Sunday, 31 December 2017

A Toast To Bharat!

Dear Reader,

Another year is on us! For me time seems to gather pace at an extraordinary rate, but maybe that's to do with the fact that we always seem to be active in something or other. And many a time I seem to find a 'Eureka moment' which attracts my deep attention and soaks up time.

One such 'moment' occurred just a few weeks ago when I discovered the extent of the work of children's author W. J. Corbett, who, unknowingly to me for many years, was born in and lived in the area of my upbringing. And this past year or two I've been drafting a history of that area of Birmingham. A few weeks ago I had come to the end of the main body of the book and was looking into finding something appropriate to begin the book, and, lo and behold, Corbett provided the very answer for which I was looking. For those who are unfamiliar with Corbett, his first book ("The Song Of Pentecost") won the Whitbred Award for children's books in 1982, and his work was compared by Evelyn Waugh in its quality to Wind In The Willows and Black Beauty. Roald Dahl thought his book to be an "astonishing achievement".

When I say that the fringe of the area of my upbringing attracted also the attention of J. R. R. Tolkien (and influenced his Hobbit), then you can begin to visualise why the area had an appeal for children's writers. And why the area gave me such a sense of peace at an early age.

But that is all about the past. It's a new year that we are entering and questions exist as to how the affairs of the world are to develop. I believe matters will get very much worse before they get better (in physical terms) but I also believe we are crossing a peculiar period of time which is trying to bring us to understand who we really are. Whether the issue is about war, climate change, deprivation Jerusalem or CERN, there are questions to be resolved before progress can be made.

Traditionally - at least in modern eons - we have been brought up to think that the West has the answers. But for me the West seems to have provided the problems, and tries to resolve those problems using outmoded thinking based on sciences that have been proven to be mostly inadequate. Being a clever ape does not hide foolish thinking.

But wait ... we may think of China as being the alternative place where power might reside, but for me the answer is to be found in India, anciently known as Bharat. Anyone who has been keeping up-to-date with developments in India will realise I think that in Modi they have a prime minister who is beyond the usual category of Asian leader. Corruption seems to be his very enemy, and he has made himself deeply unpopular with those that try to corrupt. Apart from that he has a base philosophy and attitude that is very Indian, yet looks to the best of both ancient and modern thinking to implement his ideas of reform and of how to deal with practical issues, including economic development.

So it's on that note I will rest this essay. And I will propose a toast: "To India! To Bharat!" For it is from that culture that most of the civilised world has evolved throughout history. If you are in doubt about that statement then please investigate for yourself.

I wish you Health and Happiness in the coming year!

Thank you for reading this!

Sunday, 12 November 2017

It Could Be That 2018 Will Be The Crunch Year

Dear Reader,

Hello again. The past 3 months or more have been taken up with so many important things that something had to give way. So this blog had to give way. In future, I will try to post at least once a month rather than weekly.

I have been doing a kind of bird's-eye review of what's been happening these past 3+ months, and what I see is more of the same, if not worse! Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown said the other day he felt that the Brexit matter would come to a climax by the middle of next year (2018), and he thought that it would not be the result that the leavers hoped for. 

But I see not just that but many other issues coming to a climax as well - notably the viability of the western system of economy. The Church of England's chief primate (Justin Welby) has said that the western economic model is "broken". And I well believe him, especially as the very rich get very much richer while the poorest are more squeezed than ever before. What has happened to our so-called Christian morality?

Indeed one reality appears to be that one-third of all English land is still owned by the families who acquired it at the time of the Norman conquest, 950 years ago!

And our prisons have not only become over-packed but are proving to be unmanageable. Will most of the inmates be improved citizens when they go back into society? No, sir; they will have learnt more about the darker side of life within the prison walls than they would ever have learnt outside them. UK society is being driven asunder by a huge wedge.

Though it's not wise or correct to blame all that's happening on Maggie Thatcher, she once did say that "If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing or by taxing more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay - that someone else is you." Now that kind of rhetoric made some 40 years ago has had a big impact on the country since to the extent that the old concept of a safety net for those genuinely in need has been more and more eroded while the Tory Party has been in power. And one example is that while private rents are leaping up by bounds as a result of the lack of housing availability, those that depend on local council support to pay those rents (which support is currently frozen) find themselves getting more and more into a poverty trap. Even the elderly and infirm may well be made homeless before long.

That year of 2018 seems more and more likely to be a climax year in so many ways. And towards more suffering by those without the means to do anything about their plight.

And how about our government leaders? They seem more concerned about their individual welfare and ambitions than anything else as the resignation trickle continues.

Our system of values really do need re-addressing. Our sense of what is really important seems to have been eroded. Are we alive just to make money and see our children better off? Is that really what life is all about as the detritus resulting from decades of waste pollutes the seas and the beaches? And the fish.

Maggie Thatcher, you really should have spent more time thinking and talking about those issues. Or did you listen only to your academic advisers and not to common-sense?

Economic growth only leads to a growth in waste and the killing of the natural world.

Thank you for reading this. 

Friday, 21 July 2017

A Matter Of Very Deep ConCERN?

Dear Reader,

On July 19 (just gone) I began to think more deeply about the weather we have been experiencing in this area of the UK, and how the weather forecasters just do not seem to be too accurate about their forecasting. They say they have built bigger and better computers to process the data more accurately - but do they?

In particular, the bursts of wind under perpetually gray skies seemed to be odd; plus the fact that summers of old just did not seem to be of the order we've been experiencing this past year or two. And what about the freak weather conditions in Cornwall just a few day ago? 

