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Archive for the ‘Socio-political’ Category


Monday, August 25th, 2008

"I Shop Therefore I Am" by Barbara Kruger

“I am always telling people that our century is very important historically for the planet. There is a big competition between world peace and world war, between the force of mind and the force of materialism, between democracy and totalitarianism. And now within this century, the force of peace is gaining the upper hand. Still, of course, the material force is very strong, but there is a kind of dissatisfaction about materialism and a realization or feeling that something is missing.”
Tenzin Gyatso, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Back on the word meanings again. I do love how so much of what seems to be crying out for our attention is hiding in plain sight, or should I say lurking in plain hearing – in the everyday colloquialisms of the language that we let trip off our tongues without a second thought. This time it’s stuff.

Is it any accident just how eloquently the juxtaposition of the myriad colloquial meanings of the word (especially in British English) expresses the fact that stuffing ourselves has got us – not to mention the planet – well and truly stuffed? The sterner stuff that keeps us on the stuff-creating treadmill is ultimately just stuff and nonsense. We’re stuffed up with stuff. Time we told it to get stuffed. Is it any accident either that our newest coolest word for stuff – stuffage – seems to hint at a concept that’s passed its sell-by date?

I’ve just been reading Jeffrey Kaplan’s article The Gospel of Consumption which paints a disturbingly clear picture of the evolution of our presernt situation, and of how a more sensible, humane and human alternative was deliberately subverted. As one commenter put it,

“It is a strange experience to realize (again and again and again) that our society’s misfortunes can be attributed to the greed of a few and how far-reaching a handful of events, conversations, meetings, etc. can be in establishing a widespread, mostly-unquestioned paradigm. Kudos to the author for presenting this information in an approachable manner that will hopefully encourage a few of us hamsters to question the wheel and, perhaps, begin devising a way to step outside of the cage.”

And to go with the article, here’s some essential viewing (click on the image or here):

The Story of Stuff

As the blurb says,

“The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute, fast-paced, fact-filled look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. The Story of Stuff exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world. It’ll teach you something, it’ll make you laugh, and it just may change the way you look at all the stuff in your life forever. “

This sort of stuff is the stuff of real progress.

My chalice runneth over

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

“A human being is a part of a whole, called by us ‘universe’, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest…a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in it’s beauty.”
Albert Einstein

This blog has been horribly neglected over the last few months. Real life has just been too busy to find time to sit down to write it. This state of affairs doesn’t show any sign of changing over the next while either. However I really wanted to find time to write about a recent experience because its poignancy and relevance are begging to be shared.

I was recently at a conference in Glastonbury on the phenomenon of the ‘orbs’ which have been appearing in people’s digital photographs. During his presentation, William Bloom highlighted an observation that really resonated with me. He said that we humans seem to have (relatively) little difficulty relating to the natural world on the one hand, or the transpersonal dimensions on the other. We could even intellectually appreciate the oneness of humanity. But taking that intellectual appreciation to a feeling level presented the single greatest challenge to us all. At the close of his presentation he led a meditation where we were asked to experience what itfelt like, to the extent we could each allow, to accept the entirety of humanity into ourselves, and allow ourselves to enter into the beings of others. Not just our nearest and dearest, but people we disliked or disagreed with. Groups of people we harboured prejudices against. Victims and oppressors alike. Try it some time. It’s extraordinarily powerful, and to me felt something like being repeatedly punched in the solar plexus as I contemplated accepting the people I’ve happily railed against and ranted about in this blog from time to time.

Being somewhat sceptical and suspecting that the vast majority of ‘orbs’ (though not all) are artifacts of the digital photography process, I took time out from the conference the next morning to visit the Chalice Well.

