That’s if a new book called The Geek Manifesto is to be believed. Find out more here: http://geekmanifesto.wordpress.com/
You might be one too. You can also have a go at calibrating your level of ‘geekness’ using the picture at the side. How many of these features are to be found in your personal space? Be honest now.
The serious side to this is that the Geek Manifesto is a call for evidence based politics and it appears that the Cabinet Office is taking note. They have published a paper on Evidence Based Policies here:
Even though RCT’s (Randomised Controlled Trials) have some methodological and cost limitations, this is certainly a better way to decide what to implement than the opinions of Michael Gove (let them all learn poetry by 5), or Iain Duncan Smith. It could certainly have benefited Andrew Lansley’s tortured NHS reforms. Our local experience (in Camden) is that his new style GP’s have led to massive decreases in user satisfaction – alongside greater difficulties in getting to see a doctor. Funny thing is no-one ever speaks about the emotional well-being and attachments we form with GP’s and surgeries that we have been going to for years, taking ourselves, partners, children to a place that becomes familiar and from that, safe.
We don’t want corporate spin-offs running GP surgeries, however efficient that means. It’s not efficiency we go for, its care, reassurance, information.
The photo is of Kelly Hicks, Social Worker of the Year. I post it because Kelly, based in Darlington, recently sponsored Nicky’s Talk for Health among service users in her community. The programme was so successful that Kelly and her colleagues are determined to install TfH as a permanent feature of their work in supporting recovery from mental illness.
Groundbreakers are all too few in these times when most of us spend at least part of our day mentally under the duvet, hoping that the troubles will leave us unscathed.
Both Nicky and Kelly refuse to be hushed in their dedication to pointing out that all of us face mental disturbance at some times in our lives – and few of us really work through these problems without a friend, confidante or helper.
I commend Talk for Health to you as a serious option for anyone who wants to get more out of life. See it here: http://www.positive-therapy.co.uk/
The cartoon here from Tom Fishburne would be simply funny if it did not remind me of so many of my own and other’s attempts to imbue brands with significance beyond their means. However did we think that buying a snack or a new pair of shades could act as a lever to world peace, or the end of poverty or abuse?
The answer is simple: wish fulfillment. As Freud pointed out, there is a strong unconscious drive to fulfil our wishes, some of them noble alongside the more shady ones! There are many good people in marketing, advertising and market research, people who at some level may regret tying their working lives up in the promotion of goods and services that, while amusing and diverting, do not move us forward as persons or societies. They may be left with the desire to make a difference, to contribute to a better world.
This wish to build something better persists within us all and is relentlessly driven by the nightly invasion of chilling and horrific images of cruelty and suffering that haunt our living rooms via our TV screens – as we sit there sipping our drink and munching our snack. There is an unspoken feeling that we must/should do something, yet apart from giving to charity, what can we do? We are left feeling powerless, and a little bit guilty…
The unconscioius mind, not using logic in the way that the trained mind does, attempts to rescue us by making a simple adjustment: why not conflate the promotion of snacks or washing powder with your ideal of a better world – and ‘Hey Presto’ you can change the world as you crunch your salt & vinegar. What a relief!
Then assailed by an uneasy feeling of ridiculousness at the naivety of this idea, we seek others as trapped as ourselves in the hurly burly of commercialism to gather in workshops to ‘stretch the brand’. We employ what Janis (1972) called ‘groupthink’ – a mode of thinking where the desire for harmony and cohesiveness overcomes our realistic appraisal of alternatives.
Laddering is itself no mean idea, coming as it does from psychologist George Kelly who used it to understand the underlying beliefs driving our behaviour. Used in this way, within the integrity of a single person’s framework it is a mighty tool. Stretched to provide a ‘tool’ for giving our sales work greater significance and influence in the world, it is simply a comforting delusion. No wonder the flipcharts from that workshop are forgotten somewhere on a shelf in D 43.
In an amazing set of proclamations the Convservatives last week attempted to shroud their economic incompetence by demonising a small group of people, the very poor and deprived, and blaming them for our woes. When this runs into trouble as a tactic, as it will since the facts don’t support it, they’ll switch to blaming foreigners (people in Europe) for our ills
Last week, Eric Pickles a man who is clearly not in food-poverty, arrived on our TV screens to tell us that 120,000 problem families were at the root of many of our social ills and that he was going to sort them out. Again, we are told that there are dangerous, unprincipled people out there, our own Al Queda if you like – but not to worry, our good men and true in government will protect us from them.
If you look at the facts more carefully, you’ll see that these are in fact deprived families at the bottom end of our society with few resources.