Oh, yes - it's "climate change" isn't it? Well, yes, I'd go along with that, but I'm beginning to suspect a lot more. Perhaps I'm just a suspicious type, but I looked into the strange weather phenomena and saw this photo of the sky over Zurich when the CERN Large Hydron Collider was being powered up:

Other news in July 2016 proclaimed that the "Large Hadron Collider (LCH) was shut down after causing a magnitude 7 earthquake which shook the whole planet." There have been many reports of strange conditions occurring when the Collider is powered up, and this website provides detailed examples of such news.

What this article is leading to is that perhaps we have become asleep to how many highly significant scientific and technological matters of an invasive kind have been developing in this world - particularly in the West - and which have been developed without our sanction. To the above matter of the Hydron Collider (which is planned to be replaced by another Collider of huge proportions) can be added the now long-standing saga of genetically-modified (GM) food, chemicals in fertilisers and now another issue which is just now being released and will affect us in a way that Stephen Hawking has said will be "either the best or the worst thing ever to happen to humanity". And that is artificial intelligence (AI). And the matter of human genetic modification is also not well understood to my mind.

Is mankind going mad? Do our leaders have the technical capability or moral credentials to question these developments and able to slow down their progress until we have understood their ramifications? If leaders of our local authorities cannot even discern what is the right kind of cladding to put on our high-rise flats, what chance have leaders understanding truly complex issues that require their judgment?

I would suggest that we all need to make our democratic representatives aware of our concerns. I would also suggest that one's spiritual faith is being significantly tested and perhaps we all need to check in to ensure that we really know what is meaningful, and to seek guidance from on High.

Let's remember that simplicity is a reflection of genius, not complexity. Our scientists - I am certain - just do not know what they're playing with.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

We're Not Just Composed Of Flesh And Chemicals, Surely?

Dear Reader,

An artlcle in the Guardian this weekend was headed: "I took my first antidepressant this week. The effects were frightening." [Link]

This article elicited a great response. Within half-a-day this article received over 1,100 comments and over 2,800 Facebook shares before comments were closed.

I managed to make a comment:

Yes, I read below someone saying that Deborah is "very brave" talking so openly about her condition.
But all the replies I've read (sorry I've only read the last 20 or 30 or so) seem to be supporting this drug therapy culture in some way or other. Though I'd agree there are times in your life when pretty well everyone (I imagine) goes through some kind of stress of a threatening kind, and some kind of 'action' is needed to circumnavigate the issue, why does the action have to be one that supports the idea that we are *simply* made up of chemicals and that a chemical has to be the appropriate treatment?
In 73 years I've had a few knocks (like many) - and some of them tortuous. But apart from a phase in my late teenage years, I've never taken psychiatry very seriously. Why? Well 40 years ago I was asked to befriend a deeply disturbed psychiatric patient and found that sheer sincerity and love towards them seemed to produce results - and just in one meeting. Results that the 'experts' were surprised to see. And also because I have demonstrated to myself that the real self is more to do with Mind and Spirit, and that there are spiritual methods (not just one) that will at least mostly alleviate the problem.
Why subject oneself to danger through more chemicals? The very idea is lost on me.
Of course, I had a couple of 'Doubting Thomas' replies to my post, the last saying:
So your one experience of helping a friend means that all the years, trials, learning and experiences of the millions of people and the medical community should be trashed? If it was simple do you think people would not choose the easiest solution?
And there lies the problem. The straightforward mention of 'spiritual' means (to some) that what is proposed is that science has to be entirely given up in favour of what is perceived to be a 'simple' alternative. And that because so much has (apparently) been achieved by science must mean it's the only approach that matters. People seem to lose sight of the fact that science works only on the basis of what can be demonstrated as proven, and they lose focus on the fact that what was true (in science) just a few years ago is often already supplanted. And that's not even to mention how good safety precautions of 100 years ago have been ditched to create the Grenfell Tower scenario.

And when it comes to the subject of mental health (the topic of the above-mentioned article), the policies in force towards treatment only 50 years ago seem now to have been quite primitive and unthinkable today. But today the subject of mental health is still one of official detachment: "if the disease cannot be seen then how can it exist?" mentality. People talk of it and want to do something, but where is the will to do so? Meanwhile, as another commenter stated: "the medical profession's general response to depression or anxiety is the same: meds [medication] and more meds which only serve to mask never solve the underlying problems."

Has anyone stopped to consider that maybe the environment we have created this past 50 years may be much of the cause of today's hidden timebomb? When I was brought up in the late 40s and 50s, I remember a time of mainly happiness even though we were not well off. Children had so much freedom - until PC took over.

I read a book recently when someone observed that whereas we were once benefitting from the visitation to our gardens of so many friendly birds - sparrows, blackbirds, thrushes and the like. Today we mainly see magpies and seagulls. It's as though the bird population in the cities has mirrored the acquisitive attitudes of us humans.

Something's wrong somewhere that we should put so much faith in medication. Perhaps it's something to do with the (scientific) education we're mainly subject to? Perhaps we should re-examine our Human Values to see what is common amongst us all. Is it Love that's the common factor - or is it sheer indifference?

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Towards Unity And Transparency?

Dear Reader,

The state of affairs in the UK at this time really points to the country being on a knife-edge. There is the potential of total disintegration, while at the same time Jeremy Corbyn speaks to the young at the Glastonbury Festival in order to give them hope - that it is possible to have a society that is joined up and for the benefit of the many, not the few. And that was partly the message of another 'JC': Jesus Christ.

Today we rather downplay religion, yet I yesterday saw a news clip where a far-right demonstrator demanded that we maintain our "Christian values". It does occur to me that we don't take religion seriously because we do not trust those "Christian values", and why don't we trust them? Simply - I suggest - because only fragments of Christianity get taught, and there are now so many sects of the broad church that are in existence, with each of them emphasising different elements of Christianity. Worse, religion usually becomes Church-centred rather than Truth-centred. The total result is that we mostly have an emotional view (and, often, a political misinterpretation) of what the teachings are, and many may not realise that there's a lot more to be taught that has been hidden.

