Friday, 19 December 2014

Will the Internet Break Civilisation?

There has been a lot said about how the internet is ruining modern civilisation. It's been accused of being responsible for a breakdown of morals and an erosion of good values. People now have more capabilities to produce and distribute incendiary and provocative material. There is almost unlimited access to all manner of perverse and deviant pornography. Fraud has been given a new lease of life. Bullying is rife, whether it be petty commercial spamming or vitriolic personal attacks. It has become much easier to gain access to and groom vulnerable people. 

But as concerning as these are the single unifying thread that runs through them all is that they are all the acts of people. It would appear that after the many years of religion and civilisation human beings have not really evolved into better people. The truth though is that while the internet may be one of the means by which modern civilisation has been brought low, it's actually people who are the real cause of its downfall. After all, it's just as possible to visualise words as it is to view pornography and pictures. It takes no less effort to browse for the news or an enlightening article than it does to log on to Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

The things we do on the internet are all a matter of choice. The availability of diverse and perverse material doesn't automatically equate to universal desire to access it. But unfortunately it's people who both enjoy making and looking at disturbing material. It's also people who can't resist the urge to attack others while hiding under the anonymity of aliases and usernames. There are things that internet services can do to improve safety and security but primarily it's the human beings with access to the internet who need to be less predatory and more compassionate. Building up individual self esteem will give people less need to make themselves feel better by tearing others down. 

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Push Back - Tackling Depression

There are times when things become overwhelming. We have tried our hardest but nothing seems to go right. We put it down to bad luck or judgement; and think about what adjustments we can make. But try as we may everything keeps going wrong for us. In fact the harder we try, the worse things get. When faced with the inevitable truth of our impending utter failure we can sink into a deep depression. All of a sudden we lose all appetite for life, and confidence in ourselves. 

Falling into a depressive state can change one's personality. And if it goes on for too long a person can become emotionally disturbed and physically ill. There are times when it is possible to turn things around with the help of people who care for one. With sound advice and well placed attention one can be made to see the harm being done and pull back from the brink. But when depression has gone on for too long and taken root then professional therapy might be needed.

There a number of things that can be done to prevent or treat depression. These include:

- avoiding being too compulsive. Learn to accept failure and adapt one's responses. 
- enjoy a balanced life. Don't become over dependent on single things. Combine social activities with physical outlets.
- pay attention to your health. A healthy mind and body can help increase resilience. 
- develop good relationships. Don't just depend on the company of those near to you. Enjoy the company of people who have the capacity to teach and guide.
- seek help whenever things appear to be getting out of control. Sometimes a little direction can go a long way to improving one's outlook. 

All these may help prevent depression but the key element is still oneself. Get to know and appreciate who you are, and in doing so learn how to make life work for you. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Fixing the Benefits System

The British coalition government promised to sort out the benefits system but all it has done is make life more difficult for those people who are most in need of help. So now people with disabilities no longer have the dignity of a comfortable abode or the benefit of an accurate assessment of their needs. I suppose you could say they are truly sorted out. 

The coalition is doing a bang up job of wrecking the welfare state but Labour are the party that should shoulder most of the blame. They had twelve years of government and overwhelming majorities but still refused to institute much needed reforms to the benefits system. Instead it chose the cowardly path of keeping the poor hooked on a flawed system. 

So now, not only is the UK saddled with an errant democracy; it also has a welfare system that is both overburdened and now out of kilter. So here are some suggestions for fixing it:

Scrap universal benefits. Entitlement to benefits should be means tested and linked to national development objectives. 

Establish national standards and competencies for all staff working in the benefits system. Set up certificated qualification levels with specialist categories for assessors and managers. 

Set up a national document/credential verification system for all benefit applications. 

Clarify residency and habitual residence guidelines. 

Rescind right to buy legislation. Allocate social housing based on prioritised need. Set regional guidelines for needs assessment indexed to national deprivation indices. 

Eligibility for Child benefit should be available for a fourth child, and only up to a fifth child. Or should only be available for first four children. 

