"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.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Formula One Racing - India

Formula One racing – the most expensive sport in the world. So India has spent vast sums of money on building a Formula 1 racetrack.
The land -owners who sold their land for the track have become very wealthy overnight. Those who worked on that land suddenly became very poor indeed as they lost their jobs. 37% of Indians live in poverty.
Augustine saw that the State that looked after only its own interests rather than looking to a justice for all was no more than an organised band of robbers. We are in danger of copying that band of robbers unless we work not only for universal justice now, but also towards a justice for all in the future. And our present land-ownership laws seem far from just.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Let's get off the consumer-driven carousel!

Childcare Costs are Forcing Parents to Give Up Work, shouts the headline.
But is that always such a bad thing? Is it so very bad for one parent to stay at home with the children? Is it a good thing that we have built a culture where both parents are expected to work? What happened to the good old-fashioned division of duties between the parents, one to earn the living, the other to look after the home and the children?
Have we been building a society where the parents are so busy with their own work that they don’t bother where their children are or what they are doing when they get home from school?

Now I know that modern parents can have a tough time bringing up their children, and I know that there are special problems for single-parent families. Of course we should have good social and economic policies that support single mums or dads in their task. And I understand that there are some very real hardships with parents struggling to make ends meet. But what about the two parent family, surely an ideal we should strive towards. Childcare costs in the UK are supposedly some of the most expensive in the world. When combined with cuts this year to certain State Benefits that were designed to help parents get back to work, many are now finding that they simply cannot afford to work anymore – hence the headline. And America is way behind most other wealthy countries in the provision of paid maternity and paternity leave for parents. In addition parents often find that they have to both work to afford health insurance for the children. The absence of readily affordable healthcare is a real problem for many families. The CHIP, or Child Health Insurance Program, gives free health insurance for children up to a certain level of income, but that level is woefully low. This link between healthcare and wages needs to be broken.
But I would submit that one important reason why many families have both parents out at work is that they find themselves on the consumer driven carousel that is twenty-first century life, and they cannot find a way to step off. Children are bombarded with images of the material world. The marketing media cynically exploits them, practically as soon as they are aware of their surroundings. As a result we have more and more material possessions, we buy bigger houses to accommodate it all, we saddle ourselves with mortgages that stretch us to the limits and we then shop at cheap hypermarkets for the lower prices. ‘…American parents buy into a false definition of need that leaves them addicted to a two-income lifestyle and robs children of family life. These parents are not bad, selfish, or greedy. They are simply doing what most people are doing, going along with the prevailing tide of cultural expectations.’ (Duncan Collum, Danny and Polly, Taking Back Our Kids, Sojourners Magazine, January 2006, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 12-19).
And because we are out at work to fund all these things we are not on hand at home to protect our children from these influences.
The normal working week in most of Europe is less than 40 hours. In Sweden and the Netherlands, dual-earner couples with children average two fewer workdays per week than do U.S. couples.
Isn’t it time we valued our families and our children more?

I believe that in many instances mothers would far rather be at home with their children in those early formative years. I really didn’t want to return to work and leave my babies at home with childcare, but like so many others I was driven by education and a career to think I could ‘have it all’. I believe that in our hearts we all want more quality time to spend with our children, to be involved in more local activities as a family, rather than ferrying our kids off to expensive entertainments all the time while we get on with our work! It has even been reported that many parents no longer have the time or energy to pursue that most wonderfully rewarding of pursuits, reading the bedtime story.
Early in 2009 and again in 2010 we had rather more snow in the UK than we are used to. It pretty much ground the country to a standstill for several days. But among the moans and wails about no gritting lorries on the streets, roads impassable and schools closed, one city man honestly admitted that for the first time in his life he was forced to stay at home with the family, spent two days making snowmen and tobogganing with them and loved every minute of it. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.
We need policies that support the parent and the child together, not policies that encourage us to go back to work as soon as possible after having our children. We want time to play with our families.
And that will be good for our communities, ourselves and the world!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Occupy London Stock Exchange - and Ancient Futures

