"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Reclaiming empathy and compassion for human well being.

BBC Radio 4's Start the Week is an excellent weekly discussion programme, setting the cultural agenda every Monday and hosted by Andrew Marr, a man in the news recently for other reasons!

Casting that aside, I pricked up my ears a week or so ago to the programme when The Revd Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James's, Piccadilly,  was speaking - "Human well being," she said, "relies upon reclaiming empathy and compassion." And religious sensibility has a role to play, she continued, in creating the Good Society. Precisely! Regular readers of my blog will know that I also believe empathy and compassion to be at the heart of any attempts to heal our broken world, and I explore this in much more detail in Healing This Wounded Earth - with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope.

It is sometimes reassuring to know that others are on my wavelength!

The photo is of me giving a very successful talk and reading from my book at a  local group.

(The Revd. Winkett is the author of Our Sound is our Wound - Contemplative Listening to a Noisy World , the Archbishop of Canterbury's Lent book for 2010 - another lovely statement she made: "Don't imagine you're thinking when you're simply rearranging your prejudices." !!)

Friday, 29 April 2011

Ne're cast a clout...

Ne're cast a clout 'til May is out, the old English proverb cautions us.

In England we have just had two or more glorious weeks of heatwave - in April!! But now, just in time for the Royal Wedding, it has turned very cold and rain is forecast for tomorrow!! So we would do well not to put away our warm clothing for a while - but until when? Does May mean the month of May? Or does it mean the so-called May blossoms of that ubiquitous English hedgerow tree, the Hawthorn, not yet in flower?

Whatever, there have been plenty of spring flowers to enjoy over the last few weeks!

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World

Isn't it simply wonderful that at a time of  unspeakable horrors going on in the world, with man made atrocities, as well as economies hanging on a thread, alongside dreadful poverty, disease and hunger, with the added threat of climate change and global warming, we can escape into the frivolity for a moment of vegan cupcakes!!

Because clearly that is what we are doing!

Vegan Cupcakes Take over the World is taking the world by storm - the lovechild of Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero who vow to be "changing the world one cupcake at a time." When more serious books are lucky to get a few Amazon reviews, this book has 333 reviews as I write, of which 308 give the book 5 stars!!

That's super, really it is. Because we all need to escape from the world from time to time. Perhaps that is also why the Royal Wedding is attracting such attention and reason for celebration. And I am tempted to follow their blog and try those vegan cupcakes myself. 

But please don't let's forget in all this frivolity that there is also a serious side to life, many wounds to be healed, in this seriously fractured world.

How can we heal our flawed economy Part 1

 I have written over the last few weeks of the many flaws in our current Western economic model. But how can we build a better, more sustainable and fair system?

Economists, philosophers, theologians and more have contributed to the debate on the way forward for our economy in the context of addressing the world’s often seemingly insuperable problems. Our economic system is certainly not serving us well at the moment in its present form. Perhaps this is the opportunity to consider other options that address some of the present flaws. We do urgently need a system that promotes human justice and that stresses the importance of the long-term sustainability and protection of our planet. Where can we find this?

One such organization that works within these parameters is The Global Justice Movement. The essence of this movement’s message is an inclusive justice for all. It promotes policies that will provide a new, stable, just, global monetary system that will protect the environment by its sustainability, address poverty and the present rich–poor divide, and focus on real productive economy.

It starts with the idea of national bank-issued interest-free loans that have a real link to productive capacity and the spreading of that productive capacity, arising from within society. It is opposed to interest bearing loans which are created without any link to production, which have no regard as to whether the needs of society are met and which are controlled by those with no concern for society. Global justice, it believes, ends with global peace.

So what is proposed? Binary economics is a system developed in the 1990s by Rodney Shakespeare with Robert Ashford that fits well within the aims of the Global Justice Movement. It is based on the principle that both capital and labor should physically produce wealth and that all individuals should have access to such capital, provided for them if necessary using interest free money. This could produce a secure source of income for everyone, regardless of age, ability or occupation. This new and refreshing idea has been woven into a complete re-thinking of economics and politics, expressed in a most extraordinary vision in Seven Steps to Justice, one of the most readable and potentially and profoundly life changing books I have come across.

