Sunday, 20 October 2019

Abiding By Reality

Dear Reader,
      Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
      The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
      When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
      Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

      Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
      Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
      Change and decay in all around I see—
      O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
This is a week where anger seems to have been raising its ugly head more than ever in recent decades. My wife and I have directly experienced the sharp end of that unsavoury instrument this week from a neighbour, and in all the main topics that form the main news of the day, anger is often the underlying principle.

Anger - by its very nature - is directed outwards, the person or persons venting their frustration against something they perceive to be the cause of their frustration. But the secret is that all too often what anger is expressed is against a reflection of their own choice or of their own belief system or of some aspect of quality apparently missing in their own lives. 

Hitler knew this, and in using its power he successfully engineered the anger of the so-called pure German people against the Jewish people to psychologically alleviate the suffering imposed on them by the victorious powers after the First World War. Anger can be a terrible weapon, and dictatorships all too often try to deflect the anger of their own people to some other cause on a false pretext.

Today, anger seems to be developing as a principle way by which people can express themselves. I am not suggesting that protesting is wrong per se, but where any violence (physical or verbal) is employed it will most likely have the reverse result of what is expected. As Ghandi successfully demonstrated.

At football matches, for example, there are pockets of fans (as a friend rightly describes) who engage in "vile chanting, which not only contains foul language, but is often personally abusive to people. What some players and managers have to put up with is also unacceptable. Some of the hand gestures towards opposing supporters, players, manager and referee are also highly offensive...".

I agreed with him and wrote to our mutually favoured football club to express this concern and suggested that some form of pre-match community singing be introduced - perhaps (but not necessarily) using the long-utilised Abide With Me heard at all FA Cup Finals. But it received a rather wishy-washy response from that club, saying they would pass the idea around but suggesting that the club should not impose such a thing on the fans.

But football clubs or their overseers have always imposed things on the fans. For example, the triumphal entrance music when the players come out, which can, in fact, exacerbate a sense of aggression. Or at least that music can suggest compliance of the club with the stimulation of a competitive spirit - which for some can degenerate into what my friend described.

Music itself has the ability to change mood, so the least competition-generating music the better in my view. And better still if those attending matches can sing in unison about something that will help to bind them together in a cooperative way. Yes, I know that fans sing their own self-made songs during the match, but that's not quite what I refer to, though it could be if the thinking behind it was appropriate.

The key matter is that all too often people generate anger about something that they themselves have helped to create. It is very easy to point fingers at others, and one reason why I am cautious about Greta Thunberg's approach. In point of fact, I believe that the argument that she and her followers put forward about mass extermination is the wrong argument - for though Climate Change is a definite matter of concern, the only solution is by all us humans changing our ways of thinking and acting.

Any protest, in my view, should be a call to all (all of us) to put progressively more trust in our Creator and by accordingly changing our ways by being a sympathetic part of what is around us.

Thus, as in Abide With Me:
    Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
    Change and decay in all around I see—
    O Thou who changest not, abide with me.
Our task - surely - is to discover what it is about ourselves that fails to comply with the reason for our creation. Why do we seek more, more, more? Why not instead seek peace, peace, peace? Why not instead seek love, love, love?

The struggle to find the truth about ourselves, and to correct it, does take a lot of self-work. But that is the only solution - not by accusing others nor seeking revenge. Those "others" are extensions of our very selves, so in reality there are no "others" to protest about!

If we believe All Is One and seek peace then we need to live that belief and be the example.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

You Are Charged To Re-Charge!

Dear Reader,

Well, it seems that the sale of electric cars has gone up quite a bit over the last year or two, but still not (of course) in huge numbers. At a price of at least £35,000 (and usually a lot more), they are out of the reach of most ordinary drivers. But the cost will come down over time.

Their introduction reminds me of a time -  when I was aged between 8 and 11  - when I accompanied my father in school holidays to his employers, a bakery company called Scribbans, for whom he was a roundsman. I'm sure that a child would these days not be allowed to do so - more the pity in my view. His delivery vehicle was usually an electric van (exactly like the Morrison vehicle depicted on the left (below)) and so part of his job was to plug in his vehicle at the end of the day, leaving it overnight to be re-charged. 