The full truth of the teachings of Jesus will soon be openly known, I believe, And as the Muslims come to the end of this year's annual major fast - Ramadhan - I would like to post this interpretation of the meaning of Islam, which is in concert with what Jesus taught: I suggest that if the far-right protester I mentioned was to read this he would wonder - if he really knew what Christian teachings are - what is the difference!
Islam [literally] means surrender to God. It teaches that God's Grace can be won through justice and righteous living; and not through wealth, scholarship or power. All who in a spirit of surrender and dedication, live in peace and harmony in society are in fact, followers of Islam. Islam insists on full coordination between thought, word and deed. Muslim holy men and sages have been emphasising the need to inquire into the validity of the 'I' which feels it is the body and the 'I' which feels it is the mind, and reach the conclusion that the real 'I' is the self-learning for the Omni Self, God. During the Ramadhan month, the fast and the prayers are to awaken and manifest this realisation. No matter which religion you follow, remember that the emphasis should be on unity, harmony and equal-mindedness (my italics).
The spiritual messenger who uttered these words goes on: "Therefore cultivate love, tolerance and compassion, and demonstrate this Truth in daily activity."

All true religious ways are intended to achieve the same thing, but we often need reminding of that.

The politics of this country - and of the world - need to come to grips with these Truths. The true ultimate aim of life is not wealth and prosperity of the material kind, but the overall happiness of all. And if we were to realise that fact, the tendency we find in business practice to cheat (taking the awful Grenfell fire as a major example) will disappear as we demand to have transparency and Truth in all our dealings.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

May-be The P.M. Will Now Heed The Wakening Call

Dear Reader,

In a way, I do feel sympathy towards Mrs. May. One week she's told in the clearest way by the electorate (other than the pensioners) that she and her Party are not wanted, and the next week she has the consequences of the most horrible of disasters to face: Grenfell Tower.

But the sympathy ebbs away when I think of how the Tory Party has treated the poor over this past seven years, the bedroom tax (when few other homes were available) being one of the most outstandingly divisive policies to mention. And now it is clear that someone was trying to cut corners in the recent refurbishment of Grenfell. A mere £6,250 extra would have made the property much safer (still probably not good enough though), but someone did not think it worth spending that figure. And the cost of sprinklers fitted throughout the block? Up to a £400,000 spend I believe, but again not thought to be worth doing by someone, somewhere.

The pressure is now on to ensure that other tower blocks in the country at a similar level of risk are identified and rectified. But in these days of insufficient housing, where will the residents of such blocks be housed in the interim? And will an emergency interim enquiry report be published quickly enough for the right levels of action to be taken?

Jeremy Corbyn provided a constructive suggestion in the idea of requisitioning empty private houses on an emergency basis. And as Grenfell is near so much wealth, that suggestion becomes even more poignant. I'm pretty sure that private flatted accommodation in that area would not contain the risks that have been found to have existed at Grenfell.

So those are the major issues that have to be dealt with after the terrible suffering and loss of life inflicted by someone's tardiness - and carelessness. I dare say Grenfell will be flattened and a memorial garden created in its place, but the memory of this disaster will take a very long time to dissipate. And a disaster is what it is. But even after admitting in a BBC2 interview that this was an awful disaster, Mrs. May again fell back on mechanical words to describe it: an "incident" she called it.

Such mechanical words uttered by people on the right of politics sum up their attitude. Public services and the duty due to the most vulnerable in our society are regarded as being secondary to duty towards big business. To such an extent that in a pre-Election Question Time programme, the Brexit Minister (David Davis) said that "things like that [vital public services] have to wait for economic growth". It says a lot, doesn't it? And, of course, he wouldn't dare suggest that some re-distribution of wealth might alleviate the issue: it is the forever growing gulf between the rich and the poor that is at the bottom of the present crisis of government.

And I suppose that Davis would call safety concerns at Grenfell as just "things" to be paid for when the economy is sufficiently lining the pockets of the rich. Or perhaps he - in his state of sleep - just assumed that the country was running well enough for him to be able to utter phrases like that.

It was in fact a Tory leader and prime minister of the 19th century - Benjamin Disraeli - who became conscience stricken by the same issue, and said that if the Tory Party did not address the issue his Party stood a chance of being lost forever. Well, 140 years later, here we have his Party at the same juncture: they stand to be lost forever, cast aside as a Party of unfeeling persons who ride only First Class, careful not to mingle with their subjects. 

Thank you for reading this.

Postscript (a quote from a recent interview):

"[During the 2010-15 government] the then-housing minister, who is now the immigration minister, in fact, specifically, when he was challenged as to whether he should put a rule in place that said that sprinkler systems should be fit in the buildings like this, as they already have to be in Germany, Wales, in Scotland, etc., his justification for not putting this rule in place was that they had this totally ideological idea that for every regulation they imposed they had to remove two. That was his specific justification. If there had been a sprinkler system in this building, despite all the other massive failings – that would’ve stopped people dying, and that didn’t happen."

Saturday, 10 June 2017

What A Youthquake!

Dear Reader,

It is clear (surely the Canterbury result demonstrated that) the young - for the first time in over 70 years - were fully engaged in Thursday's election. But why?

