Tuesday, 19 October 2010

We're All In It Together ...

The heading of this article states the obvious ... we are tied together in this irrevocable existence by just being here. It does not matter whether we live here or in Timbuktu, we are linked together; we are one.

So when the country's CONDEM leadership tell us that "we're all in it together", they seem to be telling us something we don't know. Is this they just talking down to us, or are they actually committing a Freudian slip ... that they're actually trying to cover up something?

Yes, they're covering up. They tell us with one hand that they're going to go for the offshore investors who escape paying taxes, yet they have members of their own cabinet that use those facilities. They tell us that we're in it together, but the cabinet contains around 20 millionaires who will hardly note any jolt as this economic 'knife' cuts at the jugular for those who are not able to bear the burden that cuts will bring.

They also tell us that all this is necessary.

In four years time, what will be the remnant of the fall-out? More likely than not the cabinet members will look as rosy in the face as always (with well-upholstered getaway cars and fortresses in the country) while Mr. and Mrs. Blenkinsop and their four children will look over-worked and under-fed and will probably have forgotten what the word 'holiday' or 'seaside' means.

I am not jealous of 'em. I feel sorry for them, these members of the new Political Class who are there to protect their own interests, and nothing else. Even the LibDems have become closet Tories.

Passengers, please ensure your safety belts are tightened.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Blare, Blare, Blare ...

The good thing about Tony Blair's autobiography is that it's proceeds will go to the British Legion. But, having see him being interviewed on the BBC, I have no desire to read it. The nature of the book (as TB himself revealed) should - I suggest - turn away reasonable people from its pages.

Anyone who calls himself a friend should not be describing his friend as having "zero emotional intelligence", and even more so when Gordon Brown's life reveals anything but that.

So what is TB trying to do? I see him living a life with blinkers on and in the process creating smoke screens for his followers to negotiate. Few of his words seem to resonate with truth, as Chistopher Meyer has observed.

What sort of politician is TB? One, clearly that believes in his own path to solve the world's problems. That his actions have helped to kill over 100,000 Iraqis (oh, Mr. Blair, that Sadam killed a huge number is not the point to justify this) in the ploy of regime change. But, Mr. Blair, regime change was not the reason for the action, I remember you saying at the time. And why is it that Mr. Mugabe escapes the same treatment? Please explain.

I see nothing in Mr. Blair's world of oratory that appeals. It is ... simply put ... Blare, Blare, Blare.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Cost Cutting Apparently Makes Money - for some!

Today I'm a bit down with a chest infection, but at least (I thought) you cannot hear my barking coughs, so I decided to continue with a small piece for this week!

The latest piece of 'wonder' news from the government is that they're appointing someone special to oversee cost-cutting in the NHS. Apparently a person so special that when he was head of BP he cut their services so massively that standards and safety issues (it is reported) went by the board. It would appear to be his legacy of management that effectively caused the BP oil-spill situation which the U.S. is so bitterly complaining about - and justifiably so.

So ... with my throat being sore I leave that message of warning with you. I rather wish that my throat had become sore by voicing loudly this issue at Hyde Park Corner, but there we are!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Can/could Keynesian Growth Succeed?

Last week's budget brought out condemnation from The Independent and The Times. How, they said, can you apply such a swingeing budget and expect any stimulus for growth to take hold? It's absurd, they cried, there must be stimulus for growth ...

Well, if the world were to be ever-capable of sustaining never-ending growth then I would be the first to agree with the logic of those newspapers. The problem is that the world is not capable of sustaining continuous demands on its resources, therefore the budget - more by a miracle than human design I strongly suspect - has bent to the laws of sustainability.

The major failure of the new government has been that they have not said that we need to address our view of life in quite a different way - that we individually need (in any case) to tighten our purse strings and also place a ceiling on our desires.

This government is doing some right things, but in the wrong way. It's not being transparent about the real decisions that have to be made - which is about the kind of world we are going to leave our children. The ordinary public is simply going to be left with a feeling that they are being victimised - that the rich can continue to live comfortably while the poor and poorer off have to make the real sacrifices.

