Sunday, 15 September 2019

Care Breeds Contentment

Dear Reader,

Despite having lived away from my birthplace (Birmingham, UK) for half of my 75 years, I still have a strong sense of the history and development of the place. In fact, my interest in it has increased in the decade and more since I returned here, mainly because I have had a lot more time to research Birmingham's history more thoroughly. I have to say, though, that over 60 years I have had the privilege and enjoyment of utilising three generations' worth of Birmingham Central Library facilities, now called the Library of Birmingham. Our forefathers deserve a huge "thank you" for their foresight in caring to provide this magnificent free facility over 150 years ago. It has only got better as time has passed.

On the matter of care, one of the most important points that I discovered more recently is that whereas the north of England - particularly Manchester - became famed for the virtual enslavement of its workers during the 19th century following the onset of the Industrial Revolution, Birmingham was of a different order. It is true to say, however, that the character of Birmingham did change as the 19th century progressed and as tides of people rolled in from the countryside, but maybe up until as late as the 1840s there was a considerable sense of cooperation between employers and their employees. So much so that Thomas Attwood successfully led a considerable political reform movement in the 1820s based on that cooperation and common cause. The outcome was the great democratic stepping-stone, the 1832 Reform Act. And it is hard to believe now that only then did Birmingham gain its first-ever elected representatives in Parliament.

Thomas Attwood addressing the masses on Newhall Hill
That cooperation between employer and the employee had long existed in Birmingham and, indeed, even when the great entrepreneur Matthew Boulton built the world's first major manufactory just outside the then Birmingham boundary in the late 18th century, the working conditions were high in his list of priorities. Compared to working conditions that developed a century and more later, those conditions may have been primitive, but, nevertheless, Boulton made a genuine attempt to keep his workers happy according to the standards of the time.

I was quite astonished to find out that fact about Boulton, especially as he did not seem to have any special religious basis for his philosophy as was found with those later great Quaker benefactors, Cadbury, Rowntree and Fry. But of course, Boulton was a member of the famed Lunar Society, a Midlands-based brains trust of eminent minds of the day including the Unitarian minister and polymath Joseph Priestley and Josiah Wedgwood and Erasmus Darwin (the grandfather of Charles), and other great names. I believe the great American 'father' Benjamin Franklin also attended some of their meetings. Their enlightenment must have had a great influence on the thinking of Boulton.

So, alluding to my previous article about the Mumbai incident in 2008, and the attitude inculcated by the management of the Taj Hotel (and the owners, the Tata family), my mind switched to how things might have been here (in Birmingham) at the turn of the 19th c., and how the well-being of employees was even then recognised (at least by some) as a responsibility of the employer. It should, of course, be a truism that the more contented an employee happens to be, the better for the employer in terms of his reputation and that of his company, even producing an outcome in the quality of the company's product or service.

It is so regrettable, therefore, that the idea of employees and their employers working in harmony was reduced to the 'philosophy of more' that permeated the minds of the industrialist entrepreneurs as the 19th c. progressed, and has never truly gone away. Today there are still many employers who cannot see the benefits of an enlightened attitude. 

But the get-rich-at-all-cost attitude of the industrialists left a job for others to mop up the situation that ensued. The living conditions prevailing in the area considerably worsened as the 19th c. progressed and such was the growth of industry and the population that the great strains of expansion put a huge burden on the local infrastructure, particularly the water systems, both fresh and foul. And the quality and availability of housing too.  Indeed, it was not until a man of the Unitarian Church became a member of the Birmingham Council in the 1870s was there a radical attempt at putting those matters (and associated major health issues) straight, well after the time when much-needed rectification was identified. 

That knight errant who arrived on a white charger was the businessman Joe Chamberlain, who went on to serve Birmingham and then Westminster for 40 years. But he was not the only local voice for social reform. There were also George Dixon, George Dawson, Jesse Collings, John Bright, Joseph Sturge and others who made their voices heard to good effect. Further, Dixon and Chamberlain were greatly involved in pressing for state education in the late 1860s onwards while Sturge is not-well-known as a man who forced the end to slavery in British territories when the plantation owners hesitated to fulfill their obligation. 