Well, here's what "The Conversation" has said:

Young people are at the heart of it all. If you’re young and living in Britain today, you’re less likely to hold a steady job than a series of insecure gigs, leaving you with a jumbled CV of zero-hours contracts and unreliable work. No savings, high rent, and huge tuition fees if you’re fortunate enough to make it into higher education. No-one should be surprised that young people offered this dismal social contract instead opted for the promise of investment in the welfare state, secure contracts, and an end to tuition fees.
Now, I was brought up in the decades after the War when politics was an important issue in the lives of many people. There were political activists in my own family on my paternal side, while on my maternal side there was the religious/spiritual view, and they were equally active. Strangely though, neither of my parents were active in either way, though their lives were clearly influenced in their upbringing by those family members who held activist views.

When I did my hiking tours of the Continent in the 1960s, I found people in those countries alive to the subject of politics, including young people, and were very mentally alert to the subject. The Second World War (and Nazi occupation) was still a recent memory, and many wanted a Europe that was to be united in peace and cooperation.

I thought that pattern would stay: but no. What happened is that we (in the UK) went flabby and were told in the 1980s that manufacturing and industry was a thing of the past and that finance houses were the bed-rock economy that we should then rely on. And that 'more' was the keyword and achievable for those that strove for it. Some even believed that 'more' could be got out of nowhere. And the entertainment industry grew beyond reasonable limits to the extent that many people live by it. 

What nonsense. The warnings from the climate and environmentalist lobby were ignored while those duped by the then political message went on on an orgy of 'give me' and 'let me enjoy myself'. And the greed influenced other countries who were also duped. Meanwhile, underclasses developed: the 'not haves'. And then the major western powers went on a hate campaign against terrorists - and in the process created even more terrorists. But that's another matter for some other article. Meanwhile we simply blame the banks and over-use the NHS because we can't be self-disciplined.

Today we have a hangover of the so-called great days in the form of pensioners in the USA and in the UK who recall when (according to their collective memory) their countries were 'great': America became a great industrial power, while the UK  still remembers the Empire. And both countries of late have been giving succour to all those pensioners and their children and even stating that we can return to the so-called 'great' old days. Viz. Trump in the USA and Brexit in the UK.

In the UK, the pensioners have been specially treated. Why? Not just because they do have special needs - or at least the poorer group do - but because they form a large political class of their own. The Tories in particular have believed that they should give preferential treatment to the elderly (to get their vote) while starving the future of the country, which is the young. Hence the visualition of their plight that "The Conversation" described above. And also why the Tories failed to succeed in this election: they forgot the young.

Make no mistake about it. What happened as a political expression on Thursday should not be taken as simply a defeat for the Tories and a triumph for Labour. What really happened on Thursday was the waking up of the young to reality. The young can change matters and they have an ability to lead this country - and the world - to a new realisation and order that will undoubtedly manifest itself over the next decade. 

The next few years will not be easy. Many difficulties will materialise that we can't even visualise right now. But there will be a good outcome; so long as the young will remain awake and open to the great challenges that they will undoubtedly be faced with, both physical and spiritual. And it is the spiritual - in finding our true human values - that will be key to properly expressing ourselves in politics. The day of 'give me' is over; the day of 'what can I do for you?' is arriving.

Thank you for reading this.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Two-Thirds of England Seem Not To Want Theresa

Dear Reader,

Well, the day is almost on top of us!

My feeling is that Theresa May will win her majority, but 66% of more than 250,000 people are indicating on Vote-for-Policies that they prefer Labour/Liberal/Green options and left-of-centre views in England. There is an indicator that the first-past-the-post voting system will work against democracy. 

Perhaps. Or maybe it is just those that have a huge political zeal that make their opinions known.

We shall find out on Friday!

But with the threat of the right-wing tightening their control around the world (and policies like fracking becoming a likelihood), I hope people keep to their apparent instincts and vote for fairness and also sustainability in the environment.

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

What Kind Of UK Do We Really Want?

Dear Reader,

While I know there are some very decent persons in the Tory ranks, there is an underlying misapprehension by the Tory movement: ignorance of the fact that a true civilisation is measured by how well we look after our weakest and most vulnerable members. Gandhi pointed that out, and it's a feature of most spiritual philosophy.

The Tory approach is essentially to do with balancing the books according to business methodology, and in a way that overrides the values of a true civilisation stated in the opening para, above. Yes, of course, Economics and Accounting methods matter, but do the Tories in any way try to fulfil the meaning of the parable of the Good Samaritan? 

My feeling is that the members of the Tory Party - with perhaps a handful of exceptions - do not have first-hand experience of what it is to live at the bottom of the economic scale, and - further - do not understand how it is to be treated without respect. In Friday night's QandA on the BBC, Theresa May seemed genuinely unhappy that a member of the audience had been treated in a shoddy way in her claim for assistance because of her impediments, but the fact remains that the system is what the Tory policies created. They made the system overly difficult for claimants, the great majority of whom are genuine and are too frequently made to feel 'small'. The Tory's new PIP process is a nightmare (my wife has tried it) and does not provide enough support. And at the first point of contact, it is essentially a privatised service. Those private companies have clearly been given targets to exclude as many as possible by a certain type of questioning. 

Now, on the BBC's Question Time on Thursday, a clearly intelligent member of the audience made the point that the standard of our public services is going down very rapidly, particularly (but not only) in education, affordable housing, social care and the NHS. The lady pointed out particularly at how much the well-being of children in the UK had fallen in the past 7 years (since the Tories regained power).

This UNICEF report of 2012 indicates the slide in child well-being, and we have slipped further since then.

In that report, we are significantly behind Germany and France and way behind the Scandinavian countries and Holland. That's not in terms of how the professionals do their job, but what backing and cohesive support are given to them, financially and otherwise. The Tory approach increasingly moves to privatisation and orientation towards the select few rather than provision for the many. But that policy means that more money is taken from the public purse and into shareholders' pockets. The ordinary working man thus (through his taxes) pays directly into the coffers of the wealthy.

