Sunday, 27 November 2016

You Think You Know Where We Are Going?

Dear Reader,

Despite that time in the early 60s, when we seemed to be at the edge of World War when the Russians were sending ballistic missiles to be installed in Cuba, Cuba under Castro was well-led and to be admired in many respects: in my opinion. Certainly, there were articles appearing in the liberal press postulating the view that the country was the best led country in the world!

After all, education, health and the economy were all looked after well, with no reports of corruption nor, even, any secret police to spread terror - and certainly no extreme materialism. The Cubans that had fled their country at the time of the 1959 Revolution have never been happy with Castro's presence, of course, but those that remained seemed to be happy under Fidel's regime.

But Trump the Philosopher sees things somewhat differently. To him, Castro removed people's rights and was - in his words - "an evil person". But I have to ask the question, what "rights" do people really need? The attitude seems to suggest that "rights" are to actually supercede "duties", but, surely, we have to earn - through duty - our rights: yet there is a prevailing tendency to expect an easy life with the minimum effort, which has been one of the drawbacks of our Welfare State. And, in around 1970-time, it became so much easier to have abortions and divorce without thinking through the consequences of such action.

Now, I understand the basic reasons why abortions and easier divorce came into being - and I have the utmost sympathy with those reasons - but, to me, both "rights" have been vastly over-utilised and these and other moral issues no longer seem to be discussed, as though we have moved into an age where everything goes. But without morality we cannot call ourselves civilised, I suggest. And our sense of community has, sadly, largely dissipated.

There may be those who think that "civilisation" simply means freedom and the advancement of the arts - of any description - but was that the case in ancient advanced cultures, in India, China and Greece ... and even the Islamic era of the Middle Ages. Of course not - philosophy and ethics were of prime concern. And in the case of most of the ancient great cultures, a deep spirituality underlay their philosophy and ethics.

Our Western "civilisation" now rapes the earth, the air and the seas and follows a vision of continued growth, but (in the UK, for example) how many HS rail projects can you have before they start having to be built on water once the land has been used up?

Today, the Meaning of Life seems to be disregarded ... we are, they say, to follow the American Dream, or versions of it, modified to the way of life of each country but essentially still the same variety that seems to have propelled Trump into the White House ... or Trump Hotel, whichever he chooses to reside in. That in itself is a clue as to Trump's way of life. "Me, me and more me". Would the great American fathers be happy with this kind of vision? Is this what we really want?

Thank you for reading this.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Headless Chickens Need To Be Given A Direction

Dear Reader,

Do you get the impression that previously respected world powers now have their heads of government running around like headless chickens? Well, that's my impression anyway.

Our own Prime Minister May met Chancellor Merkel yesterday with both ladies all smiles ... and later parted with facial expressions showing clear division between the two. Brexit has caused a stir and no mistake, with our Tories thinking that the Great in Great Britain still means as much as it did 60 years ago. But we made a mess in the campaign against President Nasser of Egypt over the Suez Canal in 1956 (incurring sanction from the US) and then President de Gaulle put a stop to Brtish pride. I don't think we've learnt from those lessons. At least Prime Minister Wilson refused to join in with the US over Vietnam, but Wilson wasn't Tory, was he? Ahem, but Tony Blair wasn't Tory either (in theory), so his international ventures need a bit of explaining.

This year, however, we have experienced the rise of popularism - with Brexit and now Trump - but the poor people who understandably got fed up with the faire offered by their governments have been sold downriver. In both of the populist outcomes the people were downright misled by those who should know better, and the water now becomes murkier as people are wanting to know what's going on. And with the French and German elections looming I feel that the water will become even murkier.

What will the people do when the waters become more polluted? I would say they will get more angry ... and the anger will only create chaos  ... and, potentially, harm.

So it is surely time for man to think more about what he and his immediate circle can do about the plight of the world, for there is a way through it all. The way is not strictly a political way, though, as people have forgotten that politics is only a tool by which to go in a certain direction. To have meaning, that tool must work from a base of values, but the materialist base that we have created clearly no longer works.

So let us look at a prescription of positive thought delivered by a guru of amazing perspicacity - Sri Sathya Sai Baba - in the year 2000:
Today the food you eat, water you drink and air you inhale are all polluted. People themselves are highly polluted because their minds are filled with negative feelings and worldly desires. No doubt, you can have desires, but they should be under limits. Many human hearts are a den of evil qualities like anger, hatred, greed, jealousy, pomp and show. Love alone can drive away these negative qualities. Desire, anger, greed, jealousy, etc., arise only out of body attachment and improper food habits. So control your attachment and desires. The letters that you write will appear blue when the pen is filled with blue ink and red when it is filled with red ink. Similarly all that you see, hear and say will be negative if your heart has negative feelings. Hence fill your heart with love. Then all that you see, hear, say and do will be suffused with love and you will experience a world suffused with love.
Don't you think that this doctrine has extra meaning today, sixteen years since it was stated, having experienced what we have since 9/11 (2001)?

