Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Layer 497 . . . Multiple Intelligences and the Life of Pi

Multiple Intelligences and a Novel - 'The Life of Pi', by Yann Martel

I have friends who own Kindle devices who no longer consider buying proper books from bookshops unless they're unavailable for the Kindle. Personally I love having proper books around me, and I continue to find so many good books at bargain prices. I've been meaning to buy and read this prize-winning novel, The Life of Pi, for the past decade, and recently came across it in the books section of my local MIND charity shop.


In his author's note, Yann Martel says this:
If we, citizens, do not support our artists, then we sacrifice our imagination on the altar of crude reality and we end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams.
This sentence has several key words - citizens, artists, sacrifice, reality, belief, worth, dreams and imagination.

These are all important words. As far as 'imagination' is concerned, Albert Einstein once made the observation that imagination is more important than knowledge.

Whilst an artist apprehends life through direct observation, analysis, reflection, deduction, inference, intuition and empathy, it requires an effort of the imagination by writers and artists to translate and shape ideas into a form that gives them the power to communicate with others.

The Life of Pi is a book created by a true artist. The only real complaint that one could have with it is the claim it's a story which will make its readers believe in God. Maybe it works with those who would quite like to believe in God, but it didn't do that for me. What it does do is provide, within the context of a gripping narrative, some very interesting thoughts on nature, consciousness, and different kinds of intelligence.

Quotes from the book:
"Father was a natural. [?] He made up for a lack of formal training [education] with an intuitive gift and a keen eye. He had a knack of looking at an animal and guessing what was on its mind. "
[Leaving aside the fact that animals don't have reflective minds, we can understand this means 'guessing' the animal's concerns and intentions. However, we might want to query the author's use of the word 'intuitive', and we might wish to substitute 'empathetic', which is a very different kind of intelligence. Even so, Pi's father could also have had quick flashes of intuition.]
"I have no conscious memory of my first go-around in a temple, but some smell of incense, some play of light and shadow, some flame, some burst of colour, something of the sultriness and mystery of the place must have stayed with me. A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing to this day."
[The rest of the description of the sights and sounds and smells of a temple is brilliant, and well worth reading, on page 47. However, we might have to query the use of the term religious exaltation. Why religious? Why not 'spiritual'? After all, the temple could as well have been Buddhist. Buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion. It has no use for a God, or gods. Its essence is spiritual intelligence, which is a quality we can all possess, to a greater or lesser extent. The highest form of spiritual intelligence is the ability to experience exaltation, awe and wonder. Buddhists, atheists, agnostics and humanists can all, through their spiritual intelligence, experience transcendental exaltation, awe and wonder.]

On page 63 is a description of someone experiencing exaltation in a Christian context:
"I saw the Virgin Mary . . . When I say I saw her, I don't quite mean it literally, though she did have body and colour. I felt I saw her, a vision beyond vision. I stopped and squinted. She looked beautiful and supremely regal. She was smiling at me with loving kindness . . . My heart beat with fear and joy."
[Of course, lovingkindness is a key concept in Zen and Buddhism.]

Page 193
"Nature draws the grandest of pictures, and I felt the feelings of wonder and smallness that we all feel, and I got a clear sense of direction from the spectacle, most definitely, but I mean that in a spiritual sense, not in a geographic one." 
P 195, on instinctual intelligence:
"With time and experience I became a better hunter. I grew bolder and more agile. I developed an instinct, a feel, for what to do."
[Don't we all. Or maybe we're born with it, and often lose it along the Way.]

Page 232
""Look . . . a bolt of lightning!" I saw how he felt about it. He was flat on the floor . . . limbs splayed and visibly trembling. The effect on me was completely the opposite. It was something to pull me out of my limited mortal ways and thrust me into a state of exalted wonder."
[Many of us have times when we're keen to transcend our 'limited mortal ways' and reach for more spiritual dimensions of consciousness - states of exalted wonder.]

Page 233
""Stop your trembling! This is a miracle. This is . . . this is . . . " I could not find what it was, this thing so vast and fantastic. I was breathless and wordless . . . But I was smiling . . . one of the few times during my ordeal when I felt genuine happiness." 
"At moments of wonder it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far."
[This raises questions about how often in our schools, colleges, universities and workplaces we transcend 'small thinking', and entertain thoughts that span the universe, both the near and the far, the interior and the exterior.