Nearly all of these men that provided the radical energy towards a revolution in local issues possessed a social conscience formed out of religious conviction. Members of the Quaker and Unitarian churches were very often the people who stepped forward to make a difference. The Cadbury family created the Bournville Model Village near Birmingham (of a design that was ahead of its time) and then people such as Charles Booth (a distant relative of William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army) and James Rowntree performed massive studies into poverty that greatly influenced Parliament in its policies, in one case resulting in the creation of state pensions (1908).

It was not by leadership from within politics alone that great social developments occurred in the 19th c. and turn of the 20th c. It was the conscience and drive of (mostly) people of the church that made the key difference during that time. It was their sheer character born out of a practical conviction that forced through necessary changes, showing clearly that religion is embedded with the appropriate core values for social justice. The courageous early leaders of the Trades Union movement also possessed similar conscience and drive, usually stemming from the Methodist movement.

For many decades we have not heard much about active religious conviction in our politics, and we seem to have lost our way as a result. Have we ever seen such squabbling before, both within political parties as well as against one another? I would suggest that party politics and trades unionism is now a sterile mechanism and what is now needed - again - is the religious (nay, spiritual) conscience to come alive to provide ethical direction and social justice based upon true human values. Science, which is the bedrock of our education and perhaps now seen as the very basis of civilisation, cannot seem to provide those values, so where else can we find them but in spiritual understanding? However, perhaps money is an obstacle to true ideals.

On the last issue, a spiritual master on the subject of human values stated, in recent years:
The conviction that money can achieve anything has grown in people’s minds, though it is impossible to promote peace and security through the accumulation of money. Money can buy plenty of food; it cannot buy appetite or hunger. Money can buy medical care and medicines; but it cannot buy health and immunity. Money can buy servants; [but] it cannot buy goodwill. It can buy comfort, but not happiness. It cannot help to promote character or morality. This truth must be understood by both students and teachers. 
What is "character" that is mentioned here? Isn't this the very attribute identifiable in the Victorians mentioned above? It seems to me that it is a faculty that can be recognised when we apply our real human traits of care, including sympathy and compassion and even renunciation. By the demonstration of our character we reveal our true selves to help trigger essential change and rectify the current deplorable and worsening state of affairs in the world. 

Zoologist Desmond Morris, I believe, helped massively to set the wrong tone in thinking when, in 1969, he published his massively popular book he called The Naked Ape. Part of it was serialised in a Sunday newspaper. I took quite a lot of notice then about what he was alluding to, and he seems, in a truly scientific fashion, to have succeeded in taking our focus away from what humans really are. He was more concerned about what we had seemingly become rather than what we should become.

Humans are not just animals: in reality, we have better traits than they, but for some reason, we do not often want to employ our higher traits - unless they are awoken by spiritual conviction. We seem content to see ourselves as just another animal species, but even animals often show greater consideration to one another than we. Everyday 'practicalities' and masculine logic seem to get in the way, but, after the damage has been done we rue the fact that the state of things is not what we would hope for and usually expect others to sort it out. "I'm alright Jack" seems to be the prominent outlook - an attitude I believe that is inculcated in both much of our upbringing and in our educational system. And as a result of the modern phenomenon of gadgets and instant communication. 

One aspect of how society has developed is the ever-increasing reliance on laws, as though that, by itself, is the solution to our ills. And who is it that is to oversee the successful implementation of those laws? If it is the seemingly ever-decreasing police force that is to be responsible then we have a fat chance of many laws being practically applied. I would suggest there should be a lot more encouragement or education towards making us into becoming our own policemen, but that depends on a proper sense of human values being communicated.

It is an interesting thought that the more we elect leaders who are educated in the pervading western system, the less commonsense and care they seem to possess. The more it is we seem to move away from consensus and peace towards personal gain and thus to division and the spoiling of planet Earth. In fact, I strongly suspect that the education system we rely on is a root cause of our problems, as I discussed in an earlier post: "What Is Education For?"

That old epithet "choose head over heart" has a lot to answer for, especially as even science now proposes that it's the heart that is the real generator of fine reasoning (see Greg Braden's book, Resilience From The Heart). Answers to the big challenge are not to be found in cold logic. Deductive logic - by itself - has had its day. 