So the Wall Street demonstration has gone global. In London we have the Anti-capitalist demonstrators from Occupy London Stock Exchange camping in the churchyard surrounding St Paul's Cathedral. Today the huge main doors have been closed to the public because of health and safety issues surrounding the demonstration. I have to say I am in some sympathy with the demonstrators. I have joined other commentators for years in lamenting the unsustainable economic system that we have across the world, based as it is on growth, debt and spending. I’ve blogged about this quite a few times, even have a chapter about it in Healing….with suggestions for change. But even now, when we seem to be a crisis point, what do the governments continue to urge? Spending!! And I have seen very little to indicate that the powers that be may be considering any of the other ideas that have been floated for a sustainable economy. It seems that the answer may have to come from ourselves at local level – with our own currencies for example - small, after all, is beautiful.
But all this reminded me of a wonderful book that I reviewed for Amazon quite a while back. It’s called Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World, and it is by Helena Norberg-Hodge , an analyst, it says on her Amazon bio, “of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide and a pioneer of the “localization movement”. So she is clearly on my side in the debate. Her book is an urgent call to foster ancient values of compassion and wisdom before Western values of consumerism and growth.

This is what I said in my review:
“Ladakh (part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir), is a beautiful part of the Western Himalayas. It used to be a synergistic society. That is, the economy was shaped by mutual aid or co-operation, not competition. This concept of sharing everything was seen in the conduct of all aspects of the people’s lives, from farm work to funerals, animal herding to partying. There was no waste; everything had a further use, all was recycled. Even human waste, mixed with ashes and earth, was spread annually on the fields. Money was scarcely needed, only being used for a few luxuries such as jewellery, salt, tea and a few metals for cooking pots. Otherwise the people were self sufficient, living a life of frugality in the true sense of the word, not being mean or stingy, but rather using scarce resources in a careful way, getting more out of little, being “fruitful.”
And most important of all, the people were really and truly happy. They shared a deep contentment, a strong self- respect and sense of their own individual values. Women had equal status and respect with the men, the old people had active and respected roles in their extended families, even the boys were brought up to help with the nurturing and compassionate care of the young and old alike, and this was in no way deemed to be “sissy” or unmanly.
Then in the mid 1970’s the Indian government opened the region up to Western tourism.
Over the preceding centuries changes had occurred, but at a pace whereby they could be absorbed into a gently adapting culture. Now the changes were rapid. The people were exposed to money and a seeming Western wealth that they could not comprehend; but of course they were tempted by what they saw. The youngsters saw the fun their Western counterparts were apparently having, with cars and consumerism. The adults saw technology they could not have dreamed of. And a “need” developed that they never knew they had before! And with that need came greed, and all the inevitable trappings of a global economy that relies on continuing growth and consumerism for its furtherance.
The problem was that neither side really understood the other side. The Western tourists only saw what they perceived as poverty, deprivation, lack of education, lack of “basic” conveniences. The Ladakh did not see the darker side of Western society, the aggression and stress, the cancers and heart disease, the pollution, the lack of respect for many of our old folk, left to stare at walls in nursing homes, unloved and lonely.
The author is well qualified to write of this. She has spent much time with the people of Ladakh, since the mid 70’s just as these changes were beginning to happen, to the present day. She speaks their language and has many friends amongst them. She can therefore readily observe and understand both sides of the equation.
In Part One she writes with sensitivity and with first hand knowledge of the traditions and ancient wisdom of the people, witnessed in time before they became tarnished by Western values. In Part Two she charts the changes she saw over the ensuing years not only on their material culture, but more worryingly on their minds, as their lives were significantly and substantially changed, their culture severely damaged. And of course many of those Western societal afflictions came to Ladakh.
In Part Three the author then writes of the lessons to be learnt, and how we should react and behave to limit the evident damage brought by Westernization.
How long is it going to be, she asks us, before we sit up and take notice of the damage inflicted on our world by our global economy, based as it is on unsustainable consumerism and material growth.