So, I got to know about the re-charging of electric vehicles nearly 70 years ago. However, when Dad and I got to his employers' depot there were all manner of vehicles that were used - electric, petrol and also horse-drawn (see pic, right). Therefore, on entering the depot the presence of horses was very obvious - by visually seeing their droppings and the general odour that was present. An experience never to be forgotten, and a small link to nature which is lost on most of the current generation. Though most would now hail the departure of such times, my view is that back then we often had some tie with natural life. Are we not part of nature?

But I will put aside those fond old memories and come back to the underlying topic of electricity. You know, if you browse the Internet for a definition of the word 'electricity' you will get some response like, "Electricity is a form of energy. Electricity is the flow of electrons." But does that give you a real idea of what it is? I can recall obtaining a book on electricity when I was a teenager and eager to know more about it, but in those days perhaps writers were more honest because the book merely said something like "We do not really know what electricity is, other than a flow of electrons". So, science and technology plod on developing incredibly amazing electronic devices, but still without knowing the origin of this power source. They assume that everything has purely a physical explanation. 

This, alas, is typical of us, that once we learn how to use something we immediately apply our materialist viewpoint and turn it into some benefit (we think) for mankind and profitability - a material application - without thanks to the Source that made it available! And also without really knowing whether we are responsibly using that source. We are like children -without wisdom - playing with new toys, and at the behest of those wanting to profit from them. And, because Electricity is simply there at the flick of a switch, we take it for granted, and thereby we are content to let the moguls drill into the ocean beds as well as into the soil to satisfy our seemingly insatiable demands. But at what detriment to Mother Earth?

How the moguls' control business developments is a study in itself. The brilliant scientist Nikola Tesla is famed for his development of alternating current electricity with ideas for making it freely available to all. The electric light bulb was known as far back as the 1920s as being able to last infinitely longer than the life we have become used to. In 1986, my wife and I visited Berne in Switzerland and observed a prototype electric vehicle using direct solar energy. What happened to that idea, that would require no financial charge to access the power source?

If we can have solar-powered sailboat drones that cross oceans, even ultra-light aircraft that circumnavigate the globe, then surely cars can be similarly powered. However, this possibility is down-played, with claims that there are problems to do with the weight of automobiles.

But, as Einstein said, every problem is an opportunity looking for a solution. Most do not seem too interested in finding it. Lightyear One is different.

In all three instances, the powers-that-be have found ways to ensure that such benefits were not allowed to find their way to the public. Profitability - for too long - has been the be and end-all in business, without even wanting to know of the ramifications. And those that play the Stock Market usually have little interest other than how much they can make out of their investment. Investment in armaments has long been seen as bringing a good return, and when a war comes along the investors wring their hands in glee and smoke cigars. We all know what happened to tobacco, where the producing companies make their product for the Asian market with higher nicotine to keep their customers addicted. Palm oil was not long ago seen as a magnificent investment opportunity - but at the cost of the lives of orangutans and great damage to an entire life support system. Who bothers to invest in mangrove swamps? This is another kind of war - such is the male mentality.

Why do we behave like this? Despite the teachings of the great masters we choose to live by what is called "the realities of life". I see it that we have been led to believe that to be cynical about life is the normality that we should abide by. Many say that love is for women, but hasn't it been shown that persons of both sexes have a mix of male and female. Then if males do not want to find out how to balance their two halves it must be because our upbringing has caused us to think otherwise.

The errors of our ways are already very much apparent. The world is crying out for compassion, not greed. Compassion is what will bring hope and purpose, not greed. Compassion is the end-game; not greed.

Developing a philosophical view based on compassion is now essential. Jacob Needleman tells us about compassion, and especially about the power of inquiry within that will help develop that sense of compassion. Click here to listen to a short interview with Needleman.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 6 October 2019

How Do We Gain True Democracy?

Dear Reader,

Democracy is the worst system, except for all the other systems - Winston Churchill

With my apologies for digressing before I have barely started this artice, have you ever experienced really big coincidences, or synchronicity? You must have, or perhaps you've not stopped to notice them.

Particularly since I started writing regularly about 10 years ago, I've noticed great coincidences appearing on an increasingly regular basis. One of these coincidences concerned research and subsequent article I did 2 or 3 years back about a pioneering pre-WW1 aviator from Birmingham - an aviator that no-one else had heard of - or so I thought. I published my article in Carl Chinn's Brummagem magazine, only to find - only 2 months later - another, parallel, article about the very same person in another magazine published down south. The other writer (not even a Brummie!) knew a bit more than I in a certain area about that aviator, and, likewise, I knew a bit more than the other writer, so we were able to fuse our knowledge to produce a bigger picture of the subject. To my knowledge, no other person has ever written on the same topic, yet here were two articles published on this subject within two months of one another!