Here is a more reasoned presentation of the facts:
In terms of mobilising support for this condemnation from the majority of us, it is easy to see that in our anxiety about the loss of our well-being and prosperity, it’s tempting to point the finger at those who look scruffy, down-at-heel, and may be poorly educated or otherwise marked by poverty. Much easier in fact than blaming the robbers in suits who have gambled our wealth away while pocketing the huge proceeds as they did so. This latter group have highly sophisticated PR, marketing and litigation machines at their disposal – and at some, childish and primitive level – we are in awe of the super-rich. We are envious. We dream that one day we might win the lottery and become like them and cease having to care or negotiate with everyone else for our entitlements.
And if, like me, you’re a consultant or a researcher, don’t think that our part of it all is exempt from corruption. Here’s a reminder from Saturday’s New York Times:
“Having fallen from respected insider to convicted inside trader, Mr. Gupta has now exchanged the lofty board room for the prospect of a lowly jail cell.”
So said Preet Bharara, the United States attorney in Manhattan, after Rajat K. Gupta, former head of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, was convicted of conspiracy and securities fraud.
There is something so cowardly about blaming those who cannot defend themselves that I am ashamed to be a citizen in a country where we pour scorn onto the deprived rather than lending a helping hand, while the rich and powerful across the land push for even greater pay and less regulation of their greedy impulses.
This man is Paul Krugman, Nobel Laureate and – in my view – the best reader of the current economic ills with the most sensible views on how to turn things around. He believes, as I do, that you can’t shrink your way back to greatness!
Here, paraphrased is his demolition of our government’s favourite metaphor about the need for austerity – likening it to a family who has spent too much. He made these remarks several times while in the UK last week to promote his new book: ‘End this Depression Now’.
So why is the British Government reducing investment and slashing thousands of public sector projects and jobs, rather than waiting until the economy is stronger? Here is Krugman’s answer:
“Over the past few days, I’ve posed that question to a number of supporters of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron, sometimes in private, sometimes on TV. And all these conversations followed the same arc: They began with a bad metaphor and ended with the revelation of ulterior motives.
The bad metaphor — which you’ve surely heard many times — equates the debt problems of a national economy with the debt problems of an individual family. A family that has run up too much debt, the story goes, must tighten its belt. So if Britain, as a whole, has run up too much debt — which it has, although it’s mostly private rather than public debt — shouldn’t it do the same? What’s wrong with this comparison?
The answer is that an economy is not like an indebted family. Our debt is mostly money we owe to each other; even more important, our income mostly comes from selling things to each other. Your spending is my income, and my spending is your income.
So what happens if everyone simultaneously slashes spending in an attempt to pay down debt? The answer is that everyone’s income falls — my income falls because you’re spending less, and your income falls because I’m spending less. And, as our incomes plunge, our debt problem gets worse, not better.
And there’s a clear moral to this story: When the private sector is frantically trying to pay down debt, the public sector should do the opposite, spending when the private sector can’t or won’t. By all means, let’s balance our budget once the economy has recovered — but not now. The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity.
And that’s where it gets interesting. For when you push “austerians” on the badness of their metaphor, they almost always retreat to assertions along the lines of: “But it’s essential that we shrink the size of the state.”
Now, these assertions often go along with claims that the economic crisis itself demonstrates the need to shrink government. But that’s manifestly not true. Look at the countries in Europe that have weathered the storm best, and near the top of the list you’ll find big-government nations like Sweden and Austria. These are also countries that are among the happiest in the world, both being in the top 20 for income equality [having low GINI coefficients] and in the top 15 on the UN’s Happiness Index. You’ll find these figures compared with our own country in my next post.
And if you look, on the other hand, at the nations conservatives admired before the crisis, you’ll find George Osborne, Britain’s chancellor of the Exchequer and the architect of the country’s current economic policy, describing Ireland as “a shining example of the art of the possible.” Meanwhile, the Cato Institute was praising Iceland’s low taxes and hoping that other industrial nations “will learn from Iceland’s success.”
So the austerity drive in Britain isn’t really about debt and deficits at all; it’s about using deficit panic as an excuse to dismantle social programs. And this is, of course, exactly the same thing that has been happening in America.
The Chinese have a saying: ‘The Bigger the Front the Bigger the Back” and events over the Jubilee weekend in the UK have shown us both our front and back. The emphasis has been on the front, putting a brave foot forward to rejoice in the sense of being united, together and cheerful in the face of adversity: a recreation of the Spirit of the Blitz, for although the blitz this year is not made of high explosives, it is made of bombshells in the form of poor economic results, job losses, struggle and depression.
