September 25, 2009

What you need is sustained outrage...there's far too much unthinking respect given to authority – Molly Ivins

"The evidence that our democracy is failing is overwhelming and yet those with the biggest interest in sustaining the current system - the Westminster village, the media and particularly the political parties - are the groups most in denial about what is really happening to our democracy." says Greg Dyke former director general of the BBC, “They don't want anything to change. It's not in their interests."

These are words echoed around and around the world. Ordinary people are driven to near despair by the ineptitude of their governments. We know that political parties feel beholden to the big money which put them in office, and it’s just not good enough. Democracy is either for the good of the people or an expensive game which the people will ultimately reject.

In the UK Trident renewal is up for grabs. That represents £96 billion of public money and rising. We are not fooled by the shrouded olive branch of trading 4 old submarines for 3. The cost of the new 3 will be far in excess of the old 4, and more to the point is not exactly going to scare Al Qaeda or any other form of privatised terrorism out for whatever they can get. Bulking up a nuclear deterrent is outdated political posturing.

Currently each Trident missile has a range of nearly 5000 miles and is accurate to within a few feet. Roughly 86 missiles with 4 warheads apiece are available at any one time and the destructive power of each of them is estimated to be the equivalent of eight Hiroshimas – what possible use does any country have for that level of destruction?

It is a fallacy that the UK nuclear capability is independent. The blueprints, engines, fuel and guidance systems are American. Lockheed-Martin, a US corporation, is one of the three companies managing Aldermaston. The missiles can't be fired without information from American satellites.

Total UK borrowing has now passed £800 billion and increasing faster than in other rich nations. The economic problem has not been solved, it has simply been postponed. Just to pay the interest on its ballooning debts the Government must find more than £30 billion a year. This money is going to be raised from British taxpayers whether they like it or not.

Trident is a nasty, expensive joke which we neither need nor can afford. Democracy is not a spectator sport. It is up to the people of the UK to either tell their MP’s how they feel and stop the Trident renewal programme before it starts, or bury their heads in the sand as usual. What will you do?

September 18, 2009

Peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of creative alternatives for responding to conflict– Dorothy Thompson

In the midst of the craziness around us – lavish printing of money to save banks; the dumping of toxic waste on poor countries; galloping climate change; increasing poverty; oil wars and rising unemployment – we could be forgiven for wondering why all this is allowed to happen. Where is the compassion and the intelligence, the wisdom?

Are our leaders not wise? Are they susceptible to ‘groupthink’

Some examples of groupthink:

• The US failure to anticipate the attack on Pearl Harbour, (lets line up all our shiny new ships in one place so we can count them)
• The escalation of the Vietnam war (obviously we will win because we are the worlds greatest superpower)
• The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan based on pre emptive use of military force and the mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction (hello?)
Nice bit about Afghanistan here

Some background on Irving Janis and Groupthink:

They may not have learned, but we have. The groups making the important decisions today are often not made up of particularly diverse people. On the contrary they tend to be made up of particularly like minded individuals. Therefore for the avoidance of further stupidity and pointless waste of human lives, we put forward a checklist for future reference:

1. Decide upon the objectives of your action
2. Create a group of diverse and independent thinkers
3. Thoroughly research the background
4. Carefully examine the alternatives to your proposed action
5. Brainstorm the risks
6. Reappraise initially rejected alternatives
7. Produce solid contingency plans

We have barely made improvements to our thinking since men wasted in the trenches of WW1. Only the weaponry has improved. In future we will ask our leaders to stand up and explain their homework before sending us to the slaughter.

We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future – George Bernard Shaw

The subject of wisdom has given rise to some great and beautiful studies over the millennia. If that knowledge was properly used our world by now would be a fair and just place.
We mourn the paucity of female representation, we are alternatively dismayed and relieved that diversity in belief amongst our leaders is not more apparent. We tend to be discreet about our little fears, but fear is far from wisdom.

Confusius stated that wisdom can be learned by three methods: Reflection (the noblest), imitation (the easiest) and experience (the bitterest).

Buddha taught that a wise person is endowed with good bodily conduct, good verbal conduct & good mental conduct, and a wise person does actions that are unpleasant to do but give good results and doesn’t do actions that are pleasant to do but give bad results. He who leads others by nonviolence, righteously and equitably, is indeed a guardian of justice, wise and righteous

In the Inuit tradition, developing wisdom was the aim of teaching, and said that a person became wise when they could see what needed to be done and do it successfully without being told what to do.

King Solomon taught that wisdom comes from knowledge and understanding. In Proverbs 1:20, there is reference to wisdom personified in female form, "Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares.”

