Friday, 23 December 2016

Seeking Effective Change

From my perspective, our world is on another downward spiral and has been for sometime. The current solutions of branding people who object to the current direction of political leaders as extremists, radicals, or terrorists simply doesn't help, and neither do policies that withdraw support from those who are already the most disadvantaged.

If I look at the education system, I see it as being about confirming people to the dominant framing story and not about encouraging reasoned thought, fostering the development of legitimate alternatives, nor fostering the potential of the learner. Increasingly a small set of skills are valued and the rest discarded. The process of knowledge and skill acquisition is increasingly focused on lower level cognitive skills rather than the higher level cognitive skills of critique, and synthesis. Should we be surprised that there are numbers of people who are disillusioned with the educational system and seek other alternatives to have their voice heard.

If I look at the commercial system, it provides a little bit of carrot to entrepreneurship but the end result is increasing the wealth of the few at the expense of the masses. There was and is no will on the part of governments to deal with the underlying causes of the last economic crash and I suspect the next. Those who suffered in the supposed cure where not those who caused the crash but those who had no say in the financial structures that dominate the western world. Should we be surprised that there are people who want to opt out and find alternative ways to have their voices heard.

If I look at international relationships, I don't see a willingness to address the real issues. We support rebels with military weapons while condemning radicals or terrorists when they bomb, maim, and kill for their beliefs. We then supply repressive governments with weapons which they then use against their own people. It seems that international relations is dictated by might and not right or is it the power of money. Our sales of weapons is more important than the moral and ethical issues involved.

If I look at the way that we treat the environment, I see that despite the clear warnings of climate change and the obvious signs of the destruction of wildlife and ecological environments for our monetary gain, we are reluctant to consider changing our ways. Economic gain is more important than ensuring the planet has a future yet without our ecological home, do we really have a future? Is it possible that humanity through the exploitation of the environment for economical gains is actually destroying what humanity needs to survive?

If I look at sport, I see that the winning is more important than the enjoyment of participation and that in reality sport is just another money spinner for an elite few. Personally, I am stepping down from being a volunteer official because I no longer believe in what I see happening in sport. Officiating seems to be more about insurance and legalism rather than providing a safe environment for people to enjoy and participate in a sport that they might love and enjoy.

Yet, I also read about reformers and their efforts to help the suppressed and disadvantaged. It seems that lasting reform doesn't come through violent opposition to the current regime. It is more likely to come when the current regime is embarrassed into admitting the faults in its framing story and approach to resolving problems or simply doing business as usual.

Increasingly, I am agreeing with Martin Luther King's statement

"Lamentably, it is a historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend to be more immoral than individuals.

"We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed" (1963, pp 90-91).

Why is this an historical fact? The oppressor or dominant system has difficulty seeing their or its own faults. It is not until the oppression is exposed more often by the oppressed that the oppressor or system will even consider change. When non-violence challenges a violent oppressor, the violent oppressor is exposed through their violence.

UK law is increasingly relying on repression of opposition views in order to halt radicalisation without realising that the oppression causes radicalisation; that the oppressed will rise up to expose the repressive regime. What is worse with UK law is that it endeavours to coerce those who can see the faults in the regime to become informers and oppressors.

If we really want to bring about change then we must expose the law for the repression that it causes, we must expose corporates for the oppression that they create, and we must expose globalisation for the favouritism it shows to large corporates and wealthy nations. However, exposure isn't enough. We must have an alternative plan that can be put in place and that alternative cannot be built on the same assumptions or framing story of the failing regimes. We need a radical rethink and a radical rebuilding of society. I see that alternative being built on relationship building and ensuring equitable distribution of resources and the benefits of progress but within that it needs to ensure that we are not exploiting our environment or those who are more vulnerable to exploitation.

References

King Jr. M.L. (1963) Why we can't wait. Boston: Beacon Press.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Seeking Justice

We are in the lead up to Christmas with its mixed meanings and messages in our society. Is Christmas about what we give or what we get or is it simply a time to forget the struggles? There are those out enjoying the Christmas markets while others struggle in poverty. Is there justice in a system that throws people out on the streets or employs people on uncertain employment contracts. Shouldn't a worker have the right to expect from their employment to earn enough on which to live? Is that how our economic system is running or is it focussed on the profits for the shareholders?

