Friday, July 29, 2005

Should we be paranoid?

On 8th July, I was walking through Vauxhall station and without sounding paranoid, I got the most amazing ‘dirty look’ from a fellow traveller walking the opposite way. Was it something I said or is this now what some of us will have to expect as part of the aftermath of 7/7- London and its contribution to those in society that are ignorant.

The reason why I ask is because together with the havoc that terrorists create they also create an unbalanced society. A society where although the media and politicians may attempt to reinforce expressions of tolerance and strength through recognising diversity, I feel an underlying or unfortunate undercurrent of irrelevant suspicion could start to develop. I have a great fear that we will now see a growth in right wing sympathy. We have already seen senseless attacks on places of worship. What does this tell us about the state that we are in?

Ironically on Sunday 11th July the UK commemorated the 60th anniversary of VE day. It was described as a day of defiance as hundreds of thousands arrived in Central London to observe the day. Defiance in this context should not be constrained to being just defined as being bold to stand-up against those that wish to partake in tyranny and the create chaos. Instead, a wider aspect of its stance and meaning is more applicable. For example, to not bow to the pressures of segmenting society and victimisation based on lack of mutual understanding.

9/11 was described as a ‘walk-up call’ for many in religions in terms of improving what I describe as ‘the education of awareness and respect’. Interfaith groups definitely go a long way to unite people. In the past I have commented about how great they have been to concentrate all members to unite on a central charity – The power of many coming together to both focus and deliver common good. However, although schools now teach world religions as part of their religious education, we are living in a society where materialism is ceaseless and any form of continuous learning and respect for God seems to be intentionally missed in the main stream. Religious programming (TV) is typically broadcast off-peak and often spiritual activities such as Yoga or Tai-Chi are treated as commodities. What does this tell us about the state of our lifestyle and expectations of each other? Is an attraction to materialism based on supplementing goods for happiness? Or, are we happy to be conditioned in front of our flat screens, trapped in an approved subliminal (subversive unconscious suggestion) mode or universe? A world where we are immune to the perils of humanity and injustice! Unless we ask for change in such a stance we are not going to get it. There is no Matrix Nimo waiting around the corner. Instead, we only have to put ourselves into the hearts and minds of others, constantly demanding greater quality of life and equality for all. Being agnostic is not the answer. Reality TV is not the answer. Greater exposure to the wonders of spirituality can help us all.

A helicopter or motorcycle view of the race of life shows that commercialism appears to be the lead runner but we know that eventually those that respect God and treat each other as equals without ego or alternative agendas are the true winners.

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Friday, July 15, 2005

D is for Defiance

Since Thursday 7th July (the day that terrorists struck London), the only words that I can think of all begin with D.

N.B This article is not an attempt at apparent clever word-play, instead its how my mind processes and attempts to handle the state that we’re now in.D is for decline of our society and that unfortunately certain individuals have others manipulated to turn against society through resorting to cowardly acts of violence to kill innocent livesD is for destructive minds and the lack of conscience portrayed by the perpetrators of such terrorism.D is for despair of the people waiting to hear if their loved ones are missing or killed – innocently on their way to work or live their daily lives.

D is for death – the thoughts of terrorists that look for opportunities to destroy our society.

D is for disruption that is caused to our daily lives and the uncertainty that people will see in each other – the risk of becoming paranoid and victimized due to lack of knowledge.

D is for dismay and distress – The look and sense that people have about their future and safety of existence.

D is for deliberate acts of violence against innocent lives.

D is for disarm – the need to put pressure on those that support terrorist sites both virtual (computer) and physical.

D is for disillusionment that many may feel, as there is a need to find as soon as possible the guilty murderers.

D is for diversity and the strength that we can all get from the magic of respecting each other. Unfortunately we are already seeing certain press and ex high profile leaders readily accusing local (UK based / born kids) in involvement.

D is for determination and for deliverance of those that survived the violence. By exploding bombs in near Edgware the terrorists were killing people from their own religion!?