And now, this week, it's happened again. In today's situation where we seem to have a lot of political confusion and discord, I felt an urge to write something on the reform of democracy; it seemed to me that it's a matter that needs a big review. Then, lo and behold, I found that a Scottish writer had, only in this past month, written an article on the same subject, and effectively voicing a basis of reform that related to my own view. I will, in fact, quote some of his words while putting them into my own context. His full article can be read here.

Firstly, the writer (Ian) very correctly explains:
The word ‘democracy’ comes from ancient Greece and means: Demos = ‘people’ and Kratia = ‘power’. However, if you believe as many do, that ‘the people’ have never been more disenfranchised than they are today, then we must look for some system-change.
The basis of discussion here is that (as I see it) we have a divide that exists between those that are supposed to represent us and we, the people, because both 'sides' cannot trust one another. Those that we elect are too often found wanting - though there are some excellent representatives - and we, the people, frankly cannot see the bigger picture nor grasp the detail to coherently and fully argue any major topic, or clearly see its relevance to us. Plus the whole issue of how party politics is played; particularly two-party politics and the influence of vested interests and pressure groups.

So, as Ian states, in reflecting on the matter of Brexit:
...we ask millions of lay men and women to make complex decisions, based on often-shoddy information – remember the ‘£350m for the NHS’ bus in 2016?
And not only that, but the complete picture of Brexit was withheld. It seemed to me that the EU referendum question and campaign was being addressed at the mass of voters from the north to the south of England, as though the Irish, Scots, Welsh and Gibraltarians were incidentals in the whole issue. Unfortunately, Westminster (particularly the Conservatives) sees "the UK" as simply being an area of England, and the closer to London the better as far as it is concerned. Farming was another largely ignored area of interest.

For example, did anyone - during the referendum campaign - mention anything about the potential issue on the border between Ireland and North of Ireland and which would create a stumbling block in Britain withdrawing from the EU? Someone at a high level must have realised but chose not to voice the point. No meaningful facts were put before the voters during that campaign. We just had slogans thrown at us.

People, in hindsight, still say they were totally informed and completely understood the issues at hand in the referendum, but the only issues most were really interested in was what directly affected them, and nothing else. The big picture was ignored by a good many of those that voted, but they were never encouraged to take in the facts of the big picture to start with. I suspect that Westminster fears that if they were to attempt to tell the people the real truth, they would be voted out, so they instead paint a picture to suit their self-image and agenda.

Politics has for too long worked from the basis of representing the short-term needs of the voters whereas a big picture needs first to be looked at to understand where such policies might take us. Climate Change (resulting from misguided industrial, farming and social practises) is a good example of how short-term expediencies can lead us completely down the wrong alley. And that's only one example of many, such as HS2 etc etc.

Ian further states: 
As the British media’s score in the Press Freedom Index continues to slide – from 20 in 2010 to 40 in 2018 – so does our trust in the information it provides. Add into the mix shadowy influencers like Cambridge Analytica, along with Facebook’s failure to moderate its content or protect your data, and the only valid conclusion is [that democracy is] a broken system.
So, some substantial reparation is needed, it would seem, for democracy to really work. On the matter of how best to organise a decision on any key issue, Ian suggests a practical route which, though it is written from a Scottish stance, seems to me to be universally applicable as a way to invoke true democracy and regain the interest of the voter:
... [in] facing a climate catastrophe [or any other serious challenge], we must seek alternatives – the most credible of which being proposed is Citizens’ Assemblies.
As someone who was personally involved in taking Extinction Rebellion direct action at parliament on 25 January this year over climate change, along with other activists, the point was made that a Citizens’ Assembly would be able to deliberate climate change policy, free from the corruption of Scottish oil and gas lobbyists.
When commercial interests have no closed-door access to Citizens’ Assembly members, then we can be confident they will not take preference, above planet or people. Members are not reliant upon business donors for elections funds, nor are they disproportionally the people who mix in the same social circles as the wealthy.
Whilst a member may come into the process with less understanding of environmental issues as a politician might, a blank canvas can be a benefit. It has been shown with only one responsibility to focus upon their knowledge soon surpasses the generalist politician, who has responsibilities on many differing committees.
In Ireland when a difficult question rears its head, they do not simply hold a referendum and risk [a breakdown in] social cohesion. To tackle major, divisive constitutional issues – like with gay marriage or abortion – they used Citizens’ Assemblies to deliberate first. The process of deliberation is where the seeds of national consensus are sowed, with constitutional ratification coming later and without ripping each other to shreds.
Constitutional issues still dominate the national discussion today and sadly prevent us from focussing on other issues that would improve people’s lives. Very little has been resolved in the past five years. So it is time for a new approach to politics and this – not my position on [Scottish] independence or Brexit – is what I will invest my energy in campaigning for. Power to people and everyone equal.
It is not that long ago that the senior representatives in local councils had the prefix 'alderman', a word stemming from Anglo-Saxon times that indicated how there was once a practise that relied on the wisdom of 'elder-men' to guide the community. It is a principle that was followed in many ancient societies.