If only people would listen to wise words.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Journey through Holy Week

Tonight I shall be going to our Easter Saturday Eve vigil, with a Service of Light and Eucharist, remembering the night our Lord Jesus Christ passed over from death to life. After some readings we will light the Easter or Paschal Candle from a fire which will be lit outside the church. We will then have our hand candles lit from the Paschal  Candle before singing Gloria in Excelsis and the Easter Acclamation.

He is Risen Indeed, Alleluia, Alleluia!

 This morning our church was a buzz of activity as many of us were there to put the sanctuary all together again following the stripping of the altar and sanctuary on the evening of Maundy Thursday. This is a time of spring cleaning for the sanctuary, before we bring out clean altar cloths, brand new altar candles and we deck absolutely everything we can with beautiful flower arrangements ready for our festival Eucharist on Easter Day. More about that next week.

This will be the climax of our Journey through a busy and reflective Holy Week, that has included a Service of Wholeness and Healing,  a Taize service, (already written about in a previous post), a Meditation on the 15 Stations of the Cross, the Maundy Thursday Liturgy of the Day and Gospel of the Watch, the most solemn Good Friday liturgy of the Day in a stripped out sanctuary, and then tonight's service.

The photos show various arrangements of candles, flowers, stones, nails, all creatively dreamed up by our priest to aid our meditations and worship throughout the week.
© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Tuesday of Holy Week - Taize prayers


On the Tuesday Evening of Holy Week we held our Service of Taize style prayer.

"From the depths of the human condition a secret aspiration rises up. Caught in the anonymous rhythms of schedules and timetables, men and women of today are implicitly thirsting for an essential reality, for an inner life.
Nothing is more conducive to a communion with the living God than a meditative common prayer with, as its high point, singing that never ends and that continues in the silence of one’s heart when one is alone again. When the mystery of God becomes tangible through the simple beauty of symbols, when it is not smothered by too many words, then prayer with others, far from exuding monotony and boredom, awakens us to heaven’s joy on earth."

(Brother Roger of Taize)

For more inspiration and information from a church Taize service visit the site for the 

First Plymouth Congregational Church

Distracted Drivers KILL - Cell phones in cars

"In 2009 nearly 5,500 Americans were killed due to distracted driving, and 448,000 were injured. Distracted driving means driving while texting, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading, using a PDA or navigation system, watching a video, fiddling with the car radio/CD/Mp3 player." 

Thank you Jake Richardson for posting that on Care 2

Unbelievable isn't it?

And in the UK we behave no better. I have written about this so often and I see no improvement in our crass behaviour behind the wheel. If anything it gets worse.

The other day I was driving home from an excellent conference - more about that another time - and I was nearly home, when a car drove straight at me around a bend on my side of the road. And the lady was holding a mobile phone to her ear. I swerved out of the way. We could have both been killed otherwise. I wonder if she had children, a boyfriend, a husband, parents, whatever, who would have been grief stricken. I wonder how her loved ones would have explained to mine, with me the innocent victim?

Come on everyone - just stop being so stupid! 

What do we have to do to stop this stupidity? The police seem powerless to do anything. Any ideas?

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Palm Oil and the Orang Utan

Writing over the last two days about Land Grabbing, I told the story of the 7 million hectares of land in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) acquired by the Chinese for Palm Oil production whilst millions of people in the DRC rely on international food aid. This reminded me of an article I wrote just a few years ago on Palm Oil and the Orang Utan. Some detail may be ever so slightly out of date but not much has changed and the message is still as important. Here it is:

"Within 15 years it is predicted that 98% of the primary tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia will be gone, and with them some of the world’s most important species, including the Orang Utan, the Asian Elephant and the Sumatran Tiger. Why? Because of our insatiable appetite for Palm Oil. Forests are being cleared for palm plantations, and the animals lose their habitat. And we will have to explain to our children that this was not caused by our ignorance but by corporate greed and lack of consumer and political will.

I’m sure it will be pretty much the same in the US, but one out of ten UK supermarket products are now said to contain palm oil. These products range from chocolates to lipsticks to detergents and animal feed as well as many processed food products such as biscuits, cakes and ready meals. That would be bad enough, but the oil is now in huge demand also as a bio-fuel, to be used in the fight to combat greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. That places even greater strain on the forests and for various reasons is almost certainly substituting one carbon emission problem for another. And it is the world’s poorest people who suffer most intensely from the effects of that climate change.