D is for defiance against those that threaten our personal freedoms because they cannot sensibility talk about their troubles.

D is for dependable - the need to be extra cautious and to trust in each other. To say no to hate crimes and yes to unity against the enemy of hate.

D is also for the desperate need for politicians to state that we should respect each other, not to create a civil war or factions that attempt to destroy the unity that can be achieved through respecting our multiculturalism.

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Monday, July 11, 2005

I was there! Part 2

Last week I did not mean to sound too cynical about being squashed as part of the 200,000 strong Live8 audience in Hyde Park. Instead, I suggested the need for better crowd control, guidance and for people to enjoy themselves in a far more relaxed situation rather than standing in compressed (physically) manner from 2pm to Midnight. I must admit that I felt distressed that special viewing arrangements had been made available from an area called ‘The Golden circle’. In addition, press gazebos (that what they looked like from a distance) and Jonathan Ross’s special pod added further to my personal issues. On a positive note, it felt good to be connected to a global audience of over two Billion and that over 1 million of us were actually there rightfully stating the case for debt relief and removal of poverty.

Preceding this event and with subsequent thoughts about the situation I wondered if there is more that we can do.

Back in the days of the South African Apartied regime, the big economic words of the day were Boycotting & Sanctions. Some argued that such a strategy hurt both the people and the country’s’ finances. A different view came from the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, I can never forget Mrs Thatcher giving a press conference and suggesting that only, ‘a little bit, a little bit’ of sanctions should be endorsed by the UK against South Africa. Did anyone undercover what multinationals were supporting and present throughout the regime?

So what can we do? 20 years on from Live Aid, we have an odd situation of pop stars becoming politicians. Although the event attempted to put pressure on the G8 leaders to resolve trade constraints and aid relief, I cannot help thinking that another area is missing.

In a recent article in The Times (UK), it was suggested that Aid can arrive into a country in many forms. For example, governments can allocate food, money and surprisingly as arms shipments! Pardon? Arms Shipments! Since when was a gun something that ever helped a dire situation of starvation and extreme poverty.The article also suggested that corrupt regimes were failing many such countries.

Much has been said about corruption and lost aid. Even worse is when a regime undermines its own people, just take a look the Sudan situation. In the meantime everyone looks past them, failing to acknowledge that they need urgent help.In terms of corruption, I wonder if the associated questionable leaders are under some miscomprehension that the money they receive or manage is actually theirs.

Surely there must be a way to expose them.Live8 has certainly raised awareness but the momentum for change must not slow down. Instead we should be asking financial institutions, the World Bank and Swiss Bank officials to allow the authorisation of opening up questionable or suspected accounts. If funds are being embezzled by corrupt leaders, they should not be given a chance to get away with daylight robbery.

We all have a part to play in thinking of different ways of helping people: for example, approved sabbaticals, connected communities, support and pressure from the media. Once the seeds of change have been planted, let us hope that it can sustain itself.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

I was there! Part 1

It was a bit of a wild rise and shine on Saturday morning (2nd July : Live8 around the world). I awoke to a cramp pain in my left calf - Maybe it was the pain of standing about on Thursday night at the Jazz Café at another gig! After a quick rubbing down I managed to stagger out of bed and get ready to attend the Live8 gig in Hyde Park, London. We left home by 11.35am and arrived at the park entrance by 12.15pm. We were then treated to being directed to walk around what seemed to be most of the perimeter of the park to the main entrance. During the closing stages of this walk it appeared as if we had looped back on ourselves!