King (1968) was preparing for a march on Washington to demand peace and justice. He had no timidity about their demands. If the demand for justice is not responded to by the political leaders, he says that is not a failure of the protest movement. It is a failure of the political leaders (p 241). If there were to be a failure by the protest movement, it would be in their silence and inactivity. Our failure is our willingness to accept arguments for the status quo and not to stand up for truth and justice. There is no failure if we expose injustice and the failure of war. The failure is on the part of those who have the power to act but refuse to take action to address these issues, who use the excuses of a failed and failing system to maintain the status quo, who seek to silence the voices of discontent by arguing that it is not the way to gain justice in the system that has no intent of delivering justice.

This is clear to me but I know that in the face of the workplace, I will struggle with the arguments that are put forward when I challenge the unjust practices. My history is working within the system and like so many others, we have ingrained into our thinking the ways of this failing system. We struggle to shake the ways of thinking off and we fail to see the flaws in the arguments that keep the system going. This is our failure. Our failure is not the failure to conform. We conform too easily and fail to standup for justice and peace.

King talks of the promise of equality in the American constitution and that they are going to demand that equality (p 241). There may be no such declaration or promise in many countries but this shouldn't stop us standing up for equality and justice, and pointing out the contradictions in the claims of political and religious leaders. The current British prime minister claims her Christian faith drives her but she clearly shows that she doesn't understand its call for justice. She will pass blame rather than solve problems. She tries to place baggage of guilt on those who raise failures in policies that she promotes rather than address the failures in those policies. Our political system is based on points scoring and not on solving problems. I doubt whether we will ever see our political system resolve the problems as long as our elected representatives see themselves as competing with each other rather than working collaboratively to solve the problems and issues.

We can learn from our past, accept past failure, and work to correct those failures, or we can use those past failures to justify our current failures and inaction. What our system encourages is justification of our current failures and inaction based on our past failures and inaction. Is it time for us to change and to accept our failures with the goal of not repeating them?

King argues that the resources are there to solve injustice, poverty, and the lack of truth and peace. What is missing is the will to address the issues (p 244). Do we and our nation or institutions have the will to seek justice and equality? I don't believe that we have. The investment in a corrupt and unjust system is too high and we are unwilling to upset those who have and are benefiting from it. Change will only come when we stop propping up our system of injustice and accepting as truths lies that have become ingrained in the system.

Groups point out some of the kinks or lies in the system but few are willing to condemn the system outright. Many seek minor changes without changing the underlying ways of thinking, the framing story, that enabled those flaws and kinks to become the ingrained way of doing things.

King ends by talking about being asked to stick to civil rights, His response is “that [he] had been fighting too long and too hard now against segregated public accommodations to end up segregating [his] moral concerns. And the fact that justice is indivisible, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (p 244).

This is the heart of our problem. We have segregated or at least tried to segregate justice but justice cannot be segregated. If we attempt to segregate justice, we fail to deliver justice. If we fail to deliver justice, we fail to deliver peace. If peace and justice is our driving force then like King, we have no choice but to rise up against injustice and war no matter where it occurs.

References

King Jr. M.L. (1968) The other America. In West, C. (Ed.) (2015). The radical king: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 20, pp 235-245).

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The path to change: The need to act

I have struggled to write this blog as I feel that I need to be critical of myself, my generation, and my children's generation. Despite hearing some promising words for change, I find we are so caught up in the current framing story with its origins in neoliberalism that we have difficulty seeing the real problems that face us and the continued existence of this world.

How long does humanity have left before our activity causes our own extinction? With increasing reports of damage done by humanity on the planet, it is becoming easier to believe the claims of claims of humanities extinction within my own lifetime (Attenborough, 2013; McPherson, 2016). But is climate change the only danger to this planet's existence?

Over the last year, I have been part of a group looking at some alternatives to the neoliberal principles. Although we now have a set of principles, I am concerned that in our discussions, we had difficulty freeing ourselves from some of the foundational concepts that underpin the neoliberal principles. There is so much that is ingrained in our culture that works against our survival. What shocks me is that the warning messages have been there for a long time.

As we have been reading some of the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr. (West (ed), 2015), I have been increasingly challenged about the way that I have allowed myself to be pressured by society rather than standing up for my beliefs. There are subtle pressures every day to confirm to the way that society is organised and to the dominant framing story of our day. At times, I feel silenced by the dominant framing story and machinery by which UK society is organised. Martin Luther King Jr. (1967) words begin to make sense.