83% of our Palm Oil is from Indonesia and Malaysia. When I wrote this in 2008 most UK supermarkets, importers and manufacturers had apparently refused to take any real action to get their palm oil from sustainable sources. What, I wonder, is the current situation? A Friends of the Earth survey showed that 84% of UK companies didn't even know where their palm oil comes from. What is more, they clearly did not care! (See a recent BBC Panorama report on this.)

Why the tremendous increase in the demand for Palm Oil in our food? Because it has become the popular substitute for the partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, or trans fats, that have until recently been widely used in many of the ready meals and processed foods such as biscuits and cakes that we buy in huge quantities. Trans fats behave when consumed like the ‘baddie’ saturated fats found in dairy products and fatty red meats, sausages etc and although not proven, it is likely that they are unhealthy if we eat too much. As a result they are being progressively eliminated from the foods bought from supermarkets and fast food chains. But the health risks of trans fats were acknowledged in a book on nutrition that I have on my bookshelf that was written in the 1970’s! Why do some items of crucial interest for our health and wellbeing take so long to come into the global consciousness? You may well ask!

Not that we can be sure that Palm Oil is any better for us. It is one of the three Tropical Fats - Coconut Oil, Palm Kernel Oil and Palm Oil – that are also highly saturated. So we may be replacing one health problem for another. Claims have been made, chiefly it would seem from the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (well they would, wouldn’t they!), that there are in fact nutritional benefits from the use of Palm Oil in food. But it seems the scientific jury are still out on that one. And even if you choose to avoid Palm Oil in your diet, you may not find it so easy because it may be simply described as ‘vegetable oil’ on the label, making it seem healthier than it probably is!

So what is the poor consumer to do? Trans fats or palm oil? And can you tell the difference? And is your supermarket doing all it can to follow Asda’s lead and trace its Palm Oil consumption to sustainable sources?
And what does sustainable mean? It is not just about saving the Orang Utan. The animal is a fragile part of a whole ecosystem that includes those very people who are clearing the forests and working the plantations. And their main concern is probably the daily struggle to earn money to feed their families. Orang Utans are a pest to young palm oil plants and not surprisingly are hunted by the locals. Therefore any campaigns for sustainability of Palm Oil plantations must consider the needs of those local workers, and may include, for example, offers of assistance to local governments to work towards sustainable solutions, and support for local community education programmes that will enable and empower any changes that are needed. This is where organisations such as the Round Table on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) (Promoting the Growth and Use of Sustainable Palm Oil) become important. Formed by Friends of the Earth in 2004, to work towards totally sustainable Palm Oil plantations, progress is painfully slow. All seven of the major UK supermarkets have now signed up to the RSPO, but not until 2007 did Asda become the first UK supermarket to tell its palm oil suppliers that they must guarantee their palm oil is sourced from sustainable plantations. Body Shop has made similar moves with regard to the source of palm oil used in its soaps. What about the other supermarkets?

We have to behave as responsible consumers, for the sake of our health but also for the health of the planet. We as consumers have huge power – we call it purchasing power! If we do not buy, the shops will no longer stock. It is that simple! It is up to us! 

But it is also a Christian issue. Our belief in a God of justice means that we must care for the interests of those of our brothers and sisters who through no fault of their own live in the poorer areas of our one world that God created for us all. And that means curbing our own excesses, doing all we can to repair the damage we have done and helping those who are most affected.

What can we do? Ask your supermarket what their policy is on Palm Oil. Let them know you care. Follow the debates on the internet and support the organisations that are campaigning for the future of our planet and the Orang Utan. Subscribe to one of the publications such as ‘Ethical Consumer’ that keep track of these things for us and help us make informed decisions. And try more home baking and cooking, preferably and wherever possible using fresh seasonal organic produce from the various good local farm shops and of course our own local stores. How much healthier is that for ourselves and the planet!?"

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Whose Land is it Anyway? Part 2

Yesterday I wrote of Land Grabbing, from an article by Lester Brown in the latest Resurgence. Here is another stupidity he exposes:

"In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Chinese companies have acquired 7 million hectares of land for Palm-Oil production whilst millions of people in DRC are dependent on international food aid."

That really is madness! Read the article at GRAIN for further information and to see what can and is being done to help the many powerless small holders across the world retain their land for farming.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Whose Land is it Anyway?

