Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Six a song

Its interesting that the recent Black Eyed Peas record entitled ‘Where is the love’ stayed at number one for quiet a few weeks. Was the music or the message within it? At least if it was the latter there is a thought of hope in humanity. Taking an extract from the lyrics you can notice the reality of what is being ‘pitched’!I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder. As I'm gettin' older, y'all, people gets colder. Most of us only care about money makin'. Selfishness got us followin' in the wrong direction. Wrong information always shown by the media. Negative images is the main criteria. Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria. Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema. Yo', whatever happened to the values of humanity. Whatever happened to the fairness in equality. Instead in spreading love we spreading animosity. Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity.

The words are certainly ‘cutting’ and they may unfortunately be relevant in years to come. Similarly, the powers-that-were in Motown (1971) didn't even want to release the record What's Going On by Marvin Gaye. Its unexpected success went on to inspire artist such as Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield. An extract from the lyrics of this classic record is provided below:Mother, mother, there's too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there's far too many of you dying. You know we've got to find a way. To bring some lovin' here today
You may now be asking what is point of reminiscing about such songs ? Do they simply reflect the situation of our times? i.e.: Words and rhythms that we simply hum to and then move onto the next popular fad. Or, is there a glimmer of hope and a true message to urge people to do something to change the status quo of depression.

With injustice all around (for example, Human right abuses exposed by the Red Cross, Amnesty International and a variety of Civil liberty groups), at least there are some artists that are strong enough to express their passion for social inclusion and collaboration. Generations to come may look back at aspects of post industrial eras of the 20th and 21st Century as self-focused.

One cause could be the obsessive nature of extremes of patronism, trade protectionism and growth of the multinational. The by product of this atmosphere is a self righteousness. A deep sense of not wanting to share and in many cases only because it’s too difficult to survive.

Recently I passed some subways near Camberwell, London. The extremes of its poverty is clearly visible. For example, tramps spending their entire day asking for change. Unfortunately suggestions of doubt regarding the genuinely arise in the mind of the passers by. Suddenly we become judge and jury and purveyor of charity. Is there simply not enough infrastructure to understand why these people are in such a situation? Or, do we accept that they’re beyond reach and that you cannot force them to change?

One answer could the need to establish a greater sense of community, collaboration and consensus with collective responsibility. Lots of ‘Cs’ and words but the famous £ sign can put a sudden STOP to such thoughts. If councils could establish a Community collaboration fund based on voluntary contributions and a national tax, then at least some urban renewal and specific projects could be started. This fund could also be fuelled from companies that exceed their profit targets or are visible fair-trade abusers. Therefore, instead of companies investing / ploughing money into redundant office blocks, they could inject funds back into the community they reside near. If the fund is multinational, then international collaboration projects could take place.

Another perspective worth considering is Gil Scott-Heron song : The revolution will not be televised’! The lesson here maybe that if we spent more time looking up and around at each other rather than staring at reality TV, we could then wake-up and help each other instead? We all need to consider faith through actions. Make the most of both your life and for those around you.

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Monday, June 21, 2004

Football crazy ? Who are the real winners?

With flags waving from passenger car windows, fever pitch is with us again during the Euro2004 campaign. However, ever wondered how football became so popular over the last 10 years with club management and footballers claiming & gaining huge hikes in transfer fees, club earnings and sponsorship deals? With widening and varying audiences.

The FA Premier League was formed by the leading clubs in the Football League Division One breaking away. They did so to gain more control over TV rights and to have more control generally over their own destiny

However, we need to ‘dig’ a little deeper to uncover some realities! Until the early 1980s football clubs were mainly loss-making. They were primarily social rather than a commercial organisation. In addition, they tended to be privately owned, usually by locally based, wealthy and indulgent benefactors motivated by a desire for prestige in the local community or a personal hobby. Attendances were declining.

By contrast, today we see the industry is increasingly incorporated into the conventional commercial ‘leisure’ sector (with stock-market-quoted firms listed under ‘Leisure, Entertainment and Hotels’). Ownership by institutional or multi-national corporate investors has started (consider the recent bid from Thailand!?) Some large clubs have been transformed into highly profitable purveyors of leisure-related product lines, attracting an increasing number of spectators from across the full range of income groups.