But the impact of social media is surely another major concern. I will just utter two phrases - SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica. From that you should be able to deduce what I allude to. Yes, the SCL Group has apparently now closed down its operations, but I believe its former owning company still exists. The idea has not closed down. The fact remains that our fixation on social media has many inherent dangers that can generate a great deal of mind manipulation. Orwell's 1984 is, belatedly, taking shape.

That last issue provides even more reason for us to think independently and strongly, and not be dragged along by peer pressure. My Dad said, "Stay away from pack mentality". How right he was.

Conscience brings Care. Care is Key. 

Thank you for reading this.

Note: For those wanting to know more about the Lunar Society, I recommend Jenny Uglow's fascinatingly insightful book, 'The Lunar Men'. And the Lunar Society still exists: click here to see their website.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Finding The Silver Rainbow In Adversity

Dear Reader,

When conflict occurs - even the worst kind - there is always to be found a silver rainbow: some individuals or groups appear, sometimes from nowhere, to create a counter-balance to the evil being perpetrated. We have heard many stories of rank bravery in the World Wars as well as in western civilian disasters such as 9/11 and 7/7. And many other occasions.

For my part, I remember also the attack on the Taj hotel at Mumbai in 2008, which is not often talked about in the West. The following is a rendition of some of what happened there, in 2008.

On November 26, terrorists launched a series of simultaneous attacks on various places at Mumbai including the prestigious Taj hotel. The exemplary courage and dedication that so many showcased in those fateful days is now a Harvard Business School (HBS) case study.

The multimedia case study ‘Terror at the Taj Bombay: Customer-Centric Leadership’ by HBS professor Rohit Deshpande documents “the bravery and resourcefulness shown by rank-and-file employees” during the attack. The study focuses on the staff’s selfless service for its customers and how they went beyond their call of duty to save lives.

The objective of the study is, “why did the Taj employees stay at their posts (during the attacks), jeopardising their safety in order to save hotel guests and how can that level of loyalty and dedication be replicated elsewhere”.

For two nights and three days, the Taj was under siege, held by terrorists with automatic weapons. Some people were taken hostage, some were killed, and the famous dome of the hotel was set on fire.

The siege of the Taj quickly became an international story. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, who grew up in Mumbai recollected the horror of the attacks. He points to a silver lining: the behavior of the employees at the Taj.

According to hotel managers, none of the Taj employees fled the scene to protect themselves during the attack, They all stayed back to help the guests.

The kitchen employees formed a human shield to assist guests who were being evacuated, and some lost their lives as a result.

The telephone operators who, after being evacuated, chose to return to the hotel so they could call guests and tell them what to do.

Karambir Singh Kang, the general manager of the Taj, who worked to save people after the safety of his wife and two sons were secured, died in the fire set by the terrorists.

It is o
ften observed that, during a crisis, a single hero or small group of heroes will emerge who take action and risk their lives. But what happened at the Taj was much broader.

During the crisis, dozens of workers, waiters, and room cleaners who knew back exits and paths through the hotel, chose to stay in the building under siege until their customers were safe. They were the very model of ethical, selfless behavior.

What could be the reason for such selfless behavior? Rohit Deshpande later visited the Taj to interview staff for some other case study, but in conversation the topic circled around the terrorist attack. It was then Rohit decided to interview and take up a broader study of the staff’s behavior at that time, and from this investigation, the background to the staff's attitude during that siege emerged.

"It perhaps has something to do with the kind of people that they recruit to become employees at the Taj, and then the manner that they train them and reward them,” he says. First, the method of Taj recruitment avoids big cities and instead turns to small towns and semi-urban areas. There the Taj develops relationships with the local schools and hand-selects people who have the qualifications they want. They don’t look for students who have the highest grades. They recruit for personal characteristics, most specifically respect and empathy.

They avoid hiring managers for the hotel from the top business schools in India. They deliberately go to second-tier business schools, on the theory that the people there will be less motivated by money.

And this strategy, as Deshpande points out, is highly unusual in India. How often do we see institutions choosing candidates with empathy rather than high qualifications. It’s almost near to zero.

The Taj is owned by the Tata group, which for the past hundred years has been run by an extremely religious family that is interested in social justice. The company typically channels about two-thirds of its profits into a charitable trust. and there is a wonderful reward system set up to encourage kindness in the staff.

