"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.




Thursday, 29 December 2011

The Incredible Edibles Campaign

I hope all my readers have had a good Christmas and I wish them all a Happy New Year.
Here is another of those posts that overlaps my blogs, so I make no apology for posting it here as well as on my allotment blog.
I've just come across a fantastic idea - one that started in the UK but is gathering interest from other parts of the world. I was listening to BBC Radio 4's You and Yours programme today and pricked up my ears when I heard mention of food sustainability. Vegetables are being grown in a graveyard, I heard, and then came another snippet; that our food production accounts for 23% of our carbon footprint. So I stopped my noisy food processor and started to listen properly.
Todmorden is a an old Victorian mill town on the Lancashire/West Yorkshire border. 3 years ago it set out to be the first town to become self sufficient in food, with a target set for 2018. They call it the Incredible Edible campaign. And whilst the founders do not feel that the target date is totally achievable, nevertheless they are doing well - and they have a wonderful website to prove it, full of amazing resources to support those already in the loop, and to encourage others to start in their own localities.
The idea is that veggies and edibles are grown in public and unused spaces for the common plate, and it is now being put into practice in Wilmslow for example, and in Totnes, the original Transition Town.
And it's not just about growing fruit and vegetables - at least in Todmorden. It's also about educating residents on what to look for in sustainable meat supplies, and in how to pickle and bottle summer surpluses for winter consumption.
Now here's something I could start rolling in our own town! Just give me a little time! We've already started encouraging our local school to grow vegetables, for example, and we have a community orchard, but this is one huge step further. If there are any hints and tips out there as to how to start (in addition to the online resources mentioned), I'd love to hear.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Friday, 23 December 2011

What would you do?

Imagine the scene. All the family is at home with you for Christmas. You are having a lovely party time – all is merriment and joy. Suddenly your child lunges out at his cousin with the toy sword you gave him from Santa. Blood is drawn and your son shows no sign of stopping. What do you do? You stop him, take away the sword, tend the wounds of the cousin, apologize profusely to the mother and impose punishment or sanctions or both on your son. Of course you do. You do most or all of these things, and peace is restored, a lesson has been learned. You may even think twice about the choice of present another year. You can take some responsibility.You can make a difference.

Now imagine the party scene again, only this time there is a fracas outside your house, in the street. A youth is beating up another and it looks violent. Do you just ignore it? Of course you don’t. If there are enough big strong men in your party they may go out and separate the lads, restore peace: although the police frown upon this vigilante approach, and sadly the good guys may suffer at the hands of the lads. So at the very least you call the police. Don’t you? Of course you do. And if you have any sense of social responsibility at all you would not, should not, resent paying appropriate taxes or rates to fund agents of law and order to keep your home, street, town, county, state or country safe.

Now imagine the party scene one more time – only you have turned on the TV news, just in time to see scenes of appalling rioting, violence and arson on the streets of the town a few miles away.

Or you see scenes of appalling rioting, violence and arson, or murder, or torture, or any dreadful abuse of human rights a little further afield - just across the border, in the next State, County, Country, even in another Continent…global news reaches our front room so quickly and graphically in this digital age.

What do you do?

You may be getting the idea.
Where do we draw the line, the boundaries.
What can we do to relieve suffering elsewhere. Does suffering matter less to us the further away it is, the more remote it is from our own circle of family and friends?
What is our government doing about global suffering? Is it enough? Do we campaign enough? Can we help financially? Can we influence with our vote?

We all tend to live in our own bubble. But not caring about our fellow human beings wherever they live, whoever they are, diminishes us as humans.

Surfing the internet, I came upon the following story told by Amital Etzioni in his blog (July 27, 2007) in connection with his book Spirit of Community.

Five shoppers at a Witchita, Kansas convenience store simply stepped over the body of 27 year-old LaShanda Calloway who lay on the floor bleeding severely. None stopped to ask if she was in need of assistance. None even bothered to call 911. Ms. Calloway died later that day at a Witchita hospital of injuries the result of a stabbing; she had been an innocent bystander, wounded in someone else’s fight.

What can you do to help heal this world?

Let’s bring compassion and empathy back into our lives.
Let’s bring Christ back into Christmas.

I'm taking a few days out from blogging - and I wish all my readers a very happy Christmas. May we all work in 2012 towards a more compassionate World.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

More about the Occupy protests

I am leaving the photos of Occupy…up on my blog for the time being because I support much of what their protest is all about. So much so in fact that I visited the tent city in London outside St Paul’s Cathedral to chat to some of the occupiers and to see for myself what they are doing and the way they are thinking. I even left a copy of my book at their library, because it addresses the issues with which they have so much concern. This is not just about "fat cats" and bankers bonuses, although these do signal a malaise in our society. This protest is about sustainable living, looking after the environment, and justice for all.
Perhaps we really are now in a slow paradigm shift, when realization is at last dawning that we simply cannot carry on the way we have done to date.
Three quotes I have come across in my reading over the last few days sum it up neatly I think:

“People have had enough of the current economic model. The current political system has failed to deliver on its promise of prosperity for all.”
Richard Murphy founder of The Tax Justice Network

“…people are being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.”
Tim Jackson Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Prosperity-without-Growth-Economics-Finite/dp/1849713235/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1324478109&sr=1-1

“Money is not wealth; real wealth is land, forest, rivers, animals and people…Let us respect the generous Earth and wild Nature, the eternal source of wellbeing and prosperity. If we take care of people and Nature, then the economy will take care of itself…Some people might say that this is too idealistic; but what have the realists done? They have made a complete mess of the world economy…”
Satish Kumar Resurgence

Richard Murphy in The Courageous State calls for governments and courageous politicians to deliver real transformation in people’s lives. I agree to an extent, but they cannot do it alone. They can only change things so far. Real change for a better world needs us to change our own hearts and minds as well, something I explore in some detail in Healing…, not only in connection with our failed economy, but in many other facets of life as well where we have current concerns.

It’s only because Gandhi was so right that he is quoted so often:

We must be the change we want to see in the world.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

angels from the realms of glory!

Aren't they lovely!!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Big Society part 2

Synchronicity is an amazing thing! It never fails to amaze me. Just as I had posted yesterday's blog on the Big Society a blog I follow Apprentice2Jesus came up with this link to a brilliant piece by Michael Hyatt on Five Ways you can become an Absolute Hero
It really has to be read - we all need this kind of reminder more often. 



The photo is in La Gomera

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

“No one knows what the “big society” is, say MPs

I just cannot help feeling people are being na├»ve about UK Prime Minister Cameron’s “The Big Society.” I think I call it Real Community, and that is a term more readily understood across the world.
“No one knows what the “big society” is, say MPs.” That is the headline in today’s newspaper.
In the same paper I read that “Paris bans beggars from top tourist and shopping spots,” as these vagrants upset and offend the shoppers. The poor and homeless begging in shop doorways and at entrances to the metro or underground whether in Paris or London are not part of a “big society.”And the only offence we should feel is that in 21st Century Europe there is any need at all for begging.
Kids roaming the streets out of boredom, getting involved in gangs and drugs; that’s not part of a “big society.” Over 1 million unemployed youngsters in the UK; that’s not “big society.” The filth and litter all over our streets; that’s not part of a “big society.” The elderly who are lonely and isolated at home, or abused and bullied in care homes; that’s not “big society.” The young family struggling to bring up their disabled children on insufficient income who don’t even know their neighbors, who wouldn’t know where they could knock on a door to get help or support in an emergency. The rogues stealing metal plaques from gravestones and war memorials because scrap metal dealers will pay good prices now for them; that most certainly is not “big society.”
Perhaps it is easier to say what a “big society” is NOT than what it is.