The ‘front’ was impressive – a refusal to be bowed or cowed by adversity, a willingness to find some good and things to applaud among the bad news.
Meanwhile in the back, Cameron and his wife were clearly in the audience in front of the Palace last night and were ignored by the commentators. His significance dwindled as the nation turned to tried and trusted emblems of stability and connectedness like the Queen. We even had ‘three cheers for Her Majesty’ – responded to with gusto by the thousands in the Mall and at parties all over the UK.
However, on Wednesday morning we troop back to work and face once again the reality of our situation. Double-dip recessions are extremely rare in the UK. It is quite common for the economy to falter during a recovery with one quarter of negative activity but you have to go back to the mid-1970s, when the first oil shock of 1973-74 was followed by stagflation in 1975, to find a genuine double-dip downturn.
In the past, even during the 1930s, recoveries have been well under way by now. This time, despite the massive stimulus that has been chucked at it, four years into the deepest depression of the post-war era Britain is going backwards. Output is more than 4% below its peak in early 2008, living standards are falling and there is no sign whatsoever of the much-heralded rebalancing of the economy.
This is a terrible blow for the coalition, which now stands accused of over-cooking austerity – as predicted on these pages – and thus killing off the tentative recovery that was under way when Labour left office almost two years ago.
There is a way forward – advocated by the world’s leading economists – the stimulation of growth by the government rather than the ill-fated Quantitative Easing which has been seized upon by the banks as a way of building up their balance sheets and has not been distributed where it could do good – among the SME’s across the land. Osborne’s Thatcherian ‘I am not for turning’ is looking increasingly like the ‘out of touch with reality’ ravings of the Red Queen in Alice. When will they wake up and help us?
As Facebook writhes amongst its riches it is difficult to resist a sense of deja vu. This was a tool for people talking to people, a peer to peer site much beloved of those who found it a window for self-expresion and a way of staying in touch.
In a world that has become increasingly isolated, where many of us do not know our neighbours – or if we do – still wish to talk about what’s on our minds, the site seemed to offer a safe haven that was not a corporate ruse for separating us from our money.
Inevitably, to sell such a social ideal meant that money had to be made so that investors could enjoy some proceeds from our conversations and the invidious banner ads started to appear. For me, it all changed then: I began to smell a rat.
I found myself ignoring these ads or spitefully dismissing them – even though to do so meant I had to give some reason why I didn’t like them. Truth was I didn’t like them because they were there!
Today we reach a position where the young man who invented the site is now being sued by thousands of people who feel ripped off because they were denied the knowledge that the forecast income for Facebook had been revised downwards, due to the growth of smartphone access to the site (where ads and marketing are not visible) which makes no money for FB. According to those suing, these downwards forecasts were only revealed to huge, elite corporate investors or those involved with the flotation like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs [again!]
If you create something that is a contribution to humanity that is what it must remain – a contribution. You cannot expect to get rich on it. None of the world’s great contributors from Jesus to Gandhi have banked riches from their gifts to the rest of us. Mark Zucherberg will find himself poorer not richer and though he may laugh on the way to the bank it will be gallows laughter.
It looks as though it was worse than I thought. What was clearly an overpriced shambles might have involved a conspiracy to fleece the public. It seems that one of Morgan Stanley’s analysts actually reduced his forecast for Facebook’s earnings as the shares went on sale and this wasn’t reported to the general public.
Within three days of the fanfare, shareholders have filed a lawsuit at the Manhattan district court accusing Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg and his advisers, including Morgan Stanley, of concealing from them a “severe and pronounced reduction” in revenue growth forecasts. On Tuesday, a similar suit was brought by a different investor in a California state court.
My moniker Loss of Face(book) has been replaced by a better one: Fadebook.
Facebook’s first day as a public company ended with the company narrowly avoiding the embarrassment of its stock dipping below the $38 (£24) starting price, in one of the most frenzied share sales in history. Insiders speculated that Facebook’s own bankers had intervened in last minute panic buying to prop up the shares to avoid a fall below the offer price. Sam Hamadeh, founder of the analysts,PrivCo, calculates that the banks who underwrote the share sale stepped in and bought $300m worth of shares to stop Facebook dipping below $38, a move that would have marked Facebook as a “busted IPO”.
This has all the symptoms of a bubble, don’t expect the shares to hold up. They will fall more next week and the week after. Facebook’s revenues were $3.7bn last year. Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, had revenues of close to $29bn and is valued at half Facebook’s current value. Apparently, founder Zuckerberg is so focused that he hasn’t noticed that he’s become the world’s xth Richest Person. What a guy!