If any guests say something or write something very complimentary about an employee, within 48 hours of the recording of that compliment, there is some sort of reward on the way for the staff.

And in his study, Deshpande emphasises that it is this combination of selection and routinised rewards system that explains what happened during those terrible three days when the Taj hotel was under siege.

The employees were essentially performing the behaviors they were selected and trained to perform: in this case, extreme kindness to customers. The staff at the Taj were a rare group of dedicated employees. The hotel reception was re-opened in less than a month after the attacks.

They lost their loved ones, their colleagues; some lost their own lives. But when an employee has an absolute love for his job and loyalty for the company he or she works in, these rare cases of extraordinary participation can be seen.

What happened at the Taj appears to be a very suitable case study for the Harvard Business School.

The above has been extracted from an article published here. 

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

You Remember 2012?

Dear Reader,

It is more than 10 years since people were being alerted to the phenomenon called the end of the Mayan calendar - 21st December 2012. People popularly thought that this was another "End Of The World" hoax, but its meaning was a lot more profound. Since then it has fast disappeared from our consciousness. Should we still be concerned about it? This article discusses why it is still relevant.

An alert to the 2012 event was made manifest as a crop circle in 2008. The picture below shows this in the form of a diagram of our solar system.
The place and the date of a crop circle is shown, but the most interesting thing is that from the positions of the planets in this crop circle it was possible to calculate a date that corresponded quite accurately to the planetary positions that would occur on the aforementioned 21st December 2012. 

Significantly on this date, our Sun and the Earth crossed the Milky Way galactic plane –  an event that only occurs approximately every 26,000 years – heralding a change from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. About this, cosmologist John Major Jenkins wrote:
For human beings on earth, the period of increasing spiritual darkness is about to end. We are going to ‘turn the corner’ and enter a phase of ascension toward the next Golden Age, when spiritual light and consciousness will dawn into the world again. The coming galactic alignment is a cosmic event that invites us to grow spiritually. It is built into the Divine Plan and identifies the time we live in as a time of rare opportunity for our growth.

We can identify this period of shift, the Global Shift, as stretching between 1980 and 2016. It is fascinating how the Maya insightfully encoded knowledge of this future alignment into their calendar. They also encoded this galactic alignment into their basic institutions. For example, the Mayan ballgame is a metaphor for the sun (the game-ball) moving into Galactic Center (the goal-ring). 
On top of that, there are messages in the Great Pyramid of Egypt that indicate changes (as indicated in The Great Pyramid Decoded by Peter Lemesurier, 1977 (reprinted 1996):
Between 2004 and 2025 (+/- 3 years): the collapse of materialist civilisation.
Between 2014 and 2032 (+/- 3 years): a spiritual low-point among mankind.
From around 2025 there begins an upward change in societies …
Are we not seeing - right now - evidence of these shifts actually taking place?

All this does not mean the end of the Earth. The end of the Mayan calendar (2012) did not mean the end of the Earth. What it does mean is that there will be plenty of change and, to add hope about the new age, Aquarius symbolizes freedom, equality, co-operation, global consciousness and reason prevailing over emotional reactions. All the signs of change that we are currently seeing are pointing in this general direction.

How are we to deal with the forthcoming changes, for it is already proven that the old materialistic/mechanistic ways will not do?

Mankind has been given an ideal path to tread by particularly great spiritual messengers from time immemorial. They include Rama, Krishna, Lao Tsu, Confucious, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Mahavira and Jesus. These personages delivered the spiritual message according to place and the ways and the time of the people.

When Jesus said, “I am the Way”, he was not saying that he, exclusively, was the only person via whom persons could reach salvation. Jesus was in fact referring to the teachings that should be followed to attain salvation – the way of egoless-ness, the teaching of not only Jesus but all the other great messengers. But ego-lessness indicates the need for action - to work on one-self.

Moses and Mohammed were also great messengers, but they were essentially law-givers. However, even in Judaism we find the central spiritual teaching contained in the Kabbalah and, in Islam, in the teachings of the Sufis, and others.

Recently, mankind had the physical presence of Sathya Sai Baba, who passed from this life in 2011. Before he ‘left’, he stated that the Golden Age is already upon us. It would seem that there will be many incredible things that we shall behold, but during all this we should remain steadfast, be quiet and inwardly seek help from the Almighty.

