Here is a video of Alton Brown that can be adapted for the ingredients and method above. Using a box fan is very useful in temperate climates, and for speed.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/videos/altons-beef-jerky-recipe-0170068.html