“As I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart . . . many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path” (West (ed) 2015, p vi).

On 19 November, I joint the “United for education” march in London. I was inspired by the courageous attitude of the speakers. If they can mobilise students to disrupt government policy such as the Teaching Evaluation Framework (TEF) by encouraging student to boycott the National Student Survey (NSS) then we may see some rethinking of the direction being taken in education. The students had the courage to acknowledge that they are not customers and that the market mentality shouldn't apply to education. To some extent, the power for change lies in their hands although the cost may be high for those students that participate.

But to some extent even more disappointing was the limited coverage of the march. This may have been the largest march (> 15,000) in London for some time but there was little coverage in the media. It really came across as a non-event. We had a very small contingent from Birmingham present and I suspect most of my colleagues didn't even know it was happening.

Despite these encouraging signs, I am still concerned that the key speakers still supported the dominant framing story. If we are to see real change then we need to have leaders who really understand the alternative framing stories and how they work.

If we are to challenge the dominant framing story, then we have to be able to motivate the masses but not to violent revolt but to non-violent resistance. This is where we can learn a lot from the civil rights movement and their non-violent resistance.

Today, as we again read a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. (1967), I wrote in my personal journal this reflection. Although Kin is referring to the war in Vietnam, something which many people now alive will have little recollection of, I found much of the underlying issues still appropriate for today. The capitalist west and economically rich nations still seeking to protect their investments around the world and extract profits for themselves. The new backlash hasn't fully gained momentum but the nations in turmoil or exporting refugees or poverty stricken is huge. King sees that the role taken by America makes “peaceful revolution impossible” since America refuses “to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment” (p 214). Although it is possible to argue that this still holds true in the national psyche of some nations, this distinction is becoming the divide between the wealthy corporates, the wealthy few (the 1%), and the rest of the people around the world. The poor and middle class remain exploited by the wealth generation barons who seek to maintain their privileged status.

We have not changed focus in the last nearly forty years. King's call for us to “rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society” (p 214) remains true. The focus on “machines and computers, profit motives and property rights” are still “considered more important than people” (p 214). As a consequence, we haven't conquered racism, materialism, and militarism. Racism has possibly been replaced by other forms of discrimination but at the heart of many of our problems is the attitude of “I am better than you” or “I am worth more than you.” Unless this basic attitude is addressed, humanity has a very bleak future.

King talks of the need to be “the Good Samaritan on life's roadside.” However, he sees past that calling for “the whole Jericho Road to be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on Life's highway” (p 214). We must come to see the injustice of our systems and the need to transform them to bring a new society into being.

As I read King's words and write these reflections, I am aware of predictions for humanity's self-destruction. At the time when King delivered his message the fear was annihilation through nuclear war. That threat has not been removed although nations have moved away from some of the most destructive weapons although the UK has decided to renew its nuclear submarine arsenal. The threat of annihilation or extinction is from our exploitation of the planet's resources (Thompson, 2015). Humanity is killing the planet and in doing so is destroying the ecosystem upon which life depends for survival. A nuclear war or all out international war may simply speed up the inevitable demise of all life on this planet. We are still too dependent on limited natural resources that depletion will occur before we have removed our dependence on them. We live in ignorance of our own demise.

King's call for radical love as the framing story for building a “non-violent co-existence” (p 217). Although radical love is a key ingredient, I feel we need a radical rethinking of our framing story but I wonder whether we are already “too late” to save our planet and humanity.

The struggle for justice and change has many difficulties. One of these is whether the privileged will resist giving up their privilege (King, 1963). He says “Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily” (p 131). He contends that the oppressed must demand justice. He also discusses how to determine whether a law is just or unjust, saying “An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal” (p 133).

As I write this, I think of the treatment of teaching fellows who I refer to as teaching slaves. The academic elite, the research oriented lecturers, have no problem with teaching fellows being overloaded with teaching and having no path for promotion. It is the academic elites privilege to take the spoils of what is achieved by teaching fellows. If I understood the position of administrators, I think there position would be worse than the position of teaching fellows. What we have is a class stratified society based on job role. Academic institutes should be role models on what equality means but instead are places where inequality is implemented and enforced. We shouldn't be surprised that wealthy elites in government will willingly legislate against the most vulnerable while extending their own privilege. The wealthy powerful elite is a minority. The poor are a growing minority although possibly rapidly becoming a majority. The majority is a middle class that ignores the inequality by believing that they could also achieve the heights of the wealthy elite but never really making progress.