It's time now for government to engage ... properly. The sustainability issue is the major issue facing this country ... and the whole world.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Too Little Space

Last night, at half-time in the Brazil vs Ivory Coast match (yes, I watch some of the World Cup!), I flicked over to another channel where they just happened to be talking about ecological problems in the Philippines.

They happened to show an island that was so small you could see the detail of the whole island in the camera shot, and the island was covered with the multi-coloured roofs of so many, many huts.

So, the immediate question was "How do they find the foods they need?" The answer was, of course, that fishing was the essence of their survival. But the population of that island (and the surrounding islands) was becoming so great that the fish supplies were being rapidly plundered ... and in such a way that big damage was being done to the coral reefs. They were dynamiting the fish, and using poisons, to capture their needed quota. The resulting scenario was bleak ... the future of the fish stocks was in jeopardy.

Luckily, the problem was already being addressed in another area of the islands. Money was being put into a conservation project to restore the underwater ecology ... and it was working. But the money for that project was coming from voluntary donations from western sources. What, therefore, will be the situation if those voluntary donations begin to dry up as a result of the recession in which the western world is embroiled?

The scenario was also a warning to ourselves. The UK is on the verge of being overcrowded; young people are being marginalised in the job market. We too, especially if the population increases much more, could start to embark on desperate measures to survive; and using measures that are against the interests of sustainability.

The moral is that we need less to live within the bounds of sustainability.
Small is Beautiful and Less is Wonderful.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Do Good People Managers Exist?

I would hope so. But I am seriously wondering whether the profit motive in business, combined with the culture of 'image', isn't losing sight of the fact that people are ... well ... people, and the best ways of people management are to do with recognising that employees are just like anyone else. Including the managers. People are people and feel a need for being recognised as having value.

Importantly, however, enabling people to feel recognised (and not just by wage-earning) can be important for the growth of the employer's business.

Back in the early 1970s, when I was an up-and-coming project leader / supervisor, I was wisely sent on some in-house training to learn how to become a better people manager. And the first principles I was introduced to were those laid out by man named Abraham Maslow. He was probably a genius, and I say that because the principles and issues he laid out were so much to do with commonsense and the fact that the motives for each and every person are, if not the same, very similar. And very often what differs between people is purely the step they are on with regard to a "hierarchy of needs". That is - as Maslow postulated - man starts with the basic need for housing and food, and then, once he has secured those, then moves on to other needs.

Maslow was all about recognising the need for a person to fulfill his potential, and the most powerful expression of his studies and teaching were in the realm of "self-actualisation". See this site.

Ernst Schumacher (see my earlier "Small is Beautiful" article) and Maslow were clearly of a similar train of thought.

Towards the end of the 1970s I went away and started my own business in which I tried to apply those wonderful principles, but did not see my business develop sufficiently well to concentrate more on that side of things. However, the profit motive was never at my forefront of thought. Quite late in my working life I returned to being employed, and, to my horror, found that people management seems not to have move forward at all. Hire and fire is all too often committed without proper consideration ... it is all about who is 'boss', and 'image', and 'profit'.

Meanwhile, I learnt from a TV programme the other day, that an application of Schumacher's beloved Commonwealth/Cooperative principle was operating in a wonderfully successful way in the States. While some US domestic airlines were cutting pilots' pay to around $20k, an assembly worker in a Cooperative was earning $65k!!

Strange world, isn't it? Can't we learn from situations like that?

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Is Clegg Getting Clogged?

It is not my wish to start throwing barbed arrows at governing politicians, and certainly not for the reason that their political persuasion may be different from mine.

However, having been willing to give the new young men in power the chance to prove that they might be knights in shining armour, the cracks have started to show.

Having supported Labour's point of view that the economy should not be squeezed too quickly - mainly to protect jobs and services and to provide for the chance of recovery - the Liberals have suddenly moved towards the Tories' policy and are working hand-in-hand with the Tories.

In other words, 15m voters (vs 10m) voted for caution on spending cuts and 15m voters presumably now feel that they have been disenfranchised. They have been sold downriver.

"Oh, the situation is worse than we thought!" pipes Nick Clegg. Nonsense. The amount of borrowing is several billion down on what was thought to be the case. The situation is (marginally) better - not worse.

