Monday, February 22, 2010

Layer 251 . . . On The Radio

Sir Clive Woodward is an interesting guy. He's a knight of the realm. He managed the England rugby team that won the rugby world cup in 2003. He's the British Olympic Association's Director of Elite Performance. He's seen by some people as some kind of management guru. I've been to one of his management seminars. Yesterday he was the guest on Desert Island Discs.

So there he was, this affable, results-driven, targets-oriented guy, a great believer in the need for highly professional and aspirational management styles, he seems reasonably honest and plausible - talking about his burning desire to become a winner, the best, etc . . . albeit it in a somewhat dry and fairly humourless sort of way . . . clearly a guy who takes himself very seriously and expects others to do the same . . . obviously a lover of sport, and by his own admission NO great intellectual or philosopher, just a great believer in hard work and effort . . .

He then confirms what I'm already thinking about him with his choice of music.

Absolute unrelenting middle of the road pap and cack - most of it in all likelihood manufactured by people using Casio keyboards and rhythm backing tracks, with heavy emphasis on sentimentality, smaltz and lurve (he really loves his wife) . . .

After the 2003 World Cup, England came third in the 2004 Six Nations (behind Grand Slam winners France and Triple Crown winners Ireland). His last tour as England coach came shortly afterwards, with an ill-fated tour of New Zealand and Australia. England were beaten by New Zealand in two tests, without scoring a single try, going down 36-3 in the first and 36-12 in the second. The team then went to Australia, where they were beaten 51-15.

In February 2004 he was appointed Head Coach for the awful 2005 British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand. The Lions lost the test series 3-0. Woodward's management was criticised by many commentators and players, for his initial squad selection, his coaching methods, his handling of the players and the media, his selections on tour, and for not allowing the test team any time to play together before the test series began.
- Wikipedia

 - Oops!

Kirsty read out in her introduction that "he took the England team to world cup glory". Are we sure it wasn't the team that took him to glory? Let's not forget the outstanding individuals that were available to the England team at that time.*

Given what's said in the Wikipedia entry just quoted, isn't there a case for saying the team achieved what it did in spite of Woody? And if the team had lost in the quarter or semi final, or even the final, as it easily might have, would Woody still have been considered for a knighthood?

So what's the piece of 'music' he treasures and values above all else? Oh dear. Something tragic. Something utterly crap by  . . . Take That!

This is surely a guy who only ever listens to music when he "listens" to whatever his wife plays in the car - Take That, Phil Collins, Ronan Keating, Robert Palmer, The Jam.

This is pure Wife Music. OK - I know it's not the choice of ALL women. A lot of women go for similar stuff but sung by women. A lot of women like good music too. But I don't know of a single guy who owns any of that stuff, or would admit to liking it. Let alone thinking it's the best and most outstanding music ever created. I can't imagine even Paul Weller seriously thinks "Going Underground" is a "great track".

Born in '56 Woody obviously missed out on the sixties, and it couldn't have helped his case being sent away to boarding school at the age of 13. He's over-anxious to point out how independent and autonomous that experience made him. But is he really?

Two bizarre tracks he chose because somebody had obviously suggested playing them to his team(s) before the start of matches - maccho male music -  Eminem — Lose Yourself and Chicane — Saltwater. He obviously likes songs with a "message". Functional music. Music you can use as a manager, or music to help cheer yourself up, or music that lets your loved ones know how much you love them, or music that helps you remember those 'special' times in your life. Utilitarian stuff. Woody's heavy on messages.

Strangely, he said he likes Bob Dylan. Presumably he reckons this gives him some sort of musical cred. You could choose any 8 Dylan tracks and they'd be better than the rest of Woody's selections.

There seems to be a sort of common denominator to most of the people who become famous - celebrities, high flying professionals, knights of the realm, etc. They're the sort of people who are so busy working and networking and being self-obsessed they don't ever really listen to music. The sort of people who don't LOVE music. Let alone need it. They seem to be the kind of people who put on "background music" at home or in the car.

They may be wonderful human beings, talented and creative and brilliant in their own way, maybe, but there's little evidence that many of them have gone on journeys of musical exploration or need music like others need air and water. Most of these people's basic needs appear to centre on the need for fame, success, worldly achievement and status.

Woody's office slogan is . . .  "Better Never Stops". This is a guy who says he'd set himself ('stretching' and 'challenging'?) targets even on his desert island. This is a guy who'd take a book on how to play better golf to his desert island. This is a guy whose luxury on the island would be a golf club and a golf ball. This is a guy who's a complete loser, still striving to be a winner.

He'd be a lot better off if he gave up his relentless striving after success, fame and glory, and applied himself to the successful exploration of his inner being, the discovery of Zen enlightenment and satori, and through doing so make himself a lot more useful to those he aims to lead, coax, coach and manage.

After all - what difference does it really make whether "Team GB” comes 4th or 24th in the Olympic league table? I'm delighted the young lady from Britain won her gold medal in the current Winter Olympics in Canada, because she has a lot of talent and a lot of nerve and skill. But it's her own delight in her individual achievement that counts, not any supposed national pride or glory.


Also heard on the radio today -

1. Start The Week

Andrew Marr looks at how society is shaped by science and war. Caroline Alexander explores what we can learn about the nature of conflict from reading The Iliad, while the journalist Andy Beckett asks about the role of the Chilcot Inquiry. Professor Robert Winston discovers that not all scientific endeavour is a positive development, and Raymond Tallis explains that it all comes down to the fact that we can point.