I'm not quite sure it's possible to find a perfect fix for the welfare system but it is at least possible to improve it. 

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Tackling Religious Extremism

Religious extremism has become a major threat to the social order as we know it. It represents a threat to individuals and to national security. Organised religion has been used as a platform for manipulating people and spreading incendiary and exploitative doctrines. Religious worship should be about restoring faith and bringing meaning to people's lives. Not about making money and providing an outlet for megalomania. The roots of the ravages of religious extremism go very deep. Various wars and international disputes have further entrenched religious differences around the world. Global poverty and the recent global recession has further served to make people feel increasingly insecure and vulnerable. 

Combating the dangers of extremist religious doctrine requires a response on a number of different levels. Individuals need to take responsibility for using religion as a force for good. Communities need to invest in fostering religious harmony amongst disparate groups. And governments have a duty to respect and promote the value of differing faiths. Religion should not be used to compromise the sovereignty and security of other countries. 

There has been a long history of religious differences and dealing with the divisions that have set in will take time. However, the commitment to improving things needs to be made, and seen to be made now. An environment of trust needs to be fostered in order for a more harmonious society to develop. 

Here is my five point plan for getting things started:

1. Address social inequality. Reduce government endorsement of privilege. Abolish government bestowed titles (not including awards).

2. Link tax benefits to proactive recruitment and retention of minorities. Require all companies applying for tax breaks to contribute to a social capital fund.

3. Make it mandatory for all religious organisations wishing to retain public charitable status to undergo annual audits and publish an annual report and accounts publicly. 

4. Increase emphasis on human rights in foreign policy. Stop trading off human rights violations and government corruption for economic gain. 

5. Establish a clear legislative and judicial process for tackling religious extremism. Knee jerk reactions only further the atmosphere of distrust and disenfranchisement. 

There is no quick fix to solving the problem but there are things that can be done to address it. All that is required are sincerity and commitment. 

Friday, 12 December 2014

Which Way Equality?

It is often assumed that race relations in the UK are in a much better state than they are in the United States. Despite the current protests against police killings in America; the debate about the Police use of ‘stop and search’ in England proves this may not actually be the case. History has shown that White institutional authority rarely coexists peacefully with the notion of advancement for people of colour. 

In the UK the society is still extremely hierarchical and extremely partial to discrimination and prejudice based on privilege and social status. In all respects the circumstances of a person’s birth plays a much greater part in their future life opportunities than their abilities and commitment to hard work. It was no surprise that that the recent riots in London occurred in neighbourhoods densely populated by private of colour. It is also a fact that the current welfare reforms are having a disproportionately negative effect on people of colour. 

If people of colour are going to improve their circumstances then the onus is on them to individually work hard to better their lives. It is unlikely that the chimera that is race equality will achieve that for them. In order to do this people of colour will need to overcome institutional racism and an adopted tendency towards underachieving. There need to be more role models for children from minority ethnic backgrounds. Not just pro athletes and entertainers. Role modelling isn't about material goods or achieving the trappings of wealth. We need families and communities to be providing the right value system for young people to motivate, commit and prepare themselves for a better life. We need to start creating a legacy of smart, hard and honest endeavour in our communities. We've had the dream; and followed the path of any necessary means. Now it's time for us to evolve into the strong and productive people we have a need to be.