I have been reading about the accounts of these matters for over 40 years and have experienced the many teachings and practices of Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. I believe in these occurrences and meanings. I am aware of how civilisations such as the Sumerian and Egyptian (and, some say, the Atlantean) all failed. They eventually lost contact with the true unitarian faith; intellectual knowledge became their pride. And that is our problem today; now is the time when we need to adjust to the Truth. The Heart is the true centre of intelligence, not the brain.

The Truth can only be known by the application of right values through self-knowledge. Values profoundly influence our lives. They are part of the very reality that each of us experience daily. They give structure to a life and point the way into the future. They help supply meaning to existence. They create specific motives, influence how we will perceive things, and help determine our thinking. They are prominent in the major choices of life, of partners, friends, occupations, and social groups. They are implicit in our conceptions of the good life. Values function both as constraints and stimuli.

Therefore, if we would take some time to think about it, there is a need to reflect and determine what is of true value. Even to review our existing belief system.

An example of spiritual idealism is taken from anthropological literature concerning the Hopi Indians of North-Eastern Arizona, indicating that an ideal individual can be summed up by the term "hopi". This is usually translated as ‘peaceful’. It includes the following values:

(a) Strength – physical and psychic including self-control, wisdom, and intelligence
(b) Poise – tranquillity, and ‘good’ thinking
(c) Obedience – cooperation, unselfishness, responsibility, kindness
(d) Peace – absence of aggressive, quarrelsome or boastful behaviour
(e) Protectiveness – preserving and protecting human, animal and plant life
(f) Health
These values make up the Hopi – the one-hearted, good, personality.

The Hopi universal view is explained beautifully in this short video.
As Sathya Sai Baba revealed in the following statements, our values and actions can so easily permeate through the whole world:
If there is righteousness in the heart there will be beauty in the character.
If there is beauty in the character there will be harmony in the home.
If there is harmony in the home there will be order in the nation.
When there is order in the nation there will be peace in the world.
Lastly, let us return to the matter of crop circles. This video reveals a lot more about crop circles that appeared during July-August 2008. And they did not stop there: they have been 'cropping' up ever since, but most of us have forgotten to look out for them.

A rational explanation? Well, Colin Andrews tries to explain in this video (and part 2). Before you say it, Colin himself admits that many of these shapes are made by people. But what about the others? The ones that are made without signs of ground activity and have left traces of magnetic influence...

This is surely a time to deeply reflect on our existence.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 25 August 2019

Three Acres And A Cow

Dear Reader,

Amidst all the hurly-burly and puff of the 19th c. Industrial Revolution, there was - in case you didn't know - a serious interest in the welfare of the country 'ag lab' by a proposal to provide him with a smallholding of three acres and a cow. This was in response to the effect of the Enclosure Laws and severe reduction of 'ag lab' wages. His material condition had reduced greatly since the 18th c.

This movement to create a smallholding for the 'ag lab' got as far as the attention of the great Birmingham industrialist and politician Joe Chamberlain, who saw to it that it was included in a set of radical party policies for consideration by the Liberal Party. But with Chamberlain's move to the Tory benches on the matter of the Home Rule for Ireland question, those radical proposals got left behind.

A protest song of the mid-1800s reveals the disgust of the rustic labourers that they were not being taken seriously enough, with one of its verses stating:
There’s a certain class in England that is holding fortune great
Yet they give a man a starving wage to work on their estate
The land’s been stolen from the poor and those that hold it now
They do not want to give a man three acres and a cow
And the song went on...
If all the land in England was divided up quite fair
There would be some for everyone to earn an honest share
Well some have thousand acre farms which they have got somehow
But I’ll be satisfied to get [just] three acres and a cow
Now the reason why I bring up this ancient matter is that it's a theme that has been resurrected again and again since Norman times whenever times are hard. The theme is, of course, that those at the bottom of the social scale should receive equal consideration, and in today's world - after 40 years of everyone being cajoled that they can make it by working hard and grabbing what they can - we are in some ways again returning to the state of affairs that existed in former centuries. The narrative of the story may have changed, but the principles of the Normans haven't: there's "we" and there's "they".