Chalice Well, Glastonbury

“I tell you; we are here on earth to fart around; and don’t let anybody tell you different.”
Kurt Vonnegut Jr

The sense of peace, tranquility and the oneness of existence that pervades this amazing garden is incredible and I sat for a while at the well head thinking about William Bloom’s meditation. It was so easy to contemplate accepting humanity in this place, but then, as if to order, the peace of the garden was abruptly shattered by the shouting of a man walking up the path onto Chalice Hill just outside the gardens. Visitors to the garden exchanged frightened glances and communicated in barely audible whispers, eyes constantly roving to see where the shouting was coming from; worried in case the sanctity of the garden itself had been violated.

As a British soldier, the angry man had clearly done a tour or more of duty in Iraq and seemed deeply traumatised by the experience, as well as feeling an immense anger. Whether he’d been drinking or not I don’t know, but his speech was clear and unslurred even if its content was all slur. His anger was directed at the people in Glastonbury and the whole of British society who were “worse than the f—ing Iraqis”. Glastonbury needed “a squad of 500 British soldiers to clean this town up”. (Imagine what it must be like to live life on the edge of death, witness your friends and colleagues lose their lives suddenly, loudly and messily, and come back to a complacent society which seems largely oblivious to the sacrifice you and they have made in its name. How much more unbearable when that same society seems obsessed by the airy fairy, the intangible and immaterial, when it’s blood and gore that haunts your nightmares.) What really came from the heart and conveyed his pain was the exasperated plea “What’s it all for? What’s it all f—ing FOR?”.

Indeed. War, the complete antithesis to the peace of the gardens, in stark and glaring contrast. And what is it all for?

Again it was easy to step back; to intellectualise and rationalise the soldier’s pain and appreciate what he was suffering. Far less easy to feel sympathy and compassion for both him and those who sent him to war when half of you feels frightened and intimidated by his aggression and anger and the other half furious and raging at the inhumanity and arrogance of those who sent him to war on the basis of a lie. The sheer enormity of the task of bringing humanity to accept all of humanity became depressingly clear. I walked away from the gardens and back to the High Street wondering if such a thing could ever be possible.

I wandered into one of the many “new age” shops which was just opening. There was a tape playing of someone speaking. It was a man with an Indian accent. I’ve no idea who. Maybe Deepak Chopra because it sounded like the sort of thing he’d say, but that’s just a wild guess. He said something along the lines of “The only solution to war is for each individual to cease the war in their own hearts. When this happens, war will become impossible.” I was delighted at this bit of synchronicity. Then, as if to doubly underline its profound message, the shopkeeper stopped the tape, rewound it a bit, and played the same section again.

“Years ago I recognized my kinship with all living things, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on the earth. I said then and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”
Eugene V Debs

Nuts and bolts

Monday, March 10th, 2008

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.”
Bill Beattie

As Armando Iannucci so eloquently states in The Observer the Sunday before last, this is about “the stupidest, cack-brained, sherbert-headed nonsense more likely to do more damage to children than a pile of witches”.

Notwithstanding the slur on indigenous healing traditions of all stripes, which we’ll let pass for the moment, he goes on to say

It’s a bizarre new initiative from the Department for Education and Skills called the Early Years Foundation Stage and, like most devastatingly life-worsening initiatives, it’s been unwrapping itself slowly and unannounced, with few headlines, no votes and under the guise of safe-sounding phrases that make it appear designed for the greater good.

The EYFS is a series of targets anyone in the care of children as young as three has to aim for. They cover aspects of child education as diverse as emotional development and language skills and one would think the ambition behind them was a good one – to make sure that there’s a solid, standardised starting point for all children’s education. Except that because the targets are mandatory, it means someone other than the teachers or the school or the child-minder is telling you what to do with each child. Which is fine if the person setting the targets is sensible and a disaster if he or she is not.

Given that the targets at the moment include the obligation to make sure each three-year-old ‘understands that s/he can expect others to treat her or his needs, views, cultures and beliefs with respect’ and that the child ‘interacts with others, negotiating plans and taking turns in conversation’ (all things which it’s probably taken me more than 40 years to perfect) and given also that any child-minder actually has to fill in a form assessing this, one suspects that the target-setter might live in an ideal rather than a real world.