And the Prime Minister prefers to create Grammar Schools before repairing and financially supporting the schools that non-privileged children attend. We seem to have gone full circle since 1997. It's been Tony Blair's fault almost as much as the Tories, I have to admit.

In Question Time, the Brexit Minister (David Davies) said that "things like that [vital public services] have to wait for economic growth". So, Davies and his cronies believe that the basis for a good civilisation is called merely "things". It says a lot, doesn't it? And, of course, he wouldn't dare suggest that some re-distribution of wealth might alleviate the issue. 

Back in 2010 the Tories were challenged on the Austerity Policy by Labour and others and told that borrowing was legitimate for investment purposes, but instead the Tories have put a disproportionate amount of the austerity on those not at all well off with consequent severe suffering through means such as the 'Bedroom Tax' when there were nowhere near enough 1 or 2 bedroom homes available for the affected to move into. People are said to have committed suicide as a direct result of these policies.

The essence of the Tory's political message is "Trust Us - Look At Our Record". Well, one look at their record of failed targets and U-turns, hurt of the poorest and harsh treatment of public services over 7 years should not convince us to trust them - should it? It's not as though their plan of how to manage the books have turned out very well, either: no targets have been anywhere near met.

They also say (still) that we have the strongest economy in Europe, but in the last quarter we were bottom. What do they expect with the lack of investment? And will Brexit yield the benefits that we are told?

Here's what a respected independent journalist, Patrick Cockburn, writes, on the Brexit matter:
The reason the Government is keeping its cards in the Brexit negotiations so close to its chest is that it knows it holds no aces, few court cards and plenty of low-scoring clubs and diamonds. It is a dud losing hand that is not going "to make sense of Brexit", whoever is playing it.
And on the Prime Minister, Cockburn says:
Theresa May's claim to be Prime Minister for the next five years is based on the childish schoolyard virtues of being tough and combative, though this is contradicted by her swift retreats in the face of opposition on issues such as national insurance and care for the elderly.
I do not say that any of the alternative political parties is ideal, but what I do say is that the Labour Party have the only plans of the conventional leading three parties that make anything like sense, and a party leader who impresses me with his frankness and genuine understanding. 

Corbyn is the only leader of the conventional leading three parties who has fully listened to questions put to him and understood them. And he has even agreed that the questioner has a "fair point" when an argument has been raised against him. Not once, but multiple times, and has successfully been able to provide acceptable answers to the questioners' doubts.

As a personality and physical appearance for a political leader, Corbyn may well fall short. But it's not the looks that matter, is it? It's the substance and real sincerity that counts.

YouGov's Vote for Polices site shows (today) that of more than of 147,000 people in England, 26% believe in the Labour Party's policies, while only 15% believe in the Tory's. Only the Green and Liberal parties come remotely close to Labour's percentile. Why not submit your own opinions?

I'd love to vote for the Greens, but Labour is the only other party with a numerical chance of making a difference based on sound (but not perfect) policies.

You care for your children I'm sure. In which case please vote the Tories out! With them remaining in power I see the UK becoming even further divided, and a next-to hopeless future of policies in favour of those at the top of the food chain. 


After writing the above, I've learnt that in a special poll conducted by the National Union of Teachers, and another, nearly two-thirds of young people say they are certain they will vote in Thursday's general election. That's a massive increase on the 43% who voted in 2015.

Of those two-thirds, 68% intend to vote Labour. 

The NHS (54%), Brexit (26%), Education (22%) and Tuition fees (22%) formed their most pressing concerns. Only 8% of young people listed immigration amongst their two or three issues of concern, with only crime and defence lower. 


It's the young's future we should be worried about, so let's back the young!

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Education, Education, Education...

I am sorry I have not written anything these last three months. Various matters have been involving my time, but today, in the wake of the Manchester disaster, the matter of education came to mind. 

Below is a message on the subject of education, given by a leading spiritual lady in India, and which I have just received. Yes, it is addressed to the Indian community, but in my view, the nature of the topic is relevant to us all in the world. It is about the two-part aspect of education: as a basis for (1) values and (2) of information. These days we seem to concentrate on the latter part, somehow believing that economic growth is the only part that matters. I somehow think that if we had learnt more about values we would not be putting Planet Earth through its pain.

I believe that the point in this essay is hugely important for the whole world.

N.B. This essay refers to a few Sanskrit terms which
should be understandable in the context of what is being written.

Divine Mother Srimad Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma talks on the ancient and modern education system of India and the drawbacks of the modern education system. Mother has also given valuable advice, guidance and suggestions to the educationists for reformation of the present educational system in our country.

Education is of two types - para and apara; i.e. for living and for life. The uniqueness of ancient Indian education system has focussed on both these aspects and has provided for all-round development in the student. In fact our ancient Indian education system set an example to the whole world as to how an ideal education should be.

In ancient days, education or vidya was considered and treated as very sacred. In fact in India, the first step of the child's education begins with a ritual called ''Akshara abhyasa". The first letter the child is made to write is the sacred letter 'Om' and then the blessing of Goddess Saraswathi, who is the goddess of knowledge, the dispeller of ignorance, is invoked.

The Gurukula system of education prevailed in the earlier days. The bond between the guru and shishya was built on the edifice of respect, discipline, devotion, obedience and surrender on the part of the student and love, selflessness, sacrifice and genuine concern on the part of the guru.

The primary focus and emphasis in this system of education had always been the moral development of the child along with procurement of knowledge. When the child enters the gurukulam, the guru takes the child completely in his fold, identifies the negative traits in him and then aims at imparting training to eliminate all these negative tendencies; similar to the way a gardener removes the weeds around a young sampling first, which otherwise is detrimental to the healthy growth of the plant and later nourishes and nurtures it. This is exactly how the gurus would mould the young disciples. The parents too keenly desired that their children should tread the path of righteousness. The common aim of the parents and the gurus would be that after the child completes his education, he is transformed into a good human being and a noble citizen of the country.