We can learn so much from the Ladakh story. When will we listen to our hearts not our minds?”
Norberg – Hodge makes an urgent and vital call to us all to challenge our assumptions that economic growth is good. Influenced by Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, her work continues within the International Society for Ecology and Culture, promoting locally based alternatives to the global consumer culture, and “a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

I am with Norberg-Hodge all the way on this one. This has to be the way forward. We cannot go on in the same unsustainable ways. And that is pretty much what the demonstrations are about I guess.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Big Society and the Cultural Creatives

Here is a post I published in September 2010, and since someone recently told me they had not heard very much about the Cultural Creatives movement, I make no apology for re-posting it, perhaps to a new audience:

" I know that I am not alone. From reading the websites, articles, and books around us, many of us clearly feel the need for a return to spiritual values in our lives, coupled with the need to heal our desperately fractured world and halt what may otherwise be our march towards spiritual bankruptcy and physical destruction. But how will this happen?

My own conviction is that no amount of law and regulation alone can be the full answer. We need to take personal responsibility for the way we live our lives.
This is behind Prime Minister David Cameron’s ideas for a Big Society for Britain, a society in which we rebuild family, rebuild community, but above all rebuild responsibility.

But I don’t think it is quite as simple as that.
We are after all human, with all our frailties, and our vulnerabilities.
Our behaviour is often flawed, we do not behave like saints all the time, even the very best of us. And sometimes, perhaps often, this may be traced back to our own wounds:
wounds we have inherited and those from our own suffering; wounds from the personal experiences that life has thrown at us;

for example, our insecurities and fears, our feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Surely such wounds are reflected in our greed and envy, in our over consumption, in violence and in our addictions to work or harmful substances.

And these wounds, left unhealed, not only affect our own mental and physical well-being.

I believe that they must also be seen within the context of the wider world fellowship of which we are such an integral part. We must understand the significance of our own healing in addressing the wider social issues and the often seemingly intractable problems of our fractured world. I would go so far as to suggest that this healing is a fundamental directional force in our own evolutionary progress as we become catalysts for our own social change.
And to find real, meaningful healing of these wounds then I believe we now have an urgent need to rediscover our spirituality and the spiritual element in all our material experiences, to reconnect with our roots and our souls.

In the latter half of the 21st century we seem to have lost sight of this essential truth.

Materialism, observes Satish Kumar, now rules economy, politics and business. There is nothing wrong with having material or bodily needs of food, water, shelter, for example, but we need to have the wisdom to know when we have enough and to be satisfied with that. Instead, we are pressured into striving to have more and more beyond our needs. Spirituality rather than materialism is something that should infuse our lives at all times.

This is where the Cultural Creatives come into the picture. It is estimated that there are 50 million adults in the United States and about 80-90 million in Europe who have the worldview, values and lifestyle of the Cultural Creatives. Are you one of them? And what are they?
If you are a Cultural Creative you “hunger for a deep change in your life that moves you in the direction of less stress and more health, lower consumption, more spirituality, more respect for the earth and the diversity within and among the species that inhabit her…"
You are one of a growing number of people who want to see deep, integral change in the cultures that have evolved in industrialized nations.” (Paul Ray)
The term was coined by Paul Ray who with Sherry Anderson wrote a book; The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World

“to help make cultural creatives visible to each other… to find new ways to work and learn together…in service to the world, in service to this emergence of a new, integral culture.”

Are you a cultural creative? Are we doing all we can? How much time do we have?
We all need to start our own Ripples of Hope for a better world."

The photo is of my allotment.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Warrior 3

Everyone else was rushing by, head down, and quite clearly intent on getting to where they were going as fast as possible. And no one noticed him. But I did. He was on his usual patch on the pavement. Holding his Warrior 3 pose, on one leg, the other outstretched behind him, arms stretched out in a straight line to front and back at shoulder level (Virabhadrasana 3). He was so still one could be forgiven for thinking he was a statue – or mime artist. But his purpose was altogether more serious. In his hand outstretched before him he held the Big Issue. How could anyone pass him by?
Because the fact is, this little weekly magazine not only helps homeless people get back on their feet (metaphorically this time!!), it is also a jolly good read and excellent value at £2. I always buy one when I can.
Just for example, in this last issue, there is an excellent review of the evangelical atheist Richard Dawkin’s new book, In the Beginning was the Word…(Now why should I want to give that any more publicity – !?), an interesting interview with the philosopher John Gray (author of Gray’s Anatomy: Selected Writings out now – who says that evangelical atheists are copying religion at its worst…!), an exclusive interview with Ewan McGregor, “How Fate Changed My Life,” an article on the shocking reality of middle-class homelessness” and much, much more.
So go on – next time you have the opportunity to spend no more than the cost of a latte or other caffeine shot on something that has the power to change a fellow human’s life for the better, then use it. It will be so much better for you both. 
(See my previous blog back in January for much more on the ethos behind the Big Issue.)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