So let me get this straight. The good people in the Department for Children Schools and Families (sic), the DFES that was, are so concerned that their own needs, views, cultures and beliefs are respected they intend to make itcompulsory that our children have them rammed down their throats before they’ve even reached an age where they’re capable of understanding the concepts. Good one!

If we hadn’t come to expect this depressing lack of joined-up thinking from government, this would be so utterly crass as to defy belief, and takes “do as I say, not as I do” to new heights of insanity. Children, before they reach adulthood (by which time the education system has knocked all such sensible notions out of them), are programmed to learn by example. They do this unfailingly, no matter what you tell them.

So if our children are increasingly disrespectful and intolerant of each other, it’s plain there’s only one way they could possibly have learned this. Mandatory drilling of 3 year-olds will simply make the problem worse, not better.

As one respondent to the Observer article wrote

DCFS has an educational philosophy called EYFS, which requires every child in England to journey to London between Birth and 5 years. The EYFS requires each child to be assessed at 5 years to see how far s/he falls short of London. There are also detailed markers along the way, which can alert their Carers to a possible future failure to reach London by 5 years old. DCFS maintain that EYFS is flexible (you can go to London by any means of transport you like) and play-based (your play can be used to keep children on track for London), and not a curriculum (though any destination other than London is not possible) Any carer who has a different educational philosophy, such as one which sees it in a child’s best interest to spend the period from Birth to 5 years old in the countryside by the sea and go to London when they are 6/7 years old, arriving with inner self-confidence and emotional well-being, is acting illegally and Ofsted has the power to close their school/nursery/playgroup/private home. No parent has the right to choose a different journey or timescale from that prescribed by the DCFS for their child, except by keeping them at home from birth to 6/7 years old as there will be no providers allowed to cater to them. No other country in Europe has such a compulsory journey, nor such an assessment and testing regime to enforce it. Those countries which are free to arrive in London as late as 6/7 years old, are the most happy and secure in UNICEF’s 2007 study of 50+ countries.

The UK’s children scored as the least happy of all. I wonder why?

There is a petition for UK residents to sign here asking the government to reduce the compulsory status of the requirements to professional guidelines.

OpenDemocracy maintains a page cataloguing our loss of rights and civil liberties since 1997 here.

“The aim of public education is not to spread enlightenment at all; it is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed a standard citizenry, to put down dissent and originality.”
H L Mencken

1984 in 2007

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I was just in the process of thinking about another entry on the loss of our civil liberties when Jenni Russell in the Guardian did it for me. Her piece in today’s paper, Even if you’ve nothing to hide, there’s plenty to fear should be required reading for every British citizen.

Correction: every global citizen.

Wake up and smell the Zeitgeist

Friday, August 24th, 2007


“They must find it difficult … Those who have taken authority as the truth, rather than truth as the authority.”
Gerald Massey

Someone sent me a link to this movie, the entire 1 hour and 56 minutes of which can be watched on Google or on the movie’s own dedicated website. The Google stats currently stand at over 1.9 million views since its posting 2 months ago.

While the factual accuracy of many of its assertions is questionable and many of its rationalisations speculative, there’s a lot of truth in its perspective and a wealth of thought-provoking information in this movie that make it well worth watching.

Thanks to the current insanity revolving around homeopathy in this country, in both media and blogosphere, it's become necessary to insult your intelligence by explicitly drawing your attention to the obvious fact that any views or advice in this weblog/website are, unless stated otherwise, the opinions of the author alone and should not be taken as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. If you choose to take anything from here that might be construed as advice, you do so entirely under your own recognisance and responsibility.

smeddum.net - Blog: Confessions of a Serial Prover. Weblog on homeopathy, health and related subjects by homeopathic practitioner Wendy Howard