This is the title of an article by environmentalist Lester Brown in the latest issue of Resurgence, a wonderful publication, "at the heart of earth, art and spirit." If you are not familiar with this magazine, I strongly recommend it if you care at all for the future of the earth.

Lester warns of a new age of hunger precipitated by "land grabs," taking the land away from those who may have tilled it for centuries, often all in the interest of fat profits for companies who may well come from outside the area, and have no interest in the area except as a profit center. In his new book: World on the Edge, he tells us that "...in 2009 Saudi Arabia received its first shipment of rice produced on land acquired in Ethiopia while at the same time the World Food Program was providing food aid to 5 million Ethiopians."  

How mad is that?!
Lester gives other examples of this madness. Smallholder farmers across the world are so often helpless against governments and large corporations in this land-grabbing scandal.
You can read more about this and what can be done about it on the website of GRAIN, a "small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems." 
We cannot ignore such injustices and stupidities - at the end of the day hunger is first and foremost an ethical and humanitarian issue - but we should also be aware that countries who currently have plenty to eat and live in comfort are very likely to be at the receiving end of refugees in numbers we simply cannot cope with in the future, unless we all pull together to promote global sustainability based on the need of all and not the greed of the privileged few.   

Think about it! 

 © Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ancient Wisdoms - Modern Economy

I’ve written quite a bit lately about the flaws in our economic system. What are the alternatives?

This is where I believe we can find inspiration from Ancient Wisdoms.
You don’t have to be religious to be able to appreciate the wisdom of spiritual texts in the context of the twenty first century. The Bible teaches that money is first and foremost a tool for us to use wisely for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. But what if you don't believe in God? The Old Testament sets out principles of economics relating to the management of land and debt that in their essence are clearly designed to promote and maintain healthy relationships and prevent the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a minority. That to me sounds enormously relevant for today’s world, whether or not you believe in God!

The Jubilee Land laws
When the Israelites entered Canaan in the fourteenth century BC the land was carved up between them per capita, and the Jubilee Land Laws were formulated.1 No freehold sales were allowed and every fiftieth year, the Jubilee Year, the land had to revert to the original family freeholder, 2 at which time the people were to return to their own clans.3 At this same time bonded servants or debt slaves were released. This sound albeit informal welfare system ensured that the disabled, elderly and infirm were cared for, and the extended family was kept together, maintaining personal dignity and self-reliance for all.
Then there were the laws that gave freedom from debt servitude. There was an interest ban on loans between Israelites (not applicable to refugees and immigrants) and the loan would be cancelled every seven years. This kept the wealth within a family unit and worked to keep the family together.
Lending was about helping the poor and needy through financial crises. Loans were for helping in the short term, they were not intended to cause any hardship to a borrower over the longer term.
These laws for periodic debt cancellation and the return of family property protected a family’s roots and avoided wealth concentration and economic dependency. The laws underlined justice on the one hand with redistribution rules and the importance of relationships on the other, with families being rooted in their own areas. ‘There is hope for your future, says the Lord, and your children shall come back to their own country.’4
This is quite the opposite of the global mobility encouraged today in the workforce. Such mobility brings with it the inherent disadvantages of losing family cohesion, not knowing others around you in society and not feeling part of any community. When people generally do not feel loyalty and attachment to a particular area there can be an increase in crimes against the person and an increase in violence against the environment.
Many of us believe that there is an inextricable link between religious faith and social values, between theology and sociology, between the spiritual and the political. But we must have the courage to uphold these values in our lives. If we do not do so we fail society, and we fail God.5

Comments welcome!

1. Holy Bible, RSV, Joshua chapters 13 to 21
2. Ibid, Leviticus 25.
3. Ibid., Lev 25.10
4. Ibid., Jeremiah 31.17
5. The Rt. Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool, in his foreword to Schluter, Michael and John Ashcroft, Editors, Jubilee Manifesto: a Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005, p. 11.

The photo, by the way, is of tobacco being dried in the Dordogne.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Flaws in our Economy - Large companies lose their heart and soul

Those of you who have been following this blog over the last week or so know that I am exploring some of the fundamental flaws in our global economies. Later I shall consider ways in which we can correct some of these flaws. Meanwhile I am back to companies and the way they operate.
As a company grows, (and remember we have an economy where companies are driven to grow or die), it loses its heart and soul, it becomes ‘a person greater than its individual participants with powers that create, interpret or rise above the law, almost at will,’1 no less than an ‘ogre striding the globe’, as Peter Challen describes them. M. Scott Peck warned of this fragmentation of conscience across a group such that it becomes less than the sum of all the individual consciences. He called it ‘passing the moral buck’, 2 and saw this as a great potential for evil.