Since the early 70s to the early 90s the industry could be considered to have been in a state of crisis. One view is that the lack of investment in grounds coupled with inadequate club management was to culminate only a few years later in the Heysel (1985), Bradford (1985) and Hillsborough (1989) stadium disasters. One could argue that football clubs were never intended to be conventional profit-maximising firms but needed to act as sporting clubs. Two key factors have driven the recent transformation of the football industry: the opening up of this previously closed sector to market forces (think also about how football has also become appealing to both sexes & age groups) and effective governmental regulatory intervention.
Regulatory interventions enabled football as an industry to re-construct itself. The emergence of satellite TV has had a major impact on football. The satellite companies, mainly BSkyB, developed a system to draw viewers prepared to pay the extra cost (known as pay-per-view), away from terrestrial channels. The sums of money TV companies were prepared to pay for television rights meant that it became possible for a minority of clubs to pay extraordinary sums of money to players, and still make handsome profits. This influx of money into football encouraged many club owners to float on the Stock Exchange while retaining controlling interests.
So who’s making the money and from who? In fact it’s the club shareholders and board members and players that are receiving vast funds or revenue. However, it’s Joe & Jane Public and their children that are coaxed into merchandise and related consumer products. NB Fans tend buy merchandise as a means of associating themselves with their sporting heroes, but also as a means of expressing solidarity with their fellow fans. The revolution in changing the football industry should have benefited the football supporters, but it continues to fall short. Instead the national press continue to create player icons and unnecessary associated obsessive pursuits.
The popularity of football may also have a long term impact on the reduced take-up of other sports. Remember Seb Coe, Steve Cram and Steve Ovett, some of the fastest and greatest record breaking field and track sportspersons. The growth of the sport of football shows yet another imbalance caused by commercialism.

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Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Does G8 = Jee ate

Ever wondered what it would be like to attend the G8 summit. Just imagine being a fly on the wall in one of the conference rooms where some of the worlds leader’s get together to, to what? At the G8 website the organisers introduce and summarise the function of these sessions:President Bush will host the 30th G8 Summit at Sea Island, Georgia on June 8-10, 2004. The United States assumed the Presidency of the G8 from France at the beginning of 2004. President Bush, Chairman of the 2004 G8 Summit, is looking forward to the opportunity to meet with the G8 Leaders in the informal and relaxed setting of Sea Island, Georgia.The G8 Summit brings together the Leaders of the world's major industrial democracies: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The European Union also attends the G8 Summit, represented by the President of the European Commission and the Leader of the country holding the Presidency of the European Council. At previous Summits, Leaders have discussed a wide range of international economic, political, and security issues. Personal representatives of the G8 leaders, commonly referred to as "Sherpas," meet throughout the year to prepare for the Summit. The word Sherpa refers to a Nepali expert mountain guide, that assists climbers in ascending Himalayan summits and are essential in ensuring a successful ascent to the top of the mountain. In a similar fashion, the G8 Sherpa’s guide the leaders by representing their leaders in negotiations that lead up to the Summit.This year a wide range of issues was discussed including priority given to the Iraq situation. But what else came out of the summit? Before leaving their exclusive retreat, the leader endorsed proposals aimed at easing poverty and recommitting themselves to the fight against HIV, they suggested promise to seek a two-year extension to the expiring debt reduction initiative, for the world's poorest countries. G8 Leaders also endorsed proposals aimed at easing the crushing poverty and expected to renew their fight against HIV/AIDS, which has devastated many African nations. However African leaders - the presidents of Algeria, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda - want to dispel suggestions they have arrived at this millionaires' private island retreat as beggars. South Africa's (SA) President Thabo Mbeki suggested that they (SA)’… will still be poor relations crashing the party’. The issue of Iraq's mountainous debt was also raised, The United States is pushing for up to 90 percent to be cancelled, but countries like France, Russia and Canada appeared unwilling to go so far.
Earlier in the summit, the leaders endorsed an end-of-July target for an outline deal on the most divisive issues in global trade talks, unveiled measures to halt transfers of nuclear technology and endorsed airline security improvements.
In summary, although the leaders showed will and used a mechanism to ‘keep the conversation going’, I hope it wasn’t all just ‘talking shop’. These leaders have the power to make a difference. When we sit at home watching our filtered news it is very difficult for us to view the impact of year-on-year conferences of this type. We’re never really presented with the true outcomes, results, comparisions, statistics or even narrative of the impact of decisions.