7 billion and rising

 So any day now the population of the world will top 7 billion, if indeed it hasn’t happened already. And it is widely predicted that by 2050 there will be 9 billion humans on the earth. This raises so many issues. How will we be able to feed all these people, provide them with decent housing, satisfy their energy and water requirements, ensure that they all have adequate health care and education?
Mark Stevenson in The Times last Saturday took the optimistic view. More and more people, he wrote, will live in cities as the population grows, and they then apparently have fewer children, going some way towards solving the problem. Also, as he points out, there are economies of scale in providing the various services, utilities, education, healthcare etc., in a denser population. In addition we fight less apparently as we grow in number; we collaborate more, and become more innovative. “Imagine the creative geniuses lurking in the next 3 billion,” he writes.
But doesn’t he ever read the “world news” pages? We are incapable of properly feeding and housing a huge proportion of the existing 7 billion of us already walking this earth, let alone another 2 or 3 billion. As Chris Rapley, professor of climate science at University College London, reminds us in the same paper, 2 billion already have no access to clean water, and 2.5 billion don’t have proper sanitation.
And what about migration issues, lack of jobs, city slums?

And according to a Christian Aid Report in May 2006, The Climate of Poverty: Facts, Fears and Hope, “a staggering 182 million people in sub-Saharan Africa alone could die of disease directly attributable to climate change by the end of the century. Many millions more throughout the world face death and devastation, due to climate-induced floods, famine, drought and conflict.”

Not very much cause for optimism there then. And social injustices fuel anger and unrest and potentially explosive and violent situations, as we have seen on the streets of English cities so recently, and in the Arab Spring.

And one vital aspect of population growth was not mentioned by either of these gentlemen: ecology. We are already encroaching more than we should into the natural world, with often devastating consequences. But we also have a role within the complex eco-systems of the world, within the complex interrelationships of nature in all its facets. As the naturalist Francis Rose once observed, ‘nature is very complex. When you start to interfere by thoughtless introduction of alien species, you do so at your own peril.” But this principle can be just as well applied to our interference with nature at many other different levels- our destruction of natural habitats is one glaringly obvious example.
It is imperative that we curb our own excesses, that we stop violating the natural world around us, that we acknowledge the integrity of our finely balanced ecosystems. Never mind the introduction of alien species. Every time we drive one more animal or plant to extinction, not only are we poorer for that, but also the effect on the fragile balance of planetary life may be profound. That is why it is so important, and ever more urgent, that we do not compromise our future by today’s actions, or indeed through our in-actions.

But there is another reason, and I think a very important one, why the idea of ever more people crowding into ever bigger and busier and more crowded cities fills me with horror. When we lose contact with the natural world around us I believe that a part of our soul dies. We become wounded, incomplete in some way. Contact with the soil is part of our ancestry; it is a very natural part of us to want to till the earth, and commune with nature. It is definitely not a natural thing to do to hare down motorways and freeways at alarming speeds, in vehicles often four abreast. It is not natural, and surely not what God ordained, to live significant proportions of each working day stuck in traffic jams, barely moving, belching out ever more greenhouse gases. It is not natural to live many storeys up in high -rise condominiums and flats. It is not natural to join the awful rush hours of any large city on this earth.

It is not natural to have little or no compassion and empathy for the living world that we are now destroying.

Monday, 10 October 2011

All is safely gathered in - Harvest Festival

Harvest Festival at our local church

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Organic farming CAN feed the world

Good news from Planet Green for all those struggling to convince the skeptics that factory farms are the only was forward – and good news for the animals! I quote: “The hold out for many of those that cling to conventional farming has often been that it will be impossible for organic farming to feed the world. It's more expensive and the crops aren't as strong, right? Wrong. This is far from the truth according to a new UN study reported on Civil Eats.”

