Monday, February 28, 2005

Oscar Fright!

Another year passes and the catwalk of supposed style is paraded in front of the world. Oscar night is considered the world’s premier film award ceremony. If we count the dollars spent alone over the last few months on big show time events it is a personal fright: The cost of the US president’s inauguration in January 2005 amounted to $40M (US dollars). It consisted of nine official balls and nearly twice as many unofficial parties. Interestingly, the First Lady's inaugural gown is likely to be presented to the National Museum of American History in Washington DC. Although $40M will be paid for by private donations solicited from President George W. Bush's supporters, it is still a lot of money.

In terms of the cost of the Oscars in 2005 I’m still searching for an overall cost but a clue to its ‘make-up’ can be revealed by analysing the big winner’s goodie bag contents – for example, consisting of cashmere pyjama bottoms, mink eyelashes and a coffee maker. Presenters and performers at this year's Oscar ceremony will also receive a ‘gift basket’ - a bag of freebies - each expected to have a value of approximately $150,000 (£78,500). It will include the latest ultra-thin mobile phone, a selection of free holidays, exclusive olive oil, a $1,500 voucher for dinner, coffee maker, toaster and a kettle. There are even plans for an unofficial runners-up gift bag for all the nominees. Priced at around $38,000, it includes a voucher for a weekend in Las Vegas. All this for some of the most mollycoddled and wealthy people on the planet.

However, why should we worry about all this cost? Many may argue it is the price of having fun, in return for giving pleasure to the viewing public and celebrating achievement. Kind words but I am afraid in a world of indifference to strive and in-balance in terms of wealth, who exactly is having the fun? Is the fun only reserved the celebrities cat walking their diamonds, gowns and egos or are they simply serving the readers of glossies that further fuel and stroke an industry of the image conscience?

I am certainly not implying that some celebrities do not work hard to highlight world issues. Take for example, Angelina Jolie, an Oscar-winning actress for her role in Girl, Interrupted, and the iconic action adventure character Lara Croft of Tomb Raider fame. She has worked for many years as Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), visiting UNHCR refugee operations in the Balkans, Sierra Leone, Namibia, Tanzania, Kenya, Cambodia, Thailand, Pakistan and Ecuador. When asked: What surprised you most in your first months as ambassador? She replied, ‘The extreme imbalance of wealth and resources in the world.’

This is my point, when we collectively realise that there is such imbalance of wealth in the world a level of global perspective can rise within ourselves. For some reason headlines updating us on the problems in the Sudan, African’s Aids epidemic, child labour, the worrying statistics on child and associated adult mortality and the rising barriers of rich and poor under the same regime are surpassed or positioned as secondary stories?

We need to understand that the media delights in praising the achievements of gloss but the cost of developing and promoting this gloss overshadows the underlying problems and realities of the world. Next time you stay-up to watch the Oscars or read about the latest winners; consider if the cost is worth it and who we should really all be working to win for.

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Friday, February 18, 2005

Keep on Walking - CD Review

In early 2005, Indi Kaur released a unique CD. The CD is the result of Indi Kaur working closely with her producer, MaJiKer and powerful lyricist Harjit Singh. What we have today is the blend of soulful and spiritual sounds that touch that special place in everyone’s hearts. What is it about each track that affects anyone that listens to it?

The first and penultimate tracks of the CD are ideal mantras for meditation – the sound is tranquil and peaceful, meditative yet contemporary. An additional final track (seven) is also provided for longer mediation periods.

The second track of the CD outlines the story of Baba Deep Singh, a great Sikh hero. Initial wording such as, ‘Waheguru's light gives him his glow’ immediately provides vivid imagery. A fusion of traditional instruments, modern keyboards, extended synthesised vocals, Indi’s harmony’s and quick start and ending shuffles gives the track the quality of travel to parallel the associated story of the journey of courage for freedom.When I first heard the third and title track, ‘Keep on Walking’ I found that it was both uplifting and inspiring. It communicated the way Guru Nanak worked to bring peace, love and harmony to a world caught-up in superstition and inequality. The soulful nature of the track is climaxed again and again with the words, ‘he is shining, he is shining with the rising sun’. The chorus is made-up of echoed harmonies linked to the words Waheguru, meaning wonderful lord.
The forth track entitled, ‘A Khalsa Woman (Mai Bhago) comprises of a back beat based on a rhythmic smooth groove. The song gives credit to Mai Bhago who back in 1705 enthused and energised both Sikh men and women to return to battle the Mughal forces. As the Sikh forces made they made their way back, groups of Sikhs from various villages along the way joined them in support of the great Guru Gobind Singh Ji.

The track entitled Sacrifice communicates the greatness of the Sikhs tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh. It commences with marching drums combined with what sounds like orchestral kettledrums. The track then settles into a steady pace of story telling – we learn about how the Guru’s entire family were sacrificed for the cause of freedom. The chorus flows with multiple harmonies peaking with an appreciation of Waheguru.

To summarise, this CD consists of seven tracks mainly in English and great meditative mantras, providing a bridge of accessibility for Sikhs and those from different faiths to understand the wonders of universal spiritual messages.

For further information please visit:

Where you can also purchase the CD – A great & recommended essential treat for the soul !

