Monday, 11 September 2017

Wrong Paths

So much of what we get attracted by is just a waste of time.

Most of the stories in the news - as Thoreau pointed out over 150 years ago - serve no purpose. Worse, they become a kind of gloomy, lifelong soap opera. What's the mad President up to next? The natural disaster story; what will happen next? Will a baby be pulled out of earthquake-caused rubble?

Facebook and other social media mesmerise us with pointless but fascinating images, stories, jokes. Meanwhile something called life flits by unnoticed, and something called death creeps ever nearer.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Robotic Automation

So the big story for business is the next major phase of automation. The first phase was the automation of factory work when massive machines were brought in to replace people at their benches, and when tractors and harvesters replaced farm labourers.

One part of this new phase is not robotics but computers. It said they will make redundant all drivers of vehicles. That's every taxi, bus, train, lorry, van, tractor. To be replaced by driverless vehicles run by computers. Millions and millions of jobs will be lost.

The same they say will be true for professional jobs; lawyers, accountants, nurses, doctors.

We've been there before. The scare stories of mass unemployment, revolution in response to mass poverty and a meaningless life without work. Of course, it didn't turn out that way.

But this time there is a real opportunity. We could tax the profits of these new businesses so that they fully pay for the lost income of the mass of workers. It could pay for the concept of full citizen incomes. The idea that every human being will be given enough to survive and enjoy life without having to work, paid by the profits of those businesses which made redundant the old jobs. I think it's possible.

That extra income for the masses will of course be spent, creating a cycle of profit for the businesses, from which tax is returned to pay for the people's citizens' income.

And for many of us we can freely chose what if any work we want to do. It can be totally liberating. The alternative is the demoralisation of millions.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

and even

and even as you're writing it
you know it's all nonsense

and yet precious
like a massive gem found by chance
in a shallow stream

a shallow stream gurgles forth
wasting time

ocean deep
endless and profound

endless, over in a flash
profound, like the sun reflecting
into my eyes from a car window

you know it's all absurd
even as you stop writing

Towards A New Global Culture

I believe we should educate and train the coming generation to be kind.

Sounds nice and naive, simplistic, but it's not. We have never before known scientifically that we can in fact deliberately and consciously nurture kindness and compassion in people through simple ongoing practices.

Now we know. And we know that kindness is a good thing, not only for those who receive it, but for those who act in a kindly manner.

Kindness is giving practical help out of a desire to do so, not for selfish reasons.

So we know it works at a personal level. It also works at a national level. It aids mental health issues, which not only help those suffering but also boosts the economy in many ways. It reduces absenteeism. It increases productivity. And it reduces the burden on the NHS.

The other side of this suggestion is that we should, politely, gently but clearly ask that any suffering, cruelty or hurt be stopped. Plain and simple. If it hurts or causes harm we should stop doing it.

This can be construed as both a principle or philosophy on the one hand, and a direct timely response to an ongoing incident in which hurt or cruelty is being imposed on someone or something. Every time we see or hear about cruelty, harm, hurt or imposed suffering we should simply ask that it stop.

We do of course have declarations and statements on human rights which already cover many of these wishes. However fine formal declarations are all well and good but they don't tend to sink into the heart of people unfortunately. People require something simpler, closer to home, closer to how they actually feel moment by moment. Kindness and asking for suffering to stop exactly fit what people experience and feel.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Elements of a Good Society

I think we sometimes get so engrossed in the soap opera of politics, the fire fighting, the crises, the opportunities to stick it to the opposition, that we sometimes forget to remember what we are actually seeking to attain. So in this and some future posts I'll sketch out some basic things I think need to exist for a society to call itself good.

The first is ensuring that everyone can feel secure about their basic needs - food, clothing and shelter. Amazingly this is not the case in Britain, nor within Scotland, the part of Britain I live in. I buy three items every week from the supermarket, drawn from a list of things the local food bank says they need most. We have people who rely on a food charity to feed themselves and their families.

I'm off in half an hour to go to Edinburgh to do a talk this evening. Every time I arrive at Waverley Station and go to somewhere within ten minutes walk from the station I pass at least three people begging. They are homeless. They might have temporary accommodation - might - but they have nowhere that they can call home.

So that's two of the three basic needs of a good society not being met by one of the world's largest economies. Not enough food, and no home.

We need to have economic and social strategies in order to sort this shameful failure as our number one priority.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Stating the Obvious

A U.S. student returns from imprisonment in North Korea, in a coma, and dies a few days later.

The barbarity of authority is not checked or self-restrained.

Over 70 people at latest counting died in a tower block, where fireproof cladding was rejected because it cost £2 more than the cheaper alternative, which was used.

Money doesn't grow on trees but life is precious. Unless we have wise, compassionate and judicious government it is always the poor who will be neglected and damaged.

Another multi-millionaire is accused of tax evasion.

Money corrupts. The wealthier you get, the more you fear losing your money, and the more you resent having to share it, unless you have strength of altruistic compassion and conviction.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Thou Shalt Not Kill Animals

If I was a dictator, or even the elected leader of a country, with a healthy majority in parliament, and the back up of most of my party - which is a whole lot of ifs -

I'd ban the deliberate killing of all animals, allowing submissions to be excepted from the law under very limited circumstances.

I'd allow those who run businesses, the survival of which depends on their killing other living things - eg. slaughterhouses - or which depends on others killing animals eg. livestock farmers, butchers - an amount of time, say five to ten years, to turn around their business so that it has a fair chance of survival without the need for animals to be killed.

People would say this is an unfair infringement of their rights but our rights are already curtailed by thousands of acts of legislation. We are not allowed to kill other humans except under rare circumstances. Moreover we are not allowed to kill certain animals or birds, either because they are owned by humans eg. a dog, or because they are endangered (usually because of other human activity) eg. ospreys in Scotland.

This would mean that meat eating would end, changing the culture of our culture and cuisine dramatically. It would also change the nature of our countryside, as currently large tracts of land are used solely for the grazing of cattle and sheep.

It's a moral point of course. We are intelligent enough to be able to produce the food, clothing shelter, education, and health services we need without killing any other living things intentionally. So the moral rule - do no harm if you can avoid it - applies.