It goes to prove - the Liberals are not a party to be trusted. Yes, I agree that political parties in general are not that trustworthy, but there were and are people in the Labour Party that do have some scruples and principles that are praiseworthy. And that is why - so long as that remains the case - I will support them.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Small is Beautiful

About 35 years ago, a man called Ernst Schumacher wrote a book entitled the same as the title of this post. Despite his name, he had become 'English' in every sense, and had been a very successful executive in the British Coal Board decades earlier. I was fortunate to hear a talk given by him in London, just prior to his death around 1976/77.

In my view, the man should be recognised as a prophet. In his well-written book he described how necessary it was (for the sake of man's well-being as much as anything) to downsize our approach to everything, that it was not necessary to plot solutions to technological problems on a huge scale. He illustrated how 'big' solutions for under-developed countries often ended in failure. But he went beyond that, he pointed out the need for people to be involved in what they're employed by - to have a 'say' in their collective welfare; the aplication of the 'commonwealth' or 'cooperative' principle.

Schumacher was speaking about matters related to man's spirituality. He saw that we were moving into a post-industrial age and was trying to guide man into a constructive alternative. Instead, financial institutions became the Mecca, and money-making the creed. And we now have the mess to sweep up.

But his points did seep through to some. Out of that era grew the idea of wind-up radios, intended for the African living miles from an electrical socket, but have even entered our own domestic markets as an ecological benefit.

For more on this topic, see this site.

The Big View

I have been writing a lot about the UK election, and as it's a fresh issue that helps to account for it; it would probably be not right for me to sound out-of-touch with current events!

But, today, let's step back a little and think of the global situation and the UK's recent events in the light of that.

What's recently happened in Greece and is possibly impending in Portugal and Spain, and much further away - in Thailand and parts of Africa - is probably only a glimmer of the stark realities of where modern culture has taken us. Despite our withdrawal as a country of Empire so many years ago now, there has ever since been a continuation of the theme of the main western countries taking a colonial approach in far-away territories. The west has always tried to make out to our distant friends that there is something superior about our way of life of TVs, cars and associated gimmicks, and now that eastern countries are better able to produce those commodities, we feel hurt that they should have turned the tables, so to speak.

But it has not been just the gimmicks that we have sold - we have sold our way of life as well. Many are the people from so far abroad have been fed on the idea that we have a superior approach to life, and that we are able to provide them with all their material wants.

Unfortunately, those poor would-be nouveau riche have all too often not realised that there are wisdoms in their own culture that would provide the real happiness they seek. They - as well as we - all too often seek our happiness in the external; we are deluded into thinking that the objects that fascinate us are the reality. We chase after those objects, and when they escape us we become frustrated. Later we die, and what have we achieved in preparation for physical death, which is really the entry to the after-life?

So when this new UK government trots out old, hackneyed, phrases about our well-being, why not stop and think a moment. Ask, "Is this reality they're putting in front of us?" ... "Are we again being deluded?" ... "Is what they're putting forward both sustainable and fair [for us and the world]?" ... "Why can't we do with less?"

Monday, 17 May 2010

Expenditure Cuts ... Any Harm?

Cameron has said that £6bn. must be saved from the government's expenditure this year. He says "from wastage". Well, if that is the case, all well and good ... but who is going to judge what is wastage? If it's a case of too much being spent on office luxury in the civil service, well fine - but I feel that this is typical of an old Tory trick to cut expenditures on areas where it can see no benefit for the middle and upper classes. And I use the word "classes" advisedly ... we have moved into another type of class society; we cannot seem to get away from those who "have" and those who "haven't" and - importantly and sadly - a big divide separating them.

The concern is that expenditures provided by the outgoing government were already beginning to bring about the Big Society espoused by Cameron. Volunteer efforts combined with government expertise were beginning to take hold. But will the cuts start to affect those efforts? ... If they do then, again, the electorate will be to blame for putting its own selfishness at the core of their election choice.