OK, by comparison, those at the bottom of the social scale today may, thanks to the power of electronics, be living like kings compared to how things often were 100 or even 70 years ago, but the situation now seems to prove that no matter how hard the 'underling' tries, there are forces in control of the wealth of the country - and of the world - that seem to see to it that he never quite makes it. It's a bit like one of those pyramid 'get rich' schemes that seem plausible and can get you going but are in fact full of pitfalls.

In place of "Three Acres And A Cow" read now a need for "A Place For My Family To Affordably Live In".

The underlying issue I wish to state is that there are plenty of resources for everyone to share, but rather than it being equitably shared out, the world's 26 richest people own as much as the poorest 50% in a world population of 7.7bn. That situation - of a few people dictating the world's economy - might move people to tears and to the streets to take action, but it won't. 

I only live in the hope that justice will soon reign in this world of sorrow, a world which has been treated so very badly. Despite a worsening world situation, our sincere actions and prayers stand every chance in helping to make that happen.

I finish with a remembrance of a period in the 1960s when I would make my weekly visit to the 'Jug o' Punch' folk club at Digbeth Civic Hall, where lovely Scots folk named Ian Campbell and sister Lorna led a folk quintet of high calibre to re-tell the old tales of the downtrodden, in music. Ian's two sons later became successful in the UB40 band and Ian himself sadly passed away in 2012. Anyhow, please click here to listen to and enjoy one of their songs about the 'ag lab' of the early-mid 19th c. 

Please note that this song was recorded just before UK decimalisation in 1971 (I think); so the song title reference to "Eight Shillings A Week" should be converted to modern day parlance, which is 40 pence. Multiply by 70 (inflation rate) to convert into a modern figure of £28. Even though we're talking of Victorian wages, it is hard to imagine how people survived on that weekly wage.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

What Is Education For?

Dear Reader,

My previous post - suggesting the need to change our way of thinking - is entirely relevant to today's post. For the call is - and has been for a very long time - to be more imaginative in how we deal with all kinds of matters, especially in considering the impact that our ideas and actions have on the planet and the environment.

But it does seem to me that imagination has been increasingly stifled in the past 20 or so years in the era of globalisation that emerged with the new millennium, and the corresponding attempt at standardising educational systems, particularly in the West and countries strongly influenced by Western thinking. In particular, the clamour and the focus seems to be definitely fixed on AI as the means to a better economic future.

No matter how adaptable and useful AI may become, however, it cannot replace the human ability to check in on feelings and intuitive stimuli. Simply speaking, human connectivity is surely worth a great deal more than automation, and it is only if you do not believe there is a purpose in Creation will you surely be persuaded to think otherwise.

So my overwhelming vote is to increase our awareness of who we are, not simply to keep more interesting jobs for humans rather than submit them to AI, but because there must surely be a purpose in life, and a purpose that I have good reason to believe is in the process of fully manifesting itself in the short to medium term. Out of the negativity of wars and strife that seem to be intensifying will surely come positive solutions, based on love used in a creative and peaceful way.

And who is most affected by the future? Why our children of course; and they should, therefore, be subject to the kind of education that can meet the requirements of their future - their future, not ours. 

In this age in which we hear of increasing levels of drug addiction and mental health issues, I strongly feel that our education must address the values that we should aspire to, for I really think that a true purpose has departed from the lives of many. Unless we, as a society, have a common end in view that is of real value, how can we expect to survive as s species? It has been said that if human beings were to have their way as things stand, all other species would be wiped out in 50 years. However, if the human species were to be wiped out then all other species would flourish. That idea should make you think - I hope.

But the second part of a new system of education should be one that more actively encourages creativity and innovation. "Creativity" does not mean simply the Arts, which is what many think. It is about the use of our imaginative faculties to design and build a sustainable future.

A key proponent of creativity in education is Sir Ken Robinson, a man whose humour and insight I could listen to all day long.

In this illustrative video, Sir Ken's talk makes it clear that our current educational system is not fit for purpose. It was set up in its current basic form at a time when it made some sense - 120 years ago. But today's world is so different, so why do we pursue the same educational goals as then? 

The goals today seem to be fixed towards ivory tower achievement for those who can, and whatever else for those who can't. The predominant corollary in that system is that money is the end-game, and that cost-justification is usually the principle by which decisions are made. These aims are completely at odds with the environmental situation that surrounds us. Do you stop to have a committee meeting to decide whether you save someone from drowning? Well, the world is drowning, but the action that is needed is largely ignored because we are stuck in an old mindset and 40 years of high-powered committee meetings that have produced minuscule and belated results of note.