I know that I am not alone in thinking that the loss of corporate heart and soul has to be corrected at grass roots level, with the individual. Many agree that we have to change our values, submit to higher principles of love and truth and put profit motive firmly in its place. How on earth do we achieve that?

As the late Anita Roddick explained, ‘The huge relentless wheel that is global capitalism is driven by faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats and businessmen who seem deaf to the needs of individuals, communities, indeed whole nations. Yet it takes little imagination to see that this situation is unsustainable if we wish to have a planet that is worth living in, and not one where the developed world becomes a fortress to repel the needs of poorer nations.3 At the end of the day, the Scottish environmentalist, human ecologist and activist Alastair McIntosh has observed, ‘It is the people that matter and can make a difference.’ A large company is

…a mindless monster, unless people all the way through the system devote themselves to making it otherwise. Then, and only then, can it start to become more like a community with values, and maybe even something of a soul….this means …having an ethic that serves profit but transcends mere money making. It is only human goodness that can bring this about and so humanize the otherwise inhumane world created by emergent properties of greed.4

With so many flaws in our existing system of finance, what should we do?

I am interested to hear others' views on what I have written thus far.

1. Peter Challen, 2005. Exposing Corporate and Money Autocracy to Public Scrutiny as Major Threats to the Global Commons http://www.sustecweb.co.uk/past/sustec13-2/exposing_corporate.htm From It’s Simpol ! -- The Simultaneous Policy News, Winter 2004/05 The quarterly newsletter from the INTERNATIONAL SIMULTANEOUS POLICY ORGANISATION (ISPO)
2. M. Scott Peck, People of the Lie: The Hope for Healing Human Evil, London: Arrow, 1990, p. 249.

3. Anita Roddick, 2001 Take it Personally: How Globalization Effects (sic) You, London: Thornson, 2001, From Introduction, quoted in http://www.pcdf.org/SVN_Living_Economies.htm#N_2_

4. Alastair McIntosh, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, London: Aurum Press, 2004, p. 280

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Companies are driven by profit and growth not by human values

On 5th April I explained a serious flaw in our economics - the way that loans are made out of fiat money - i.e. created out of nothing!!

Edward Cahn has observed of this phenomenon that: ‘Money has taken on a life of its own: its function is to produce for the sake of reproducing – regardless of the impact on the health of the human community… increasingly what we are witnessing in the world’s money markets looks more and more like cancer.’1 Now cancer is of course dangerous and often fatal, requiring unpleasant treatments along the way.
As with Cahn’s analogy to cancer of the world’s largely artificial money markets, so according to David Korten the publicly traded limited liability company is best described as ‘a pool of money dedicated to its self replication’, and he also likens this to a cancer cell in the body growing inexorably without regard for its host or its own future. Both are destined towards destruction.2 They must adapt or die. The problem is that companies are driven to maximize profit for the ultimate benefit of the shareholders and directors, and the shareholders and directors are totally disassociated from the workers. There is too often no account taken of human values in the equation. What is more, the flow of wealth is all one way, normally out of the community where the business is transacted, as shareholders will almost always live elsewhere. This bleeds the community where the business is situated and for that reason alone cannot be a good thing.
Even worse, in the large corporation the chairman can defend his company’s actions by saying that they were what the shareholder wanted. In fact the directors have a legal duty to maximize profit for the shareholders! Peter Challen has called this  3 ‘killing from behind a desk’ or ‘personal aspirations suppressed by institutional arrogance’, there being a clear conflict between what we actually do and what we would like others to think that we do.

A moment's pause tells us that there is something wrong here - it is not just, equitable or fair whichever way you look at it. It is certainly no way to heal the world!! So what do we do about it? There are better options, and I will come back to explore these in later posts.

1. Cahn, Edgar S., No More Throw-Away People: The Co-Production Imperative Washington D.C.: Essential Books, 2000, p. 68.