Instead we are presented with a newsreel showing a photo-call of the leaders in front of a beach with selective palm trees. Each leader dressed in their defined informal casual wear. Maybe that’s part of the problem? Maybe the world views such events as casual luxury hideaways? Maybe another way to run a G8 conference is to hold it at an HIV centre, amongst those that are in trouble today. How about in the middle of Sudan. I’m sure that security could be arranged.

Its great that these leaders get together to help raise and settle issues. However, did they have a great or gr8 meal together or did they consider and prioritise the need for immediate and direct action against regimes and systems that force people to digest poverty and inhumanity everyday?

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Monday, June 07, 2004

Remembering the innocent

Rajinder had just been pushed to the ground, falling sideways, he grazed his arm and leg. His skin stung from the scratches incurred against the sharp gravel he was thrust against. He staggered forward and with difficulty managed to pick himself up. On arising he looked up, he turned gazing first to his left and then to the right. All he could see around him was the shells of burning houses. As the flames angrily stretched into the air, they took with them dark swirling clouds of soot with random imbedded sparks. The person who pushed him was his neighbour, someone Rajinder had grown-up with and had considered a good friend. His neighbour was not alone, a group had formed surrounding him, independently, each took it in terms to declare accusingly, ‘They say you’ve killed our leader’, ’You’re responsible’. ‘We’ll kill another’. ‘It’s going to be you’. Rajinder clearly startled by the fall was now confused. Panicked by the accusers he yelled back, ‘What are you talking about’? With vengeance in the eyes, they collectively screamed back, ‘She’s dead and you lot are all going to pay for her death with your lives’…

Someone recently asked me what difference would it make to attend a liberty march or a protest against inhumane acts for example, whether it is to mark the anniversary of fighting for freedom or demand justice for those that have been ‘bound’, respectively. Both have a common thread. They remind us of the value of human life and the need to ensure that never again should anyone suffer at the hands of another. Unfortunately, since World War 2 wars haven’t stopped, many are still active and raging. Violence against the Sikhs has also continued and many known instigators of violence are free and without trial. Compensation to the victim’s families is missing. Nothing can bring back their lost souls but cases exist where souls are intentionally hidden, lost or unaccounted.

Oppressive regimes are still favoured, often for the purposes of developing trading relationships. Episodes, for example Tinemen Square in Beijing 15 years ago are often over looked and events in Tibet since the 1950s are sidelined.

Activities during 5th and 6th June 2004 - the D-Day anniversary in France parade and Never forget ‘84’ March in London teaches us many things. 60 years ago an allied force (Bayeux is home to France’s largest Commonwealth WW2 cemetery with 4,219 graves) of 156,000 united against tyranny and working together for the common good. Today in the year 2004 during an age when we should be talking about peace, instead we see the distorted advertisements from the British National Party. Incidentally, last weeks BNP European election London broadcast featured a person in a turban and no beard sympathising with the BNP!? Is there value in remembering any of the events of the past, apart from the cliché that ‘history teaches us not to repeat the mistakes of the past’? The answer must be a categoric and resounding ‘YES’. We can all make a difference to renounce evil – we need to do this on mass. We can work together to demand justice. We can all talk about peace but as long as we suggest ways of making it happen, for example, we can all demand more from our politicians to consider shared wealth over materialism. For everyone to understand the truth, we need clear, concise messages from a common unified central point – multilingual and penetrative in its communication and effective in the positive and ethical actions it suggests. From each other, we can all learn more about each other, so that we’re not open to being manipulated.

A march or remembrance day serves as a method to ensure that those that do believe evil way will not prevail.

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