“It is indisputable that the Government have used the power of fear and nightmares to mobilise the population into acceptance of a desperate situation. For a year now we have been hearing tales of how dreadful it is…how we must cut the deficit…how unsustainable our debts are. How everyone has to take some losses – even those who have next to nothing to start with.
This, I believe has created a cloud of anxiety across the land and no-one has listened to the more reasoned voices of two of the world’s greatest economists, Paul Krugman and Joe Stigliz who have consistently pointed out that in a period of very low interest rates and low inflation, debt is not the problem, stimulating growth and job creation is the issue. Have a look here:
Since then, the growth predicted by Osborne in response to his austerity measures has failed to materialise as these writers predicted. Not only that, sensing the deep unfairness of holding the ‘little people’ to account for these problems driven largely by the greed of the rich & the inefficiency of the state, social unrest and polarisation are blossoming in politics across Europe. Neo-Nazis have taken 7% of the vote in Greece, while the richest 1,000 persons in the UK have increased their wealth by £155 billion over the last three years. That is enough for them alone to pay off the entire UK budget deficit and still leave them with £30 billion to spare. These people have not been subject to any tax payback whatsoever commensurate with their gains.
This is not an anti-capitalism polemic; it is an anti-inequality one. Some 77% of the budget deficit is being repaid by public-expenditure cuts and only 23% by tax increases. These cuts hit the poor the hardest, as does the increase in VAT. Despite the biggest slump for nearly a century, the 1,000 richest are sitting on a cash pile even greater than that at the height of the boom. Their wealth now amounts to £414bn, equivalent to more than a third of Britain’s GDP. The increase in their wealth has been £315bn over the past 15 years. Much of that has been accrued relatively free of taxation through complex accounting and avoidance schemes. If they had been taxed even at the going rate of Corporation Tax of 28% it would yield enough to pay 70% of the entire deficit.
It seems though that virtually the entire population of Westminster – on both sides of the house – cannot turn its hand to recovering tax from the powerful: much easier to cut Sure Start, Tax Credits and benefits from people with small voices. More riots are inevitable unless the Government turns its attention towards growth & claiming tax back from those who can afford it.
Veiled beneath the tricks and clicks of smartphones and technology, more and more people across the world are recognising that these technologies are being used to subjugate rather than free them. Try phoning almost any large organisation and you will find yourself forced to ‘verify’ yourself, after hanging about pressing 1 or 2 or 3 on your phone keypad for five minutes – usually in response to ‘choices’ that don’t relate to your call. Then you’ll have to provide personal information, passwords etc. while the anonymous operative at the other end remains unknown to you. This, apparently, is in your interest. Why then do I feel so irritated and abused?
The fact is that the state and big business have more resources to spend on technology than you or me. And more time to spend establishing elaborate protocols to manage ‘call volumes’ than we do. To pay my tax on line I must quote a 17 digit number which changes every month. There is, underlying these new technologies a groundswell of disrespect and lack of consideration of the customer/citizen, so much so that nearly everyone dreads having to call local services, government departments or financial institutions of any type.
Surely, this is just a minor aspect of modernity?
I suspect not, I suspect that beneath this technology driven disrespect there is a growing contempt among the powerful – reflected among those working for big organisations – for the little people. Recently riots were sparked by the killing of Mark Duggan – an incident that has still not been explained. Casual violence against citizens seems commonplace among the police. Here you can find the video of the assault in Peterlee,
The attack was condemned as a form of torture by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). But no-one was sacked: one officer was fined £40.
This is not an isolated incident. A total of 333 people have died in or following police custody over the past 11 years, but no officer has ever been successfully prosecuted. According to a watchdog’s report, prosecutions were recommended against 13 officers based on “relatively strong evidence of misconduct or neglect”, but none resulted in a guilty verdict.
Meanwhile, on planet Earth where most people would be proud to stand on Jeremy’s head, the IoS this morning leads with the shocking and yet somehow unsurprising news that former News of the World editor Andy Coulson ‘called the bluff of the Tory leader and George Osborne by refusing to sign a confidentiality clause as part of his appointment.’ It is quite extraordinary to think that a bloke with not only no security clearance but also a closeness to media mogul Rupert Murdoch was allowed to bluff his way through that one. Perhaps Camerlot figured that, as Roop more or less told Blair to invade Iraq, it was unlikely Newscorp didn’t know everything secret already anyway.
Republished from the Slog with thanks to John Ward.
