EducationPosted by Graham Thompson Wed, November 25, 2015 14:34:37
We are training you not only to be
engineers and scientists, we are training you to be global citizens.
Big words, difficult task, but only if students today are so taught
will they be playing video-games with their Iraqi (...Chinese,
Syrian, Russian, Pakistani ...) friends on the internet, or swapping
music, recipes, exam answers, and NOT killing each other for real on
a non-virtual battlefield. Learning English may be one way to aid
this, but a growing awareness of our cultural differences and how we
can use them to help solve real problems rather than bringing about a
huge clash of civilizations, will be even more important. In some
ways true education is rather like emptying a huge bucket of shit
(stereotypes, preconceptions, false positivism) before lighting the
fire (of true inspiration and culturally-nuanced ideas). You may
finally "get it" when you share food, dance and play music
with the "enemy", and find true inspiration from each
other. Who invented the idea of zero and what would Newton or
Einstein have done without it? The answer is the Ancient Egyptians -
it came to us through the Arabs and they used it even when the Romans
and later Europeans in medieval times had no clue to its use in
mathematics. And do you know where the idea of ecological farming
came from? - traditional tribal agriculture. The lesson is that we
will only save the planet and further develop our capabilities by
learning from every culture.
SocietyPosted by Graham Thompson Tue, June 02, 2015 15:50:46
Why is the signature illness of our new century “clinical” depression? This is a question I have often asked myself and not just because at times in my life I have suffered from the terrible blight and debilitation of this illness. What has been sucked out of the lives of so many of our citizens so as to leave them as virtual zombies and the prime fodder for the great “pharma” providers of “happiness pills”?
The answer must lie at least partly in the lack of meaning, the dearth of creative, active roles in our liberal-capitalist forms of community and society. There is no denying that once established, depression is an imbalance of certain chemicals and hormones, but its growth and dominance within our society cannot just be put down to pure genetics or chemistry. Depression is largely absent in traditional forms of society. So it must also have its major roots in the present dysfunctional social order, which largely fails to supply its citizens with meaningful lives, and which is becoming the dominant order in the global community.
What are the missing ingredients to happiness that global communications and capitalism do not seem able to supply? I think these can be very simply and directly defined:
1. Positive feelings of self-worth created out of a nexus of real social and human relationships in which touch and face to face communication still has the major role.
2. Jobs that can confirm self-worth and the valuation of a person´s own critical and creative faculties.
3. Real democracy in which people feel they have a control over their own lives and a serious role to play in social arrangements of the whole. The political whole is often too big and faceless for self-identity with the political process.
4. True inter-connectedness between family members, which is undermined by the extreme nucleation and serialization of family life.
What has sucked away our happiness?
1. The superiority of purely materialistic values and a status built on material possessions - which are ultimately meaningless when faced by illness, old age and death.
2. The failure of religion or science to supply us with a meaning to life in a modern context, as well as to give us our earthly role in the cosmos and global society.
3. The failure of both left and right in political vision, and the general replacement of political ideals by those of economic management and efficiency. The obvious hypocrisy too that is in-built to modern forms of liberal democracy.
4. The onset of “early retirement” and of the separation between generations; the individualization of the pensioner, both economically and socially.
5. The pervasive feeling of fear of the "other" stoked up by the modern media.
The great question is, then, how can we rebuild our societies to include the first category and overcome the second? Pills can only be a short-term and highly unsatisfactory, inefficient and uneconomical solution.
PoliticsPosted by Graham Thompson Fri, November 28, 2014 14:33:30
The hippy ideas and communist political values dominant in the 1960s and 70s when I grew up are "old hat" and dead as far as most people today are concerned. The worst excesses of hippiedom - leading to the Mansen killings in California, which were heralded as the main message of hippy culture by an eager right wing press, led to its early death except in a few way out collectives and communes in the 70s and 80s. The swing to the right in the 80s and early 90s emphasised the completely opposite values of utilitarianism and individualist greed.
The left politicians of the 90s capitulated abjectly, partly because they matured in these new selfish values, but also because their own far left was destroyed when the Berlin wall came down and communism collapsed. There was a belief that there was now only one ballgame in the park - free market capitalism, embraced by all sides. The collapse of communism was indeed due, as it had become a bloated, corrupt and mirror system to the west, where top party members enjoyed the same lifestyle as the top capitalists, equally removed from the lives of the "workers" living in the tenements of Moscow, just as the western multi-national magnates were so distant from those of Brooklyn or Manchester.
What is never acknowledged today is that both hippy values and communism were founded on a revolt against the tyranny of capitalist and materialist views of mankind, that perhaps in their genesis there might be some truths which we need to relocate and promote today for the generation maturing in the 21st century. A generation that is becoming tired of the facile solutions of consumerism, and of being constantly branded and cookied by multi-national companies, their press and political servants. There is a gradual realisation that these communication controllers are abusing our bodies, our computers and our minds in their attempt to make us believe in them, buy their products and vote for their politicians.
The threads of a different way of thinking about being human, and a more social being, rather than homo ludens
or homo competerens,
were there in a genuine way, back 50 and more years ago. But they were abused and rehashed by every company from Levis to Virgin for the pure purpose of profit, disguised in a vacuous theatre of the "adsurd". Being social is now always mediated through the product and is absent of real human communication and content. There was a real "break" with this historical past of hippiedom and left wing humanist values, where humans believed in a better future for all, and had some kind of road map to get there. We are now only left with comic reflections of such a naive attempt, and the cynicism and satires of a "worldly wise" capitalist intelligentsia. This is the black and constant diet of 21st century culture.
But we need to find these original inspirations again if we are to find a better society, not one attuned to the possible human follies of brotherhood and free love, but one that exploits the full capabilities of humans and their complex minds, and not a society believing in only one banal truth - that consuming goods leads to happiness.
So that is why I call my blog "post-hippy and left-sided." The "left" implies not old-fashioned ideas of the perfectibility of man in a state-controlled utopia, but "left field" innovations that can soften, maybe even blunt the deleterious effects of modern capitalism, bring back people together in real contact and trust. It is already happening in the incredible number of self-help groups and local activists springing up against statist solutions/dissolutions and loss of social services, but it has no theory or political message within it to challenge the "big message" of capitalist governments and trans-nationals. And perhaps there is a dearth of understanding of how we became trapped in this one way street to consumer paradise. The dangers of purely capitalist thinking, urging more products, more growth, and more poorly paid service jobs feeding the rich, have never been more obvious, especially when it stands unopposed in today's world. This blog will suppose and suggest other routes out of the slavery to capitalism, and reflect on what we can truly learn from the failures, and successes (and yes there were some), of hippiedom and communism.