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Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Immigration headlines return

I remember in the late seventies when Margaret Thatcher first used the words ‘swamped’. Many accused her of using race issues as a way of attracting voters and raising unnecessarily fears in the general population.Recently Michael Howard, himself a descendent from the European mainland (Mr Howard was born in Llanelli, Wales, where his Romanian shopkeeper father had moved as an asylum seeker in order to escape Nazi persecution) announced the Conservative party’s proposed policy on immigration. The content of the proposed policy should be examined very closely. For example, issues raised include: annual limits in three areas: asylum seekers, people wanting work permits and those coming to Britain to be with their families. In addition, reviewing caps in these latter areas, stronger border controls, a points system for scoring applicant appropriateness and quotas.

Its interesting that no one ever talks about the positive aspects of immigration, for example: economic contribution and renewal, the vitality that immigrants bring and a sense of enriching of a nations culture. Immigration can also help to plug labour shortages.Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, has asked the Conservatives to clarify exactly what their proposals mean. If they are going to restrict immigration, he argues, they would have to start with those moving within the European Union. If the party does not mean EU migrants, he suggests, then the policy would leave open the way for racists to put the ‘worst construction’ on the party's message.From an international perspective, the United Nations Convention on Refugees, an international document that helps manage and protect those fleeing persecution could be bypassed by this policy.Although, immigration and asylum often prove highly contentious issues the Tories are confident they are tackling real public concerns. In reality it appears that many politicians are confused, with definitions often and fuzzed/altered to fuel fear, sound familiar?

On April 20, 1968, the British politician Enoch Powell made a controversial speech in Birmingham to the annual meeting of the West Midlands Conservative Political Centre, in which he warned his audience of what he believed would be the consequences of continued immigration from the Commonwealth to Britain. Because of its allusion to Virgil (Roman poet; author of the epic poem `Aeneid') saying that the Tiber would foam with blood, Powell's warning became known as the Rivers of Blood speech. Although the current language is different in both cases the prediction of ‘rivers of blood’ and the declaration that ‘Britain has reached a turning point’ could be construed by many as calculated to cause an affect of fear. The last thing we want is for another phrase to be added to minority right wing parties vocabulary.

It is important to also realise that such talk can create a backlash against communities that have settled here since the early 1950s, and earlier. Over the coming weeks Labour will be unveiling its own proposals. They also suggest that the Tory plans to cut the Home Office budget may mean they cannot police the proposed scheme.One thing is for sure, the return of immigration to the headlines of our daily’s has the potential to generate the wrong message just like Thatcher did.

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Friday, February 04, 2005

No time for apathy

This week I went to see Nelson Mandela at Trafalgar Square, London. The turnout transformed the square into a giant beehive. Mr Mandela was part of a number of launch events for the ‘MAKEPOVERTYHISTORY’ initiative (please visit . This group brings together a wide cross section of over 200 charities, campaigns, trade unions, faith groups and celebrities who are united by a common belief that 2005 offers a great opportunity for global change. I could not help thinking while I stood there, what more can we could do? How can we harness the empathy that everyone was exhibiting? Sure, 20,000 of us stood in Trafalgar Square in solidarity for the cause. We all cheered unanimously for the need for us to rid the world of the scar of poverty. We all loved it when Bob Geldof yelled, ‘I’m tired of politics being nice. I want politics to be responsible’. We collectively roared in agreement to Mr Mandela declaration that, "Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings.

However, what does being responsible actually mean? Interestingly, earlier in the week in Switzerland, the Davos forum was concluded. Also known as the world economic forum, it was founded in 1971 by a Swiss economics professor. Its motto is ‘committed to improving the state of the world’. This year’s agenda included coverage of African poverty, climate change and Middle East change. During five days of forums and 200 sessions, it was good to see attendance from 96 countries, 23 heads of state, 72 cabinet ministers, 35 ambassadors and 500 business leaders. In summary, many people and ideas for action were raised. At one of the earlier sessions, Hollywood actress Sharon Stone, stood up and amazingly raised £1,000,000 in 5 minutes. Money can certainly help but I believe there is something within our own social fabric that needs to change. Consider for example, corporate responsibility. A leading computer company’s ceo recently suggested that it was now no longer enough for firms to develop profits for shareholders. It should not be a case of making good (money), we should also consider delivering good. Although many economists may argue that, it is either the shareholder or the customer/buyer that has to ‘pay’ for this good. NB A redundant but full bank account in the possession of an already rich organisation fails to deliver benefits to anyone.The potential to deliver good certainly exists, from both a monetary and programme perspective. Lets consider a recent oil company’s profit announcement of £9.3M, up 38% from the previous year. We will need to examine the ratio or proportion of profit made and compare this to how much this organisation has ploughed into charity funds or help initiatives.

The politics of being responsible starts with us. We need to unite to demand that our retail chains and suppliers understand the meaning of delivering good & social responsibility. The irony is that we make-up and ‘drive’ these firms! What appears to be obstacle? My view is that it could be the nature of our day-to-day dependencies and obsession with looking after ‘number 1’. Has there ever been a performance appraisal scheme that incorporates the welfare of others? In addition, corporations are not forthcoming in suggesting secondments and sabbaticals for voluntary schemes. Corporate global improvement programmes exist but is there linkage between any of them? For example, is there a fund available for African development focused on delivering clean water by a consortium or membership of firms? If so, good, lets all work towards supporting it and in contributing resources that can provide expertise, outside of our work dimension.

Its easy to be apathetic but unless we suggest to the organisations we work for and the governments we vote in to encourage a ‘joined-up’ world, we will become an even more divided world and poverty will remain a scar on our society, in our current generation. Our conscience must be committed to sharing our wealth and energies.

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