If we are to oppose the injustice in society, we need to motivate the oppressed to resist and for the middle class to actually see the injustice of the system. We need a new “civil rights” movement that shakes the foundations of complacency and shows up the hypocrisy within societal organisations and work places. We have a lot to do.

We can be negative about our future or we can begin to explore what would be a better base for structuring our world. The group that I have been part of has agreed on five principles. These are:

  1. Enabling Potential: Every one has an equal opportunity to develop their full potential.
  2. Equal Society: Everyone is included and our basic human needs are provided for.
  3. Participatory Democracy: Everyone's voice is heard and every vote counts equally.
  4. Environmental Sustainability: Everyone feels our local environment is our home, and the planet is preserved for our children and grandchildren.
  5. An Economy for the Common Good: Everyone's needs are supported through regulated and responsible markets with mixed ownership models and by fostering local economies.

These principles are challenging in their own right and I can see many that I interact with agreeing to the principles even if we have different practical ways of bringing these into place. However, I want to go further.

King called for radical love and I agree but the core of that radical love has to be a process of peace-building. Peace-building is about rebuilding relationships by facing up to what we have done to others and looking for ways to correct our mistreatment of others. When we move from an attitude of exploiting for our own benefit to an attitude of building relationships that address the inequalities and issues that separate us. It is not about agreeing on our beliefs but it is about reconciling conflict and differences in a positive manner and not by the destructive means of enforcing our views on others.

I see the above principles as a starting point but I see that unless we are willing to face up to how we impact the lives of others by our attitudes and practices, and are willing to give up some of our privileges then we are doomed to the self destruction of humanity as we fight of an ever decreasing set of natural resources. To me, Brexit is the result of many in the UK seeking to preserve their way of life. It is a failure to see the consequences of our actions and the damage that we have caused and are causing to our planet. It is not until we face the damage that we are doing to others and our planet and to repent of the damage that we have done and seek to restore positive and sustainable relationships.

As I write, this, I am listening to a lecture where the speaker (McPherson, 2016) is saying that we are past the point where sustainability is a possibility. We might be able to slow down our rush to annihilation a little but it is too late to stop extinction of life on earth.

We can simply accept his message and continue the exploitation of the natural resources and our fellow humans or we can take seriously the need for a new lifestyle and a new way of interacting with each other. For me, part of motivating this change is rethinking education and our goals in life. As long as we are constantly seeking more resources and status for self, I believe we are doomed for self-destruction. Yet, the principles by which our society current lives is driving us to destroy all that we need to live.

Will you take the call for change seriously?

References

Attenborough, D (2013, 7 December) David Attenborough: 'Climate change – Britain under threat'. YouTube. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cq1oFhTINXE (Accessed: 11 December 2016).

King Jr. M.L. (1963) Letter from Birmingham jail. In West, C. (Ed.) (2015). The radical king: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 12, pp 127-145).

King Jr. M.L. (1967) Beyond Vietnam: A time to break silence. In West, C. (Ed.) (2015). The radical king: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press. Chapter 18, pp 201-217.

McPherson, G. (2016, 2 December) Global threat: Climate change – Guy McPherson – Episode 2. YouTube. From: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1Kc-87Vyus&t=32s. (Accessed 11 December 2016).

Thompson, E. (2015) Economic growth implications. From: http://kiwi-et.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/economic-growth-implications.html. (Accessed 11 December 2016).

West, C. (Ed.) (2015). The radical king: Martin Luther King, Jr. Boston: Beacon Press.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Sacrificial Victim

I have considerable difficulty separating events that are happening in our society from the philosophical material that I am reading. We are in the middle of some major upheavals in UK society but the public commentators seem to miss the significance. The backdrop to this blog is the continuing wars supposedly against terror, acts of terrorism by suicide attackers, the vote for the British exit from the European Union, and the Labour party deviation that could lead to its demise. On a more personal note, I am endeavouring to gain promotion in a system that is heavily weighted against teaching fellows and our reading on peace and peace building. Our most recent reading is Bailie's (1995) Violence Unveiled. It is drawing on some of his anthropological thinking that I am endeavouring to write this piece. From a promotion perspective, I have made my first failure because I have used “endeavouring” rather than implying a more positive outcome for my activities but we will come back to this later.