The people selling the Big Issue on the streets – now that IS part of a bigger society! At least they are aspiring for a better life and doing something about it. But they receive support, both from the Big Issue operation itself, and from those of us who stop and talk to them, get to know them, buy their magazine (fantastic value and cheaper than that hyper- caloried drink you have just bought), even on occasions buy them a hot drink (OK call me a softie). But little things like that, being nice to other people, helping them on their way, all help to make the world a little bit better and ARE one step towards a “big society”.

Real community starts in the streets where we live. It starts with our own families, with our neighbors and friends, and extends to friends at work, in our church, in our club or society. But it should never ever exclude others around us who share our “space.” We are all human beings, with the same needs and vulnerabilities, and even finding just a little time to help others is time very well spent in the huge scheme of things.
Of course we cannot personally solve all the seamier problems of our broken society. We will sometimes need help and support from local and national government, and from other agencies, whether this comes through regulation or from practical resources. Of course we cannot solve housing problems on our own, for example, or the gangs on “sink” estates. But Gandhi did say: “YOU must be the change you want to see in the world.” And for that change to come about we all have to start small. Start in our own back yard. And that way we WILL start to build a “Big Society.”

Jonathan Sacks wrote somewhere that  
‘A community is where they know your name and where they miss you if you are not there [Sacks’ italics] Community is society with a human face.’ 
In other words, Big Society.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

HOW GREEN ARE YOU? 50 WAYS TO SAVE THE PLANET

It is in our gift to stop harming our planet.

There is now widespread scientific agreement on the parlous state of the environment, in spite of the cynics and skeptics who would love to believe that the earth will always be able to sustain the profligate Western lifestyle as it spreads across the whole world. Earth has finite resources and is groaning under the strain.
In any event, many of us are beginning to feel unease with the current materialist and consumerist culture of the West; we hold visions of a simpler, more satisfying and “better” way of life, more connected at a spiritual level with our fellow beings, with nature and the cosmos.

An Environment Agency survey in 2007 of 25 leading scientists and environmentalists asked them for their ideas on the 50 most important things that will save the planet. Some of the suggestions require input at organizational, national, governmental or global level. Some require clever science. But there are many ideas we can take on board individually or locally as a community, by changing the way we behave; and many of these will actually save us money. So here are the behavioural items, in order of priority:

· Power down, use less energy and say goodbye to standby. There are some very good inexpensive gadgets on the market to help here.
· Consider generating your own renewable energy using currently available schemes see http://www.energysavingtrust.org.uk/Generate-your-own-energy
· Fly less.
· Buy less, buy better. Buy secondhand not new, on need not greed. Support the charity shops.
· Use the local Freecycle scheme where possible to dispose of your unwanted stuff. http://uk.freecycle.org/
· Make your home as eco-friendly as possible with water and energy saving devices and adequate insulation.
· Stop seeing money as the one big indicator of success!
· Stop buying wood products from unsustainable sources.
· Support Fairtrade and fair-trade – think about where goods come from.
· Is your car journey really necessary?
· Grow your own.
· Ditch the decking and the patio heater.
· Think community – think local.
· Wake up to wildlife and biodiversity.
· Use pedal power or even “shanks’s pony” wherever possible.
· Know your own carbon footprint and reduce it! See tools at http://footprint.wwf.org.uk/ and http://www.decc.gov.uk
· Support stuff that lasts and can be repaired.
· Use the internet creatively – e.g. the U.S. led site http://www.treehugger.com/
· Shun unnecessary packaging whenever you shop.
· Wear more layers and cut down on heating bills.


The full list and the detail can all be found at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/ (and search for “The 50 Things”).
High up on the full list at number 2, after “standby,” was the vital role that religious and faith leaders can collectively play. “Religious leaders need to make the planet their priority,” the report concludes: “The world’s faith groups have been silent for too long on the environment…” I agree wholeheartedly and I discuss at some length in my own book some of the faith initiatives that are already in hand. They need our support and prayer.

So let’s all work to reduce our carbon footprint. We need to tread more gently on our earth.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Thursday, 8 December 2011

A Common Word between Us and You - a dialogue between Islam and Christianity

Occasionally I repeat an article across my blogs. I make no apology for this if I believe it to be so important that I want it to reach as wide an audience as possible. So here is one such repeat.

"Arguably one of the most important books of our time. All Christians and Muslims should know about this initiative."

That was how I ended the blog the other day over on my other site Wisdom of Tolerance about A Common Word, the Muslim initiative addressed to Christians, prompted by the Islamic furore provoked in many Muslim countries by part of the Pope’s 2005 Regensburg address.
And the response is said to have been phenomenal. Quoting from the Cambridge Interfaith Programme site, “A Common Word has been the subject of major international conferences at Yale University, the University of Cambridge - facilitated by CIP, Lambeth Palace and Georgetown University, over 600 Articles—carried by thousands of press outlets—have been written about A Common Word in English alone, over 200,000 people have visited the Official Website of A Common Word (and) over 6000 people have ‘fully endorsed’ A Common Word online alone.”

But in the grand scale of things, although these together make for a very promising start, they are but “a drop in the ocean.” As the book so rightly reminds us, there needs to be a trickle down effect to reach the masses, and the learned conferences and articles are but a stage towards that goal. There is a significant proportion of the population that can only be reached by people of influence: by Imams, priests, teachers, lecturers, youth leaders etc. They’re not going to read conference reports and educated commentary. We need that trickle down effect to start working in a big way to reach beyond the intellectual and the well educated, to reach out to the masses, many of whom do not read very widely if at all and may harbour plenty of prejudice born of ignorance and fear. And we need plenty of responsible media reporting and press officers in organizations who can push for that responsible reporting to reach out as far and wide as possible. Because not only can the media be hugely influential in that trickle down effect; They also have the networks to become tentacles reaching out laterally as far and wide into crevices of public ignorance and prejudice as possible. And if we continue the water metaphors, we need Ripples of Hope, because as Robert Kennedy said all those many years ago, in Cape Town in 1966:

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

When I think of what needs to be done to promote tolerance and peace, I am reminded of Tariq Jahan, the hero in the Birmingham riots earlier this year after his son Haroon had been killed in the violence. ‘I lost my son.” He said to the angry crowd, “Blacks, Asians, whites, we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.”
Now if every person of influence at grass roots level where there is a choice between violence and anger or dialogue and calm could step forward and speak up for peace between us all in the same dignified way that Tariq did back in August, couldn’t we begin to build a better world for us all?

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Parque Maritime Playa Vallehermosa, La Gomera




Parque Maritime at Playa de Vallehermosa La Gomera.
Last time I went I had a lovely meal there and it was a cultural centre, museum, gift shop and a pleasant place to be. Now it is all shut up, the road half washed away and looking very sad and sorry for itself. Anyone know what has happened?