As part of his talk (link as above), Sir Ken brings the topic of ADHD into focus. Is the so-called ADHD problem really in the students, or is it in the system that is out-of-date? I believe it is the latter, and (at age 75) I say so from my own experience, knowing that I am not a failure despite the educational system that I had difficulty in getting along with long before ADHD became recognised.

So, there we are. As things stand we seem to be like those mythical lemmings that are hurtling for the cliff-edge in their ignorance. It's about time we woke up to what Sir Ken has to say in order for future entrepreneurs to present realistic products and models for investment by the dragons in Dragon's Den. And to find ways to deal with serious issues that are with us now - and will be exacerbated over the next few years. Perhaps all of us that are fit and able should go back to school to re-learn according to Sir Ken.

The future depends on an intuitive and emotional grasp of what is needed based on what is real, not materialistic. And what is real has only been taught by the greatest spiritual masters. In the true scale of things, Sir Ken is purely an enabler in that direction, but an important one who should very much be heeded in the journey towards reality, a reality that must be determined by what is of real (lasting) value. What is fashionable should be discarded in my view.

In my late teens I spent some time reading the works of philosophers who were the rage of the day, such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, but I got to feel depressed after awhile reading their existentialism. As the scientist/philosopher Fritjof Capra has written (in The Web of Life (1996)):
Existential suffering arises, in the Buddhist view [and in the view of ancient Vedic seers], when we cling to fixed norms and categories created by the mind instead of accepting the impermanent and transitory nature of all things. ... Out of ignorance, we divide the perceived world into separate objects that we see as firm and permanent, but which are totally transitory and ever-changing.
See also "Is The Climate Crisis Affecting Our Mental Health?".

Thank you for reading this.

Monday, 12 August 2019

Time To Change Our Thinking

Dear Reader,

A new series of 'Dragon's Den' started on the Beeb last night. Now I happen to always watch this and have done so since soon after it first started around 16 or 17 years ago. And some 15 years ago I happened to be working for Theo Paphitis, one of the Den's early members, and had substantial contact with him.

Having earlier had my own small business and had many of the experiences that one encounters in trying to grow the business, I am interested in the people that come forward to obtain investment in 'the Den', and the dialogue that takes place.

But I now have to voice disappointment. And that disappointment is to to do with the fact that in this age of supposed 'Environment' awareness, there are so few product ideas coming forward on 'the Den' that are geared to improving the way in which we interact with Planet Earth, with Gaia. In fact, last night there were no products at all that were put forward to improving the Environment. Indeed, the products were more to do with consuming more, not less, luxury items.

The idea seems to be that anything will do in order to make money. In short, we commonly seem to be still stuck in the old mechanistic way of thinking rather than applying systems theory.

Of course, the mentality being applied is most likely that if you want to make money then take the shortest, less difficult way, to getting it - but is that how we should think? Will that thinking gain us anything in the longer term, especially when those that know are crying out that we have to change our ways now, not wait.

I find that to discover how the world really is via TV, it's more productive to watch RT and Al Jazerah, with portions of Channels 4 and 5 thrown in. The rest is mainly garbage, and even the serious programmes are often geared to misleading the viewer. Perhaps taking time to select and view programmes on YouTube is potentially the most productive if you really want to know what's going on in the world, though that is a minefield.

The best way, of course (if you are young and healthy enough), is to go out there and live life in its most constructive fullness. There's no better alternative to find out, first-hand, both how the world works and to find self-knowledge.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Jewel In The Crown

Dear Reader,

When you think of India, is your first thought about the poverty that is often found there? That the literacy level is low in many places there?

Is it your impression that India was (and recently was) a backward country and has only recently started to emerge as a world power?

Is your impression that it is a country of a caste system and 100s of gods?

In which case, you may be in for a few surprises, especially when it is taken into account that the Harappan civilisation of several thousands of years BC reveals signs of advanced water supply and effluent management systems.