Though I am not suggesting that we should return to precisely the same ancient system, in its time it must have worked pretty well, and I feel that Citizens’ Assemblies are in some way a modern-day equivalent of that idea. The strongest argument for it is that such a method is virtually free from the risk of undue influences and party politics. People often ask why the NHS cannot be run by a panel with representatives from all political parties, but I would suggest that the Citizens’ Assembly approach would be a better method.

Direct action in important affairs seems to me to be a critical need.

This Electoral Reform article is worth reading in my opinion.

But now for the big caveat. Better systems are all very well, but in a time when our system of education is questionable and when aggression seems to be creeping into all aspects of interaction (gratuitously fed by the media), merely providing a better system to make democracy work better is by no means going to change the world for the better by itself.

The better priority - in my view - is that we should firstly review our system of human values so that we can be better informed to see the bigger picture.  I do feel that we need to get in touch with our real selves to enable us to behave as a true homo sapiens, so we should also put an educational review in tow to achieve an awareness of how we should live our lives as true human beings sans reliance on media rather than being educated with the focus being on how to make a living. The latter is necessary, but only within a sound system of human values that we can all sign up to.

The reason why the world is in the kind of predicament it is, is that we have been looking at the definition of success according to how materially rich we become individually, corporately and as a nation. Foolishly, financial clout long ago became the major measuring stick of what is 'good'. What folly. Even today Climate Change is simply seen by many as an opportunity to create new businesses to combat the issue, with the same old principles of living that we've already seen to be folly.

Sadly, I fear that we still have to experience a disaster or two more before the penny drops and we really start to take the necessary steps to correct the situation. 

Thank you for reading this.

Footnote: I am not a greatly-qualified academic, but in my early years I did study government, economics and constitutional law up to university diploma level, and also worked in local government legal offices until I changed tack and went into the computer industry aged 22, way back in 1966. Since when I ran my own small IT consultancy business for 20 years and for a time have been a community worker and have been involved in politics. I was brought up to take politics seriously, but it is a minefield and I feel it has lost its soul - if it ever had one. I also have a deep interest in, and am conscious about, British and European history (and other world histories) as well as - and especially - ecology and philosophy. I do not believe that you can properly study one of these subjects without also embracing at least two of the others.

So, while I by no means claim to know everything, I have devoted a fair amount of energy over 75 years on matters that have today become of central importance to the world, the main issue being how to apply compassion. I welcome open discussion on these issues.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Don't Panic Mr Mainwaring!

Dear Reader,

Matters are moving-apace are they not? This past week has seen headlines on matters of concern, whether it's Greta Thunberg and the UN on Climate Change, or Trump being trumped or the face-up between Khan and Modi at the UN over Kashmir, or Boris Johnson and the Supreme Court on Boris's attempt at breaking Constitutional Law. 

And in their return to Parliament on Wednesday, we witnessed the worst of what our Parliamentarians can produce while under the full spotlight of people around the world who were interested to tune in, probably in anticipation of a riveting debate at the highest level. All they saw and heard were the worst - almost marketplace - accusations and counter-accusations, with only the SNP (as always) providing a speech of any calm maturity. Macho has no charm. Britain has gone down another notch as far as the rest of the world is concerned. The "home of all parliaments" showed itself to be a wasteland of conceit and party warfare and toxicity, at a time when constructive leadership was (and is) needed.