Monday, 5 December 2011

La Gomera up in the clouds

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Woodvale Challenge - start postponed

Sadly the wind increased yesterday and by this morning the organisers decided to postpone the start for 24 hours - sad for those all psyched up to start today - and for families whose nerves are already fairly frayed and especially for those who have flights booked to go home tomorrow and may not be able to see the start after all. It is hard for everyone.
So we went up to the north of La Gomera to look at the seas - and the swell was certainly quite awesome - but nothing I guess to what the lads and lasses will have to contend with in mid Atlantic in due course!!
Again Good Luck to you all!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Woodvale Challenge - Good luck to you all


Rations!!


2550 nautical miles

Sets off this Sunday 4th December

Good luck to you all!!

Monday, 28 November 2011

The Woodvale Challenge - Good luck Andrew Brown

"The Woodvale challenge is a biannual race and sees 40-50 boats row across the Atlantic. Solo, Pairs and Fours all take part in the race with crews arriving between 50-90 days after they leave from La Gomera.

Andrew is entered in the solo class.

• Departing from San Sebastian, La Gomera - 4 December 2011
• Arriving in Barbados - from February 2012
• Total distance - 2,935 miles

Successful completion of the row will make Andrew the 26th British person to row the Atlantic East to West. Andrew is aiming to complete the row in 70 – 80 days however weather conditions can result in solo boats taking up to 120 days for the crossing."

So good luck Andrew - you are in the thoughts and prayers of so many people.

And if you are reading this, do follow the link for lots more about the race and to support Andrew. What an amazing way to raise money for charity. It makes my charity bike rides look like a walk in the park!!

Ethical Investment

Many of us own company stock, some of us perhaps without even knowing it, or at least thinking about it, because it is out of sight in our pension funds (although the deep recession at the end of the first decade of the new millennium, and the turmoil on world financial markets, brought such funds sharply into focus for many). Businesses must now be more accountable for their green credentials. But what about those companies that still operate unethical work practices. Those holding pension funds delegate full powers of investment to the fund managers who will be motivated and driven by the need to maximize profits and growth for the funds in their charge. As major shareholders these funds have enormous powers and are not likely to consider the ethical views of the individual pensioners against the overall drive for growth. It may seem that the individual does not have a voice. But we can have our say; we can influence others. All it needs is knowledge and courage and the support of other like - minded people. It can be done. Have you ever questioned your pension fund managers on this?
Does the small shareholder really know or even care how the company operates as long as he receives his regular dividend income? Can he possibly understand the full implications of the company’s business, how it treats its employees, how it deals with its waste, how it invests its own money. So many shareholders make their investments motivated solely by profit, without any regard for the ethical considerations. This is no less true of buying shares than buying consumer goods.
The implications of all this are enormous. As individuals we may unwittingly be helping to fuel warfare, for example, by carelessly investing or allowing our pension funds or banks or investment funds or unit trusts to invest in any company involved along the way with the production of weapons.
I pray for there to be a shift in attitude. When I was in practice as a Chartered Accountant and Independent Financial Adviser I had a particular interest in ethical investment funds for my clients. One bank without my knowledge or consultation transferred the ethical funds of one of my most principled clients into its own funds, declaring in the process that they would never take ethical considerations into account in their investment choices, only investment performance. This was some time ago. I hope the bank has reviewed its policies. Individuals who would think of themselves as ethical and feel aghast at the mess we are in have had their conscience swayed by the profit promise in this way. Have you checked the ethics of your own bank? There is plenty of information now available to check this out. Do you care?
Even the employees of a company who individually may think of themselves as honest and decent can be remote from the realities of the company’s business and the adverse environmental or social effects it may be initiating in its drive to make profits.
Do you know what your employer really does? Not just at the superficial level of your daily employment, but at grass roots? Are you absolutely comfortable with the company’s trading practices, its markets and its environmental footprint? And if not, what are you doing about it?
Most important of all we need to bring the healing power of spiritual values back into the company and its boardrooms. In our businesses and economies we can choose between technologies that are ‘developed for…commercial profit...that disregard natural rhythms and human aspirations’ or we can adopt a technology that is ‘appropriate, benign and renewable and makes a small footprint on the Earth. Such technologies work in harmony with nature, rather than attempting to dominate or conquer her.’(1)

‘Whereas we,’ said Dr. Robert in Huxley’s Island, ‘have always chosen to adapt our economy and technology to human beings - not our human beings to somebody else’s economy and technology. We import what we can't make; but we make and import only what we can afford. And what we can afford is limited not merely by our supply of pounds and marks and dollars, but also primarily - primarily,’ he insisted, ‘by our wish to be happy, our ambition to become fully human.’ (2)

A healed economy will support a global justice for all: it will give us all equal opportunities that we may flourish and become fully human. Are we all doing what we can as individuals to contribute towards that healing?

Adapted from Healing this Wounded Earth © Eleanor Stoneham 2011


1. Canon Revd. Peter Challen, SLIM annual lecture 2005. A Ministry of Service in Economic Life – Servants, Pastors, Prophets and Fools - 60 years of servants seeking the economy that befits the Kin-dom of God, South London Industrial Mission annual lecture 2005 sourced 4 December 2005, but no longer available at site, http://www.industrialmission.org.uk/cms/
2. Aldous Huxley, Island, London: Grafton Books, 1976, p.164.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Spending Power

My last post was about individual responsibilities and I have more to say about that now.
Governing bodies are cumbersome. They move ponderously and not always in the right direction. Time delays between ideas and action can be far too long. And then policies stall as the political power base changes. Action is much more effective at local level with individual commitment. So what inhibits us?
Our money gives us ‘spending power’. By choosing how we spend it, we can influence how shops stock their shelves, what goods are manufactured, the conditions in which they are manufactured. Our money can be a very powerful influence in all manner of ways that can affect our environment either directly or indirectly, for good or evil, when we have money available to spend. Supermarkets will justify their actions in stocking inappropriate products that we know to be environmentally unfriendly, or harmful in some other way, with the excuse that they are simply giving us what as consumers we demand. If we buy them they will continue to stock them. It really is that simple!
Are our spending patterns encouraging animal cruelty or slave labor in garment ‘sweat shops’? Appalling working conditions, child labor and poor pay still exist and we could be encouraging these without even realizing it.
The most effective and immediate impact we can all make is through changing our spending patterns. We are all in control of how we save, invest and spend, whether we choose ethical products, buy fair-trade and Traidcraft products, or perhaps give generously to aid agencies where we can be sure our money provides rapid relief.
We can and must fight to bring ethical trading in from the bottom up. We can enquire where our goods are produced and in what conditions and avoid all unreasonably cheap goods where we suspect that unethical working practices are present. If the information is not available, demand it.
Perhaps we could do more to support local enterprise. The local farmers’ markets promote respect for land and food. We could pay more for quality and eat less. Why not get back in touch with the seasons and eat foods at the right time of year when they are available locally. I am aware of the controversies over air miles versus the need to support foreign enterprise to help other communities; many of these stories must be considered on their own merits. Some of these choices may seem more expensive. But are they when balanced against the alternative predictions for our world? Does the suffering of fellow beings and the future of our planet matter so little to us that we are not prepared to change our habits today?


