Sunday, November 29, 2009

Layer 232 . . . Welcome To The Real World

The Guardian had a curious "Advertisement Promotion" in it yesterday, a four-page spread called "Welcome to the Real World", wrapped around the Family section of the newspaper - for want of a better place.

It's there in the paper to draw attention to a DVD that was given away yesterday, and the front page of this 'promotion' says, "The world is changing, but our education system is not keeping pace. A new hard-hitting film calls for a fresh approach to learning."

As you probably know, Oxzen is very keen on fresh approaches to learning. Haven't had time to watch the DVD as yet, but will get round to it today. Be assured the next blog will reveal all.

In the meantime, here's a bit more blurb for you:

"The world is changing rapidly, but our education system is not keeping pace with these changes . . .

Young people need an education rich with opportunities for practical and vocational training, alongside traditional academic study. As Dr Cream Wright, (Cream?) global chief of education for Unicef says in a new film, "Schools fail to prepare young people for contemporary society, for the realities of the world we live in and, more significantly, for the emerging issues of our time".

The film We Are The People We've Been Waiting For, inspired and guided by Oscar-winning producer Lord Puttnam, looks at where the education system is going wrong and how we can address the issues that are of vital importance to everyone."

David Puttnam is definitely one of the good guys, so the film is probably well worth watching.

Have a look at this 'advertorial' - 

And it's on the Internet!

So what else has been happening in The Real World?

Simon Jenkins wrote another superb column that gets to the real heart of the matter as far as the banking disaster is concerned. Everyone needs to get their heads round this piece of reality.

Name, shame, blame the bankers, if you like. But they're the wrong target

Who said bankers "just don't get it"? They get it absolutely. Bankers are doing what they pay themselves to do, make money. They are performing what economists from Adam Smith to Karl Marx regarded as capitalism's sacred ritual, profiting by rigging markets and shedding risk. Like all professions, their first responsibility is to their peer group and their second to their shareholders. It is not their job to run the country, only sometimes to ruin it.

The banking community came a cropper last year but manoeuvred itself out of trouble by deploying the oldest trick in the book: claiming that the government needed them even more than they needed it. They were "too big to fail".

Ministers and regulators bought the gambit hook, line and sinker. They all hollered that bonuses were "ludicrous" (Darling), that banks had "lost sight of basic British values" (Brown) and were "antisocial" (Lord Turner). But it was all mouth. For them to accuse the banks of behaving obscenely might be a brief buzz, but what are a few insults to a banker on a roll?

It was not the banks that do not get it, but those on whom the public relies to guard its interests: Brown, Darling, Myners, King, Turner, the Treasury and the Financial Services Authority. The bankers this past year have played a blinder. Next month they will give themselves large bonuses while the nation troops to the dole office. They merit the order of the golden fleece, first class.

Then came today's report from the latest Hercules sent by Alistair Darling to clean the City's Augean stables, Sir David Walker of Goldman Sachs. He predictably concluded that nothing more than a feather duster was needed. He seemed to think that his fellow bankers would decamp en masse to Monaco if so much as rapped over the knuckles. So what?

As if that were not galling enough for the taxpayer, the supreme court – asked to adjudicate on the racketeering of banks towards overdraft customers – stepped forward to pat them on the head. The judges said it seemed fine to them and went off to make daisy chains in Parliament Square.

Nobody but a fool believes that a free market in anything, left to its own devices, will tend to perfect competition. Economic history attests that it tends to monopoly. That is why it must be regulated. Such regulation, in every sphere of economic life, is democracy's most onerous but essential responsibility. In the case of British banking in 2008, the government's clear duty was to ensure that marketplace discipline curbed the emergence of a debt bubble and that no residual liability, let alone one for some £1.3 trillion, should fall on the state.

Last year was a tragic failure of that responsibility and not one person in authority has accepted blame. The best-told stories might be of millionaire salaries, fancy derivatives, subprimes and sports cars; but what mattered was the denouement, saddling every man, woman and child in Britain with unprecedented levels of lifetime debt. This will be paid for in unemployment and higher taxation in the short term, and in a lower standard of living for the foreseeable future. The bank crash was a national disaster, the economic equivalent of Munich and appeasement.

Ministers have spent the past year propping up toxic debt, but not the British economy, which lurched deep into recession. They did nothing to help it, apart from brief and bizarre assistance to the car market. This was at a time when governments across the world were racing to prop up consumer demand, successfully speeding recovery. It was as if Britain was a one-industry town, that of banking.

Darling and his colleagues were clearly out of their depth. Public money was being spent on an unprecedented scale, with no one in charge knowing where it was going. Where were the public auditors? Still no one has explained the meaning of the much-parroted phrase, too big to fail. A failed bank may be a terrible thing, but then so is an economy crippled by long-term debt service. Which is worse? Why did nobody ever ask?

I find it simply incredible that a chancellor can take over a trillion pounds of public money, some of it in secret, without giving a remotely plausible account of why it was risked as it was, rather than in boosting consumer demand. At present the Chilcot inquiry is asking past ministers and officials why they went to war in Iraq. The reason is that war kills people. What happened to the banks last year did not kill people, but in every other sense it was a seismic event in the history of Britain's political economy. It was a true collapse in political authority. I wonder when someone will stop abusing bankers and fix on those really to blame.


The other Big Event of last week to catch up with is the start of the Chilcot Inquiry - the Iraq Inquiry. Simon Jenkins, again, injects a dose of reality:

We want Blair's head. But Chilcot won't give it to us
Britain's political community, bored at having to wait six months for an election, is baying for blood. The nation may lack bread, but at least it can have a circus.

It even has a star Christian, Tony Blair, who got us into the mess. The cry is for him to die, and die horribly. The camera must toy with his face in the dock, zooming in on the dripping brow, the writhing body language, the phoney meekness and the mendacity. Damned as a war criminal, Blair must be hung, drawn and quartered and his head impaled on a spike at Temple Bar. He must be Chamberlain after Munich, Eden after Suez. There must be nothing left of him but a puddle of sweat.

The same goes for the rest of them, Gordon Brown, the cabinet, John Scarlett, Alastair Campbell, civil servants, generals, bag carriers and tea ladies. Kill them all. The amphitheatre is packed with MPs and journalists, salivating as the gore runs into the sand. Not Nero in all his pomp staged a show like this one.

What else is Chilcot about? We know the truth. The report can be written in a sentence. Tony Blair went to war in Iraq because he lacked the guts to stand up to George Bush, say the invasion was not justified by facts or law, and refuse to join him in Baghdad. Despite being told to his face by Hans Blix that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he deceived the cabinet and parliament and took his nation to war.

Morrisey and Zen

Morrisey was on Desert Island Discs today, and he was reasonably interesting - though most of what he said we already knew. His choice of music was less than inspirational.

For his luxury he chose a bed, which was original. He reckons he prefers to be on his own for most of the time, and says that going to bed is the highlight of everyone's day.

Kirsty was obviously a fan in her youth.

Commenting on his manner and his attitude, she said, "I don't want to use the word Zen . . . but at 50 you seem less spikey, more reflective and thoughtful, and at ease with yourself."

Which is an interesting, inaccurate and very common interpretation of what Zen is about.

Zen is really concerned with helping us to see through to the reality of things, and having seen reality we may well be motivated to become more energised, more challenging , and less 'laid back' if we feel moved to try to do something about the condition of the world.

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