This has certainly been a week for sarcasm and denial, whether it's Greta Thunberg being put down by President Trump or described as "melodramatic" (by Piers Morgan, who is possibly a Trump agent). And then the Tory's Attorney-General speaking way over the top in putting down the very place in which he works (Parliament) before Johnson returned to the fray and earned no new alliances with his opponents - nor the rest of the country - by insisting his innocence while camouflaged by more blustering. Meanwhile, the Labour Party has condemned what has been happening in Kashmir and wants international support to enter the region, despite the fact that Kashmir is Indian territory - not a separate state. This is a matter that is worth a separate article.

The Left don't get it right, and the Right don't get it. And it's very noticeable that wherever you look (except in Pakistan and China) women are having an increasing influence in providing sound opposition to macho politics. Thank goodness.

See this short Greta Thunberg video about the importance of trees.

What I do, sadly, have an argument with Greta Thunberg about is the manner of her speech at the UN. Unfortunately, there is a tone of "you created this problem [i.e. the environment and climate change]" when, in reality, today's situation is the culmination of man's misdirection of his energies over many, many generations - not just by this generation. Today's people are only the children of their predecessors and what they taught them (and me). 

The suggestion has often been put that Greta has been manipulated by her cause-orientated parents, and perhaps there is some truth in that. But, aside from the manner of her speech and those that she addresses as guilty, it surely does not take away the veracity of the cause itself? After all, if your own home were to be threatened by fire or inundated by something else, wouldn't you want to take action? Let us consider Mother Earth to be our first home, for without her we could not build our own shelter.

In fact, I am by no means excusing today's world leadership, but perhaps we should consider that human consciousness has only now evolved to a point that it can (having been forced to see the futility of single-minded materialist thinking by its result) understand the wisdom of the ancients. For example the North American Indians, who lived in intelligent harmony with their environment, but were trampled down as "savages". Yes, "the ancients" did (and do) have a lot more wisdom than we, although historians often paint them all with the same brush as being as much self-seeking as ourselves.

It must be admitted that Greta's tone was not of the best form. Nevertheless, the wisdom of the great masters Jesus, the Buddha and others is coming closer to its fruition as a result of mankind's utter folly. Love (of all of creation) will triumph - and sooner than we might think. And it will triumph despite the goings-on in politics, and even Greta's work.

Though there is urgency, proper reflection within our selves - as spiritual beings - can, and will, reveal answers. Panic is not the answer. Greta's idea that mass annihilation is upon us may not be wrong, but what she should also have underlined is the kind of correction that is needed. We do have the capacity to stop and reflect on what we're doing. Only when enough people learn to stop and contemplate and have compassion will we know how to act and obtain peace. And a sustainable future. It only needs a swing of 5% to move in a different direction. I believe we're already moving that way.

However, I do not believe that the accumulation of wealth is immoral in itself provided that its ownership is combined with wisdom - that is, how should wealth be properly earned and used. Sadly, however, this very week our next-door (and ostensibly mature) neighbours were outside, happily taking snaps of their newly-acquired third motor vehicle - a third gas-guzzling vehicle. For them, it's as though the UN meeting on Climate Change was irrelevant! Just how can we relate to such people without anger? It's difficult, and they are not at all a rarity of that attitude in this locality.

The so-sad thing is that despite all the warning signs of ecological danger, there is so much waste - particularly in the Western world - with people still going on as though no adjustment is relevant to them. It is already past the time for them to wake up. 

They say that what goes around comes around. Indian philosophy calls it karma.

How to correct karma? Partly by correcting consciousness. 

As Albert Einstein observed:
A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.
The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.
So, let's go and plant some trees in the deserts. With love.

Thank you for reading this.

Footnote: I wish to be excused to state that I am not a greatly-qualified academic, but in my early years I did study government, economics and constitutional law up to university diploma level, and also worked in local government legal offices until I changed tack and went into the computer industry aged 22, way back in 1966. Since when I ran my own small IT consultancy business for 20 years and for a time have been a community worker and have been involved in politics. I was brought up to take politics seriously, but it is a minefield and has lost its soul - if it ever had one. I also have a deep interest in, and am conscious about, British and European history (and other world histories) as well as - and especially - ecology and philosophy. I do not believe that you can properly study one of these subjects without also embracing at least two others.

So, while I by no means claim to know everything, I have devoted a fair amount of energy over 75 years on matters that have today become of central importance to the world, the main issue being how to apply compassion. I welcome open discussion on these issues.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

The Real Meaning Of Sand-wich?