Once we had found a place to sit down and had some sandwiches it approached the time for the concert to start (2.05pm). Then the crowd suddenly appear to be on the move. Collectively everyone grabbed their ground sheets and rug sacks and decided to get-up and surge forward. Eventually we were approximately a third of the way back from the stage but as the makeshift arena (200,000 capacity) was based on uneven land, we stopped short of a small incline. It appeared that everyone in front of us had just grown by another 12inches. We also found ourselves shoulder-to-shoulder with no real room to sit down. From where I was standing I could see Jonathan Ross’s capsule in the distance adjacent to the stage. On my right I could see numerous gazebos on a raised area especially set aside for what appeared to be the press, cameras and selective media interviews. Eventually we managed to get a place on the incline. In front me stood a flag bearer. Throughout the concert he held on to his St George’s cross flag with an imprint of ‘make poverty history’ blazoned across it. Ironically our view was blocked by another flag situated next to the central TV camera, right in the middle of our eye line.

We then stood and sometimes knelt down to refresh our knees in the same place until just after midnight. No one excused themselves (or should I say relieved themselves to go to the loo) as it would have been unlikely that they could return to the same location due to the squash. None of us were in any special VIP or even earmarked Golden Circle. At 11pm we managed to move slightly forward but the view was still the same: Slightly bigger dots on the horizon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m one of the first to congratulate the feat of putting together an audience that for the first time is getting politicians to stand-up and listen to the perils created by humankind. It would have been good to have some more crowd guidance staff to ensure that people treated the concert as a day where one could sit down and chill rather than be subjected to the stresses of standing for hours.

The line-up was great and the world appeared to jolt slightly. Although one could argue that the 8x concerts were some very rich people hoping to do something for a lot of very poor people, I hope that Live8’s achievement will form an arrow to pierce the conscience of the G8 leaders – all who really do have an opportunity to take seriously the deaths of men, women and children every second, minute, and hour of the day.

More next week…

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Friday, July 01, 2005

Inspiring Youth

Andy Murray's performance at this Wimbledon Tennis Championships said a lot about inspiration, perspiration and being on the edge - and that was just demonstrated by the audience. Andy himself comes from Dunblain and is keen to correct the worldview of what happened there.
He represents that light can come from a town’s darkest hour.

They (who are they!?) say that with age comes wisdom. If that is the case then why are many mature leaders immune and free to endorse pain and hate within their regimes? One dictator in particular is keen on getting people to destroy their own homes and then offer them no sanctuary or recover plan.

Sometimes we forget that the simplicity of and importance of life itself is something that we should value. Take for example children aged five playing in a school playground. Do they discriminate or form groups of preference? Their innocence is their strength in terms of the how they view the world. Over time, one could argue that initially they are just naive and as they older, they are exposed to more experiences, environmental influence and social conditioning.

It appears that this loss of innocence or love for each other is compromised in favour of ego and accepting a norm. The media then hope to trivialise life as a series of stages and essential achievement rungs or milestones. I personally feel depressed when watching adverts that show a child being shown to morph into a pensioner within 45 seconds - with the final scene offering a retirement paradise retreat to look forward to -again another insular view.

Today's youth appear to be exposed to the pressures of broken barriers of the 9.30pm watershed, an urgency to get old before their time and an atmosphere of getting on the earning loop as quick as poissible - In other words how fast can we make tomorrows consumers spend their worth today! It is almost a conspiracy against any attitude or inclination or desire for fundamental change they may have- are the youth being conditioned to lose their momentum for new ideas and new ways of thinking? I would say yes. Maybe some political players feel that too much change would potentially threaten the fabric of society itself.

I believe that there is an opportunity to bring together new ideas and a positive attitude for equality and peace. Some people feel that it is religion that causes people to fight each other. Could it be that because today’s youth are so distracted their appreciation for spirituality is lost. There is a potential that today’s youth will be misled by another dictator - remember Hitler’s youth!

It’s not too late to consider switching off the TV (I can talk!) and for us to open our eyes and view the missed opportunities around us.

With the darkness of despair around us, we each have the power to challenge and demand a new genesis.

With the up and coming SummerCamps up and down the country, a great opportunity is presented to come together to share ideals and gain from each others inspiration. On their return to life, post camp lets hope that they can interact with those that hold the keys to change.

Generations united can take us there.

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