2. David Korten, Living Economies for a Living Planet. http://livingeconomiesforum.org/i-intro

3. Peter Challen, 2005 Exposing Corporate and Money Autocracy to Public Scrutiny as Major Threats to the Global Commons http://www.sustecweb.co.uk/past/sustec13-2/exposing_corporate.htm (From It’s Simpol ! -- The Simultaneous Policy News, W i n t e r 2 0 0 4 / 0 5

Thursday, 7 April 2011

The Dukan Diet

I hadn't heard of the Dukan Diet until this week!!! Where have I been, you may well ask!
But nonetheless, it has finally come to my attention, and I am fascinated by what French diet doctor Pierre Dukan has to say himself about his own creation.
Speaking to Lucy Cavendish in an interview for The Times Magazine last weekend, he explained to her why we eat too much. We are empty, he says. We need food yes, but we also need love and spirituality and beauty and nature and if we fall short on any of these we fill the gap with food.
Now that caught my attention because it is what I have been saying. It is symptomatic of our general malaise that we not only eat to fill a gap, but shop and shop to fill another gap in our needs - and that is appropriately enough called "retail therapy."
He concluded his interview with Cavendish on this self same note. "Industrialised nations are all about growth and consumerism. What makes us 'appy," he told her, are things that are free - "love, the air, belief and nature... but this does not make growth possible so we are all told to consume, consume, consume. We 'ave to stop doing it..." Just what I have been saying!
"So," Cavendish asks, "this diet is a call for a quiet revolution against consumerism?"
Yes, he replies. and what is more he is taking his message to America. He is going to tour the United States later this month with the American version of his book. I hope his message is well received. The book is already a massive best seller.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Nurse as Wounded Healer - Empathy in healthcare

We have a popular saying in the UK. If something happens in the United States, be sure it will soon come over to us in the UK! We often say this of snow storms and gales, (usually accurately), but this adage also applies to many other cultural ideas and issues. There today, here tomorrow.
Therefore I was absolutely fascinated to hear on our BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Monday that Huddersfield University has created a Compassion in Care doctoral scholarship research post. The first to take up this post is Barbara Schofield, a consultant nurse for older people in the Calderdale and Huddersfield National Health Service Trust.  She will study dignity and compassion in care and whether it can be taught to student nurses.
When I was researching and writing about the need for compassion and empathy in health care, I was impressed by the green shoots of a more holistic medicine visible in the US, that could be held up as an example for the UK, where acceptance of compassion and empathy training in the healing process seems rare, and mostly confined to pediatric and cancer care. Such a holistic approach had been advocated for example by Eric Cassell, who has written much about the need for healing as well as curing, and Larry Dossey, Norman Shealy and Dawson Church, to name a few, who recognize the need for a more holistic style of soul medicine to complement the traditional and more technologically driven current health care. But there is still a long way to go here, even in the United States.
Recently the UK's health Ombudsman has written a damning report, that the UK National Health Service was failing to respond to the needs of older people, and citing some disturbing instances of neglect of the elderly. Schofield clearly has plenty to get her teeth into, and I would recommend first that she reads Marion Conti- O'Hare's excellent book on The Nurse as Wounded Healer; from Trauma to Transcendence, and looks at her Q.U.E.S.T model for transcending trauma. But I also find O'Hare work interesting for her recognition, albeit in a fairly low key way in the book, that the work of the Wounded Healer in holistically healing our patients has a wider social significance in healing the social ills of our world. 
I think Barbara Schofield has a fascinating few years of research ahead of her.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Flaws in our Economy - Loans for interest are made out of fiat money

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be;” said Polonius in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
”For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”1

I have been writing recently of various flaws in our Western economic model. I have discussed the fact that the model as it stands is simply not sustainable, and does not value the human input. Now I come to the part that always amazes many people; Money can be created out of nothing.2

This happens when it is created by bank debt against the payment of interest. It is fiat money. This is not widely understood by the general public outside the banking world and usually comes as a surprise. A Canadian journalist has estimated that only one person in a thousand really understands how money is made!3 It is certainly not something that is widely publicized. What is more each bank also has what it calls its Reserve Ratio. This means the proportion of cash invested into its bank deposit accounts that the bank estimates it needs to retain in case the customer wishes to withdraw again against their deposit. If for example £1000 is put on deposit with the bank and they calculate their Reserve Ratio to be 10%, then they reserve £100 and the remaining 90% of the deposit or £900 is available for the bank to lend on. And it does. The bank sets up a loan of £900 to another customer for interest, neatly increasing the supply of money available in the economy by a simple accounting entry in its books. The bank has not only made money out of nothing but it is also making an interest profit on that money that it has created out of nothing. And the bank almost certainly charged a fee for arranging the loan as well. The more times the same money can be recycled and recreated in this way the greater the arrangement fees and the interest profit that the bank can make, all from the creation of illusory money out of nothing. What is more, the amount borrowed by the customer is likely to be placed on deposit again elsewhere and the creation of further debt out of nothing can continue in another bank. The multiplier effect of this exponential increase in debt is astounding and very dangerous.

