Thursday, March 4, 2010

Layer 259 . . . Michael Foot, Political Activism, Wellbeing, Truth, Ashcroft, Anger and Education

Some interesting links this week.

Michael Foot died yesterday at the age of 96.

An article in the Guardian this week highlighted a linkage between political activism and wellbeing.


Political Activism

Brain food: does activism make you happy?
Who'd have thought it? New research shows there is a link between being politically active and wellbeing

by Aditya Chakrabortty

Political activism is hardly a barrel of laughs. And yet it makes you happier.

So find two university psychologists in new research that looks for the first time at the link between political activity and wellbeing. Malte Klar and Tim Kasser started by interviewing two sets of around 350 college students, both about their degree of political engagement and their levels of happiness and optimism. Both times, they found that those most inclined to go on a demo were also the cheeriest.

The groups who involve themselves in political debate were far and away the strongest on the "vitality" scale: they felt more alive and enriched than those who merely complained . . .

The study flies in the face of the popular wisdom that happiness resides in creature comforts and relative affluence. Perhaps activism gives people a sense of purpose, or of agency or just a chance to hang out with other people. Most likely it does all of the above.

"I will fight for what I believe in until I drop dead," Barbara Castle told this paper in 1998. "And that's what keeps you alive."


A Radical Conscience

Michael Foot has been described as the radical conscience of British socialism. He was a man of principle, an idealist, an internationalist and an anti-colonialist. He was a man with values and convictions. He believed in justice and equality. He pursued big causes with great passion.

Michael, and his nephew Paul, were major figures and role models for radicals, students and activists back in the Sixties. Both of them were well-informed, great speakers, and often very amusing.

Michael was an anti-fascist and he was in favour of nuclear disarmament. He was pro-peace, pro-democracy, and in favour of winning debates and arguments through the force of logic and truth.


Some quotes regarding truth:

Ỳe shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:32

The truth that makes men free is for the most part the truth which men prefer not to hear.
Herbert Agar

False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.
Plato, Dialogues, Phaedo

Chase after truth, and you'll free yourself . . .
Clarence Darrow

All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.
Arthur Schopenhauer

These are all taken from the preface of a book by John R. Talbot called The 86 Biggest Lies on Wall Street (2009) - currently on sale in W H Smith for a very reasonable £4.49.


More Tory Lies

The Tories have again been caught out telling big lies. It's now official - William Hague knew perfectly well that 'Lord' Michael Ashcroft had not complied with the undertakings that he'd given (regarding becoming a permanent resident and paying full taxes) in order to be eligible for a peerage.

And it's utter bullshit for Cameron and co. to say that his residential status and tax affairs were private matters for Ashcroft and the Inspector of Taxes, and were no business of the Tory party, as such. The question for New Labour is  - how have they allowed the Tories and Ashcroft to get away with this for so long? If this man made certain promises in order to get a peerage then the least we, the people, can expect is for both the Tory and the New Labour leadership to follow through and make damned sure the bastard had done what he promised he would do. NOT to do so is unbelievably negligent. For TEN years!

William Hague hid Lord Ashcroft's tax status for months
Former leader's disclosure reveals peer kept financial affairs secret from senior Conservatives for a decade

The turmoil at the top of the Tory party over the tax affairs of Lord Ashcroft escalated last night as the former leader, William Hague, admitted he had known "for a few months" that the peer had renegotiated the terms under which he took his place in the House of Lords.

Hague's disclosure put pressure on himself and the party to explain why they have repeatedly evaded questions about the matter in a succession of recent interviews. It also highlighted how Ashcroft, the Conservative deputy chairman, kept his tax status secret for almost a decade from his closest Tory ally and the man who lobbied hardest for his peerage in 2000.


Why David Cameron's schools policy is out of date

The Tory leader says uniforms and pupils standing when an adult walks into the classroom help define a good school. He must be joking

by Francis Beckett

We can stop worrying about how to improve schools. It's simple, according to David Cameron. It's a good school if it's got a uniform, and children get up when an adult walks into the room, and teachers set and teach by ability. That clear? Good.

School uniforms are a British obsession. In most of Europe and America, they don't bother. It always seems to be the apostles of economic liberalism who are keenest to dictate every inch of what our children wear.

Politicians have a key role in state education – to make sure it is properly funded, supported, and accountable. But pronouncing on whether children should stand up or sit down? Come off it, Dave.


Lambeth is Britain's angriest borough
by Deborah Orr

London, according to a new survey, is the angriest city in Britain, and Lambeth is the angriest borough in London. What's it like to reside inside this hotbed of throbbing, Brownite disgruntlement? I've lived in Lambeth for almost a quarter of a century, and let me tell you, it's extremely infuriating.

Surveys are sometimes silly. But this one is not. Commissioned by the British Association of Anger Management, which sounds like something from a Chris Morris satire, it does make the right connection. Its director, Mike Fisher, says: "I believe that issues such as crime, violence, domestic violence, road rage, addiction, eating disorders, depression and many other mental health issues all stem from our inability as a culture to handle or express our feelings, especially those of anger."

Lambeth isn't only the angriest place in British, it also boasts one of the highest incidences of mental disorder. GP records for 2009 suggest that about 1.4% of the adult population suffers from a severe mental illness. That's nearly three times higher than the average expected from national surveys. Go figure.


Affluenza, Greed, Anger and Ways Forward

And why, as a culture, are we unable to "handle or express our feelings, especially those of anger"?

"Crime, violence, domestic violence, road rage, addiction, eating disorders, depression and many other mental health issues" stem directly from a general spiritual sickness and a shocking lack of emotional and social intelligence in our society. Need we say more?

From the lies and obsessions of politicians and bankers, to the general culture of greed, inequality and materialism that's been created in this country, it's clear we're a sick society. It's not that everybody is afflicted by affluenza and a lack of these key intelligences, but when a critical mass of people and the media in general become afflicted then everybody suffers. Virtually nobody really sees the truth, nobody understands what's happening, and nobody sees the way out.

The only way out is for adults to seek enlightenment, and for schools to begin offering opportunities for children to develop spiritual, emotional and social intelligence. Just like they do in more enlightened countries and societies.

Sadly this is unlikely to happen when our leading politicians still cling to the idea that the most important things in education are uniforms, getting children to stand up when an adult comes into the room, and making sure the (allegedly) most academically able kids are split off from the less able, both in terms of the schools they attend and within each school.

What Cameron and his ilk desire is the militarisation of education. Put the troops in ranks, make them wear uniform, make them salute their superiors by standing to attention whenever one appears in their vicinity, break down any semblance of disobedient or disorderly personality or conduct, fill them with the drills and skills they'll need to be either foot soldiers or members of the officer class, and then we'll have an orderly and disciplined society - which is just the way the traditionalists like things to be.

This approach is the polar opposite of an education system that stresses the need for children to become confident, self-disciplined, self-motivated, autonomous, creative individuals who march to the beat of their own individual drum; who live and learn in the ways that they prefer, and speak in their own individual voices. Such individuals define the common good in their own terms, rather than the status quo, and need to be convinced that something is right before they'll accept it as right. They're critical thinkers rather than uncritical pawns in someone else's games.

More on this in the next blog.

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