I read with great interest an article that appeared in one of today's UK newspapers, by an American doctor who had an out-of-body experience while undergoing surgery. He received a message whilst in the out-of-body state, which was to the effect that the basis of the universe is suffused with love, and that is the single value we should be living by. That doctor has now completely re-shaped his lifestyle and moved from mass production health working to a people-centred and holistically-based healing centre.

Doesn't it make you think?

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Well, The Trump Card Has Been Well And Truly Played...

Dear Reader

Hello! And I hope you're adjusting to your world, wherever you may be. These past few months have produced some utterly surprising outcomes, not only throughout the world but here too, on my own patch.

You see, we did not - in the end - move house to anywhere. Yes, having declared that we were on our way, we had to reconsider owing to my wife's health. But we still plan to go once we've gone through all the health checks that have still to be made.

But I delayed writing a further article until the outcome of the US presidential election. For some reason, I had a doubt that Hilary would win even though she appeared (to me at least) to be by far the most qualified.

As far as the president-elect is concerned, I have heard little from him other than false promises. Already he has indicated a modification to his intentions on the so-called Obamacare plan, and many feel that it will be impossible for him to build the Mexican wall. On top of that, the very idea that he can somehow resurrect the US economy without also tackling climate change conditions must be the sign of a man in denial.

But, in some ways he sounds a better proposition than Clinton - particularly on the matter of the US attitude to overseas issues and staying out of other people's business. On that he sounds to me to have some commonsense.

The fact is, though, the American people seem to have elected a man in simply because they want a change. What kind of change they will actually get is beyond their comprehension I suspect - just as the people in the UK voted for change with Brexit without knowing the consequences. And still don't. And I suspect there will now be a chain reaction through Europe - in France, Germany and Catalonia. 

By the end of 2017 I see a world where people will be congratulating themselves for voting for change, but then will be shocked to see the result of their actions, as the result could well be anarchy. That's not to say that everything was going right without that vote. Not at all: the various governments and cartels had got many things wrong, and some form of change was necessary. But it's the manner of this change and just who is representing those for change that concerns me.

And it could well be that certain other things will transpire in 2017 that have so far been untalked of. I cannot clarify my meaning on that.

So, this is the start of a switchback ride that none of us can truly envision as to its end. Except that at some time - maybe in 10 or 15 years time - I firmly believe that the world will come to know Peace. At last. I cannot say more than that, but that is what I believe.

And Peace is what I wish for everyone.

Thank you for reading this.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Time To Rest My Pen - For Now!

Dear Reader,

Over the next few weeks, Anasuya and I will be searching for, and moving to, a new home, and we will be so busy that I need to suspend this column. There is just too much to do to reflect properly; if I were to try to write anything coherent in the next few weeks I would probably only succeed in driving you all from this column!

But I enjoy writing on matters that affect us all, and hope that I have made some kind of sense. One thing is certain, the world is going through stresses and strains that we may not properly comprehend, and the situation calls on us all to reach our higher selves. I believe that we will be very tested, and many are probably already being tested: we will find that only by looking deeply into our hearts will we be able to properly sail through the storm. 

I hope to return in about two or three month's time refreshed and able to write further perspectives of where we are heading on this planet and home, called Earth.

Thank you for reading this and previous articles, and I send my very best wishes.

Au revoir!

Friday, 29 July 2016

I Believe In This...

Dear Reader,

You've no doubt heard of the old tale that trouble comes in groups of three? Well, I had three messages this week (and within the space of three days) which may not be "trouble" in themselves, but possibly indicate something of what we might be doing more of. That is, reflecting on what's really what.

The first was while innocently watching a BBC TV quiz programme called 'Pointless'. Now in this programme, a list of questions was asked of the contestants related to Charles Dickens' "Christmas Carol". And one particular question seemed to be the trigger for the other two messages I was to receive; the question was "What was the last dream scene that Scrooge was taken to by the Spirit?". The answer, of course, was the isolated grave of Scrooge himself, with a simple headstone revealing nothing about his life.

Now the second message that came to me was at a wedding, when I met a relative by marriage who, like me, is retired. He is an Asian by birth who had been a practising Anglican Christian until recently, he now having decided that he no longer believed in a God, but is now an Evolutionist. Well, good luck to him, everyone is entitled to their own philosophy.

The third message was at the same wedding, during its rituals. It was a Hindu wedding and the priest officiating was very helpful to those attending by explaining everything that happened as he went. At one point there was a ritual relating to the four aims on which a householder's life should be based: a disciplined life (dharma), desire for (right) achievement (kaama), pursuit of (right) wealth (artha) and spiritual liberation (moksha).