To be continued…

Adapted from Healing this Wounded Earth © Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Money Breaks the Chain of Desire and Effect

It is too easy, I wrote the other day, for our materialistic emotions to override any fleeting feelings of spiritual conscience! But we need that conscience. In the day to day rush of our lives we quickly forget those many parts of the world where finding the basic necessities of life, warmth, clean air, medicine, clean water, food and housing is a daily and often dangerous struggle. Are we sure that how we earn, spend, save and invest our money is not in some way adversely affecting our fellow human beings in less fortunate parts of the world? And do we care?
It has been said that one of the underlying problems with money is that ‘…it breaks the chain of desire and effect. [It] provokes people to act, for the sake of payment, in a fashion that, if they knew how the action would turn out, they would not contemplate.’(1)
It is all too easy to ‘tell the world to get lost’ and at least in our dreams ride off into the distance like the beautiful lady in the advertisement. (previous blog post) That is no solution. Escapism is no way to a clear conscience. We really do need to fight our complacency and apathy. People are suffering as we all read this and actions need to be taken. Of course we have to alleviate as much suffering as possible immediately, but without at any time losing sight of the longer term plan of rescue. For those victims of war, poverty, disease and drought, life is a daily struggle for survival. Getting those people back on their feet is a much more effective long-term strategy than any amount of aid that we can give now. A good example was the story of Grameen Bank and the poor Bangladeshi women (15th November blog post).


1. James Buchan, Frozen Desire – the Meaning of Money, New York: Welcome Rain Publishers, 2001, p. 48, where he describes the painting by Rembrandt entitled Judas, Repentant, Returning the Pieces of Silver and how it captures the ‘strangeness of money’ and the devastating realization by Judas that for…pieces of silver he has brought about the assassination of Jesus Christ. Painted 1629 – one of Rembrandt’s early paintings.

To be continued…

Adapted from Healing this Wounded Earth © Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

What is wealth to you?

Some while ago a series of bank advertisements on the management of wealth appeared in the glossy weekend media. One of these featured a lone and pretty girl cantering away on a lovely white stallion into the beautiful and totally unblemished distance. ‘What...[is wealth]…to you?’ the headline asked. ‘It’s being able to tell the world to get lost.’
How can any single one of us afford to turn our back on the world in this way in any sense. How can any of us ride away to an unblemished horizon while so many basic human rights are not available to so many? That surely diminishes us as human beings. But someone, indeed a team of people, wrote that advertisement.

I have written quite a bit over the last year on this blog about the flaws in our economy and indeed the flaws in human nature! An enormous intellectual effort has been and continues to be directed towards the perceived flaws in the economies of the world and how we may be able to overcome them – and I have written much about that as well. We now have to make our own contributions. With the worldwide web there is no shortage of informed opinion and support; some would say there is too much. The internet is an extremely powerful tool in this regard, enabling rapid dissemination of information and coordination of activities worldwide.
Before we take an intuitive leap into action, before we can make positive changes in our lives, in our work and in our leisure, we need strength, hope, determination, optimism and prayer. But we also need courage, and trust and most of all love and compassion. As long as we feel driven by greed or insecurity or envy to make as much money as possible for our own material well being and to covet unnecessary possessions, we fuel consumerism and ultimately self destruction. It is too easy for our materialistic emotions to override any fleeting feelings of spiritual conscience!

To be continued…

Adapted from Healing this Wounded Earth © Eleanor Stoneham 2011

Monday, 21 November 2011

Fly Agaric

Sunday, 20 November 2011

What is money? Why do we need it?

It is difficult to define money. We have ingrained within our deepest psyche a sense that our monetary wealth reflects our success and affects our happiness.
But we know from studies that once a certain and fairly modest standard of living has been achieved any further increase in wealth does not improve our happiness. It is then influenced more by our status in society, the quality of our personal relationships and our physical health.(1)And status emphatically does not mean celebrity status. It means being valued for our own unique gifts and qualities, whatever those may be.
And if we still think that an accumulation of wealth can give us longer-term security we are deluded. Monetary wealth is a very poor long-term investment. It cannot guarantee long-term security and no investment is totally risk free. We saw this only too clearly during the global banking crisis that began in 2007 with problems in the United States over ‘sub-prime’ loans. The effect was soon felt in the UK as they reeled from the Northern Rock building society debacle, the first ‘run’ on a bank in that country for 141 years. Now we have the Eurozone crisis and the global stock markets move dizzily up and down fuelled mostly, it would seem, by alternating cycles of fear and greed, and the longer-term effects of this financial tsunami remain uncertain.

Why do we need money?
The Greek Philosopher and scientist Aristotle explained in his Politics in c 330BC why money had been invented. The art of acquisition, he said, for which a currency was required, arose out of the simpler barter of goods, and he saw this as quite natural and healthy. But when ‘The supply of men’s needs came to depend on more foreign sources, as men began to import for themselves what they lacked, and to export what they had in superabundance: …in this way the use of a money currency was inevitably instituted.’(2)
But Aristotle made the distinction, between essential and therefore laudable expenditure for the daily needs of food, shelter and clothing, and the acquisition of money for acquisition’s sake by profit associated with retail trade. The latter he censured,

because the gain in which it results is not naturally made, but is made at the expense of other men. The trade of the petty usurer is hated with most reason: it makes a profit from currency itself, instead of making it from the process which currency was meant to serve. Currency came into existence merely as a means of exchange; usury tries to make it increase.(3)

Aristotle did not trust money because he could see that it could feed an insatiable desire way beyond what was necessary for our needs and he saw this as unethical.
In addition to life’s basic survival necessities of warmth, clean air, medicine, clean water, food and housing, all human beings worldwide have a need and a human right to be free, to be respected as equals, able to choose their own destiny and to fulfill their full emotional, intellectual and spiritual potential. We are all entitled to the five basic human justices, of monetary and social justice, economic and environmental justice and of the right to peace.(4)
I believe that to really achieve such justice in our world we need to allow the healing qualities of compassion and vulnerability and spirituality to infuse our lives and our actions in our financial housekeeping.
Our present economy is flawed - in many ways. That is why I have a sympathy and empathy with the real underlying gripes of the Occupy movement.

Probably the most important flaw is that Humans are not valued
A very large number of people in our society are presently undervalued or not valued at all in monetary terms. These include the old and young, the infirm and disabled, the housewives and the many community and charity volunteers without whom many organizations would simply not survive. All of these people outside the conventional workforce often work very much harder and longer hours than many in full time employment. But they gain no financial independence or recognition within the economic framework from their toil. I know of a wife who for two decades has selflessly cared full time for an increasingly and profoundly disabled husband. Or I think of the mother who takes a career break to raise her own children. These women both lead enormously valuable lives, but feel undervalued.
We measure a ‘healthy’ economy in terms of the material wealth or prosperity that is created by and for its working citizens, expressed in terms such as the gross domestic product (GDP), gross domestic income (GDI) or gross national product (GNP). Whichever measure is used, they all put a zero valuation on the environment, on healthy citizens, social cohesion and cultural values!(5)As Robert Kennedy said:

…the (Gross National Product) does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages… It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans. (6)