50 Top Songs

1. Roberta Flack - Killing Me Softly 
2. George Benson - This Masquerade 
3. ConFunkShun - Straight From the Heart 
4. Eric Gale - Multiplication 
5. Bill Withers - Grandma's Hands 
6. Anthony Hamilton - Dear Life 
7. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrel - You're All I Need to Get By
8. Randy Crawford - One Hello 
9. Luther Vandross - If This World Were Mine 
10. Tank - I Can't Make You Love Me 
11. Quincy Jones - Secret Garden 
12. Luther Vandross - Any Love 
13. Mary J. Blige featuring Method Man - You're All I Need to Get By
14. Teddy Pendergrass - You're My Latest, My Greatest Inspiration 
15. Bob Marley - Is It Love?
16. Stevie Wonder - All I Do
17. John Legend - All of Me 
18. Anita Baker - Caught Up in the Rapture 
19. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti - Gentleman 
20. Kurtis Blow - The Breaks
21. Grover Washington Jr. featuring Bill Withers - Just The Two of Us 
22. LL Cool J - I Need Love 
23. Pete Rock & CL Smooth - They Reminisce Over You (TROY)
24. Millie Jackson - If Loving You is Wrong 
25. Isaac Hayes - Walk On By 
26. Prince Nico Mbarga - Sweet Mother 
27. Ramsey Lewis - Routes
28. Hubert Laws - Farandole
29. Sam Cooke - You Send Me 
30. Nat King Cole - L-O-V-E
31. Ronnie Laws - Friends and Strangers 
32. Sugarhill Gang - Rappers Delight 
33. Raydio - More Than One Way to Love a Woman 
34. 2Pac - Dear Mama 
35. Al Green - How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
36. Echoes Of An Era - I Love You Porgy 
37. The O'Jays - Brandy
38. Manhattans - Kiss and Say Goodbye 
39. Jaheim - Put That Woman First 
40. Dr. Dre - Ain't Nuthin But a G Thang
41. The L.O.X. - Ryde or Die, Bitch
42. Intro - Come Inside 
43. Kanye West - All Fall Down 
44. Charlie Wilson - Homeless
45. Jermaine Jackson - First You Laugh Then You Cry
46. Keith Sweat - Put Your Loving Through The Test
47. Smokey Robinson - Tears of a Clown 
48. Michael Jackson - One Day in Your Life 
49. GAP Band - Yearning For Your Love 
50. Jagged Edge - He Can't Love You 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

One Person at a Time

I must admit I do get a bit worked up by people who I see refusing to make even a little effort to pay heed to the convenience of others. Too many people drop rubbish on the ground in the street even though they could hold on to it till they can dispose of it properly. Some even drop rubbish while walking past a bin. There are those who merrily smoke in bus shelters. Not to talk of those who spit in public, even in close proximity to others. And there are those geniuses who take calls on their phones using the loudspeaker, as if the phone is a walkie-talkie.

Too many of us take the view that the little things don't really matter. We assume that it's okay to cut corners just this once, or twice; depending on how many times we need to. The little things we tend to ignore very often end up being big deals to others. Ultimately the accumulation of all the little things we ignore become habitually major omissions and malfeasances that we do persistently. These end up being the means by which we harm ourselves and the environment through neglect and bad choices. 

As it turns out doing one little thing to spare the feelings or convenience of another person has the potential to make things better for society as a whole. One more better off person, or much improved environment is one more step to us feeling better about and doing better for ourselves. Instead too many of us are content to live like animals on a planet that we have claimed for humanity. 

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The Age of the Text

It's interesting how trends and technology have similar development cycles. I remember when ostentatious belt buckles and ballet pumps used to be all the rage. Where are they now? There have been so many technological developments that have sprung up only to be swallowed up by the advancement of innovation. I remember when fax machines used to be all the rage. People had them in their cars. People broke up via facsimiles. People made deals over them. I won't even talk about PDAs or two-way pagers. 

But now we're in the age of mobile communications and the text is the Clown Prince. Or should that be the crown prince? In this age communication has to be short and quick. If not, the audience is lost and with it message credibility. In many ways this convenience has meant that text messages have become the primary mode of expression for certain groups of people. So it has found a way to be both concise and emotive. Thus the SMS has brought to the fore text-speak and emoticons (smileys). 

In many ways text-speak and emoticons are the perfect crossover between making a point and saying nonsense. For the person sending it the message can be emphatic and prompt. The person receiving it can either grasp it or spend the next fifteen minutes sending messages back and forth trying to get the point. Text-speak has become the perfect vehicle for equality. Anyone can be in on the trend. It helps cover up illiteracy and doesn't come with a posh accent. In fact many people have started to think in text-speak.

