Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Small is Beautiful

About 35 years ago, a man called Ernst Schumacher wrote a book entitled the same as the title of this post. Despite his name, he had become 'English' in every sense, and had been a very successful executive in the British Coal Board decades earlier. I was fortunate to hear a talk given by him in London, just prior to his death around 1976/77.

In my view, the man should be recognised as a prophet. In his well-written book he described how necessary it was (for the sake of man's well-being as much as anything) to downsize our approach to everything, that it was not necessary to plot solutions to technological problems on a huge scale. He illustrated how 'big' solutions for under-developed countries often ended in failure. But he went beyond that, he pointed out the need for people to be involved in what they're employed by - to have a 'say' in their collective welfare; the aplication of the 'commonwealth' or 'cooperative' principle.

Schumacher was speaking about matters related to man's spirituality. He saw that we were moving into a post-industrial age and was trying to guide man into a constructive alternative. Instead, financial institutions became the Mecca, and money-making the creed. And we now have the mess to sweep up.

But his points did seep through to some. Out of that era grew the idea of wind-up radios, intended for the African living miles from an electrical socket, but have even entered our own domestic markets as an ecological benefit.

For more on this topic, see this site.

The Big View

I have been writing a lot about the UK election, and as it's a fresh issue that helps to account for it; it would probably be not right for me to sound out-of-touch with current events!

But, today, let's step back a little and think of the global situation and the UK's recent events in the light of that.

What's recently happened in Greece and is possibly impending in Portugal and Spain, and much further away - in Thailand and parts of Africa - is probably only a glimmer of the stark realities of where modern culture has taken us. Despite our withdrawal as a country of Empire so many years ago now, there has ever since been a continuation of the theme of the main western countries taking a colonial approach in far-away territories. The west has always tried to make out to our distant friends that there is something superior about our way of life of TVs, cars and associated gimmicks, and now that eastern countries are better able to produce those commodities, we feel hurt that they should have turned the tables, so to speak.

But it has not been just the gimmicks that we have sold - we have sold our way of life as well. Many are the people from so far abroad have been fed on the idea that we have a superior approach to life, and that we are able to provide them with all their material wants.

Unfortunately, those poor would-be nouveau riche have all too often not realised that there are wisdoms in their own culture that would provide the real happiness they seek. They - as well as we - all too often seek our happiness in the external; we are deluded into thinking that the objects that fascinate us are the reality. We chase after those objects, and when they escape us we become frustrated. Later we die, and what have we achieved in preparation for physical death, which is really the entry to the after-life?

So when this new UK government trots out old, hackneyed, phrases about our well-being, why not stop and think a moment. Ask, "Is this reality they're putting in front of us?" ... "Are we again being deluded?" ... "Is what they're putting forward both sustainable and fair [for us and the world]?" ... "Why can't we do with less?"

Monday, 17 May 2010

Expenditure Cuts ... Any Harm?

Cameron has said that £6bn. must be saved from the government's expenditure this year. He says "from wastage". Well, if that is the case, all well and good ... but who is going to judge what is wastage? If it's a case of too much being spent on office luxury in the civil service, well fine - but I feel that this is typical of an old Tory trick to cut expenditures on areas where it can see no benefit for the middle and upper classes. And I use the word "classes" advisedly ... we have moved into another type of class society; we cannot seem to get away from those who "have" and those who "haven't" and - importantly and sadly - a big divide separating them.

The concern is that expenditures provided by the outgoing government were already beginning to bring about the Big Society espoused by Cameron. Volunteer efforts combined with government expertise were beginning to take hold. But will the cuts start to affect those efforts? ... If they do then, again, the electorate will be to blame for putting its own selfishness at the core of their election choice.

The reality is that Gordon Brown - with all his foibles - had a vision of fairness that his previous PM colleague seemed to have forgotten, and Brown's approach was taking effect. What a great pity it took something like 10 years for the Labour Party to accept that Brown should be given a chance, but he was given too little time - and a world recession - to achieve his aims.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

An Inner Perspective on Politics

For the past week I have been harping on about UK politics and politicians and a sense of betrayal in a section of the electorate at least. But perhaps we should look at the way out from our dubious political convictions from a different perspective.

To start with, it would be probably obvious to state that a voter's political opinion is guided by his own material condition. For example, the student might be guided to a vote by the 'promise' of no severe policy on the repayment of his student loan, or the banker who does not want controls placed on his ability to 'earn' as much as he can get.

But what has that approach brought us this time? Stalemate. Surely, what we have obtained is the result of our own selfish ambitions, and our ambitions have proved to be at odds with our neighbour's.

We need to be honest with ourselves and admit that our selfishness is the cause of our misery. Yet, within each one of us is the innocence that we were born with - a simplicity that knows no selfishness and one (if left to its own devices without the influence of adults and the media) would not only bring peace within the UK but would ultimately bring about world peace and stability.

We are brought up trained to accept fear of others as our modus operandi of living. By the time we are teenagers, these days we have lost the ability to trust. 'To trust what?', you ask. The answer is the power of The Almighty. There lies the simple answer to it all, and it would do no harm for each and everyone of us to think and act on that to establish a way of living that in due course (not necessarily without some pain) would extinguish greed and self-interest.

But in speaking of The Almighty, I hasten to add that it is not the God of the Christians I speak ... nor the God of the Muslims, nor the God of any other persuasion  ... but the God of all. There is only one God - La illaha ill'Allah if you wish. That same God is accessible by all, regardless of creed.