Tuesday, May 30, 2006

We must become the light

Snatam Kaur Khalsa and Party – 28th May 2006 – Park Avenue, Southall - We must become the light

On Sunday 28th May my phone diary chimed out my reminder that later today would be the time for me to head out to Park Avenue, Southall, West London (UK) to hear Snatam Kaur and GuruGanesha Singh Khalsa, currently on a world peace tour.

The race was on at home to get a few household chores complete, get ready and then get to Southall in West London.

The traffic was relatively clear but the picture was different in the Gurdwara car park. After zipping around the car park a few times we managed to jostle and find a place to park.

At 3.15pm the Dabar Hall (Darbar Sahib refers to the main hall within a Sikh Gurdwara. This hall is where the Guru Granth Sahib is placed in a prominent central position in the hall) was packed.

Then Snatam Kaur and party arrived and took their places just behind the Guru Granth Sahib.
The party consisted of Snatam Kaur Khalsa, GuruGanesha Singh Khalsa and a wonderful tabla player, Jagjit Singh.

After a quick introduction and in parallel audio set-up, the party started the one hour programme. There are a some words that came to my mind whilst listening to the Peace party:

Humbleness, Calm, Unity and Joy.

Humbleness and Calm came to mind as there was a sense of ‘grace’ in the air. The sound was unique, soothing and provided a meditative atmosphere. In parallel the Sikhi-to-the-Max power-point presentation provided one with a view to meanings of Gurbani. There was passion in the singing by all and an energy level that confirmed commitment to the belief in God and the Spirit of the Guru.

Unity came to mind as the Sangat sang in unison. It appeared to me that with every breath the harmony of Waheguru (wonderful Lord) simran was felt.

Joy came to mind as it was suggested that (paraphrased) that in order to become enlightened we must first become a light. I really loved this line as it was inspiring and captured an essence of being a Sikh.

The latter message is something that I have been thinking about since Sunday. We come to this Earth, perform our daily chores, try to keep fit in body but how much do we devote to our spiritual being? How much do we work with each other to help others?

It is up to us to develop peace but also we have the potential to sustain its atmosphere once created. We should not simply ‘treat’ our soul but bring our soul closer to the Guru everyday. We can do this by believing in God and treating everyone as equal.

In the Sangat hall we prayed and sang together as one world – a world that needs peace today and for always. Thank you Snatam Kaur and Party for an inspiring time.

For more information on Snatam Kaur’s Peace tour please visit:

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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Where is the true voice of the People?

One of the great things about blogging (a regular online journal that anyone can post – in English a Weblog ) is that creativity and production is down to the individual. However, interestingly in last week’s Financial Times it was reported that China has released its own version of Wikipedia - (http://www.wikipedia.org the free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit but is moderated by online volunteers).

This gave chase to a question that came to mind: How free is the media today? Recently a viewer suggested that TV talk shows, new shows, news programmes, political commenting and newspapers in general have their favourites. The implication was that the same guests and self declared political spokespersons are repeatedly relied on to perform endless ‘chit chat’ between themselves – enjoying jokes and satirical narrative. Suddenly, we find the same experts and view-points emerging. The viewer suggested that a member of the public should be representative at such sessions. He also went as far as to suggest that when a member of the public is involved in asking direct questions it results in the most engaging television – citing examples such as UK BBC1’s Question Time when a lady asked about Doctor’s appointments. Or, back in the 1980s when a member of the public asked Margaret Thatcher about the exact nature of the situation when a British vessel sank the Argentinean Belgrano during the Falklands war – with regard to the latter the debate about the exact situation at the time continues.

However, the media does need a wake-up call. Although the profession is demanding in terms of working to deadlines and the challenge of producing engaging quality content – In my view some aspects of the media are spoilt by favoritism, targeting, sensationalism and crudeness. Maybe media ownership, political siding or simply stereotyping has a lot to do with the problem. Take for example the January 2004 Kilroy-Silk incident.

We have to admit that it is difficult for journalists and editors to balance the complexity of the world and how people’s values vary. However, a breach of human rights is wrong no matter where it occurs and often not enough rallying takes place to condemn it to ‘drive’ change.Or, maybe the problem is much deeper. I note that in some articles political Bloggers are beginning to emerge – it’s almost as if the media needs to encircle this movement and call it ‘its own’.Press freedom is not the same as contributing effective / knowledgeable content. There is still a need to control blasphemous comments and insensitive commentary.

Interesting, Bono (the lead singer of U2) will be editing the Independent Newspaper on Tuesday 16th May. In addition, 50 percent of all sales on the day will be given to helping those in Africa that are suffering from HIV/AIDS. It will be fascinating to see the impact on emphasis and style on the overall paper.

Maybe there is an opportunity to innovate in a world where the media have a structured route to broadcast on their megaphones.

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Monday, May 08, 2006

What do they mean by ‘on its way’?

It appears to me that fascism is returning or am I just being the bearer of doom and gloom? OK, let us take a look at some evidence.

Firstly, the tide of the National Front in France may have lead to the questionable policy changes in mainstream French politics. For example, their apparent need to attract the extremist thoughts of the right wing – it was an easy convienance to confuse respect for diversity with a strange interpretation of secularism?