I quote again from the planetgreen.com site: “According to the report, Agro-ecology and the Right to Food, organic and sustainable small scale farming could double food production in the parts of the world where hunger is the biggest issue. Within five to 10 years we could see a big jump in crop cultivation.
“We won’t solve hunger and stop climate change with industrial farming on large plantations,” Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and author of the report, said in a press release. “The solution lies in supporting small-scale farmers’ knowledge and experimentation, and in raising incomes of smallholders so as to contribute to rural development.”

Such good news!!

Friday, 7 October 2011

Mount Teide from La Gomera

"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth..."

Psalm 121 vv. 1 and 2 Holy Bible King James Version

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?’

"‘For example, how early do you start your science teaching?’
‘We start it at the same time we start multiplication and division. First lessons in ecology.’

‘Ecology? Isn't that a bit complicated?’
‘That's precisely the reason why we begin with it. Never give children a chance of imagining that anything exists in isolation. Make it plain from the very first that all living is relationship. Show them relationships in the woods, in the fields, in the ponds and streams, in the village and the country around it. Rub it in.’
‘And let me add,’ said the Principal, ‘that we always teach the science of relationship in conjunction with the ethics of relationship. Balance, give and take, no excesses - it's the rule of nature and, translated out of fact into morality, it ought to be the rule among people.’"

Aldous Huxley, Island London: Grafton Books, 1976, pp.247, 248.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Occupy Wall Street - Corporate greed protest on NY's Brooklyn Bridge

Island, the last novel that Aldous Huxley wrote in 1962, is set on Pala, an imaginary island community in the Indian Ocean. The peaceful and truly content inhabitants have developed an idyllic society by committing themselves to personal spiritual growth based broadly on Shivaite Buddhism, along with some Hindu, Tao and Confucius influence. In addition they steer clear of the three pillars of Western prosperity: armaments, universal debt and planned obsolescence, the depreciation that is purposefully built into so many of our manufactured goods to encourage continual and wasteful replacement. The Palanese have equality without loss of individual initiative, empathy for all living beings and respect for the environment. And they hold an overriding belief that God is all pervading or immanent, and man is potentially transcendent, constantly seeking to find the Nirvana or Enlightenment of the ancient Eastern wisdoms.
Sadly the earthly paradise of the island is doomed. It is overtaken by the greed and militarism of an adjoining country, triggered when an English sailor shipwrecked on Pala becomes caught up in a world take-over bid for the island’s oil.

Fast forward to the plight we see today - the ever widening gap between the few rich and the very many poor. And much of the reasoning for this is tied up with the many flaws in our global economy, some at corporate level. I know that I am not alone in thinking that the loss of corporate heart and soul is not good for our planet.
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’ (or, indeed where, much closer to home, the 1% wealthy are cocooned and oblivious to the needs of the 99% who struggle for a better living). That is what Occupy Wall Street is all about.

Alastair McIntosh observes that 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.

The wealthy corporate bosses need to listen to the people. Meanwhile the protest on New York's Brooklyn Bridge continues, and the world is watching.

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_

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

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Our "moral and spiritual lag"

‘As at the beginning of the Christian era, so again today,’ wrote Carl Jung in 1957, ‘we are faced with the problem of the general moral backwardness which has failed to keep pace with our scientific, technical and social progress.’(1)

Martin Luther King called this our moral and spiritual ‘lag’. He observed that ‘the richer we have become materially the poorer we have become morally and spiritually.’ We live, he said, in two realms:

The internal is that realm of spiritual ends expressed in art, literature, morals, and religion. The external is that complex of devices, techniques, mechanisms, and instrumentalities by means of which we live. Our problem today is that we have allowed the internal to become lost in the external. We have allowed the means by which we live to outdistance the ends for which we live.(2)

 (1)From The Collected Works of C G Jung, 1970 pp304-305

(2)Nobel Peace Prize Lecture December 11 1964

Saturday, 1 October 2011

It's Time you knew - by Transition Rachel at YouTube

Many reasons to love La Gomera



with vapor trails


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