The reality is that Gordon Brown - with all his foibles - had a vision of fairness that his previous PM colleague seemed to have forgotten, and Brown's approach was taking effect. What a great pity it took something like 10 years for the Labour Party to accept that Brown should be given a chance, but he was given too little time - and a world recession - to achieve his aims.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

An Inner Perspective on Politics

For the past week I have been harping on about UK politics and politicians and a sense of betrayal in a section of the electorate at least. But perhaps we should look at the way out from our dubious political convictions from a different perspective.

To start with, it would be probably obvious to state that a voter's political opinion is guided by his own material condition. For example, the student might be guided to a vote by the 'promise' of no severe policy on the repayment of his student loan, or the banker who does not want controls placed on his ability to 'earn' as much as he can get.

But what has that approach brought us this time? Stalemate. Surely, what we have obtained is the result of our own selfish ambitions, and our ambitions have proved to be at odds with our neighbour's.

We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that our selfishness is the cause of our misery. Yet, within each one of us is the innocence that we were born with - a simplicity that knows no selfishness and one (if left to its own devices without the influence of adults and the media) would not only bring peace within the UK but would ultimately bring about world peace and stability.

We are brought up trained to accept fear of others as our modus operandi of living. By the time we are teenagers, these days we have lost the ability to trust. 'To trust what?', you ask. The answer is the power of The Almighty. There lies the simple answer to it all, and it would do no harm for each and everyone of us to think and act on that to establish a way of living that in due course (not necessarily without some pain) would extinguish greed and self-interest.

But in speaking of The Almighty, I hasten to add that it is not the God of the Christians I speak ... nor the God of the Muslims, nor the God of any other persuasion  ... but the God of all. There is only one God - La illaha ill'Allah if you wish. That same God is accessible by all, regardless of creed.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Truth and Politicians

I should have known. The words of a politician are never to be taken at face value, as exemplified in the latest talk on "strong government". It has transpired - not too surprsingly - that the right do not trust the existing tools of democracy and want more security for their government by changing the statute book. There's even objection within their own ranks.on this, so it must be a serious issue! The question is, will the government whip strengthen itself to impose unanimity on the recalcitrant, and thus remove the obstacle? I fear there's little doubt on that issue.

What has the electorate done? Politics is now about about a type of politician that looks good and talks glibly - to get the public's attraction and the vote. Further, it has been reported that Cameron's advisors told him "not to sound too Tory". Meanwhile, the erstwhile prime minister - with grey-hair and sagging eyes after devoted worry about serving to the best of his ability - gets labelled as "tired" and "out of touch" etc. And they said that he was "not an elected leader of the country". Well, is Cameron? Of course not, but that issue is pushed down.

Heseltine has said it about his own party ... in twelve months, this government will be very unpopular because of the decisions it will "have to" make. Trouble is, there'll hardly be a way of getting them out until the full end of their term once they've changed the statute book.

The Lib-Dems have been ensnared ... as have the British public. I may be taking matters to the extreme, but I now wonder what could be the next cue; perhaps the appointment of a stasi-style police squad and a knock on the door of any writers of blogs such as this.

The real culprit, however, is not the government that has assumed power, but us ... the very people that have put them there through our own gullibility and the block of "haves" that voted against the split vote of "have nots" and do-gooders.

Perhaps Cameron does not intend it; perhaps I am unfair. But this fair isle could quite easily be making a turn towards the worst of scenarios - a totalitarian state. Not just because of what is going on at home, but how the rest of the world is turning.

But there is a cure for all this ... the rejection of all this as being important and turning within instead. And conducting a dialogue with Truth.

Friday, 14 May 2010

The Reaction

Watching the Beeb's 'Question Time' last night brought it home to me how many voters think they have been sold down river into this coalition. 'We didn't vote for this!', they cried. But they did (vote for that) because that's how the voting came out.

Because of history, and the fact that the Liberals have never been good bed-fellows with the Tories, the current situation does not look appetising, but we all just have to swallow our indignation and let us see what transpires. Yes, I think there is a case for saying that the Liberals have been used and that their participation in the end will count for nothing except serving the Tory cause. But ... some coalition had to come out of the electors' muddle, and this is it. We've got it.