In the United Kingdom, last Thursday 4th May local council elections took place. The figures speak for themselves…The British National Party (BNP - formerly and alternatively known as - The National Front) doubled its number of councillors in England. Russell Green, who won a seat in Sandwell, said the BNP was ‘on its way’. Where to? Is my question. The underlying policies of this organisation are based on hate, scaremongering and feeding of fear. Does this mean that we are on our way back to no-respect, ethnic cleansing, living in fear of one’s neighbours, no mutual respect, disregarding the importance of respecting people as human or simply a simple case of white supremacy rules?

We seemed to have forgotten the importance of the fact that it is not about the difference between each other, but it is about the relationships we build, keep and cherish.

However, with the resurgence in right wing thinking, ‘miscommunication’ is the key word today. Are we at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is yet to come? Will all the investment migrants have made over the years be lost? Should we start transferring some of our money abroad in case of a mass repatriation campaign? Am I in a panic for no reason?

I suggest that emphasising the importance of unity starts from today. We need to crush the thoughts of the right wing. We need to catch this virus early enough so that our antidote will be more effective. ‘Nipping it in the bud’!

Lets go back in time to Nazi Germany. When Hitler started his campaign of targeting the Jews did anyone realise that it would lead the nation into a holocaust? Today, we should be wiser to ‘head’ off such situations from occurring again.

One way to ensure that we all remain free to respect each other is to reach inside for the will to help each other. I am confident that a global approach to world issues will unite people and resources. For example, greater links between schools from different countries, between developmental projects and viewing the world from someone who has no water or shoes can help us see the world as a single community.

Empathy can be a powerful agent of change. We need to steer our politicians not be stirred by them to hate each other. Only then can we ward off the evil of complexities, insecurities and superiority.

To deliver peace we must exercise it first.

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Monday, May 01, 2006

China Crisis

China has long been criticised by environmentalists for ant-environmentalist policies. For example, when building the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric project in the world it caused supposedly environmental destruction and displacement of villagers. I has also been criticised for its water cleanliness. It is claimed that five of China's greatest rivers are too polluted to touch or drink. Several of the country's largest waterways, including the Yellow River, run dry before reaching the sea. The leak of toxic Benzene into the Songhua River in November 2005, and the disconnection of water supplies to the city of Harbin and its millions of inhabitants, has also increased concerns.

It was recently reported that China is now the world's second-largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, soon to over take from the USA. It has plans to build 600 coal-fired power stations by 2030, with the expected rise in greenhouse emissions. Some environmentalists say that China is today already exposed to Acid rain.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently reported that two-thirds of China's cities have air quality below standard. Nine of its cities are in the top ten most polluted in the world, some having the highest rates of airborne carbon monoxide in the world. It has been widely reported, by the Chinese themselves, that 400,000 people die prematurely every year from diseases linked to air pollution, partly down to increased car use. The numbers of cars in Beijing has doubled in the past five years to 2.5m; it is expected to rise to over 3m by the time the Olympic flame reaches the capital city in 2008.

On April 14th 2006 the Taipei Times reported a state report outlining that China's rapid economic growth has prevented it from meeting nearly half of its goals for environmental protection, with the level of sulphur dioxide emissions rising by 27 percent over the past five years, the government says.

NB Although China had set a target of cutting discharges of sulphur dioxide, a health threatening gas, by 10 percent from 2000 to last year. It set the same target for reducing emissions of carbon monoxide, unfortunately it only managed a 2 percent cut.
The report, posted on the agency's Web site, cited surging energy consumption due to the economic boom, which has kept Gross Domestic Product growth above 9 percent. ‘Some regions set more value on pursuing rapid GDP growth, sacrificing the environment and public health,’ the report said. Of 20 environmental goals, eight were not achieved, including reducing discharges of carbon dioxide and industrial solid waste and expanding the proportion of waste water treatment, it said. The targets were based on the assumption that China's energy consumption last year would be 1.36 billion tonnes of standard coal -- a common measure for energy use. The actual consumption last year was 2.0 billion tonnes!

Coal-fired power plants are China's biggest source of sulphur-dioxide emissions. Installed capacity for such plants reached 500 megawatts last year, 25 percent above the original expected 400 megawatts of capacity.

The report also cited limited progress in projects aimed at boosting waste water treatment along the Huai River and other severely polluted bodies of water.

Of 256 projects, only 54 percent were on target. Poor maintenance and antiquated equipment at ageing factories were increasingly causing environmental accidents, it noted.

All these facts suggest that progress is being made in the areas of economic growth but there appears to be a disregard to the will to be responsible. Maybe part of the problem is that no one takes a leadership position in putting the Earth first. Instead, competitive forces push this issue into the back of people’s minds. Is there not an ethical way to develop economies? We are too reliant on unrealistic targets. The reality is that we need to urgently fund new sources of energy and also review the inefficient procedures/practices of today’s power generation standards.

Consumption drives production but product should also start by being efficient, encouraging recyclability (with incentives) and a massive reduction in wasteful packaging.

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