On literacy, American historian William Durant (1885-1981) declared that:
When the British came, there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools managed by village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities. Instead of encouraging education, the Government encouraged drink.
This observation has been ratified by many: literacy amongst the ordinary people of India was very high if not 100%. The interest of Britain was to make India (and other colonial countries) subservient to Britain's interests and thus Britain progressively instituted an educational system that made Indian civil servants into virtual clones of their colonial masters. The legacy of the British in this regard has only recently started to abate, while ordinary people received little or no education during this period of rule - as, indeed was the case for ordinary people in Britain also at that time. Britain's class system was at its peak during this time.

It has been said that the village schools system had great room for improvement, but that they were very effective and were one of the institutions of local power. When they were superseded by new schools, run by the British bureaucracy using an alien language whose benefit ordinary people could not see, children of the poorer classes simply pulled out. This led to the deliteralisation of the great masses of the Indian population.

Now, onto the economy of India.

The Mughal period (preceding Britain's involvement in India) had some share in the demise of India's culture and economy. But it was since Britain's increasing involvement in the country from 1700 that India's share of the world economy collapsed from 24.4% to 4.2% shortly after the year of Independence (1947). according to British economist Angus Maddison, It has also been said that under British rule, India suffered more famines in mere decades than during the preceding 1,000 years.

Britain imposed central control, which proved to be disastrous for agriculture. In most of the country lay a system of tanks that had existed for millennia and were repaired by village councils. The English disbanded the local councils and instituted a system of canal irrigation even for places where it was unsuitable. Soon, the tanks fell into disuse leading to a fall of the water table. This had disastrous effects on agriculture.

The total matter of misgovernment was so apparent fairly early on that the issue was raised by British politician Edmund Burke who (in 1778) began a seven-year impeachment trial against Warren Hastings and the East India Company on charges including mismanagement of the Indian economy.

This brings us on to the culture of India, and the over-hackneyed view that it is a country of 100s of gods.

The afore-mentioned Edmund Burke observed:
[Indians were] a people for ages civilised and cultivated; cultivated by all the arts of polished life, whilst we were yet in the woods. There is to be found an ancient and venerable priesthood, the depository of their laws, learning, and history, the guides of the people whilst living, and their consolation in death; a nobility of great antiquity and renown; a multitude of cities; millions of ingenious manufacturers and mechanics; millions of the most diligent, and not the least intelligent, tillers of the earth. Here are to be found almost all the religions professed by men, the [Hindu], the [Muslim], the Eastern and the Western Christians.
British Orientalist Sir William Jones, who translated many important and ancient Sanskrit books, said: "The Sanskrit language [is of] wonderful structure, more perfect than Greek, more copious than Latin and more exquisitely refined than either."

The spirituality of India has been praised by many western men of letters, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreaux and Mark Twain, to name but a few.

On the matter of India's caste system, what has been observed in recent centuries is something that has become a misused method of ordering people and is not what was originally implemented. There was no idea in the original system of people taking on one caste or another by heredity, which is what it became. It was originally a simple view of four important strata of society in which each individual took his place according to ability and circumstances. We do that in our own societies.

It is true that many gods in India can be found, but Indian philosophy is extremely deep, with the essential principle being that as God the Creator resides in everything, one may adopt worship of virtually anything as an expression of the one divine creator: their spiritual faith is towards the unity of the Godhead, not otherwise.

This Indian philosophy - of the singularity of the Godhead - was a great influence on the thinking of the world in ancient times, and in India's ancient scriptures is to be found much else beside spiritual injunctions and guidance. They even contain mathematical and scientific formula from which great names such as Pythagoras formed his theorems. In the Indian scriptures, we find the first idea of the number 0. The science of ancient India included medicine that even recently would have been regarded as advanced in the West, with surgery being carried out using the most wonderful devices.

What is more, traces of Indian civilisation and its symbols are slowly being found in many parts of the world, including Russia and the Americas. India's spiritual philosophy has provided the basis for all true faith in the world, with a morality that is second to none.

This is the country that Britain tried to submit to its will, but it was Britain's Empire that went, not the ancient home of philosophy and moral endeavour. And now India is coming back to the forefront.

Significantly, British Historian Arnold Toynbee (1888-1975) stated:
It is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning will have to have an Indian ending if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race. At this supremely dangerous moment in history, the only way of salvation for mankind is the Indian way.
Thank you for reading this.