"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.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cows are not autos!

I was shouting at the radio - how can you be so heartless?

Cows are not autos!! 

There's much debate at the moment about milk prices and whether dairy farmers are getting a fair price for their milk. Some are protesting at the moment in the UK - (but this is an American issue as well) - even pouring the milk down the drain to make a point. Others are simply selling up their farms, no longer able to make a living at something which is our heritage.

And then some economist came into the discussion on the radio and starting saying that it is a fact of life now - whether in auto manufacture or farming, the economics demands mass production and paring down labor to a minimum to achieve massive economies of scale and product prices that the consumer will pay. What is wrong with us? Are we really happy for cows to become machines? Are we really happy that cows should be housed indoors in mega farms, never being able to graze in outdoor pastures? Are we happy that so many male calves are killed at a few days old and the cows forced back into pregnancy as soon as possible to keep the milk cycle going? It's all about money, money, money. What about animal husbandry? Are we really happy that so many animals suffer so that we can get food ever cheaper? Doesn't the quality of our food matter any more? Doesn't the welfare of our animals matter any more? Our celebrity chef Rick Stein summed it up wonderfully:

"We need to eat less, moan less and value what we eat."

YES!!!!! Well said Rick.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Why I don't like sport

Have you ever tried to imagine what it must be like to be the tiniest, weakest member of a pack? The tiniest kitten, puppy, wolf, whatever - struggling to survive to get food, warmth, comfort - jostling all the time against bigger stronger siblings just to survive? In farming terms these poor creatures are unkindly called the runt of the litter, and they often don't survive! When sport plays such a vital role on the world stage, when basket ball and football seem to be almost religions and the celebrity players mini-gods, and as Olympic fever hits the UK, why, I ask myself, am I so uninterested in sport? I'll tell you why, if you'll just read on - it won't take long. And all those who are trying to encourage sport in school should understand this. I was the runt of the class! I was tiny at school. Can you once more try to imagine the scene? At netball, I was so overpowered by the big bully girls that I stood no chance at all of ever defending my team against the monster beside me, let alone scoring. So I was ridiculed and bullied by my team. Hockey was no better. As I watched the ball approaching me I would cringe and run away from the terrifying clash of sticks wielded by such huge opponents - so they got their way. And again I was ridiculed and bullied. Tennis? I was too weak to get the ball anywhere near the net, let alone over it! Hurdling? No chance. Running? No chance. And so on... No wonder I hated sport. But I loved gymnastics - I could weave in and out of the bars and climb to the very top of the ropes faster than anyone. But what happened? Whenever the weather was half decent outside the bully monster girls would clamour to have games outside instead of gym, so I rarely had a chance to show off and hone what few physical skills I had. So that's why I have no interest in sport. I was totally discouraged, my own physical interests were not nurtured and I was continually made to feel a complete failure! I am listening to the radio as I write this and in one of those wonderful moments of synchronicity they are just now discussing bullying at school and the harm it can do! Someone said to me recently that they were so sorry I did not like sport - I missed out on such a lot. Really? I don't think so. I love gardening - it counts as physical exercise and I do far far more than the two and a half hours a week recently given as the bare minimum exercise we should all do to keep healthy and fit and keep obesity at bay. I do twice that in a day sometimes! So don't feel sorry for me. But do encourage sport. In that same radio program, I heard that girls who are involved in plenty of physical activity at school are far less likely to have teenage pregnancies. Now that is reason enough for getting all girls at school to fully participate in a sports curriculum. And if the Olympic Games serve to motivate much more good honest sport amongst our youngsters then that will be payback enough in my eyes.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

With recent stories about the behavior of bankers in the LIBOR scandal, and debates on when legal tax avoidance becomes morally repugnant, are we not seeing the effects of a rampant materialism that seems to have careered out of control in our society? In the Bible we are told that: "the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil." This is an ancient wisdom that seems to be coming to fruition all around us.

Aristotle made the distinction between essential and therefore laudable expenditure for the daily needs of food, shelter and clothing, and the acquisition of money for acquisition’s sake by profit associated with retail trade. The latter he censured:
"…because the gain in which it results is not naturally made, but is made at the expense of other men. The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Currency came into existence merely as a means of exchange; usury tries to make it increase."

Then again Augustine saw that the State which looked after only its own interests rather than pursuing a justice for all was no more than an organized band of robbers.

And what happened to the Commandment "Thou shalt not steal"? Why not substitute State with 'bankers' in Augustine's vision, or indeed why only pick on bankers? Sometimes I think that we are all in danger of becoming like that band of robbers - indeed perhaps we are already there. We forget at our peril that we are now profoundly connected as humans across the world, because we often tend to be guilty of a kind of group egotism, loving only our own kind and conveniently forgetting the plight of those who are perhaps less fortunate than ourselves, and remote from our own sheltered existences.

In my first book, Healing… I devoted a chapter to "The Hope of a Healed Economy: In Pursuit of Social Justice," writing of the dangers ahead, drawing on the inspiration we can find in ancient wisdoms, and looking at our own individual responsibilities and choices. Because we all need to make a connection between the way we use money and our moral beliefs. I don’t like to say now that "I told you so," but I will! 

Aristotle (1998) Politics, translated by Ernest Barker, revised R.F. Stalley, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1.9 1258a 35 p. 30.

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