1. Schluter, Michael and John Ashcroft, Editors, Jubilee Manifesto: a Framework, Agenda and Strategy for Christian Social Reform, Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press, 2005, p. 217.
2. Aristotle Politics, translated by Ernest Barker Revised R F Stalley 1998, 1.9 1257a 5 p.26.
3. Ibid., 1258a 35 p.30.
4. Based on the principle of global justice taken from the five principles of the Global Justice Movement
5. Hazel Henderson, 2001, Mapping the Transition from GDP Growth to Rising Quality of Life, in Nikkei Ecology, 2001, cited in The Path to Living Economies – a collaborative Working Document of the Social Ventures Network
6. Robert F. Kennedy, 18 March 1968.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011 Adapted from Healing this Wounded Earth

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Millennium Bridge


I just loved the fluorescent orange in the otherwise totally murky and grey scene across the Millennium Bridge looking towards St Paul's Cathedral.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Occupy London at St Pauls and Economic Justice part 2

"The human soul can be very powerful when it is sufficiently aroused; even in the context of changing our flawed economy! Alastair McIntosh tells the tale (1) of how in the last decade of the twentieth century the might of a great corporation was broken by spirituality and theology. Scientific and economic values clashed head on with spirituality. Against what seemed like overwhelming opposition the soul in the end prevailed.
The Community of the Isle of Harris, in the Western Isles of Scotland, was threatened by the development in their midst of a devastating super quarry, a wound and scar of massive proportions. With the assistance of a Native American Warrior Chief Sulian Stone Eagle Herney and what was said to be the first ever theological submission put before a public enquiry the islanders were able to prevent a large corporation (Redland Aggregates Plc) from going ahead with their plans. Overnight the share price of the company on the London Stock exchange fell a massive 8% or £160million pounds! If the project had gone ahead who would have gained from the cruel ravages inflicted on a finely balanced community such as Harris?

The flaws of human nature

Some while ago a series of bank advertisements on the management of wealth appeared in the glossy weekend media. One of these featured a lone and pretty girl cantering away on a lovely white stallion into the beautiful and totally unblemished distance. ‘What...[is wealth]…to you?’ the headline asked. ‘It’s being able to tell the world to get lost.’ Whoaaa!
How can any single one of us afford to turn our back on the world in this way in any sense. How can any of us ride away to an unblemished horizon while so many basic human rights are not available to so many? That surely diminishes us as human beings. But someone, indeed a team of people, wrote that advertisement.
In our materially rich Western society it is too easy to be wooed by the power of marketing and advertising. Psychological insights developed to help us understand the healing needs of our souls are instead cynically used for marketing purposes. The advertisers play on our feelings of guilt or fear and our need for love and comfort, which often reflect in some of the worst aspects of human behavior, our insecurity, envy and discontent. These traits fuel our over-consumption and greed for material possessions.
If we would only understand our behavioral faults and allow them to be healed rather than exploited, there may yet be hope for the plight of our global brothers and sisters who through accident of birth are far less privileged than ourselves. Then we can hope to build an economy that is globally just and contributes to a healing world.
Before looking at ways we can all act to help our world towards some monetary justice, let’s look at our current situation.
The current world situation
The divide between the materially wealthy and the hungry poor is massive and the gap is apparently widening. Statistics from the World Bank tell us that in 2005 26% of the developing world was living below US$1.25 a day, representing 1.4 billion people. If we look at the number living on less than $2 a day, that represented 48% of the world population, or around 2.5 billion men, women and children, a massive testament to human suffering. (2) At the same time we have the ‘super rich’, to be found among the celebrities of sport, television and movie, the top bankers, investment fund managers, lawyers and doctors. It is true that many on the ‘rich-list’ are extremely generous in giving their time, talent and wealth for the global good. Microsoft founder Bill Gates is particularly keen to stamp out the world’s worst diseases that afflict and kill millions each year, most often the young and the poor. He has pledged $25 million to buy 100 million oral polio vaccines for Nigeria, and announced in 2009 that he was giving £115 million towards developing a vaccine for Malaria, which kills up to 2.7 million people a year, 75% of them African children. Bono, the Irish lead singer of U2, best known perhaps for his key involvement with the Make Poverty History campaign, uses his celebrity status to fight for social justice worldwide.
There are others whose lavish life-styles breed an envy and greed, particularly it would seem among the young who are being taught by example that material wealth and celebrity status are the measure of ‘success’. And in the developing world others are attracted to our consumer life style and aspire to similar ‘wealth’. Meanwhile the poor of the world continue to struggle for survival.
The truth is that we have forgotten how to live simply and sustainably with totally unselfish regard for those around us. We have lost the ability to generously share, to ensure that everyone in the same household has had their fill before going ourselves for second helpings.
Consider also that we have an obesity epidemic in the developed western world. Indeed obesity is the second leading cause of preventable death in the USA. An estimated 65% of U.S. adults, aged 20 years and older, and 15% of children and adolescents are overweight or obese. Around 34% of adults are obese. That amounts to c. 59 million people! The figures elsewhere are not much better. In 2006 24% of the adult English population were obese, and in children up to 15 years of age the figure was 16%. And both figures are increasing. (3)
We need to find ways to adapt to sustainable living in a world where we can be sure that our good fortune is shared, where everyone has their basic human needs met, where both extremes of wealth and poverty do indeed become history.
We need to build our economy on principles of sustainability and justice for all. Only then can we hope to heal the world.
We must never lose sight of our part as individual players in the world economy. Whether we like it or not, we are all involved as consumers and as investors. Even if we believe we are doing all we can to help, by maximizing our recycling, curbing our expenditure, avoiding waste, and investing ethically, we are still unknowingly or blindly fuelling a wounded economy that is perpetuating the world’s injustices. The responsibility is ours…

And that is why I support the essence of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy London Stock Exchange protests.

to be continued


1. Alastair McIntosh Soil and Soul Chapter 14 et. seq.
2. World Bank poverty statistics available for 2005 as at March 2009.
3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, statistics at http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/index.html and Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet: England, January 2008


© Eleanor Stoneham 2011 Excerpts from Healing this Wounded Earth

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Amma'a Hugs

Back in August 2008 I posted a blog on hugs!!
Now 5 years later Amma is in London giving a big hug to anyone who wants one.
Here is the 2008 post:


We all need hugs!
Andrex -of toilet roll fame - have done a survey. We each need according to experts around 8 hugs a day to have a feeling of well-being - 'cos that releases the feel good hormone oxytocin.
But apparently lots of us are missing out! Andrex found that we are missing out on no less than 2808 hugs each, every year, or in total 368 million hugs a day, and this could be damaging our health! (Why Andrex have an interest in this who knows).


10% of us never hug anyone, 55% make do with 2 a week and only 17% are total softies!! Dont know about the rest - this doesnt add up!!

So hugs all around to you all!

The Apocalypse 2012 Part 3

So the earth is going to be no more on 21 December 2012. What will happen to wipe it out?
I have covered the reversal of the sun's and the earth's magnetic fields. What else could happen?

One theory is that there is going to be an alignment of planets such that the combined gravitational force could pull the earth away from the sun or tear the earth apart. In fact there was a small conjunction/alignment in December 2008 with no discernible effect and anyway if all the planets were in the same alignment the combined gravitational pull would be miniscule compared with the normal gravitational pull of the sun and the moon. We have also had alignments in the past with no effect, for example in 1962, and 2000, and more are expected in 2040 and 2675.There will be no alignment in 2012.