What has impressed me with Bailie's book is the insights that he brings to cultural events by recognising the sacrificial violence in society and how approved violence from police or military is used to keep a lid on wider societal violence. So far, Bailie hasn't talked about war as sacrificial violence but certainly the rapid murdering of suspects of possible terrorist acts would fall within Bailie's framework. It is better that the suspected terrorist should die than that more should die at the hands of terrorists or maybe more accurately than that our culture should be challenged and we be forced to rethink our priorities.

Bailie talks about Christ's crucifixion opening up a sympathy for victims that now dominates in western society. However, our solution when we attack the victimiser is to turn the victimiser into the new victim. The death penalty was murder at the hands of the judicial system in order to appease the murder in society. The killing of suicide bombers is legitimised violence by the state in order to protect its citizens. Is the going to war against dictators or suspected terrorists, the same attitude that in order to protect our culture and way of life, we need to destroy a culture and way of life that would bring our culture into question? What about the new British Prime Minister's response to the question on firing nuclear weapons? Is it better that a million of their people die despite their innocence than for our culture to come under attack from their ideologies or threats to our cultural survival? A deterrent is not a deterrent unless you are prepared to use it even when that deterrent is likely to bring mutual assured destruction.

All of these sacrificial victims, the victimisers, are in theory perpetrators of violence against our culture or individuals in our culture but is there a more subtle sacrificial victimisation happening in society?

One of the most obvious to me is the struggle for leadership of the Labour party. Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to the sacrificial system since he advocates peaceful alternatives. The forces of authority gang up on him because he sides with the repressed and those who abhor our dependence on authorised violence. He is unelectable because he challenges our cultural identity and the way that we believe things should be done. Even his own parliamentary colleagues believe it is better that one be sacrificed for the good of the party or culture than that the one should be allowed to cause an historical shift in our thinking about war, peace, and social justice. The news media join this sacrificial victimisation of a voice that challenges cultural norms. Is it possible that Jeremy Corbyn could be another Martin Luther King? A challenger to the cultural norms that must be silenced before it infects the culture and causes the culture to change forever? I don't expect Jeremy Corbyn to be assassinated (i.e. murdered) but I do see his ideologies being assassinated in an attempt to block the inevitable societal change. It is better that one person and their ideologies be sacrificed for the good of all than that our cultural norms be challenged and transformed by the actions and philosophies of the one.

All these are about obvious violence or political leaders, it wouldn't happen in the workplace or society in general? On 17 July, I asked the question whether serfdom was a social norm? If it is a social norm then maybe we should expect the same sacrificial victimisation to be occurring in the workplace in order to maintain that cultural system. Is this what we have seen in the junior doctor's dispute? The junior doctor's are the serfs who keep the British health system (NHS) in operation. It is better to quieten their voices than to allow their fears to be heard regardless of the validity of their claims and for the system to be changed forever.

What about promotion systems with their certification of practice? Is there a possibility that the promotional systems are designed to ensure that promotion does not occur for the worker who might challenge the system despite their effectiveness in the job because they do not conform to its promotional requirements? To voice discontent or propose fundamental changes is to invite failure in the cultural norms of the organisation. When that cultural norm frowns on failure, you should not admit that there is a possibility that something did not work or that you are in the process of trying to change. You have to show that you are successful and that you are conforming to those norms even when you seek to challenge them. Pointing out the shortcomings based on past experience is in adequate. You must show that you have implemented your proposal despite being at the bottom of the status heap. Management express confusion as to why the serfs in an organisation are the most unhappy when the systems that management have put in place are designed to keep the serfs in their place. Those who raise their heads above the parapet must be shot down before their infectious message damage the culture of the workplace. It is better to sacrifice the one than allow the serfs to rise up an expose our system for what it is.

Sympathy for the victim only goes so far before those who really stand up for the victims in society are turned into sacrificial victims in order to retain the status quo. These sacrificial victims may not be put to death but there will be every attempt to murder their ideologies so that they do not impact the current culture and bring the much needed change. However, the destruction of the messenger doesn't lead to the destruction of the message. Rather the sympathy for the victim or messenger has the potential to ignite a new storm of reform that changes society forever.

The fact that it requires the sacrificial victim for change to occur seems to be fundamental to our culture and this may be the real message of Bailie's book.