Now, to bring these three 'messages' together.

The third (last) message - to me - is a reminder that life needs to have spiritual meaning, for without it one can be blown in all kinds of directions. That fact that there are four such aims seems also to indicate that the admixture of these should be in balance, otherwise too much emphasis on one side can lead to one being unbalanced. The priest pointed this out; the fact is that too often if we follow any such values at all they tend to lurch towards the material in respect of desire and pursuit of wealth, leaving the other two components on one side. This approach will usually lead to great difficulties in our personal lives as well as an affect on the community in which we live.

The second message (about following a non-spiritual belief) would tend to take the person away from a life system containing deeply meaningful aims. Either that or it leaves one to have to find a suitable replacement for it - or, even, to lose a sense of morality. If one rejects the notion of a God then the values defined in a spiritual way of life would tend to be abandoned, or at least followed half-heartedly and without inspiration.

The first message (about the grave) forces us to acknowledge that our sojourn on this planet Earth is brief, and that to live the life satisfactorily means to have followed a sustainable values system. Without such a view, the life opportunity has been wasted.

In short, these messages suggest that a life of sincere spiritual belief and practice is a necessity. Indeed, I would suggest that if a righteous spiritual system were to be sought and followed there would be no wish to look into other ideas or pursue a life of wastefulness.

That's how I see it, with the addition that I see a Big Plan behind all this; the great teachings are too profound, in my view, to indicate anything else. 

Thank you for reading this.

Friday, 22 July 2016

One Big Cloud

Dear Reader,

A year ago, Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party by its membership and by a very substantial margin in the process.

Since then, the centrist members of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) have made quite a few noises of dissatisfaction, and this week it became very apparent that the reformists of yesteryear want back what they believe to be their party. They believe it's their party, in stark contrast to the view of the membership. They (the centrists and hangers-on) now believe that they will overcome this Corbyn spectre in the September leadership election.

It is very noticeable that none of the bigger names in the party have been brave enough to put their names forward for the contest, stating that the rather nondescript Owen Smith will do the job for them. I ask one question: really?

All the indications are that Jeremy Corbyn will win again, and again by a substantial margin. Leastways, I will be surprised if that is not the result. And the outcome of that? Maybe the centrists will join up with the Lib-Dems.

Corbyn has recently been labelled by the media as being a man without policies, but I see nothing but policies about worthwhile values in what he talks about, and in particular (this week) he has enunciated well his determination to bring fairness into the workplace. But he has long fought for issues of far greater impact, one being his peaceful fight against nuclear weapons (being a strong supporter of the likes of dear Tony Benn), but being - in general - one who sees nothing being achieved in warfare.

Is he wrong? Patently he is not. We have seen nothing but escalating warfare in the Middle East and north Africa this past 25 years, and a combination of that and sanctions imposed by "the west" have imposed considerable suffering among civilians. To what end?

The one positive note is that this week's BBC2 coverage of conditions in a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan reveals it to have grown as a well-ordered town in the desert over the last four years: the 80,000 Syrian people there are surprisingly cheerful and optimistic. But so were the Palestinians who preceded them in Jordan, and what progress have they been able to make in their near-70 years of camp confinement? Optimism can dissipate into anger after a generation or two.

So the war against war seems to me to be perfectly valid. And if that is so, surely nuclear war is even more a white elephant and should be got rid of.

So it was that the matter of the renewal of Britain's nuclear submarine fleet came up for a vote in the Commons this week, and many (centrist) Labour MPs joined in the gushing support of this great folly. 

Disappointingly, my own (Labour) M.P. voted 'for' the renewal of the nuclear programme, choosing to ignore the fact that £31 billion (plus £10 billion contingencies) could be better spent elsewhere. I wrote to my M.P.:

As you are a Christian (I believe), if you were to have a neighbour whom you felt to be dangerous, would you go out and buy a gun in case you should have to use it against him? Of course not. Then why support Trident, probably the greatest white elephant ever. It even beats HS2 [the superfast London-Birmingham rail project].
A Cumbria (Labour) MP launched a ferocious verbal attack on Jeremy Corbyn during the parliamentary debate on the Trident nuclear deterrent. He even congratulated the new Prime Minister in their choice of an official Labour Party policy! Another stab in the back for Jeremy. He described Mr. Corbyn - a long-time anti-nuclear campaigner - as “reckless, juvenile, and narcissistic”.
The sheer stupidity of this approach [he said] should be dragged out into the light and seen for what it is, because renewal is not only Labour party policy but the settled will of the country, and every parliamentary decision relating to it will have been taken by 2020.