Money has to continue to grow to maintain this system and to avoid financial collapse, even though actual standards of living may remain stagnant. With consumer spending the lifeblood of the economy and a personal consumption now nearing 75% of GDP, which truthful and brave politician will urge us to spend less? It is not hard to see that such a system is unjust and unsustainable. (A government can and does make money out of nothing also, but this is only to the extent of new notes and coins it issues.)

As long ago as 1939 American President Abraham Lincoln warned that: ‘The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers. By the adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest.’4 But fiat money is still issued by banks.

I was shocked when I read that 98% of the $2 trillion changing hands in the foreign exchange markets each day is purely speculative and has nothing to do with wealth creation. Only the remaining 2% relates to real goods and services.5 As Edward Cahn observes: ‘Money has taken on a life of its own: its function is to produce for the sake of reproducing – regardless of the impact on the health of the human community… increasingly what we are witnessing in the world’s money markets looks more and more like cancer.’6 Cancer is dangerous and often fatal, requiring unpleasant treatments along the way.
In such loan systems there is an impersonal relationship between the borrower and the lender with a minimal flow of information needed between them. Such loans are therefore cheaper to administer. In addition the tax system favors such business fund raising by allowing tax relief on the related interest.
Because such loans are not linked to the success or otherwise of the business, there is no reward to the lender if the business is successful and conversely the lender can foreclose on an ailing business that can no longer afford to repay. This makes the problems of the business worse and it may need to curtail its production and make efficiencies of staff by laying-off, with all the inherent human and social consequences that then arise. This is of course harmful to the economic cycle, and means that interest based economies have exaggerated cycles of ‘boom and bust’.
One of the most harmful aspects of this interest on loans is that it is almost invariably charged by compounding year on year. Typically a home ‘owner’ with a mortgage will pay at least 2-3 times the original loan before the mortgage is fully paid off.
Our debts on credit cards have also reached massive amounts and many regularly pay double figure interest rates on their cards each year. A significant number of college students and undergraduates have credit cards and amass debt on these as well as on their other student loans. This encourages an extravagant attitude of spending among students who no longer need to budget expenditure within their means.
When I first wrote of these imperfections in our debt system a few years ago I was saying that alarm bells should ring. I was far from alone. In 2001 Bernard Lietaer predicted a 50:50 chance of a global money meltdown within 5-10 years unless steps were taken to heal what he called the global foreign exchange casino.7 It feels that we have drifted perilously close to that meltdown.
Unfortunately those in charge of our finances do not appear to consider alternative economic models. They want us to spend and consume our way out of recession. The problems and dangers of debt, at personal, corporate, national and international levels, are the cause of huge social disease. Such debt involves the transfer of wealth from the poor to those who are already wealthy. The system does not reflect the skill or the labor of the participant and encourages short termism.8 Interest based economies cause unemployment, social violence and pollution.9

Sabine McNeill, organizer of the Forum for Stable Currencies, and co-founder with John Courtneidge of the Campaign for Interest-Free Money, observes that ‘compound interest is for the monetary system what carbon dioxide is for the earth’s atmosphere: man-made and unsustainable.’10

And that is no way to heal our wounded earth.

The good news is that there are sustainable economic systems that could be used if our governments had the courage to change. Few of us as individuals really understand the economy and how it works, or appreciate that we could be making a difference in this sphere. Nonetheless there are millions of citizens worldwide who are already making their own practical contributions to a fairer and more sustainable economic system using some of the ideas that I will come back to describe and explore in later posts.