References

Bailie, G. (1995). Violence unveiled: Humanity at the crossroads. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Company.

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Is Serfdom a Social Norm?

We are reading Bailie's (1995) book in which he argues from an anthropological perspective that sacrificial violence was a norm in controlling violence and possibly initiating societal transform. Sacrificial violence relies on the argument that it is better for one to die for all that for all to suffer. As we read this morning, I wondered whether serfdom is also a social norm and if we were to look at economics from an anthropological perspective that we would see that despite attempts to abandon serfdom and slavery, society continues to revert to such practices although in a revised form.

Serfdom is defined as “the state of being under the control of another person” (Free Dictionary). A serf defined as “a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another” (dictionary.com).

This is not the result of an anthropological study but rather a personal reflection and observation based on forty years of work experience and strongly reinforced by my current employment. To some extent, it is the last few years of working in the UK that has made me a lot more conscious of the serfdom assumptions of capitalist economics.

What I observe is that there is an increased emphasis on certification of workers and if you are not certified then you don't receive the rewards even if you are already doing the job. However, that doesn't necessarily lead to serfdom. What I see as leading to serfdom is when the certification process is in the control of the management of the worker's organisation have control and are making the decisions in the certification process. In this situation, the management can refuse to certify a worker and then demand more work in order to become certified and gain promotion and the rewards for the work done.

In the definition of serfdom, there is the attachment “to the lord's land” and being “transferred with” with the land in a sale. I would contend that this is the case with employees in any company. The workers are attached to the company or organisation of their employers and if the company or organisation is sold then the employees are transferred with the sale.

If these are the conditions for serfdom then our modern economic environment seems to have the characteristics of a serfdom. The question is whether the transforms that occur in society see society repeatedly return to the key characteristics of serfdom? To be able to argue that this is so it is necessary to review the transforms that have occurred and in society and see whether the characteristics of serfdom have constantly been reestablished. Serfdom is most often linked with the period of feudalism but I believe that there are obvious cases where we could argue that it has been reestablished such as the period where slavery dominated. However, serfdom doesn't require slavery in the sense of unpaid slaves. It simply needs the workers to feel that they are locked in to the organisation and that they have few choices. As I talk to many of the lower paid colleagues in my current organisation, I sense that these conditions are in place. They have no confidence in the promotion process and feel obliged to do all that is asked of them. Occasionally there is resistance but this resistance doesn't cause cultural change within the organisation.

I would contend that serfdom has been reestablished whether governments recognise it or not.

References

Bailie, G. (1995). Violence unveiled: Humanity at the crossroads. New York: The Crossroads Publishing Company.

Free Dictionary at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/serfdom.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Where to from here?

In the UK, we are now in a strange kind of vacuum in leadership. Why has this occurred? On the conservative side, I don't believe David Cameron and George Osborne expected to lose the referendum so they put no plans in place, and I suspect that Boris Johnson and Michael Gove didn't expect to win so they didn't have a plan of action either. To add to the confusion Cameron has resigned and said he won't invoke the leave process. I suspect as well that the leave campaigners don't feel they have a big enough mandate and have no idea how to handle a situation that could easily swing against them and probably will once the lies of their campaign become apparent.

What about the labour party? They were effectively sidelined by the news media during the campaign and are now generating their own internal wrangles over leadership to have any input. During the campaign and now, they should be acting like the SNP and formulating a course of action to ensure the best outcome for Britain. I don't see that happening within the parliamentary labour party. Instead, I see them shooting themselves in the foot and ensuring that they become even more irrelevant in the future. How can going against the majority vote of their members help their aspirations to lead the government but then that is the problem, it is all about power and not about being the voice of the people. Maybe the labour party is dead and now the conservatives are joining the race to self destruction. As for the EU, there response in my view is farcical. A 48/52 split is hardly a clear indication that the UK really wants to leave so why try an invoke an immediate departure and ensure that their own people who want to split up the EU have more ammunition. Why not take a more conciliatory approach and talk of reform that ensures individual nations sovereignty but addresses the issues of working together. Instead, it is play by our rules or get out so a small majority support in favour of exit in the UK now means the UK must initiate the exit process. This will not resolve the uncertainty and it certainly will not address the real issues facing the EU and world economics.