There’s something a bit unnerving about this image. It might even be that these two are on the phone to each other, judging by what I notice from my own life, where my wife and I often hove into view while talking to each other on our mobiles.
Far be it from me to complain about communication, I make my living from it, but there is something chilling about the hours we all spend ‘attached’ to media every day. Have a look at Ofcom’s figures from 2010 below. On average we spend JUST UNDER 9 HOURS A DAY, using media. You heard right, 8.8 hours a day – and that’s an average.
I am increasingly aware of always being alert to the pinging of my mobile when an email or text arrives, even if I am absorbed in a book or talking with someone – or watching TV. As someone said to me recently: “You can become so withdrawn from reality that you become a virtual being having lost the ability to communicate or transact without a piece of silicon at your finger tips telling you what to do and how to do it.”
So when Weight Watchers reports, as they did via the Mail last week, that the average Briton has no time to go out, see friends, socialise (in the same place as the people they’re socialising with that is!), and calls us ‘Lazy Britons’ I personally don’t feel that I have EVER had so much to do, to attend to, to manage. I might not be with my friends but I am texting them, tweeting them, emailing them, blogging to them, or watching TV to get away from them.
You can read the Mail’s typically blamey report here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2137470/Lazy-Britons-bothered-socialise-hard-day-office.html
Now take a look at your average day below – although perhaps we all regard ourselves as better than average. In that case this is nearly, but not quite you and me!
You may have read elsewhere that we are facing an OBESITY epidemic…and that the cost of this will soon overtake the cost of treating cancer, heart disease and other major killers combined. I wonder if the powers that be think that we are just swelling up through greed and overindulgence? No doubt they play a part, satisfying the impulsive hunger that arises from a busy tweeting session.
But this epidemic should come as no surprise to any of us, when, as far as I know the only way you can do most of these 9 hours is on your bottom, or at the most strenuous, standing still. Our media obsession is killing us, just because it keeps us on our bums.
I don’t think you’re lazy, but if you’re reading this, you’re probably as stationary as I am writing it. Time to get up… and go out I think!
This morning on Daybreak, Danny Alexander tried the yabber/blabber technique much beloved of politicians nowadays. This relies on talking so fast that the interviewer can’t get any observation or questions in…like, why have the Coalition lost so many Council seats?
Apparently, [yabber/blabber] it’s because ‘any government – including Tony Blair’s expects a big downturn in the middle of their period in power’. As if that was a natural law, rather than the inevitable outcome of overclaiming, broken promises, self-serving policies and poor decisions. Most worrying of all, everyone is begininng to know it – turnout down to 25%. Three quarters of us don’t see any point in voting…that is really worrying. It means more and more of these fools for years to come! Get out and vote even if you spoil your ballot!
I have always tried to build bridges between the best of empirical studies and what I notice in the world. If you have followed this site you will have noticed my concern about the effects of inequality on our society – and on each of us individually.
This week’s post introduces you to the growing evidence that there is a problem for all of us when a minority are so much richer than the rest of us.
The idea that money changes people for the worse has been around for a long time. From Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, to Gordon Gecko in Wall Street, we see people who have become indifferent – even contemptuous – towards others as they amass their personal fortunes.
Are these just clichés and stereotypes? What is the truth behind these ideas? In experiments at the University of California, Berkeley, Keltner and Kraus measured the signs of interest and warmth shown by 100 volunteers towards each other. The poorer subjects were more likely to use warmer language, postures and gestures that signal engagement, whereas the richer participants were more stand-offish [Psychological Science Vol 20, p 99].
This relationship between wealth and appreciation of others was confirmed by another experiment where people were asked to rate the emotions expressed in 20 photos of human faces – a standard test of emotional intelligence. Those with the most prestigious jobs were consistently worse at the task. [Psychological Science, Vol 21]
These differences were fluid in the sense that when asked to imagine a conversation with someone higher up the social ladder than themselves, the wealthier participants became immediately better at reading emotions. The researchers concluded that our automatic reactions become immediately more vigilant and mindful of others when we feel subordinate.
These findings, of course explain why the Posh Boys running our country were so indifferent to the plight of their subordinates (us!) until the polls started to show that their popularity was declining steeply – suddenly, their status as our leaders was threatened. Why would we vote for people who don’t care about us?
For the next weeks we can expect ‘Compassionate Conservatism’ to re-emerge through a series of photo-ops with less fortunate folk, NHS staff (to dampen the furore over regional differences in pay for public servants), and Grannies (to offset fury about the stealthy cap on pensions).