Eventually though the gurukula system faded, the basic principles of value education still continued in our country in the early part of the century. A peaceful atmosphere prevailed in the educational institutions, fees were not exorbitant, healthy competitions prevailed among the students. There was less of external distractions. Healthy and cordial relations existed between teachers and students and therefore students freely expressed their feelings to the teachers and parents. The students only desired to attain good marks and enrich their knowledge. The students were not under any pressure from the teachers and the parents and had the freedom to pursue their interests. Physical exercise, sports and games were a part of the curriculum and made compulsory. It was thus ensured that every day the student is involved in some physical activity. Good coaching and a combination of mental discipline and physical activity helped in improving student's concentration and enabled him to score well. The concept of tuitions and coaching classes were not prevalent at all. It is this harmonious atmosphere in all respects that helped the students to succeed academically without any tension, anxiety and stress either to himself or to his parents. When students graduated from such educational institutions they were not only well qualified but also had developed, self-confidence, strong will power, self-reliance and other good traits. They were placed in high profile jobs, were successful professionally and many went abroad to pursue further studies too. Thus on the whole, the all round personality of the student was completely developed, morally, physically, academically and emotionally.

Now, where does the present educational system in India stand? Divine Mother Srimad Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma is deeply saddened with the current state of our educational system. The sacred knowledge or vidya is sadly being commercialised.

Today's educational institution are aiming to become profit making centre. The sanctity of this ''temple of learning'' is lost and forgotten. They have become commercial establishments where prominence is given to Goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. The educational institutions today which are centres of learning have failed to recognise the greatness and reverence for the goddess of knowledge. Then what kind of products can one expect to emerge from such institutions?

These institutions are more superficial and lay emphasis on external parameters like dress code etc rather than on code of conduct. In fact some of the institutions themselves entertain malpractices.

The present day education is trying to adopt the western system as a result of which the child at a very young age is overloaded with too many subjects to study. Computer education is introduced in the schools at a very early stage which is not required at that age. This causes strain on the mental capacity of the child, the after effects of which may surface at a later stage. Not only that they are overburdened by such impositions, they are exposed to the side effects of radiation from this electronic gadgets; it also weakens their vision and has an effect on the nervous system. Amma says it does not mean they should not be taught computers, but has to be introduced at an appropriate age.

Amma has given a beautiful example in this context. If a washing machine is run with clothes more than its loading capacity, it is bound to get damaged. Can we blame the manufacturer for its failure? Similarly, if the child's performance is not up to the parent’s expectation, can we blame the child alone?

Collection of hefty donations has become the order of the day. Earlier too donations very given by certain affluent people, with the noble intention to help in the development of the infrastructure of the institution and thus provide better classrooms to make it congenial for the students to learn. But today, donations have become binding and compulsory irrespective of financial status and affordability of the parents.

Amma says, a wealthy man easily obtains admission for his child in a good school by offering huge donation. The middle and poor section of the society too may desire to seek admission for their children in the same school. It is but natural for any mother to desire the best for her child. Indeed it is not wrong to have such desires. Unable to pay such huge donations, such families will have to compromise to send their child to the government schools which has a different standard of education. Alternatively, some parents make great effort and stretch beyond their financial capacities and obtain admissions in the so-called best institutions. Finally securing of this seat does not bring any sense of joy to the parents because of the huge financial drain and burden on the parents. 

Indirectly this stress is passed on to [the] child, as the parents demand that the child should perform well academically. Having invested huge amounts in the child's education, parents look for satisfaction in their child's performance. To cope up with the prevailing standard of living, both the parents take up jobs and as such neither have the time nor the patience to look into their studies. They hence send the children to coaching classes to escape from their duties. The child after long hours at school has to attend tuitions which deprives it even of the little time with the parents.

Apart from this, parents compare their child's performance with other children and pressurise them to score more. By such comparisons, the parents themselves sow the seeds of jealousy and rivalry in the innocent minds. In their anxiety to ensure that the children perform well, the parents at times threaten them. This creates fear in their minds. In the event of the child not meeting the expectation of the parents, the parents admonish the child many times in the presence of other family members and friends. The child may feel humiliated and hurt. It affects the self-confidence of the child too. Unable to face this, the child may attempt to end its life or may resort to drugs or may become aggressive or rebellious or may even go into depression.

In addition to all this, the educational institutions too, compete with each other to be recognised as the best with the highest achievers and rank holders with motive to have more admissions. All these builds tremendous pressure in the tender minds of the children. As a result, the child loses all enthusiasm to study and slowly unfavourable tendencies like distraction, attraction for undesirable things, and loss of concentration take root in the child.

We pride with the assumption that our children are educated in the most modernised way. But Amma sympathises with us and questions in what way do you think you are modernised? In reality it deterioration in all aspects.

We claim that our present education system is most modern and best, but even in the earlier part of the century, with the simple education system, did not India produce the finest personalities in various fields, be it in medicine, science, engineering etc? India also produced many great scientists.

The aim of good educational system is to see that the students graduate not only with academic excellence but also possess good character, noble virtues, strong willpower, emotional stability and are an asset to the parents, society and country at large.

Is the present day education able to deliver this? The youth today are weak minded and emotionally unstable and has left a void in them. The education institution today instead of imparting vidya are leading to avidya. Moral classes are no longer a part of the curriculum. Games, sports and physical exercises do not form a part of the daily timetable any longer.