I have nothing against abbreviations. Half the time they are the perfect excuse to ignore some nonsense someone is spouting at me. 

Emoticons do rub me the wrong way occasionally though. Particularly when people use them as to respond to issues rather than just for emphasis. There are so many of them out there now that it isn't possible to keep up. So they end up being meaningless when used arbitrarily. I remember when emoticons used to be the highlight of using Yahoo! Instant Messenger (another trend that has bitten the dust). 

Love or hate them the text message and all it's expediences are here to stay. So I'll just have to keep enduring them, and snap occasionally when I receive the odd befuddling emoticon.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

This Is Who I Am

It occurred to me that we spend a lot of time making judgements about politicians and questioning their decisions and how worthy they are. Of course they assume responsibility for our lives and so we are heavily invested in their behaviour and the things they say. Equally we make judgements about the people we know all the time. Even if we very rarely do say it to them. So I decided I would take a long look at myself and make some honest judgements. 

As a child I recall being extremely shy and having quite a combustible temper. The first time my grandmother took me to visit one of my uncles I was so shy that I refused to enter the house. When asked why, all I could say was that the door was too small. This from a kid who was barely 4 feet tall. I used to get so angry that I would burst into tears right in the middle of raging. Needless to say I wasn't a particularly fearful dude. I do remember getting so angry once that I tore up all my primary school report cards. I had been allowed to keep them in my room for coming first every term. If ever there was a personification of cutting off your nose to spite your face; it was called Charles all through that long holiday. 

I'm not a perfect person (that much I know). In fact, I'm not even sure I'm a good person. But I can lay claim to being a nice person, sometimes. I do the best I can and I try and do it for the right reasons. I don't always get things right or do the right things. However I have managed to touch a few lives and I hope enriched them in my own way. 

A cousin of mine calls me a socialist in thrall to all things Labour. I prefer to see myself as an economic welfarist. I believe in the necessity of production of surplus but don't agree with the capitalist distribution doctrine. 

I am a non-denominational Christian. I don't believe in sectarian worship or churches. This makes my concept of Christian worship quite complicated. I don't prioritise going to heaven as the purpose of a life. I believe that heaven should be the outcome of having lived a good life. I believe that is the true essence of Christianity. Loving thy fellow person as much as thyself. The scriptures and commandments should be guides directing us to make a difference in the lives of others. Knowing them shouldn't be a competition in sanctimoniousness. 

I like to look back on the things I do and reflect on what it all says about me. So far it's saying I've come a long way with plenty of improvement still to come. 

Monday, 8 December 2014


I know a person who during discussions simply makes his point over and over again. No matter what other views are expressed or evidence put forward to support them. His position was, “this is my opinion. This is what I know and you can't tell me any different”. A little knowledge is truly a dangerous thing. As far as he was concerned nothing had to make sense. It was all a matter of opinion. 

It is not possible to stand all alone screaming into the wind and have a conversation, discussion or dialogue with another person. Communication requires a conducive environment in which to take place. It is ok to be persistent and expressive about what one wants to say. What is not acceptable is aggression, abuse or harassment. A strong point can be as forcefully made calmly and quietly as it can be made loudly and boorishly. 

These days our sense of self is all founded on beliefs and dogma. Whether it is religious belief or cultural prejudice, we stand on one side of a divide and look across at those on the other side with pity and disdain. Ultimately we see them as being misinformed and misguided. And because we believe we are right in our view because that's what we believe we allow too little room for understanding. 

I had an uncle who once told me that he believed in his religious persuasion and felt that others should share his conviction. But if he turned out to be wrong then he would be right to be judged harshly for it. Listening to him I always thought to myself I don't want to eventually find out I'm wrong. Rather I want to continuously ask myself and explore what is right. At least that way I get to learn and make things right while I have the power to make a difference. 

Whatever your beliefs are allow them to evolve as your knowledge and understanding grows. Be clear about your beliefs but open to understanding and appreciating the beliefs of others. Only then can you truly enter into dialogue and be properly understood. 