There is more local evidence of the growing unpopularity of the wealthy in this study by Rosie Campbell and Phil Cowley , reported here: http://www.yougov.polis.cam.ac.uk/?p=3042
And the Who picture? The seminal track ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’ is here, set against images from the growing unrest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acqQDD3A5CQ&feature=fvst
In these clips, we see the Occupy movement, but see last night’s Newsnight as the fragmentation and unrest spreads to France, Netherlands (whose Government collapsed yesterday over disagreement on austerity measures) and Greece, where an election threatens to unseat the austerity coalition. Meanwhile Spain approaches crisis.
In an astonishing series of announcements it turns out that our beloved NHS has sent no fewer than 240,000 patients home between the hours of 11pm and 6am. What can these people be thinking of? Certainly not the well-being of those in their care I suspect. More than 35% of these patients will be going home in the night to a cold place where they live alone. Not something I would relish after a stay in hospital. The figures don’t tell how many were picked up by friends or relatives so it’s hard to say at this point whether this is a piece of media hype or a genuine hole in our services to the sick. Watch out for this story, there is gathering gloom in the NHS as the government attempts to push its agenda onto doctors and nurses who don’t want it!
I pinched this image from yesterday’s Observer. It shows a palette of sugary drinks being taken into the Aquatic Centre at the Olympic complex. As I predicted on this site months ago the furore over the role of sugar and regulation is just beginning: http://bit.ly/HKGVX6
There is even more cause for concern if you dig into Robert Lustig’s research, reported in the Sunday Telegraph. Titled, The Bitter Truth About Sugar, Lustig makes a strong case for treating sugar as a harmful substance. http://tgr.ph/IN4157
My interest here is that ever since we started doing Breakthrough work in the 1990′s we have noticed the effects of sugar – or lack of sugar on performance and mood. The difference between people on a sugar rush and those coming down from one is enormous. When you look at the sugar equivalent in Coca Cola for example, you get an interesting take on just how much sugar there is in this kind of stuff:
Even a can of coke is 10 sugar cubes. When else would you quaff ten sugar cubes? I can’t go into it in that much depth in a blog post, but Robert Lustig can. Get up to date on this subject, it will be a headline for the next ten years. Here is his extended lecture on YouTube:
We need stronger action and regulation from our politicians. This stuff is dangerous and particularly appealing to children.
Here is a link to a lovely site put together by someone who is active in the area of trying to normalise mental illness and get us away from the medical model. The site is built around the idea of mental wellness – and I believe this is a growing and necessary reframing of views about mental events that will provide a huge benefit both to sufferers and to all of us. It will help make us all less afraid of each other and of difference.
The site also provides a powerful endorsement of Nicky’s Talk for Health (click on the image on his front page), with the authenticity of someone who is prepared to discuss weaknesses as well as strengths, a key piece of feedback for anyone trying to make something better than the stuff we already have. Great work Martin!
An extraordinary account of the sinking of the Costa Concordia on Channel 4 last night. The whole story was told through videos taken on smartphones by those on board. I have never seen anything quite so completely a ‘personal digital record’ of an event. No voice overs, no patronising explanations of what the front/back/sides of a ship were – or what hitting a rock meant! And no summing up by experts or the usual pundits,
There is an opportunity for a transformation in reporting the world here, with Channels performing the role of aggregators rather than editors showing you things from their perspective.
It would be fantastic to have such an account of the war in Syria – potentially with personal clips from all sides/perspectives in the conflict. What seemed a breakthrough in last night’s hour-long programme was the addition of sound: those capturing the events captured both the voices of others and a sound picture of panic and uncertainty – and on occasion added their own questions or comments to the pictures. We came to know several of those on board through their footage and it created a new kind of identification, a story through multiple eyes that I haven’t seen before.
It even completed the tale by showing some clips of survivors back at home, reliving their experiences and reflecting on them. As one dad tried to euphemise the events and minimise trauma to his kids, he called it ‘an adventure’. His young daughter quicky corrected him: “Dad! It was a misadventure…”
Captivating television brought to us by the people who were there.
Always keen to bring you a deal, it turns out I can save you a cool 75% on schmoozing with Dave. It’s actually on sale here, for £50K. Presumably all the rest was going straight into Crudd-ass’s pocket.
And you don’t have to eat the prawn cocktail! You can just get drunk at the booze-ups, sorry – receptions, like everyone else.
The link is here, but I republish the text in case you can’t be bothered to scroll to the bottom of the page:
The Leader’s Group
Annual membership: £50,000 Chairman: Howard Leigh
The Leader’s Group is the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.
It looks as though you get drinks and lunch as well…and there is a new verb in the vocabulary – Daveing – which describes the activity of sticking your head up…well you know the place!
Thanks to all the readers of my posts on the Riots and our increasingly severe response to them. There is one thing we can change that could make the biggest difference. If you’d like to see that presented in a cool way – have a look at the video, which you may access by clicking the picture here or from the Slider at the top of the Home Page.
Tomorrow I hope to show how the history of progress is really the story of improvements in equality.
Here again is the link to Kate & Richard’s fine book:
[For those who would like to study this picture more closely, if you click the graph above and then click the graph once more in the window that opens you will get an expanded version.]
Thank you, to the more than one hundred of you who have read my post on the riots and my view of where they come from. I feel honoured that you took the time and trouble and hope that the post was interesting. Like everyone else I was horrified by the level of violence during the riots and accept that those who committed acts of violence & arson, including the killing of 5 innocent people must be punished fully as they would be in normal circumstances. Yet I can’t help but think that what we saw last week can’t be explained by Cameron’s labels of criminality, thuggery, gang culture, poor parenting and lack of values.
Whenever you explain the anti-social behaviour of the poor in empathetic terms you risk being branded a socialist or a liberal – labels that should be compliments, but have been turned into insults in our era. [Socialism by association with the failed communal policies of Soviet Communism, and liberalism by association with tree-hugging and simple mindedness.] These biases alone demonstrate what a hold right-wing rhetoric with its talk of crackdowns, rubber bullets and the harshest sentences the law allow, has on our daily discourse. Meanwhile those knights of the realm Sir Philip Green and Sir Richard Branson – and a whole range of MP’s – take as much as they can and threaten to move their businesses off-shore should anyone ask them to contribute more.
My observations and analysis are, however, as far as I can make them empirically backed. Using the best data I can find – particularly that compiled by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett in the Spirit Level, and extended by the eminent historian Tony Judt in his last book, ‘Ill Fares the Land’ – I have been convinced that the growing inequality in incomes in our society are driving much of our dysfunction and unrest. You will see from the graph above that the UK, just behind the US and Portugal had the third highest income inequality in the developed countries, a staggering fact in itself!
This state of affairs leads inexorably to an unfair society: one where bankers can pocket bonuses of millions for their speculations and where any stock-holder can receive dividends from shares of companies, the work of which he has not put a hand to – and may not even know what that work is.
It was not always like this. As Tony Judt points out: “From the late 19th century until the 1970′s, the advanced societies of the West were all becoming less unequal. Thanks to progressive taxation, government subsidies for the poor, the provision of social services and guarantees against acute misfortune (currently in force as compensation schemes for victims of the riots!), modern democracies were shedding extremes of wealth and poverty….Over the past thirty years we have thrown all this away. To be sure, ‘we’ varies with country. The greatest extremes of private privilege and public indifference have resurfaced in the US and the UK: epicentres of enthusiasm for deregulated market capitalism.
The UK is more unequal in incomes, wealth, health, education and life chances than at any time since the 1920′s. There are more poor children in the UK than in any other country of the European Union. Since 1973, inequality in take-home pay increased more in the UK than anywhere except the US. The consequences are clear. There has been a collapse in intergenerational mobility. The poor stay poor. Economic disadvantage translates into ill-health, missed educational opportunity and increasingly the familiar symptoms of depression, alchoholism, obesity and minor criminality.” (my italics)
Is it any wonder that at this time we are experiencing a growing feeling of tension and outbursts of discontent and unrest?
Watching the original film ‘Wall Street’ it is chilling how far we have come since 1987 along the road to celebrating the dissolution of the state and the supremacy of private enterprise. The words ‘public services’ have a derogatory ring to them: we suspect that such services will be inefficient, mildly or openly disrespectful, bureaucratic and slow. There is a palpable feeling of envy that public servants, alone of all of us, have maintained pension entitlements. Thirty years ago we all had them. We have come to despise our schools – the very engines of our social mobility – and are scornful of our own institutions; the very institutions that helped lift the masses out of poverty and lack of identity.
In their place our heroes have become CEO’s (now earning 900 times more than their average worker), entrepreneurs and the rag-tag celebrities of movies and TV shows. We secretly envy their lives, peering at them through the press and TV, while rejoicing in their misfortunes, perhaps because they mirror our own. We fail to notice the difference, that when you are worth a few millions or so misfortune is a very different animal than when you have £200 between you and eviction, or when you have nothing at all except hand-outs.