1. Lord Polonius in Shakespeare's Hamlet, 1603.
2. See for example Darryl Schoon, 2008.
3. Cited on the Forum for Stable Currencies website
4. Senate Document 23, 1939 http://www.uhuh.com/unreal/lincoln.htm 3 March 2009.
5. Bernard Lietaer, 2001.
6. Edgar S Cahn, 2000, p. 68.
7. Bernard Lietaer, 2001.
8. Bernard Lietaer, 1997.
9. The Campaign for Interest-Free Money at http://www.interestfreemoney.org/index.htm 3 March 2009.
10. http://www.monies.cc/ 3 March 2009

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Are you a Modern, a Traditional, or a Cultural Creative?

Are you a Modern, a Traditional, or a Cultural Creative? Or perhaps you are one of the 10% of the US who are In Transition to becoming a Cultural Creative?

These competing subcultures in American society are identified and described by sociologist Paul Ray from his considerable research into American values, worldviews and lifestyles. And Ray tells us that similar distinct subcultures are to be found within Western Europe and Japan.

I wrote 2 days ago of the characteristics of the Cultural Creatives. Today I’m focussing on the Moderns. Moderns, we are told by Ray, “tend to see the world through a filter of personal success and financial gain.” Oh yes I can certainly see that around me! They accept “things as they are,” Ray tells us, “in big cities, big organizations, the latest technologies, mass media, and a ‘modern’ life rewarded by material consumption.” And Ray tells us that despite what the media, governments and corporations would have us believe, he does not think there has ever been a time when Moderns have comprised more than half the American population. So the needs and desires of at least half the population are not being addressed by the state, by the media, by businesses.

But Ray thinks that since the 1960’s the Moderns started losing their children to the Cultural Creatives, and reduced to about 40% of the population, the culture breaking down in the face of being unable to solve the problems it created. But I am surprised by this analysis. I feel that I can recognise the Modern in many of the young adults of today I see in the UK. Too old to have been a part of the “green” revolution now well established in our education system, too young to share the worries of those of us of more mature years who have seen such extreme changes in our lives and are concerned by them. I’m still puzzling on this. Of course my sample is broadly limited to those young adults I see around me, contemporaries of my own children, through University and now successful young professionals in the big cities. Would this section of society be more likely to be Moderns than their non-university contemporaries? I need to dig deeper into this. All comments welcomed.

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Cultural Creatives - an important emerging planetary culture

Ten years ago Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson wrote The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World.

Now there are more than 200 million Cultural Creatives, with exciting implications for the future of our world.
Why is this exciting? I can best quote the Wisdom University definition of Cultural Creatives. They are:
“people who are deeply spiritual without being dogmatically religious, and who enjoy technology and economic prosperity but not at the cost of the environment or community. They understand the world holistically and are deeply committed to non-ideological politics that emphasize practical solutions…they represent a dramatic departure from the traditional value system of religious fundamentalists and the modernist worldview of much of the scientific and business community. Not since the Enlightenment, when the modernist worldview began to emerge, has there been such a profound realignment in fundamental human values. Cultural Creatives are the emerging wisdom culture.”
Their potential for healing this wounded earth is enormous. Here indeed is an important emerging planetary culture.
A documentary video has also been made, based on Ray’s latest work, by Frygis Fogel, an Hungarian independent filmmaker, about the Cultural Creatives movement; “Cultural Creatives 1.0 - THE REVOLUTION.

This is all exciting for me. Paul Ray’s work and his recognition of the Cultural Creatives was an early influence in the preparation of my own book, which he endorsed, on healing the earth. Here I emphasize the need for spirituality, compassion and empathy, in everything that we do, in our work and at leisure. The book’s collection of ideas, to inspire and involve all those who want to find a new and sustainable way of living, speaks to the Cultural Creatives amongst us and offers a way of joining us together in action. Otherwise we are in a lonely place, often not understood or taken seriously by those around us.

Paul now heads up the Institute for the Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University, who have sponsored his latest research into the Cultural Creatives. Based on these findings, the Institute will then develop a range of studies, seminars, conferences and publications to further promote this essential culture. But most important of all will be the "joined together" action from the bottom up, by individuals committed to healing the world. 
Do watch the video. I hope to return to Paul’s latest data on the Cultural Creatives and his ongoing work at Wisdom University in later posts. There is much to assimilate first, but his conclusion to his paper The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S. (Report on the 2008 American Values Survey) makes it very clear that the movement has shown a dramatic growth, since his earlier research, with huge potential for changing the world and making it a better place for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.

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