This was the cheering news from Dame Burnell speaking at a conference organised by the Scientific and Medical Network, on Patterns of Apocalyptic Thought. I shall be writing up the conference in full by the end of November at Conscious Connection.

To be continued this week -  impact from matter in space and what else?

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Apocalypse 2012 Part 2

Every 300,000 years or thereabouts, the earth's magnetic field reverses - it stops spinning and starts spinning the other way. The last time this happened was 750,000 years ago so this one is overdue. But man has seen 11 such reversals since he first made his own tools, and none of these have been linked with any mass extinctions, let alone the end of the earth. And the whole process takes about 500 years each time!
We may be at the beginning of a reversal process now - but no significant associated problem of any kind is foreseen. 
But note - the spin of the earth does not change - it doesn't suddenly stop spinning one way and start spinning the other! Now there's an interesting thought!

This was the heartening news of Dame Burnell who was speaking at a conference organised by the Scientific and Medical Network, on Patterns of Apocalyptic Thought. I shall be writing up the conference in full by the end of November at Conscious Connection.


To be continued this week - planet alignments and impact from matter in space.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Occupy London at St Pauls and Economic Justice

So the Occupy Wall Street protestors have been evicted from their tent city in Manhattan. I went to London the other day and walked around the Occupy London Stock Exchange tent city outside St Paul's Cathedral. And I met and talked with many very pleasant, very thoughtful and intelligent people who understand very clearly what they are doing and are peacefully calling for economic change. They are fed up with the "fatcats" getting richer, the poor getting poorer, the huge inequalities and injustices in the world, etc etc etc. The site is very well organised, very peaceful, attracting much public support, and the police looked bored stiff! These people are echoing so much that I have written in Healing.... and so I donated a copy of my book to their library as it will be of interest to many of the protestors there. And I thought it appropriate to post some excerpts here over the next week or so, in between postings on Apocalyptic thoughts! (Perhaps there is a link!):

"When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money..."
Greenpeace message on one of their longest banners. (1)

"This notion of spiritless existence can be described as materialism. All is matter; land, forests, food, water, labour, literature and art are commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace - the world market, the stockmarket, the so-called free market… Business without spirit, trade without compassion, industry without ecology, finance without fairness, economics without equity can only bring the breakdown of society and destruction of the natural world. Only when spirit and business work together can humanity find coherent purpose."
Satish Kumar, “Spiritual Imperative,” Resurgence (2)

In 1976 an economics professor Dr Muhammad Yunus conducted an experiment. He gave the equivalent of $26 to each of 42 workers. From this they all bought materials, spent a day weaving chairs or making pots and were able to sell their wares and repay the loans. Thus was born the concept of microcredit.
Microcredit refers to small loans of less than a few hundred dollars, with no collateral, at nil or no more than commercial interest rates, made to help the poorest of the poor in the third world to start up small enterprises. This enables them to spread their productive capacity and gain some measure of independence and a better standard of living. For Yunus’ subsequent work with Grameen Bank, which was founded to foster this use of microcredit, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to them both in equal shares, for ‘their efforts to create economic and social development from below’, while improving the lives of millions of people in Yunus’ native Bangladesh.
As a young child I won a ten-bob note. That was a considerable prize in those days. I was so excited. I could buy another nature book to add to my collection! How did I win this? For spotting the deliberate error in an article in our village church magazine, which misquoted the Bible as saying money is the root of all evil. Much to my dismay my mother suggested I should immediately volunteer to return this prize to the church. I still vividly remember having the collecting box held under my nose in the vestry by the priest and putting the note very reluctantly back through the slot under my mother’s watchful gaze.
The lesson I had to learn was a hard one and it obviously made a deep impression! As a Christian I should be generous to those more in need than myself. But the ethics of the situation were lost on an eight year old. I had always been told we could not afford those things that my best schoolmates enjoyed, such as a pony or dancing lessons, perhaps a new bike. I was quite discouraged from entering similar competitions again. And I certainly learnt the meaning of voluntary compulsion!
In fact as with so many Biblical references the saying is taken out of context and is not complete. The full quotation reads: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.’ (3)
So I believe the lesson of the ten bob note was more profound than my mother may have realized. I was learning the hard way that I had to avoid any love of money for its own sake: that there is so much more to being human in this world than striving for the accumulation of monetary wealth and possessions.
Real wealth is not about money: it is about spiritual wellbeing. It seems that we have largely lost sight of the spirit that is in all matter. As the human ecologist Alastair McIntosh observes in his inspirational book Soil and Soul, ‘We are materially richer than ever before and yet suffer a spiritual poverty…we live, but suffer spiritual death. Our very accomplishments cut us off further from the soul.’ (4) Real security and happiness that we all seek, consciously or unconsciously, will be found in spiritual wealth, for which we have a great hunger.

1. Greenpeace website.
2. Kumar, Satish, in ‘Spiritual Imperative: Elegant Simplicity is the way to Discover Spirituality,’ Resurgence (March/April 2005) issue 229 at http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article653-SPIRITUAL-IMPERATIVE.html
3. Holy Bible, RSV, 1 Timothy 6.10
4. McIntosh, Alastair, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, London: Aurum Press, 2004p. 4.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011 Excerpts from Healing This Wounded Earth

Sunday, 13 November 2011

The Apocalypse 2012 Part 1

The world is going to come to an end according to The Mayan Calendar on December 21 next year. Really?
I've just heard Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell FRS DBE - and she is quite an expert on matters astronomical - explain why the various cosmic theories are just a load of star dust!

Theory One - The sun's magnetic field will reverse and/or solar storms will take out the earth.
Actually the magnetic field reversal happens every 11 years - man has lived through something like a quarter of a million such reversals since he first invented tools - and the next one is due in 2021 anyway, not 2012. As for solar storms, they tend to be related to sunspots, also on 11 year cycles, the next one expecting to peak in 2013 and it looks as if it is going to be the lowest peak for 100 years. So actually fewer solar storms are expected, and they certainly don't look as if they'll take out the earth.

BUT - she did warn that it's not a good idea to be an astronaut in space near such solar storms as increased radiation from the storms makes navigation vulnerable, and that goes for GPS, mobiles etc that depend on satellites. 

Dame Burnell was speaking at a conference organised by the Scientific and Medical Network, on Patterns of Apocalyptic Thought. I shall be writing up the conference in full by the end of November at Conscious Connection.

To be continued this week - the earth's magnetic field, planet alignments and impact from matter in space.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Lest We Forget

When Will We Learn?