Educational institutions, considered to be the sacred house of learning are also not free from crime. Many untoward incidents have occurred here. Even after paying hefty fees and securing admissions in the so-called good schools, the parents fear the safety of the child. When the innocent children become the victim of crime, the blame game starts. Each one accuses the other, the parents, the teachers, the school management and the police department. By merely blaming each other will the issue be resolved? Who is to be blamed for these crimes? Even the juvenile crime is rampant today. The element of trust is lost in the society today.

Another menace in modern educational institutions is ragging. Ragging has ruined countless innocent lives and careers. It is a crime which destroys the physical and emotional confidence and has led to an increase in suicide activities. At times it can became very brutal, inhuman and anti-social. Even some of the highly reputed colleges and institutions have a terrible history of ragging. There may be many regulations on curbing this menace of ragging. At the institutional level, the authorities have to take strict measures to avoid this and create a meaningful learning atmosphere free from fear.

Parents have a crucial role to play in moulding the child and in building its future. Hence, attention and sacrifice on their part is absolutely essential at this phase of the child's life. At this age the child should be handled with tenderness and gentleness. Parents should refrain from harsh words and harsh behaviour with the child as it could result in the child becoming stubborn or obstinate. Loving and kind words can have a positive effect on the child's mind in the formative years.

Parents send their children to music and dance classes. Music and dance is an art which is pursued for one's own joy and also gives happiness to others through their performance. Unfortunately this sacred art is misused by the media using various platforms and instilling unhealthy competition among participants. Undue recognition, heaps of praises, big money prizes which are part of the talent shows creates the desire for name and fame at an early age and also distracts them from constructive education.

Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita, the great celestial song, has taught Bharathiyas [i.e. people of India] to subdue the ego and realise the fact that God is the doer. It is not 'I' but 'HE' is the essence of His teachings. To practice this concept requires training from a very young age. Ironically today, children grow up breeding their ego and focussing on 'I', 'me' and 'mine'. Their very foundation is on a wrong footing. Children today are greatly attracted to the latest gadgets and are also exposed to high standard of living. 

With a tinge of humour Divine Mother says that the best gift for a new born will be a mobile phone. Today's youth have great fascination for the latest tech-savvy goods and have an irresistible desire to possess them, but it is beyond their means. This attraction does not deter them to even take law into their hands and go to any extent to fulfil their desires. The influence of mobile phones on today's children and youth is so high that it becomes their constant companion whether they are driving or are elsewhere. The youth are so engrossed in their phones that many times it has resulted in accidents or deaths.

Youth today are so weak minded that they lack mental strength to even face small challenges that they encounter in day to day life, be it poor academic performance, a reprimand from parents, peer pressure or any humiliation from teachers. They think that suicide is the only way to escape from these situations. The younger generation today lack the sense of discrimination and are impulsive in their actions. Suicide and crimes have become rampant in today's younger generation. From where does this instinct to indulge in crime originate? To a large extent television has a tremendous impact on their minds. At times the parents themselves allow their children to watch T.V. or play the video games so that the children are preoccupied and do not disturb them at home. At times a single scene watched on T.V. or single incident which they witness has such a deep impact on the child that it may change the very course of life. The mind is like a hidden camera which captures all it sees and absorbs like a bloating paper. This will surface at some other time resulting in crime and atrocities among the youth. Today's children lack proper guidance from teachers and parents.

Neither the parents nor the teachers have the time, patience and ability to identify the negative tendencies in the child and make an effort to eliminate them. In the olden days, the parents and grandparents inculcated the concept of "love for God and fear of sin" from a very young age. This helped them to tread the path of righteousness. It is said that if you cannot bend a sapling and you bend a tree? If you cannot mould a child, can you mould an adult, says Amma.

The parents should ensure that the child grows up in a congenial and harmonious atmosphere with joy and cheer. The child should be given healthy and nutritious food. The physical and the mental health of the child should be nurtured as a healthy body and a healthy mind brings success in every venture.

The importance of good health can be best realised in one of the compositions of Saint Meera Bai where she has emphasised on good health and prays to Lord Krishna to grant her good health so that at the last breath, the pain and suffering of the body and mind does not hinder and deviate her focus on God during the last moments. When saints who are beyond the confines of body and mind, themselves pray for good health, then for a common man leaving in a materialistic world, health is of paramount importance.

Divine Mother as the Mother of all Mothers and in genuine concern has suggested certain remedial measures which when implemented can certainly bring good positive results in the days to come. It is to be borne in mind that today's children are tomorrow's citizens. Amma advises that the day at any school or college should start with a prayer to Goddess Saraswathi invoking Her blessings. 

Management of every institution should make it mandatory to introduce a human value session once in a fortnight for children of all classes, right from standard 1 to standard 10. Compulsory participation for all including teachers, school bus drivers, attendants, subordinate staff and even school security staff should be ensured. In the forum, awareness should be given on the greatness of Indian culture, our value systems and moral stories from Indian mythology. Children and teachers should be encouraged to speak on topics like devotion, life of saints and some good personal experiences. Question and answers session should also be a part of this event which will set the children's mind thinking on the right lines. Such programmes help to build [a] healthy mind in the children, free from negative tendencies and inspires them to be good, do good and see good. These programmes help to inculcate basic values in a child and also to practise the dictum "Help ever, Hurt never". Such programmes help in restoring the glory of this great land. In addition to all these, efforts should be made to reduce the burden of too many subjects on the child and allow the child to have a healthy and cheerful childhood. Amma also strongly recommends that the use of Mobile Phones definitely needs to be restricted in school and college premises.

The Divine Mother Sai Rajarajeshwari Amma has communicated to the world what ideal education is and emphasises the role of educational institutions and parents in producing good citizens to the country.

A careful study and understanding of this message can be an eye opener and help one to set right the defects and deficiencies prevalent in today's educational system and also in upbringing of the child.