Malcolm Heseltine, however, made it painfully clear that in 12 months time the (his) new government would not be popular because of the 'difficult' decisions it is about to make. If such 'difficult' decsions include swingeing job cuts in the public services, will the acceptance of the Liberals no-tax under £10k policy be seen as part of the cause for such 'difficult' decisions?

It could just be that in a year or two, Gordon Brown's departure might be seen as premature. He understands the ordinary voter (draped in delusions of grandeur that they might be) as opposed to a privileged new joint leadership that does not know the meaning of difficulty in the home.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world still exists, and the rest of the world - both in terms of populations and the environment - is not in a happy state. When it comes down to it we do need a new kind of politics, but one that is still a long way removed from that envisaged by the privileged Cam-Clegg duo.

The government's reduction of a mere 5% off cabinet salaries (of over £100k each) shows where their minds and hearts still are. Greed is still rampant, no matter how it is disguised.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Needs of Society

The big question mark about the UK's new government is - surely - whether Cameron (and Clegg) can really reverse the trend in the Tories that was re-invented by Thatcher over 20 years ago - i.e. that (according to her) 'there is no such thing as society'.

Her attitude was so reviled by those who live in the real world that it could only mean that when Labour could get enough momentum, they would get back in and check the stagnation that the Thatcher years left behind. Is Cameron's real intention to undo the Thatcher theme in his party? If so, then why did he not stand as a Liberal? The Tories have never before been progressive on social issues - they've introduced nothing (in all their years) of real help to the working population, and now they are going to do otherwise? Seeing is believing in this case! I can't help feeling that there will be tears in four or five years time. Or less.

What is really needed - surely - is a middle-ground progressive party or coalition of true grass-roots membership. One that really understands the plight of ordinary people (yes, I know there are a number of scroungers on the state) and yet would have the acumen of true statesmanship. And - highly importantly - a party that understands the limitations of economic growth systems that do not work in harmony with ecology.

Irresponsible growth comes at a big cost, as we are increasingly finding out.

IF the Clam-Clegg partnership prove me wrong, then I will be very happy. But while those two were rolling around on the Downing Street lawn yesterday, I somehow felt that they are very much in party mode. The reality of the work to be done has not yet dawned on them, and when it does, they will be wearing frowns and starting to show grey hair. Like Gordon Brown; now there (despite his foibles) is the best example of statesmanship in modern times.

Farewell Gordon, you did your best, and you will not be forgotten in a hurry by those who understood you a little. You were probably the last of the non-showbiz style of leaders. You, at least, had substance; we will now see what Cam-Clegg are made of.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The Uk Election (2)

So ... a Cam-Clegg coalition. I have to admit I am resigned to this being probably the only practical solution to the organisation of a government, other than going back to the country again without guarantee of a satisfactory result.

It became clear - as the days since the election wore on - that a Lab-Lib coalition would not work, particularly in that those two parties by themselves could not gain a majority in the Commons. But, despite my reservations, the start of the Con-Lib pact has been good. It remains to be seen how it all works out in practise given that hardly any of the cabinet will have had previous government experience, and that the Tory cost-cutting plans were against the Liberal ethic.

And there's the matter of them agreeing to remove income tax up to £10k. How that's going to be paid for in a time of cuts remains to be seen!

Let's give it six months at least before we find fault with policy. This one has to be given a chance.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

The UK Election

The election ... I hope it should tell us something, and more than one 'thing' in fact. Firstly, what is patently clear is that the Tories who (through Mrs Thatcher) declared society does not exist, have tried to claw back a vote based on deception. I will not disagree with some of Mr. Cameron's aspirations, but to me they are a disengenuous party, always pandering to where they think they can find votes. Secondly, that mainly due to the nature of the Tory Party's history, the public do not have sufficient confidence in them. Thirdly, that there are 15 million Labour & Liberal voters who distrust the Tories association with business and voted against the 10m Tory voters for a different kind of approach.

The Labour Party, of course, has not been 'squeeky clean', but I will be thoroughly disappointed - nay, disgusted - if the Liberals do end up by working with the Tories.

However, whatever happens in this political round, politics and life as we have known it till now is coming to an end. The rapidly developing world conditions demand a completely new approach in thinking that has to be removed from self-interest. Materialism is out.