I voted to remain purely on the grounds that as a commonwealth and EU citizen, it would be less hassle if the UK remained in the EU. This vote was not about the UK leaving Europe. That would require some major seismic disturbance. This was about political arrangements and leadership of the conservative party. Economic issues and immigration where the side shows for the debate. Effectively, the vote has made Cameron and Osborne ineffective although if they went to the EU and said help us build a relationship to keep us in, I suspect they could still win the day. Instead, they are allowing the outcome to destroy the UK economy because they like so many politicians are actually clueless when things do not fit their particular framing story.

The vote was a distraction from the main issues of how to organise ourselves economically and in relation to others.

From what I understand of the required processes to leave the EU, nothing happens until article 50 is invoked by the UK government. Surely the path forward to unity within the UK and with the EU is to address the issues that concern the UK population while retaining a working relationship with Europe. Look for those positive messages about UK security, incomes, and health that the people seek by addressing the real issues of a failed neoliberal based economic system. Playing with political alliances is not going to address the ills of a free market, corporate dominated economic infrastructure that will increasingly treat people as little more than slaves in a production system that can no longer deliver the job opportunities required. Address the issues that really caused the economic collapse and not the symptoms. Deep structural changes are needed to return the voice to the people and to deliver a stable peaceful world but no party is standing up clearly for such reform. Instead they shuffle the deck chairs while the boat sinks.

We need policies that will help build the potential of all nations while building a sustainable economy that ensures the environment is not destroyed. A set of policies that ensure that all benefit from the wealth of the world's natural resources and ensures all can participate according to their abilities and potentials. I would contend that money should be less of the focus and that the emphasis should shift to relationships and ensuring that there is equity for all. The more prosperous nations should be working with the less prosperous nations to ensure that the less prosperous nations have equitable access to the advances achieved while not destroying the indigenous infrastructure. We should seek to learn from each other building sustainable communities that work cooperatively for the benefit of the planet and all living species. We have to lose much of our self interest and begin to look more at meeting the needs of others if we are to see real advance.

Change is possible but not while we are squabbling over who should lead or what relationships should be in place. In or out of the EU, this change of focus is required so where are the leaders that will step forward and champion this change of framing story and build peaceful relationships for all?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Am I Being Radicalised?

Since moving to the UK, I feel more and more as though I am having to fight for survival. This isn't to say that I didn't agree with government policies and directions in New Zealand. It is simply here that I feel the working class are enslaved and oppressed. They need a champion who understands and works for their plight.

In the coming week, I will join a union picket line possibly for the first time in my life. Even voluntarily joining a union was something I hadn't done before coming to the UK. Maybe it was the organisations that I worked for but I always felt they had genuine desire to reward me for my work and ensure that I also had access to the rewards of being a successful business. I felt that I wanted to help them to succeed. That has all changed an now I struggle with my beliefs for an equitable society and for genuine peace.

What has led me to join the union? I initially signed up because I was concerned about the increasing workload expectations and what I am increasingly calling the enslavement of the workforce. There seemed to be no way to say to management that you had too much work and that it wasn't possible to achieve what was being asked in the time available. At that point and up until recently, I would have worked all out to achieve what was asked of me but now, I find myself being willing to let things not be done. Time doesn't expand simply because there are more demands for it so I have to accept the limitations on the time that I have available and if I want to ensure my life away from work continues to be worthwhile, I have to say work can only take up a limited amount of the time of each day. Management and the institution may want me to give more but I have to fight back and say there has to be limits to the demands placed on workers. They cannot become slaves to their workplaces.

I see this process also causing me to allow my standards to slip. I feel that I am enforced to take the option that takes the shortest time for a task rather than the option that delivers the best result. Under time constraints the tradeoff is either scope or quality or both. That is what I now feel enforced to do. I feel forced to shrink the task by taking shortcuts and consequentially allowing the quality to slip. Everything within me wants to fight back.

Now, I find myself joining a picket line about pay because the management are being rewarded with a 6.3% pay rise while we, the frontline staff, are being offered a 1.1% pay rise. I don't see us getting 6.3% but this isn't rewarding the hardworking families. This is about enslaving them. It is a war started by the government on the workers of the UK. It is a battle that the workers have to stand up to and say enough is enough.