Acceptance and implementation of this divine advice is purely left to the choice and decision of the reader.

Divine Mother conveys Her love and blessings to all.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

A New Renaissance Must Come

Dear Reader,

I am lucky enough to be close to and have access to our magnificent Library of Birmingham - the largest public library in Europe - and undertake research for whatever takes my fancy on a local note ... Aston Villa FC or Birmingham local history.

For some weeks now I have been trawling through the daily evening newspapers of this place for the 1930s period, and what strikes me in particular is that the local daily of that time has so much in it to read that is interesting. Today's local popular papers usually contain bite-size chunks for the reader to consume, and no major articles for the intellect to engage in other than advice about dieting and money-making. They say there are other newspapers that are produced for that purpose, and I suppose it's just an indication of how times have changed. But today we say we are more educated. I wonder if that is really true?

In the 1930s, local papers even talked in depth about real politics and also philosophy and philosophers, and also about local history as though it mattered that Birmingham had a past that we should be proud about.

On the same kind of issue, I listen to (and read!) what the statesmen of the world are now talking of and I am struck by the banality of the dialogue. What is their basis - their philosophy; is it just about how to deal with migration and how to economically grow? I wonder.

Well, I also have the good fortune to possess a book about Dr. Albert Schweitzer, entitled "A Treasury of Albert Schweitzer". It is a treasure, I assure you, as the great doctor reveals his inner thoughts and the history of his life; a man that started out studying theology and philosophy and yet at the age of 29 decided to study medicine and then practice charitable medical service in the depths of Africa. He and Winston Churchill were contemporaries and died at roughly the same time and at a similar age, but it is Schweitzer that resonates with me as the greatest. That may be slightly unfair as Churchill had his own fate to live, and he lived it his way, but Schweitzer comes over to me as the complete human being. And amongst his talents were his ability as an organist combined with real knowledge on how to actually build an organ using classical principles!

Schweitzer's notes convey just what he thought we should be addressing in the West. Please read this example entitled "The Goal Of True Thought":
Whereas the thoughtless modern world walks aimlessly about in ideals of knowledge, skills, and power, the goal of true and profound thought is the spiritual and ethical perfection of man. This requires a new ethical civilization that seeks peace and renounces war. Only the kind of thinking dominated by reverence for life can bring lasting peace to our world. All lesser efforts for peace must forever remain unsuccessful.
A new renaissance must come, and it must be much greater than the one that lifted the world out of the Middle Ages. This new renaissance must help mankind to advance from the pathetic sense of reality in which he lives, toward the spirit of reverence for life. Only through it can mankind be saved from destruction, from its senseless and cruel wars. It alone can bring about peace in the world.
Would that the world's leaders read and think on these words.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Truth Is Beyond Logic!

Dear Reader,

A debate ensued on another blog the other day, which started with the statement:
There is no truth other than your own life as I see it, living to a moral code that defines 'what you reap, you sow' seems to me the only way to live your life.
I supported the writer on that (the view is supported also in science, as one of Newton's laws) but I also said that the method does mean you have to put some effort in, otherwise you still become the sheep!

Subsequently, the debate developed into something of a slinging match against Islam, highlighting websites that show the superiority of Christianity over Islam, quoting from various verses of the books of the two religions (the Bible and the Qur'an).

But Christians tend to overlook the shortcomings and evils in their own (man-made) religion that have blatantly surfaced over the last 1,500 years, and such articles stem from a fundamentalist standpoint. But one participant on the blog made the point: "Fundamentalism comes from a misunderstanding in my opinion and is part of the outer makeup of any religious thought not the main point."

The intentions and origins of Christianity were quite different to that which emerged out of the Council of Nicea in 325 AD. It was that Council that decided to shut out the Gospel of Thomas, which up until then was as much relied on as the Gospel of John. Little did they know that the Gospel of Thomas would reappear at Nag Hammadi!

I firmly believe that of all Christian churches, the Unitarian and the Quaker movements are the nearest to the real teachings of Jesus in their approach. The Quakers are contemplatives and generally have a peaceful approach and (traditionally) have been socially highly constructive (e.g. (in the UK) Cadbury, Rowntree and Sturge) when other branches of the church shied away from responsibility on that issue.

The way of the Unitarian movement is based on the understandings of Origen and also Arius, who rather opposed Constantine and what he established as formal (catholic) Christianity.

In other words, each of us really should follow the dictum "seek and thou shalt find". Nothing is to be assumed as being provided on a plate: self-questioning and work is called for.

In fact, let us ask the question “what is the meaning of the word ‘Islam’?

The meaning is supposed to be “submission to God”, so a Muslim (a similar root origin) is “one who submits to God”.

The test question then is, “What is the true nature of God?”. If we were to hold the examples of Da’esh (so-called ISIL) as representing the true faith then we would have a picture of a rather horrible God, almost akin to the one often portrayed in the Old Testamant. But their Prophet Muhammed does not show signs of such a view, as the likes of Bernard Shaw, Carlyle and Irving attested.

Yes, if we were to examine the nature of the great teachers Krishna, Buddha, Jesus and Muhammed you find anything but their belief in a horrible God, and, instead, ways towards peace and wisdom.

The answer then becomes obvious to my mind … seek out the original teaching to determine what is meant. And, as another participant in the debate wrote: "To use logic only as a means to judge is fraught with potential misunderstandings. ... Logic is a great tool for getting an understanding of the layout of the land as it were, and very necessary, but it cannot be complete on its own as you also need a key that is beyond intellectual logic to anything that is not just linear".

One has to delve into the practices of groups such as the Vedantists, Essenes and the Sufis before glimmers of the truth can be seen, and taking precautions on what we sow in our lives.

Thank you for reading this.