The Chilcott Enquiry into the Iraq war is revealing how the political process was subverted by Blair and his chums, and how the (supine) cabinet and senior civil service and diplomatic service advisers were marginalised.

Britain is, and has been for hundreds of years, a (strikingly) militaristic society, whose leaders and ruling classes (and even many of the 'lower orders') are obsessive about the country's military and imperial past.

Andy Beckett reckons that he'd 'forgotten' about the effect of the war on individuals and families until he sat next to the sister of Anna Hassan at the enquiry. [So much for empathy]


Books and writing [and presumably blogs] are often seen as subversive by a nation's ruling classes. Words used effectively can be very powerful. [Hence book burners and those who want education to be purely about preparing the masses for the world of work.]

People such as politicians and scientists should listen carefully to the voices of their critics and commentators, and show more openness and humility.

[The Oxbridge culture and elite education has the opposite effect - it perpetuates the myth that those who by hook or by crook are academically successful have a right to ignore the voices of the masses and the also-rans.]

Original thought and individual achievement is a myth - feedback and peer review is essential for checking, challenging, identifying and remedying weaknesses. [Almost all worthwhile achievement is collaborative]

Arrogance and hubris and the law of unintended consequences may yet lead the world into nuclear conflagration and holocaust.

The invention of agriculture and settlements initially produced 'stunted people with bad teeth who lived shorter lives'.

We never, or rarely, recognise the downside of inventions.

Humanity [- or unrefined and ignorant and arrogant and over-intellectual humanity] is the virus that's ruining the planet. [Dumb-ass humanity lacking in emotional and spiritual intelligence. Humanity that's full of ego and aggression and destructive power.]


A book about the gesture of pointing!

Awareness of yourself as a subject.

[This had extra significance for me having spent part of yesterday reacting to and speaking with a two year old who was communicating with me by pointing at a variety of objects.]

When we point at something we're acting on the assumption that there is such a thing as empathy. We have an awareness of our own awareness, and that there is another subject [person] who has a separate and individual awareness of objects and other people.

Humans are neither pure 'mind' nor pure 'animal'.

Storytelling is a kind of pointing and a kind of sharing.

Human beings create a public sphere that consists of a complex fabric of shared perceptions and assumptions. Each of us is different, but through pointing and sharing, etc we can identify points of commonality and agreement.

[This is zeitgeisty stuff. This weekend's episode of 'Virtual Revolution' on BBC2 was focused on collective intelligence, networks of people and ideas, and creating more empathy through the free sharing of information. More openness and communication creates more understanding of other people's ideas. In our increasingly complex world people have a need to share and communicate more - to make their voices and perceptions heard - not only for their individual sakes but for the sake of creating better societies and communities.]


2. History of the World in 100 Objects

The Oxus Chariot

You can zoom into this object here -

Ancient Persia invented and defined statecraft and empire. [Not China?]

It was a militaristic state where might was considered right.

Cyrus was the first Persian emperor. The empire stretched from Turkey and Egypt to Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was the first great empire. But not like the Roman empire, which ruled every province from the centre.

The Persian empire consisted of a collection of individual kingdoms, with the emperor as a kind of king of kings. It was a confederation and a collaboration of semi-autonomous states. Thus it was a multi-cultural and multi-faith empire.

"No race is more ready to adopt foreign ways than the Persians."

There was a network of straight and fast imperial roads, which were travelled by messengers and by satraps.

Heroditus wrote, "There is nothing in the world that travels faster than these Persian couriers."

The word satrap is often used in modern literature to refer to world leaders or governors who are heavily influenced by larger world superpowers or hegemonies and act as their surrogates.

The first large scale use of satrapies, or provinces, originates from the conception of the first Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great, beginning at around 530 BC. However, Provincial organization originated during the Median era from at least 648 BC.
- Wikipedia

Cyrus was seen as a hero and benefactor throughout the empire since he freed slaves and set out to be a protector of those within the empire.

It was in effect an empire of the mind, and states of mind, and a culture at ease with complexity.

It's no wonder that Iranians are proud of their history and heritage.



Irene Khan was the first woman and the first Asian to become secretary general of Amnesty International, and has since won a clutch of awards for her work as a human rights advocate. Irene explains why she thinks it's vital for the world's poorest women that we start to see poverty not as simply an economic problem but as a human rights crisis in itself.

The causes of conflict [within states?] tend to be social and economic, and arise out of insecurity, discrimination, exclusion and feelings of powerlessness.

Throughout the world women tend to be the poorest and the most exploited. Also the most exposed to sexual violence and terror, who feel that their voices just don't count. Change can only come about through joining together, organising, and exposing the realities of daily life. [Obama's campaign was similar.]

The lack of urgency in tackling poverty and exploitation comes from the fact that women have no power - they have no independent resources and they are unable to make decisions.

[You can say the same about poor men and about the working classes in general. What hope do they have against the might of the state, the corporations and the combined numbers of those who approve of and try to become like the ruling classes? How can there possibly be any hope of urgent change? This is what Obama is now discovering. Thanks to the provisions within the constitution and the combined weight of both houses of Congress there's not a lot that even a president can do to bring about urgent change, without direct action by the masses. And we're still waiting to see whether the street demonstrations in Greece are going to translate and transmute into a general strike etc. ]


I'm reminded of the quotes in the first Layers of both 2008 and 2009 -

There is a war between the rich and poor,
A war between the man and the woman.
There is a war between the ones who say there is a war
And the ones who say that there isn't.

There is a war between the left and right,
A war between the black and white,
A war between the odd and the even.

The poor get poor
The rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

Leonard Cohen

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment