Thursday, 23 May 2013

Diversity and Equality: Shifting Paradigms

This week an old rhythm from the past reached into the present and tweaked at an old way of being and asked whether I wished to go back there. “Can I tempt you out of retirement” it said. Will you consider doing some work on diversity”?
I might, I responded; depends on whether you are prepared to shift an old paradigm.
But let me take a step back. Years ago I was deeply embedded in that whole equality and diversity training industry - a very British thing. With hindsight I would say that generally it was mostly a complete waste of time – more tick boxing than any real shift. Sometimes when people, especially the police, told me with great authority what they had gleaned about ‘ethnic’ communities from ‘race and diversity’ training, I cringed.
 “Diversity training” cannot be about how to treat others of a different race or culture to mine – what was ‘politically correct’. It is about looking at and acknowledging my own shadow, which I projected on to others. That requires a thorough review and immersion in one’s personal archetypical patterns of perceiving and behaving.
In this paradigm, the “politically correct” becomes very “personal” in a way which challenges one’s integrity and invites the individual to look at their values, beliefs and behaviour as a reflection of who they are in the world. Can they see how their internal world becomes an extension of the external world; how personal behaviour has global consequences? Unless diversity and equality training, however brief, can take the individual there then it’s not worth doing.
My past perception of and engagement with ‘diversity training’ stemmed from my own experience of racism and the conditioning impact of inequality and discrimination. Like Pavlov's Dog, that conditioning was so deeply embedded in my psyche that ‘separation’ had become an automatic response; it had turned into a complex, a false god.  Most of what I considered to be worthwhile ventures in my working life had contained a distinct element of ‘separate development’ – the thesis of apartheid!  I was not even aware that I lived in that place. It seemed a natural outflow of my life. 
Our tendency to see ourselves as ‘separate’ is at the core of all the problems in the world. If I am part of perpetuating ‘separation’ in my own daily comings and goings, then I was separating myself from the ‘whole’ of Life and cannot therefore be sustained by the ‘whole’ of Life. We each in our own personal way have opportunities to challenge separation of self from other, self from the earth.  

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Rejecting Buggins' Turn

The British political ‘establishment’ (Lib-Lab-Con) are having a collective nervous breakdown this May bank holiday weekend. Frantic attempts to placate, to say they have listened and heard, follows the United Kingdom Independent Party’s (UKIP) success in last week’s local authority elections. The frenzy is generated by the media, bless them.

It’s probably true that a part of the electorate hanker for a Britain of the 1950s. It is also true that mid-term local elections provide an opportunity for ‘protest’ about government policies. One elderly male who had secured a local council seat asked why he had fought in the WWII and his father before him in the first world war, only to have the country come to ‘this’. 

But what is this ‘this’ about Britain that he wishes to reject? Those who voted for UKIP are characterised by the media as predominantly working class, older and with lower education attainment. The political establishment believe it’s about immigration, and specifically Eastern Europeans making a beeline for the UK. All political parties are falling over themselves to reassure the population that they have plans to fix it.

What about those for who access to higher education and getting on the housing ladder have become impossible? What about those who cannot find jobs to match their educational attainment? What about ordinary households for whom a reasonable level of heating in winter is increasingly becoming a luxury? How about ordinary households who now need to use savings and loans, or borrow from friends and relations to feed their family on a weekly basis?

Talking of ‘protest’, whatever happened to the global ‘Occupy' movement? I hope that, having been shoved off the forecourt of St Paul’s Cathedral, they have become political activists, engaged in rejecting the “Buggins’ Turn” system of British politics: first past the post, two-party system where fudge, mudge, hedge, spin and downright dishonesty is the order of the day. An indicator of rejecting Buggins surfaced in the General Election of 2010 when the parties scrambled to form a coalition government.

Does UKIP's local success herald a major shift in British politics? Yes and No. No it does not in terms of the establishment of a major 4th party; yes it does in terms of disrupting "Buggins' Turn". Let me make a prediction for 2015: No one party will win outright. We can expect yet another coalition. We still do not trust a political system that fiddled expenses on a massive scale and insist on bailing out greed at the expense of ordinary people.

Related Post: Farce, Absurdity and the Three Princes - 12 Dec 2012

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Tagging Dementia

The body knows that toxic substances—heavy metals and pesticides, for instance—are not only poisonous to the host, but also to pathogens. Such a Catch-22 can lead to environmental illness and immunological breakdown in which the body starts attacking its own toxic cells, but it may be the only choice a bio-system operating with damaged DNA has. {Sol Luckman}

Since doing that 16-day fast, I’ve been a bit tardy around blogging because the sluice gates opened and the “stuff” is simply pouring out, especially through my fingers. I think I am observing the toxic elements of the gunk I’ve fed my body over decades being expelled – garbage in, garbage out.

I am hoping to live a long life with all my faculties in tact like my oldest living relative, although at 95 she is less mobile because of a leg injury and would find it almost impossible to use the stairs. Nevertheless, a few months ago she decided to get on an airplane and return to the sunshine of the island of her birth. Cousin C wished to live the remaining years of her life sitting on her veranda watching the world go by and gossiping with her neighbours.

What I love about Cousin C is the sharpness of her mind and her love of debating world affairs. She also has a wicked sense of humour. I hope that I carry whatever gene she has because my greatest fear in life is that of forgetting who I am, as well as who everyone else is.

There is a row going on in the UK this week about whether it’s inhumane for dementia patients to be fitted with a tracking device, or ‘tagged’, rather like prisoners on parole, so they can be tracked when they go walk about. If I lost my mind, I think I would like to be tracked.

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of the brain and its abilities, including memory loss, thinking speed, mental agility, language, attention and understanding, judgment, problem solving.

According to the Alzheimer's Society there are around 800,000 people in the UK with dementia. One in three people over 65 will develop dementia, and two-thirds of people with dementia are women. The total number of suffers in the US are in the millions. Apparently dementia is not a natural part of growing old; it is caused by diseases of the brain, and is beginning to affect younger people.

Why is dementia so prevalent in our modern society? How does lifestyle and environmental conditions affect neurological functioning? How much does heavy metals and pesticides in our environment and in the food chain contribute to neurological dysfunctions? Does anyone know? Does anyone care?