So, according to him, it is "stupid" to try to prevent the wholesale slaughter of people in a kind of war in which there would be no winners and instead the erasure of life on this planet? And that's apart from the ability to put up to £40 billion to better use?

In contrast to the Prime Minister, Mr Corbyn has told the House that he personally would never press the nuclear button, murdering millions of innocent people. The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said that renewing Trident would send out a message that all countries should have nuclear weapons – something that she said would not make the world a safer place.

"Stupid" views? Sounds more like wisdom to me coming from people who are probably seen as weak by the macho community.

And as for Jeremy Corbyn being specifically "stupid", it's interesting that a recent Guardian article listed 100 names of internationally prominent academics, philosophers and journalists (including elite thinkers Chomsky and Pilger) who have protested against the treatment of the Labour leader.

Is it that Mr. Corbyn has "stupid" friends, or have many Labour MPs simply lost the moral plot?

Thank you for reading this.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Time To Wake Up?

Dear Reader,

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.” 
― Edward R. Murrow (a famed American broadcaster of yesteryear)

At the end of a hard day, it is forgivable that we like to just be fed what is in front of us with the minimum of effort on our part. But if we truly want to know what is going on in the world then we surely need a service that informs, and informs well. But can we trust that service? The answer is, regrettably, that the issue of the quality of news reporting and what is deemed to be transmittable is under scrutiny. 

John Pilger is one of those that work hard to tell us the truth, and there are others too, like Robert Fisk; but Pilger works independently and the quality journalists are too few in number, often framed by their own hype. Also, the best journalists tend not to be presented at peak-times on TV. Perhaps part of the reason for the lack of journalistic quality is the little-publicised fact that around 300 journalists (of all nationalities) were killed during the Iraqi trouble since 2003: many men who risked everything to find the truth are no longer here to tell us the story.

Illustrative is the fact that the BBC journalists interviewed in this John Pilger film of 2010 were admitting that they didn’t ask hard enough questions on going to war in 2003. Yet – wait for it! – they were recently saying the same thing after the Brexit referendum. And I don't remember much hard questioning of Cameron after the Libya incursion, which subsequently backfired in the manner of the Iraq War. As Pilger has questioned, why has Cameron not been challenged on
"the dispatch of British special forces to Libya and British bomb aimers to Saudi Arabia and, above all, the beckoning of world war three".
In other words, we don’t have journalists on the main channels that we can rely on to press hard on important matters. They have not learnt any lessons from Pilger's 2010 revelations and the quality of the journalism remains tainted. And the reporting means that politicians are often not brought properly to account.
Take this quote:
Sarah O'Connell, who has worked for BBC News for many years, gives an insider view of the organisation:
'not many national BBC news journalists see enough of life at the "bottom" of society to report on it properly or accurately. If most of my colleagues at the BBC didn't start life with a silver spoon in their mouths, by the time they've served ten years at the BBC (and the longevity and security of a BBC news staff job is recognised industry wide), they've pretty much gained honorary status of the establishment class.'
She continues:
'when you walk into a BBC newsroom you can see and hear the privilege. There are only a few genuinely working class voices. There are hardly any black faces at all.'
As an example, O'Connell describes in disbelief how widespread abuse of the parliamentary expenses system by MPs was essentially ignored by the BBC. When she tried to report the scandal, she was told by BBC News editors that 'this isn't a story, MPs have to eat.' She adds:
'But it was a story. It was one of the biggest political stories of the decade. And the BBC missed it, because, to most of their journalists at that time, the idea of having lunch for £150 on expenses, well, it just wasn't a story, was it? Not when it was exactly the kind of thing BBC news executives might be doing as well.'
As a result, politicians have got away with - and are still getting away with - what amounts to murder.  In my opinion, the way the news is generally presented tends to feed our apathy.

In addition, the BBC gets accused of just plain prejudice, as reported in the Guardian headline: 
Campaign to sack BBC's Laura Kuenssberg
All this - together with the constant bombardment of information experienced in this day and age - means that the ability of ordinary folk to form informed, quality views on the world is considerably reduced. It would appear that large-scale manipulation by the authorities and via the media is at work, and probably always has been. The problem is that the ability of the media to shepherd people into a belief appears to have considerably increased.

Ironically however, the fact that the scale of 'the problem' is now so great may well mean that the majority have, through hardship, become aware of their predicament and have had enough.

A positive antidote, however, is not to voice hate to our political governors and commentators, but to realise that we can be the originators of our own change, and that we can tell these people that it is unnecessary to be part of this total system towards growth (for the purpose of filling the pockets of the wealthy). A system that causes so much hardship - not just to us, but to all the people and creatures of the world, and to the planet. In other words, to show our humanity. Love breeds love, not greed, nor envy.

Thank you for reading this.

Here's a previous, recent, article of mine on a related issue.