Yes, I am being radicalised but not by some preacher calling for me to take up a terrorist stance against the west. I am being radicalised by a system that repressing the worker in favour of the 1% and the corporations. I am being radicalised by a prime minister who says he is for the hard working family while he ensures that they have less to live on and that the wealth rushes up to the wealthy. I am being radicalised by the false messages of a system that endeavours to hold the workers down rather than work in their best interests.

But I don't want to be radicalised to become a terrorist but I do want to be someone who stands up for real peace os shalom. I read books on peace making and what peace means and I see in these books a radical message. It is such a radical message that some of the authors were forced to flee for their lives, not from radicals but from the governments of their day. The more visible leaders of these peace movements had to stand up against their political leaders pointing out the failings of the government. They sought peace but realised to get peace, they needed to make a nonviolent stand against the political leadership. This is now where I increasingly feel that I stand.

True peace isn't the absence of war as that cannot happen as long as some of the population is suppressed (Arnold, 2013, pp 11-12). True peace comes from within but it changes the way that we relate with others. It is about building relationships and establishing true equity. These are radical ideas that are rejected by the individualistic society in which we live. Radicalisation doesn't need to lead to violence. It can lead to another alternative that still stands up against injustice and inequality. It seeks out a radical alternative for society. One built on different principles to the self serving principles of current capitalist, neoliberal western society and maybe even the socialistic principles of what is seen as the traditional opposition.

Yes, I am being radicalised by the system that marginalises the workers and that transfers wealth from those who do not have to those who already have. I am being radicalised by injustice in the system and by the writings of those who see a peaceful alternative. There needs to be a stronger voice that stands up against this injustice and challenges the assumed norms of our society, that puts forth a real alternative that addresses the real issues of our society and world. This isn't a battle of guns or violence but this is a revolution of the mind, the philosophy, and the approach to life. It is a challenge to the framing story, the story by which we live. It is a challenge that asks whether there is another way. I believe there is but it will be a long struggle.

References

Arnold, J. C. (2013). Seeking peace: Notes and conversations along the way. New York: Plough Publishing House.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Rethinking Our Priorities

We have been reading a lot of books on restorative justice and the implication of relationship building and putting things right rather than retribution. I have tended to be silent for a while because of workload issues and having to write an application for promotion just to retain parity in the system. Along with a new movie about the financial crash, “The Big Short,” this has all prompted me to write this blog.

A comment that I received from a human resources manager highlights the problem of that I want to highlight in this blog. The comment basically implied that because people don't complain about inequality until provided evidence of the inequality in the system then they shouldn't complain or become upset when they obtain that information. Another interpretation of this comment is that companies should exploit their employees or a situation and when someone complains say that they hadn't complained before so they must have accepted what was happening. Is this a legitimate perspective or do companies and managers have a responsibility to ensure equality?

My argument is that the attitude that as long as no one complains, what is being done is acceptable lies behind the economic crisis. The documentary “Inside Job” and now the movie “The Big Short” both highlight the systemic problems and the momentum of a system racing to self destruction. Despite personal qualms by individuals, the system requirements dominate drawing all to perform to expectations rather than to ethical considerations. When it comes to the fixing of the interbank lending rate (LIBOR), it was individuals who were charged rather than an acknowledgement that the system seeks conformity and rewarded for what later was judged as unacceptable behaviour. In fact the rigging of LIBOR rates is insignificant compared with the gambling on sub-prime mortgages depicted in “The Big Short.”

What is really horrifying is that despite the 2007/2008 failure, the system hasn't changed. The bankers who acted as though there were no problems continue to do so recreating exactly the same conditions as existed before the crash. Although I support structural changes like those proposed by Positive Money or People's QE, I am not convinced that these will make the real changes that are necessary.

How often is this happening and how much of what is wrong with the system is simply expectations that people feel under rather than what they feel they should do based on their conscious?

At the root of the problem is the framing story that our economic system is based on. A framing story that places making money ahead of meeting need, and of growth rather than sustainability. This was clearly depicted in “The Big Short” where so many of the bankers and hedge funds were gambling on making money. That took priority of the social harm caused.

It is time for a serious rethink of our values and priorities. I question the emphasis that we place on knowledge or specialist skills. We need a more equal distribution of wealth. The unskilled jobs that if done properly stop the spread of disease and the destruction of our environment need to be rewarded more than the high paid intellectual jobs that are focussed on money making but deliver nothing of value to society.

Without such fundamental changes, we are racing to endless and short cycles of economic collapses until finally complete economic destruction occurs.