Friday, 5 December 2014

It Is Right There Are Protests: Justice for Eric Garner

Eric Garner has turned out to be a gentle giant with a lovely family. By contrast the New York police department has exposed itself as a savage, unjust and oppressive organisation. The lack of an indictment has added insult to the injury of the merciless killing of Eric Garner. It is right that there should be outrage. It is right that there should be questions. It is right that there should be protests. It is not right that law enforcement should use the authority of its office to target and terrorise Black people. 

Broadening One's Horizons

It's amazing how considering how vast the universe is human beings by the nature of their birth tend to be constrained and limited in their perspectives. Being born into nuclear families hailing from certain regions of particular tribes or ethnicities has meant that we grow up steeped in certain cultures and world views. As a result people form very definitive views about how things should be, and what is right or wrong. These come from cultural norms and practices combined with the sets of laws we are required to follow. 

Moving from one country to another as a child I found out that there were major differences in how my peers and I understood the workings of the world. My friends and relatives who had grown up in a country freed from colonialism, and still somewhat in thrall to the colonial masters; couldn't quite wrap their heads round the idea of racial discrimination and oppression. Even the notion of tribalism didn't quite prepare them for the concept of racial prejudice. It did mean that certain conversations didn't go swimmingly. But this wasn't because they didn't care or sympathise; it was just a lack of understanding stemming from the absence of a relevant frame of reference. 

It is important that all human beings broaden their horizons. It represents a form of growth through self development and introduces people to different perspectives from around the world. This allows a better understanding of what motivates others and what drives their thoughts and actions. But what it also does is offer a comparator to the the things we know and the norms we have always lived by.

Education is a great way to broaden one’s horizons and expand one’s mind. It provides us with both knowledge and information. It also trains our minds to take in and analyse information. In sound minds this develops a yearning to learn and a facility for enquiring about the nature of things. There are those who education just about brings them up to the level of buffoon. It can't work for everyone. 

Travel is another good way to broaden one's horizons. Travelling to other states in one's country isn't a bad idea. It fosters a deeper appreciation of other tribes and areas. However, if one is to discourage the notion that the whole world revolves around just one's own country then traveling abroad might be the way to go. Being abroad is like being promoted to a higher class. You're seeing yourself in all the usual situations but you now have to operate at a higher level. Travelling abroad not only introduces you to new places, history and culture; it also gives you the opportunity to personally mature. You get to organise yourself, and learn to form new relationships with things, people and places. You can no longer rely on the familiar so you are shocked into creating a new frame of reference to live by. You learn to adapt or you suffer the consequences. 

As it turns out there's more to this life than what we know. There's even more to what we know than we have learned. Being a more rounded person ultimately makes you a better person. Though not necessarily a good person (go figure). But that's just one one of the things you come to realise as you broaden your horizons. 

Thursday, 4 December 2014

I Can't Breathe: Justice for Eric Garner

The police have a duty to enforce the law in all communities and spheres of society. But they don't have a right to stereotype all black people and terrorise them. A justice system that refuses to hold its police force to account is neither just nor fair. Instead it has become an oppressive system. In a democracy the instruments of government should not subjugate the people. 

There's a growing trend in America right now that appears to be drawing battle lines between white and non-White communities. Unfortunately these prejudices and paranoia have become institutionalised and are being acted upon daily in law enforcement and the justice system. It is also a shame that these prejudices are also being bred into the youth thereby polarising society and its future manifestation. 

Whatever the officer’s query of Eric Garner was there is no doubt it could have been dealt with by discussion. The need to brutally subdue him harks back to the days of slavery. There is no question that America has come a long way since the times of slavery. Unfortunately it seems that it has turned full circle. America needs to ask itself whether it is prepared to heal its institutions or would it rather just circle the wagons and ready itself for a war on non-white communities. 

