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.

Friday, 8 July 2016

Is There Just One To Blame?

Dear Reader,

It is inevitable that there is a cry to bring an individual "to justice" for this or that, but even for the most basic malfeasance there is often some other factor that influenced the act to be perpetrated. In Tony Blair's case there were - I believe - several influencing factors,  but perhaps the most important factor was how the 9/11 phenomenon gained the sympathy to swing the matter to support the US. But I have to say that I believe that a further major factor was in the rise of 'New' Labour, and its apparent attempt to be all things to all people.

Not long after Tony Blair took over as leader of the Labour Party, one of his acts was to remove the famed "Clause 4" from the Party rulebook, and though I can understand why he thought it was "old hat", the principle in the clause was to link the importance of the ordinary worker to the wealth of the country - that the worker was just as much an important cog in the economic process as any other person, even the chairman of a large business.

The removal of this important principle - which could simply have been re-worded into modern language rather than be rejected - thereby let the Labour Party free from certain intrinsic values. As a Labour Party member of the time and one of those who voted out Clause 4, I take equal responsibility for that error. Of course, like many others, I was more concerned about Labour regaining government at the time over the principle on which we were voting within the Party. I did not spend enough time to think of the consequences - what has proved to be a terrible mia culpa on my part, I believe.

Thereby Blair led the break away of an important link between Labour and the working people that was then thought of not to be a big issue: that progress and fairness for all was possible without all that heavyweight principles stuff. In fairness, we were trying to get out of the idea of a class-based society, and that was one of Blair's mechanisms to take us out of that mentality. But since that time the number of mega-rich people has exponentially grown, while at the lower level of the scale there is more hardship and more people subject to control by a few so-called elite. It came to be that people at the bottom of the pile no longer felt they had a political party that spoke for them: at least until Jeremy Corbyn arrived.

The breaking of working class links didn't stop there. Although Blair was significantly successful in achieving unity in Northern Ireland, his instincts became robustly in favour of imperial endeavour when the Iraq question came around.

Up until Blair's time, the Labour Party's basic principle was anti-war. That principle was deeply respected by Labour's Harold Wilson in the 1960s, so the UK did not side with the USA in the war in Vietnam. Thank goodness; but the wisdom of that precedent appears to have been lost by 2002.

Blair's "I will be with you, whatever" message to George Bush jnr. in September, 2002, seems to sum up Blair's general attitude, and was uttered in a presidential tone, no doubt influenced heavily by his sympathy to the US on the matter of 9/11. But by that stage the principle of collective responsibility in cabinet had been diminished, and, post-Chilcot, we have retrospectively found out that the cabinet did not question the process towards the Iraq War anywhere near as closely as they might have. The then cabinet appears to have been in awe of the power of The Man, Tony Blair.

Parliament was warned, however, by the very respected Robin Cook, who resigned from the cabinet in 2003: click here to see him present his resignation speech.

Significantly, we now know for certain that the evidence for going to war on Hussein was scanty. So scanty it seems that a spy was passing intelligence to MI6 which appears to have been lifted from the film The Rock, starring Nicholas Cage and Sean Connery. And Hans Blix (the chief weapons inspector) argued strongly that there was nothing to be found but asked for a further period to ensure that was the case. That request was denied and the outcome was that the US (and the UK as the strongest supporting ally) went in to finish Saddam Hussein, but without any form of plan of how to follow up a (presumed) successful invasion. Winning hearts and minds was said to be the intention of the whole project, but any hope of that was given up on long, long, ago. 

Some say one million Iraqis have died. More realistically perhaps the true figure is half that number. Officially it's half again. But few people seem to think of the affect on the Iraqis themselves, and that they continue to go though a continued hell as a result of the Daesh/ISIS phenomenon, which itself was mostly caused by the so-called Bush-Blair War.

In conclusion I would say that Tony Blair has been a victim of his own hubris. Following a very successful first 5 years in office he so convinced himself of the righteousness of his actions, and all those around him, that much-required close scrutiny and evaluation of the true state of affairs seems to have gone astray. Many people in government (not just Blair) seemed to forget certain principles of government and failed to stand up for them. And not only they but also Army commanders who did not highlight the poor quality of the soldiers' equipment.

There is not just one culprit, therefore, in this very regrettable business.

Have we learnt? I would hope so, but memories rarely last more than a lifetime. And it didn't stop Cameron from following a similar Blair-type line into Libya. 

I only see a return to long-term sense based on strong and well-upholstered government principles, themselves based on sound values which include real honesty and clarity towards the public. We did not see much of that in the recent Brexit campaign, so it does seem we have a long way to go yet to achieve anywhere near the ideal state.

Thank you for reading this.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A Pause Amidst The Hurley-Burley

Dear Reader,

As the referendum re-run petition comes close to 4 million signatures, I thought it timely to re-cap a little after these mad last few days.

The petition has really been triggered because those with the most working years left have been left high and dry in the vote – and to a large extent by the very people who voted ‘in’ in 1975.

In other words, those who voted ‘in’ in 1975 (when two thirds of the country voted ‘in’) have decided to become independent after the UK has become non-independent by virtue of selling off its crown jewels and (over the years) becoming deeply ingrained with Europe: the academic inter-action and security being two prime examples, as well as privileged trading conditions within the EU. We once advertised to investors: "Come here and be part of the EU". So, investors did come, but now we choose to turn our backs on them.

Of course those who voted in ’75 must think it to have been a mistake, otherwise they wouldn’t have voted that way, would they? But the point is they voted in 1975 to give the next generations a better and more harmonious chance, and now – those generations having grown up and seen benefits of some kind in staying in – they’re taking away the right of the generations they created! Further, the older group are not the people who will sort out the mess (sorry, opportunities) that has now been left for the younger generations!

How bizarre!

What we are supposed to do now we have no control over any major businesses to speak of, I wait to see. 

In short, the Brexit vote was hot-headed, though I do feel for the poorer people who have most felt the affect of substantial immigration and its affect on services, while the government chooses to reduce support for those services. It's the last issue - lack of government understanding - that I feel we should be concentrating on.

Further, it may take years of re-negotiation with the EU before Brexit takes effect. And in-between there would be so much uncertainty in the capitalist world that the financial situation may get a lot worse. Plus the fact that the EU itself may well be in danger of entirely breaking up.

It's successive UK governments that's been the problem, in reality. But if we were to have a general election, who is there to vote for that shows the ability to provide the proper direction? Oh dear.

But there is one great positive thought about all this. If we were to at last realise that the world cannot sustain continued growth and if we were to live more constructively, then opportunities do exist to create a sustainable and even a happier future.

If that situation develops, then I might rue the day I voted 'Remain'. But for as long as we must continue to have 2+ cars per family and our yearly holidays abroad, it won't happen.

Thank you for reading this.