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street and St Paul's - Again

The Occupy Wall Street and St Paul's Demonstrations both have a very good point. We do have a fundamentally flawed current economic system. I've written much on this both on this blog and elsewhere.
Yes we may feel impotent in the face of bureaucracy and the power of the banks and the seeming lack of any progress in addressing the flaws.But there are things we can all do, that will not necessarily change the world's economy in any immediate significant way, but will certainly help at a local level and nibble away at creating more sustainable and responsible living.
There are millions of citizens worldwide who are already making their own practical contributions using local money systems, barter schemes for goods and services, for example. Perhaps you are already involved in some way. Well Done! But none of us can be complacent in the amount we do. Suppose that we all start just one more ripple? The global effect could be profound.
Just as one example, I have in mind the Complementary and Community Currencies.
These flourished in the United States in the Great Depression but did not survive World War II and the post war economic boom. They have been successfully resurrected and now there are thousands of schemes in the United States alone and many more worldwide.
LETS (The Local Exchange Trading System) is probably the most widely available and best-known system and is well established globally. This system trades in Green Dollars, a unit invented and designed by Michael Linton and David Weston in British Colombia Canada in the 1980s.
The principle of these schemes is simple. Units issued by individuals as part of a transaction between provider and recipient of services create an instant and simultaneous debit and credit. No debt is built up with an outside agency, but there is a commitment on the part of the recipient to give service to someone else in the community. Likewise those who have accumulated credits have a commitment to give the opportunity to others in the community to balance their accounts by requesting services from them.
Some of these systems allow for both national and community money to be used, so while they do not have value outside of the particular community where they operate, they allow members to conserve national currency. In this sense they complement national currency.
At community level these schemes are proving to be extremely successful in their various forms and act as cohesive forces to bring communities together in a true spirit of trust and cooperation. They can give a sense of self worth to the poor and marginalized, the unemployed or unemployable. They recognize that everyone has an intrinsic value, has unique and individual gifts. We can all offer something of ourselves to others in such a barter arrangement.
Time Dollars represent another simple system for the provision of labor. With this, one hour is represented by one credit. Everyone is valued for their own contribution regardless of skills. This appropriates equal value to the previously unvalued non-monetary economy, including traditionally unpaid caring skills for example. As a result such systems have a profound and positive effect on a person’s self value.
There are many other variations on the basic idea of the complementary currency, such as Ithaca Hours, Philadelphia- Eastern Neighborhood Exchange (The PEN Exchange) and the WIR in Switzerland that celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary in 2009.(1)

No one solution is ever going to be the right one or the best one to the exclusion of all others. We must see any of these initiatives within the overall big picture and we should celebrate and build upon common features rather than dwell on differences that can stifle progress. Whatever we do should be within the spirit of community and cooperation.

I'd love to hear readers' own experiences of any of these schemes.

(1)See for example: Bernard Lietaer, The Future of Money – Creating New Wealth, Work and a Wiser World, and Thomas H. Greco, Money: 2001.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Swan and colours at Sheffield Park

It was a very grey and drizzly day yesterday but the colours were still great - and being so still the reflections were great too. It would all have been stunning if the sun had been out!!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Streetbank and Make Wealth History

Here's a couple of good websites I've just found - one a brilliantly simple idea to help neighbours and neighbourhoods, to help real community building in a friendly and useful way- successfully trialled in West London and went nationwide in April 2010. Is there anything like this in the USA I wonder?:
Streetbank

The second is a Christian site, an exploration of sustainable living in the real world.
Make Wealth History Because the earth can't afford our lifestyle.

Any others on the same lines I should know of? I'd like to hear.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Reflection in Funchal

Monday, 31 October 2011

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Formula One Racing - India

Formula One racing – the most expensive sport in the world. So India has spent vast sums of money on building a Formula 1 racetrack.
The land -owners who sold their land for the track have become very wealthy overnight. Those who worked on that land suddenly became very poor indeed as they lost their jobs. 37% of Indians live in poverty.
Augustine saw that the State that looked after only its own interests rather than looking to a justice for all was no more than an organised band of robbers. We are in danger of copying that band of robbers unless we work not only for universal justice now, but also towards a justice for all in the future. And our present land-ownership laws seem far from just.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Let's get off the consumer-driven carousel!

Childcare Costs are Forcing Parents to Give Up Work, shouts the headline.
But is that always such a bad thing? Is it so very bad for one parent to stay at home with the children? Is it a good thing that we have built a culture where both parents are expected to work? What happened to the good old-fashioned division of duties between the parents, one to earn the living, the other to look after the home and the children?
Have we been building a society where the parents are so busy with their own work that they don’t bother where their children are or what they are doing when they get home from school?

Now I know that modern parents can have a tough time bringing up their children, and I know that there are special problems for single-parent families. Of course we should have good social and economic policies that support single mums or dads in their task. And I understand that there are some very real hardships with parents struggling to make ends meet. But what about the two parent family, surely an ideal we should strive towards. Childcare costs in the UK are supposedly some of the most expensive in the world. When combined with cuts this year to certain State Benefits that were designed to help parents get back to work, many are now finding that they simply cannot afford to work anymore – hence the headline. And America is way behind most other wealthy countries in the provision of paid maternity and paternity leave for parents. In addition parents often find that they have to both work to afford health insurance for the children. The absence of readily affordable healthcare is a real problem for many families. The CHIP, or Child Health Insurance Program, gives free health insurance for children up to a certain level of income, but that level is woefully low. This link between healthcare and wages needs to be broken.
But I would submit that one important reason why many families have both parents out at work is that they find themselves on the consumer driven carousel that is twenty-first century life, and they cannot find a way to step off. Children are bombarded with images of the material world. The marketing media cynically exploits them, practically as soon as they are aware of their surroundings. As a result we have more and more material possessions, we buy bigger houses to accommodate it all, we saddle ourselves with mortgages that stretch us to the limits and we then shop at cheap hypermarkets for the lower prices. ‘…American parents buy into a false definition of need that leaves them addicted to a two-income lifestyle and robs children of family life. These parents are not bad, selfish, or greedy. They are simply doing what most people are doing, going along with the prevailing tide of cultural expectations.’ (Duncan Collum, Danny and Polly, Taking Back Our Kids, Sojourners Magazine, January 2006, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 12-19).
And because we are out at work to fund all these things we are not on hand at home to protect our children from these influences.
The normal working week in most of Europe is less than 40 hours. In Sweden and the Netherlands, dual-earner couples with children average two fewer workdays per week than do U.S. couples.
Isn’t it time we valued our families and our children more?

I believe that in many instances mothers would far rather be at home with their children in those early formative years. I really didn’t want to return to work and leave my babies at home with childcare, but like so many others I was driven by education and a career to think I could ‘have it all’. I believe that in our hearts we all want more quality time to spend with our children, to be involved in more local activities as a family, rather than ferrying our kids off to expensive entertainments all the time while we get on with our work! It has even been reported that many parents no longer have the time or energy to pursue that most wonderfully rewarding of pursuits, reading the bedtime story.
Early in 2009 and again in 2010 we had rather more snow in the UK than we are used to. It pretty much ground the country to a standstill for several days. But among the moans and wails about no gritting lorries on the streets, roads impassable and schools closed, one city man honestly admitted that for the first time in his life he was forced to stay at home with the family, spent two days making snowmen and tobogganing with them and loved every minute of it. There is certainly nothing wrong with that.
We need policies that support the parent and the child together, not policies that encourage us to go back to work as soon as possible after having our children. We want time to play with our families.
And that will be good for our communities, ourselves and the world!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Occupy London Stock Exchange - and Ancient Futures

So the Wall Street demonstration has gone global. In London we have the Anti-capitalist demonstrators from Occupy London Stock Exchange camping in the churchyard surrounding St Paul's Cathedral. Today the huge main doors have been closed to the public because of health and safety issues surrounding the demonstration. I have to say I am in some sympathy with the demonstrators. I have joined other commentators for years in lamenting the unsustainable economic system that we have across the world, based as it is on growth, debt and spending. I’ve blogged about this quite a few times, even have a chapter about it in Healing….with suggestions for change. But even now, when we seem to be a crisis point, what do the governments continue to urge? Spending!! And I have seen very little to indicate that the powers that be may be considering any of the other ideas that have been floated for a sustainable economy. It seems that the answer may have to come from ourselves at local level – with our own currencies for example - small, after all, is beautiful.
But all this reminded me of a wonderful book that I reviewed for Amazon quite a while back. It’s called Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh for a Globalizing World, and it is by Helena Norberg-Hodge , an analyst, it says on her Amazon bio, “of the impact of the global economy on cultures and agriculture worldwide and a pioneer of the “localization movement”. So she is clearly on my side in the debate. Her book is an urgent call to foster ancient values of compassion and wisdom before Western values of consumerism and growth.