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Relationship Readiness

Relationships are the main thing that define existence. Whether you are a human being, animal, plant, chemical, binary code or number. They are a defining feature of humanity. They represent the essence of any society. It's the relationship between things that creates the order of elements, and yields the laws of nature. But relationships between people represents the most complicated of them all. Both for the individuals involved and the interaction between them. 

Growing up we learn how to relate to parents, siblings, relatives, neighbours, friends, strangers, professionals, symbols of authority, the world around us, and who we are as dynamic individuals (physically, mentally and emotionally). This learning conditions us for how we relate in the future and how we see our place in the world as a whole. Some of it involves socialisation, but there is also an element of an individual personality forming and starting to assert itself. In essence, our minds start to establish what is right and what is wrong in relation to the things we experience in life. 

One of the key experiences that serves as both a motivation and goal in our future lives is romantic relationships. And for many the question of whether they are ready for a relationship will dawn on them in the midst of all the chaos that is life. For some relationships are something they enter into instinctively and are immediately at ease with. For others they start of with a lot of soul searching on what relationships are or should be. Others find themselves, later in life questioning what relationships mean to them after a number of varied experiences.

So when are we ready for relationships? There are many phases of relationships that occur throughout a person’s life. In childhood we form friendships, and ‘special’ friendships. In fact in infancy even our parents and the adults around us start to point us towards romances with all sorts of snot nosed toddlers. As we grow older though we start to identify that person who we really like. But these are still just friendships born out of affection and closeness. Quite innocent really. However, with the terrible teens come the urges and the territorial claims. We have that person who is now our own. Nevermind, that we don't feed or cloth them; or even pay for their call credit. We’ve found that person we just can't do without. Though that doesn't stop us waking up in the morning, checking Facebook, posting on Instagram and putting on our “to die for” outfit for the day. At this point things are serious and urges are bursting forth from our bodies as frequently as pimples. 

The truth is that it's all so easy when we're young. When we get older knowledge and experience start to flash cautionary tales before our eyes that loom larger than a Hollywood blockbuster. We become more anxious about how things will end up rather than how they will start off. We ask ourselves if we’re ready. Or we ask ourselves if we that cool person we just met could be the one. Once we’re consumed with doubt then it is time to take a step back and question our readiness. If you're not in the right frame of mind then it will never be the right place and time. Sometimes wanting it isn't enough. You have to have what it takes to make it work. 

I think human beings are born ready for relationships and are instinctively drawn into them. That being said one must be prepared for relationships. Championship eaters tell us all the time you can't just dive into the food and start stuffing your face. You need to train hard, get your game right and know what you're getting yourself into. You need to be ready! In relationships it's important you know yourself too. If it's salvation you're seeking then look to God. A good relationship with the Almighty will set you right. However if it's romance you're considering then take a step forward and gird your loins but proceed with caution. Relationships can turn out to be a really rough and revealing rollercoaster. The kind that churns your stomach and snaps your belt while you're whooping with joy (but that's what some of us live for). The kind that makes you giggle and then leaves you crying. The kind that makes someone tell you the most stupid nonsense and it falls on your ears like worldly wisdom. The kind that has someone touching you in all the right places and you doing all the wrong things. 

So ready or not, when you meet someone you like; ask yourself some questions. How well do you know them? What do you know about them? What do you like about them? What don't you like about them? What do you have in common? What is unique about them? What do they want from life? What do they want from you? If you're not afraid to ask these questions then you're ready to set off on a path to finding out the answers. But remember that when you take step forward it's easier to look back than it is to turn back.

Go forth and relate!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Say The Word ...

Your soul seeks joy
Yet your mind sees a ploy.
Your heart feels so cold
Yet your soul is free and bold.
Happiness could be a thousand miles away 
Yet only a message from you. 
Your fingers have so much to say 
Though your head wants you to look to pastures anew.
Your memories cloud your mind like a fog
Yet one memory is bright and sweet like a Yuletide log;
Like a pearl growing in an oyster 
There's something precious nestled just beneath that terrifying layer
That keeps holding you at bay
Just as you yearn to say …