We also fail to notice that the dominant characteristics of our new heroes are narcissism and selfishness. None – or very few of them – can ever get enough. Rather than acting as a lesson to the rest of us, the failure of acquisitions and money to produce happiness and repose does little to dispel the myth that riches will make everything OK. We have replaced our focus on building community, even a nation, with stashing the cash, flashing the card, collecting hoards of stuff and hoping to win the lottery.
It is tragi-comic that hundreds of youngsters were willing to risk imprisonment for an Adidas tracksuit or a pair of Nike trainers. Even the boldest could think of little better to steal than a 42″ flatscreen TV. Perhaps these images should inspire our pity as much as our hatred. I cannot think of a more frightening wake-up call, a more chilling end to the excitement than the battering of the ram through the door of your council flat at six in the morning. Not one but twenty police, clothed in helmets and riot gear pour into your home and seize the glorious track suit, cuff you and lead you off to the cells. You are denied bail, remanded in custody even though you have no record – and the magistrate sends your case to the crown courts because he can give no longer than a six month sentence. You don’t even get to keep the track suit.
And because we were afraid, a great many of us cheer your draconian punishment. You deserve it, you are scum – just as you always feared. Within moments last week some of my liberal chums were tweeting for tanks and live rounds to be used on the streets. And the way back from a night when you surrendered your reason to the thrill of the mob? There is no way back for most of you. Social services have been underfunded for years and are virtually dismantled with vacant unfilled posts in every department. No employer will look at you now. You will even have to listen to people say that you got off lightly.
I’m sorry, I just don’t buy that some elements of our society are sick, while everyone else is OK.
Let’s think about what happened in the last few days without getting caught up in emotional responses of repugnance, revenge or retribution.
Many thousands of people, in what appears to have been a series of events spread by contagion and mimicry, across the country in more than 25 locations, have suddenly decided to break the rules, ignore the consequences and help themselves…that last phrase is important; it is the core of the rioters’ behaviour.
Some of these people are young and black (and therefore a recognizable ‘other’ culture) but many are not. Teachers, graduates, females and professionals are also involved.
Where did they get these ideas from?
I think this behaviour is merely a street version that they have internalized and regenerated based on what they have seen the elite of society doing. Here are three ‘educational’ events that suggest you can help yourself and get away with it:
The investment bankers & traders earning millions in bonuses and fees from selling dubious, often worthless instruments to their own clients. This is explained and detailed at length in the Cannes Prizewinning, ‘Inside Job’. You will get the entire summary here:
Here’s a little graph showing the rise in bankers’ ‘earnings’ versus you and me. Many of those on the streets didn’t have any earnings at all:
Next learning experience – their own elected representatives, the MP’s. For 2 months or more last year the Telegraph gradually released details of the extent of the stealing (called expenses fiddling) by MP’s. You will find a complete list here:
Obviously there are matters of degree and dispute just as there will be with our rioters, about who did what and how serious it was. But just scroll down the list, it is very, very long! So far I have been able to find only three custodial sentences and of those, one MP is out after serving just 4 months of a 16-month sentence. No wonder people get the idea that the consequences for helping yourself may not be that bad!
Also, if they were so intent on just stealing, why did so many fires get started and so much violent destructiveness occur? It was as if they were so desperate they wished to burn down the very world they lived in and strike out at anything that represented the establishment. How did they become so frantic?
That brings us to the third educational event – the Government’s austerity programme and their publicisation of it. It is indisputable that the Government have used the power of fear and nightmares to mobilise the population into acceptance of a desperate situation. For a year now we have been hearing tales of how dreadful it is…how we must cut the deficit…how unsustainable our debts are. How everyone has to take some losses – even those who have next to nothing to start with.
This, I believe has created a cloud of anxiety across the land and no-one has listened to the more reasoned voices of two of the world’s greatest economists, Paul Krugman and Joe Stigliz who have consistently pointed out that in a period of very low interest rates and low inflation, debt is not the problem, stimulating growth and job creation is the issue. Have a look here:
All we have heard is how bad it is, how it’s getting worse and may not get better for a generation. Unsurprisingly the young feel abandoned and dismissed, especially those who did not get their 3 A*’s at A level. Finally, the markets have picked it up and have sustained the greatest sequence of successive losses since 1929. Who has been telling them all how bad it is? The bloke in the picture at the top of this post is certainly one of them.
Make no mistake, I’m not condoning violence but I don’t think these people just generated their riots out of poor parenting and bad habits – or because they are inferior in some way. This is a tempting rationale – to descry & portray them as ‘atypical’ elements. The truth is more sinister; they are simply copying their betters.