Dear Reader,

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, 
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand 
And Eternity in an hour.

- William Blake.

Well, it may depend on which kind of sand granule.

This week we have had, of course, the world-wide demonstration by schoolchildren and others against the slow-shoe-shuffle performance of the Establishment in getting its act together about Climate Change. But the call to action by those who are to inherit the Earth has not come early enough; it should really have been voiced 10 or more years ago to trigger a strong change of thinking and action then, not now at the 11th hour.

To those involved in the front-line, it was perfectly clear back then what was evolving, and also to those that had (even as onlookers) studied the situation over the preceding 50 years. But world governments had long mastered the art of keeping people away from the truth, and people don't like to change their habits, nor think they're going to get poorer. 

In any case, money had to be made first to pay for the safety of the richest. Or at least that is how it now appears in the year 2019.

But it's not just Climate Change, is it? - though that's a big enough topic. In reality, the issue has long been about how we treat the planet and all the creatures that are on it. It's our very behaviour that is in question! Even the larger creatures have been disappearing at an alarming rate, but it's not just the larger ones: the state of the smallest is also critical, and that means that the food chain (from the bottom up) is severely affected.

As to one way by which the smallest creatures are affected has come to light in an hour-long documentary that I only came to see yesterday. In it was described in comprehensive detail how not only rivers but ocean beds have been dredged for sand for a long time now. The reason? Because the world's building industry demands it; the construction of buildings and roads is so much cheaper when you use concrete (obviously a sand-based commodity). It appears that it is no longer possible to find sand in traditional sources as it has run out there, and dredging has been the main mode of supply for some time now, as well as its mining and other dubious methods.

You might ask: "Why not utilise the sand in the deserts?" The problem here is that the sand of the deserts is not coarse or rough enough. Desert sand is constantly being refined smooth and granular by winds and renders the sand unusable for building. And, in any case, when the desert sands have been utilised, what then? But that is purely a rhetorical question as it happens.

A good account of the situation is described in this Guardian article. This article was written a year ago - but what interest has been taken in this? It seems not to have been read by those who need to read it. The topic has evaded discussion in Parliament (it seems) as it might cause discomfort in the construction industry. The British approach is to be 'nice' and talk about the weather. Oh, wait, isn't that the topic called Climate Change?

To know more, please see this documentary.

So, dredging is now the means for most of the supply of sand. The horrifying corollary to that method, of course, is that when these big dredgers dredge, they don't just pick up sand - they also dredge up small living creatures and destroy them, and the life systems at the bottom of the waterways. This is now one of the biggest causes of the disappearance of the food chain at the bottom level. And it's not only that which is affected - it's also the polluting effect of dredging surrounding areas, even affecting the supply and availability of fish. And the pollution of land.

The problem is hugely increasing. We have long known about the issues surrounding fossil-fuel extraction and fracking, but the matter of sand seems to have passed most people by.

It's almost comical that news was published this year (2019) about the loss of the sand on the beaches at Tenby, in Wales. It's been washed away and replaced with nowt. But the powers-that-be simply and glibly state, "Oh, the sands will be back". Perhaps.

What's the alternative approach? Well, the building industry could revert a lot more to utilising ancient methods of building that have been long-proven. For example, the utilisation of straw left over after harvests. But will they? Business is famous for looking at the bottom line, so for as long as sand is the cheapest base to use, why change (they will say)? Perhaps the way in which builders now work is so ingrained they cannot see the sand for the sand dunes!

Let's at the very least put a stop to the vanity projects at places such as Dubai and Singapore, which are a big part of the sand problem. How do we do that? By no longer giving them our custom.
Dubai vanity project - how much sand had to be dredged to create this?
This scenario, however, is just another Doomsday picture that reflects just how careless mankind is on a large scale. Though it's not a popular statement to make, we all have to seriously re-think how to live our lives - and certainly expect less, because that is the implicit message that is now daubed all over planet Earth. If you want to take some personal action then perhaps stop flying, if that's what you do. At least stop flying to Dubai, or to any other place based on artificial generation.

Anyhow, we should be happier people when we have less, and a return to that is nigh inevitable. I remember my childhood days in the 1940s and 1950s - before television - with relish. People used to visit one another and enjoy one another's company in a much better way back then. In fact, a great many of our visitors were birds! We do not see anywhere near so many now. And we tended to appreciate what we had.

Thank you for reading this.

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.