This is what I said in my review:
“Ladakh (part of the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir), is a beautiful part of the Western Himalayas. It used to be a synergistic society. That is, the economy was shaped by mutual aid or co-operation, not competition. This concept of sharing everything was seen in the conduct of all aspects of the people’s lives, from farm work to funerals, animal herding to partying. There was no waste; everything had a further use, all was recycled. Even human waste, mixed with ashes and earth, was spread annually on the fields. Money was scarcely needed, only being used for a few luxuries such as jewellery, salt, tea and a few metals for cooking pots. Otherwise the people were self sufficient, living a life of frugality in the true sense of the word, not being mean or stingy, but rather using scarce resources in a careful way, getting more out of little, being “fruitful.”
And most important of all, the people were really and truly happy. They shared a deep contentment, a strong self- respect and sense of their own individual values. Women had equal status and respect with the men, the old people had active and respected roles in their extended families, even the boys were brought up to help with the nurturing and compassionate care of the young and old alike, and this was in no way deemed to be “sissy” or unmanly.
Then in the mid 1970’s the Indian government opened the region up to Western tourism.
Over the preceding centuries changes had occurred, but at a pace whereby they could be absorbed into a gently adapting culture. Now the changes were rapid. The people were exposed to money and a seeming Western wealth that they could not comprehend; but of course they were tempted by what they saw. The youngsters saw the fun their Western counterparts were apparently having, with cars and consumerism. The adults saw technology they could not have dreamed of. And a “need” developed that they never knew they had before! And with that need came greed, and all the inevitable trappings of a global economy that relies on continuing growth and consumerism for its furtherance.
The problem was that neither side really understood the other side. The Western tourists only saw what they perceived as poverty, deprivation, lack of education, lack of “basic” conveniences. The Ladakh did not see the darker side of Western society, the aggression and stress, the cancers and heart disease, the pollution, the lack of respect for many of our old folk, left to stare at walls in nursing homes, unloved and lonely.
The author is well qualified to write of this. She has spent much time with the people of Ladakh, since the mid 70’s just as these changes were beginning to happen, to the present day. She speaks their language and has many friends amongst them. She can therefore readily observe and understand both sides of the equation.
In Part One she writes with sensitivity and with first hand knowledge of the traditions and ancient wisdom of the people, witnessed in time before they became tarnished by Western values. In Part Two she charts the changes she saw over the ensuing years not only on their material culture, but more worryingly on their minds, as their lives were significantly and substantially changed, their culture severely damaged. And of course many of those Western societal afflictions came to Ladakh.
In Part Three the author then writes of the lessons to be learnt, and how we should react and behave to limit the evident damage brought by Westernization.
How long is it going to be, she asks us, before we sit up and take notice of the damage inflicted on our world by our global economy, based as it is on unsustainable consumerism and material growth.

We can learn so much from the Ladakh story. When will we listen to our hearts not our minds?”
Norberg – Hodge makes an urgent and vital call to us all to challenge our assumptions that economic growth is good. Influenced by Schumacher’s Small is Beautiful, her work continues within the International Society for Ecology and Culture, promoting locally based alternatives to the global consumer culture, and “a non-profit organization dedicated to the revitalization of cultural and biological diversity, and the strengthening of local communities and economies worldwide.”

I am with Norberg-Hodge all the way on this one. This has to be the way forward. We cannot go on in the same unsustainable ways. And that is pretty much what the demonstrations are about I guess.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The Big Society and the Cultural Creatives

Here is a post I published in September 2010, and since someone recently told me they had not heard very much about the Cultural Creatives movement, I make no apology for re-posting it, perhaps to a new audience:

" I know that I am not alone. From reading the websites, articles, and books around us, many of us clearly feel the need for a return to spiritual values in our lives, coupled with the need to heal our desperately fractured world and halt what may otherwise be our march towards spiritual bankruptcy and physical destruction. But how will this happen?

My own conviction is that no amount of law and regulation alone can be the full answer. We need to take personal responsibility for the way we live our lives.
This is behind Prime Minister David Cameron’s ideas for a Big Society for Britain, a society in which we rebuild family, rebuild community, but above all rebuild responsibility.

But I don’t think it is quite as simple as that.
We are after all human, with all our frailties, and our vulnerabilities.
Our behaviour is often flawed, we do not behave like saints all the time, even the very best of us. And sometimes, perhaps often, this may be traced back to our own wounds:
wounds we have inherited and those from our own suffering; wounds from the personal experiences that life has thrown at us;

for example, our insecurities and fears, our feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Surely such wounds are reflected in our greed and envy, in our over consumption, in violence and in our addictions to work or harmful substances.

And these wounds, left unhealed, not only affect our own mental and physical well-being.

I believe that they must also be seen within the context of the wider world fellowship of which we are such an integral part. We must understand the significance of our own healing in addressing the wider social issues and the often seemingly intractable problems of our fractured world. I would go so far as to suggest that this healing is a fundamental directional force in our own evolutionary progress as we become catalysts for our own social change.
And to find real, meaningful healing of these wounds then I believe we now have an urgent need to rediscover our spirituality and the spiritual element in all our material experiences, to reconnect with our roots and our souls.

In the latter half of the 21st century we seem to have lost sight of this essential truth.

Materialism, observes Satish Kumar, now rules economy, politics and business. There is nothing wrong with having material or bodily needs of food, water, shelter, for example, but we need to have the wisdom to know when we have enough and to be satisfied with that. Instead, we are pressured into striving to have more and more beyond our needs. Spirituality rather than materialism is something that should infuse our lives at all times.

This is where the Cultural Creatives come into the picture. It is estimated that there are 50 million adults in the United States and about 80-90 million in Europe who have the worldview, values and lifestyle of the Cultural Creatives. Are you one of them? And what are they?
If you are a Cultural Creative you “hunger for a deep change in your life that moves you in the direction of less stress and more health, lower consumption, more spirituality, more respect for the earth and the diversity within and among the species that inhabit her…"
You are one of a growing number of people who want to see deep, integral change in the cultures that have evolved in industrialized nations.” (Paul Ray)
The term was coined by Paul Ray who with Sherry Anderson wrote a book; The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World

“to help make cultural creatives visible to each other… to find new ways to work and learn together…in service to the world, in service to this emergence of a new, integral culture.”


Are you a cultural creative? Are we doing all we can? How much time do we have?
We all need to start our own Ripples of Hope for a better world."

The photo is of my allotment.
 

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