Despite millennia of teaching on the subject we are a fractured and unequal world society. We value wealth more than each other or the fragile environment. We value the acquisition of money more than the suffering we will cause in its pursuit. We value wealth even though every one of us knows it flies in the face of all wisdom.

What Is Money?
Money is merely a measurement. You cannot eat it or wear it. However, money is used as social tool, and like any other means can be used justly or unjustly. It can be used by a few who control it to suppress the natural creativity of millions of people, or it can be used to achieve economic liberation and prosperity for all affected by the money economy.

Read Norman Kurland’s detailed action plan to eliminate poverty. Although this article is from an American perspective, the concepts can be adapted to any monetary system.

September 12, 2009

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable

In a distant Welsh town, a small victory took place this week. But it had global implications.
There had been an application to build a biofuel power plant – one that would use thousands of gallons of palm oil every year. The application had been opposed by several groups – including COEXIST - on the grounds of pollution to the locality, further deforestation of the rain forests, and the disenfranchisement of indigenous peoples.
The planning officers recommended approval.
Although the planning rules were based on purely local criteria and did not allow for any consideration to be given to the global implications of such a development, the arguments put forward were consistent and persuasive. For possibly the first time, a decision was made by local councillors who understood that upon their shoulders sat the heavy weight of global responsibility.
The planning application was heroically rejected.
The needs of this world are tightly interconnected. The people of Newport were making a decision that would not only affect the future of the people of the rainforests, but would add to the overall effect of climate change. Local representatives all over the world are not prepared or equipped for such a burden of responsibility, and local rules are either behind the times in their assessment of the situation, or woefully inadequate.
The events in Newport were a wake up call to legislators. If we are to mitigate the effects of climate change the rules have to overhauled. Local government cannot keep track of the constantly changing body of evidence which seeks to minimise climate catastrophe. Pressure groups are the key to keeping knowledge relevant and their influence must be more than anecdotal. It is time the rules reflected the reality and such groups given legal rights to bring evidence to the debate, and that evidence lawfully included in the decision making process. The world outside our towns and villages is our neighbour, and we have a humane duty of care to consider every aspect of the decisions we make – not least because ultimately it will affect us.

September 10, 2009

The Lost Moral Economy

The true Islamic way of looking at economic transactions is seen mainly in terms of what are acceptable norms for ethical transactions. It’s an entirely different way of understanding economics. There is no classical school of Islamic economics because finance – when seen from a traditional point of view – was never seen as a risk. Success in Islam is about developing a relationship between the individual and the creator; about living a life that is governed by values that are rooted in a spiritual experience. Whilst Islamic thinking doesn’t deny that fame, fortune and power are very much in existence, it is dismayed to discover that its basic fundamental value system has been largely swamped by the self-interested contemporary form of economics held by many to be little short of usury.

An open and very interesting letter to The Economist by Mohamed Ghanem

September 04, 2009

Peace is much more than the absence of war

The people with the most to give are the ordinary people, not the politicians, lawyers and the generals. Ordinary people have been quietly speaking to us and they know what they want:

• Leaders with humane vision
• A system they understand
• Representatives they can trust
• An economically fair world
• Respect for the ecosystems of the planet
• A reason to get off the treadmill and do something of real value

The task is to put these universal wants into practice. Here are some ideas to get us off the starting blocks:

1. If you are fortunate enough to have a free vote, don’t vote for rhetoric and don’t not vote out of apathy. If you don’t like the candidates on offer either stand for election yourself or find someone worthy and work hard to put them in place. There is not a do-nothing option.
There are 46 million voters in the UK, 169 million in the US. If half of these people took the issues seriously we would have global change.

2. If you think your taxation/legal/ political system is unnecessarily complicated, then it is. Choose leaders who seek to simplify and give them your unbending support. Find alternatives yourselves, put forward new ideas. Do some research; take a look at the links COEXIST puts out every week.

3. Our planet is suffering, and unthinking we add to the wounds every day. So stop!
Walk more, buy local produce, eat less meat, buy less ‘stuff’. Get busy with local groups. The rain forests cannot replant themselves overnight.
How about signing up to and joining thousands of others who have pledged to cut their carbon emissions by 10% in 2010.

4. And why wait to get off the treadmill?
The remarkable Phil Stebbing is a fine example. He has stepped away from mainstream tv and into a place of his own making. As a filmmaker, Phil has dedicated the next few years of his life to bringing us back to the reality of the relationship between humans and nature. On September 9th his team embark upon a global journey of epic proportions. The aim is to document sustainable living practices before they are lost to us. He knows we are on a tight deadline, and his objective is to create an economic, environmental and spiritual plan for the sustainable management of the Earth’s resources. His team are funded by donations alone. Go to and follow the journey.
Phil recently won the Best Independent Documentary award for his film Deadline where he highlights the terrible wrongs being done to the oceans.