Do we not owe it to our young people, at least, to enable them in various ways, through various means, to recognise, understand and appreciate the spiritual and the transcendental? Why would we not want them to see the difference between the spiritual and the merely religious? Why would we want them to leave their spiritual intelligence completely unrecognised, untapped and undeveloped?]

Page 297
"Don't bully me with your politeness! Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer. What is your problem with hard to believe?"
"We're just being reasonable."
"So am I! I applied my reason at every moment. Reason is excellent for getting food, clothing and shelter. Reason is the very best tool kit. Nothing beats reason for keeping tigers away. But be excessively reasonable and you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater."
Page 311
"He was  such an evil man. Worse still, he met evil in me - selfishness, anger, ruthlessness. I must live with that."
[Spiritual intelligence requires a spirit of lovingkindness - the opposite of 'evil' - which can be a word to describe the destructive unleashing of destructive emotions. Even decent people, and certainly young people who have yet to acquire the skills required to exercise emotional intelligence and to combat destructive tendencies, sometimes display behaviour they are not proud of and must afterwards live with. Emotional intelligence is the harmonious working together of the six intelligences in three dimensions to combat destructive emotions and their potential consequences.]

As for valuing and supporting our artists - shouldn't we should be even more concerned about how we produce artists, and creative people generally? Shouldn't all of us have a right to an education that develops intelligent artistic perception, expression and skills - in all of us and not just potential professional artists?


Friday, November 18, 2011

Layer 496 . . . Thunder, Euphoria, Spiritual Transcendence, Connectedness, Rev, Ecstacy, Adam, Colin, The War On Drugs and Tackling The Causes

Maybe everybody should get blissfully stoned at least a few times in their life - if only to have some sort of benchmark against which to assess other states of bliss, or ecstacy.

I was thinking about this whilst listening to Pink Floyd's Delicate Sound of Thunder live CD - and getting carried away by the sheer genius of the musicianship and the performance. To say nothing of the incredible music itself - and the sublety of the lyrics.

There's no instrument that can do the things an amplified guitar can do, and no musician who can do them better than Dave Gilmour. To be in an audience when his band does its thing is bliss indeed - although listening to a CD through decent speakers or quality headphones can get you there as well.


One of the things I think I've learned in life is that the only worthwhile and sustainable highs are natural highs. Drugs are not only unreliable and potentially dangerous - they can even prevent natural highs occurring, to say nothing of many unpleasant and harmful side effects.

We do all seem to need, however, heightened states of spiritual transcendence, in which we feel intense wellbeing, connectedness and gladness in being alive. Sometimes it might take only a walk in a place of beauty to get you there; sometimes you can feel it sitting in front of a log fire watching flames flickering; sometimes music will take you there.


In this week's episode of "Rev" (BBC2) the eponymous Rev - Adam Smallbone played by Tom Hollander - inadvertently takes Ecstacy (MDMA), which has been diluted in a whisky and ouzo cocktail and given to him by Adam's fruitcake parishoner, Colin.

Consequently the Rev becomes blissfully stoned - which is a real contrast to his usual state of fretfulness, frustration and anxiety.
MDMA can induce euphoria, a sense of intimacy with others, and diminished anxiety.
- Wikipedia     http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDMA
Adam does indeed float away on a cloud of euphoria, feels enormous closeness and intimacy with everyone, and loses his anxiety.

"I'm off my tits, Lord. This is wonderful. I love you, Lord. I love your world and all the people in it."

Sounds OK, but the problem is he's not able to function in his job, and the comedown isn't too pleasant either. Colin tells him, "You'll be best off drinking through it."

Prior to experiencing the drug-induced high, Adam had tried explaining to Colin what it feels like to experience "God's love" - "I feel a sense of peace, a real sense of connection to others, and an absence of anything bad. There are moments when I feel like I'm surfing on a great wave of hope and love."

"A bit like doing Ecstacy, then?" says Colin.

"No. And most importantly you feel part of a huge loving family . . ."

"So it's exactly like doing Ecstacy then!"

"No! What I'm talking about is a permanent spiritual state that underpins my entire being."

"Have you ever taken an E?"

"No, Colin. Mind-altering substances aren't that big in the Church of England."

"Apart from drink. All vicars drink loads. And you smoke fags."





People like Colin will always take drugs, until they decide not to. Why? See above. They can make you feel good, and can make life feel bearable, and sometimes wonderful. They can also seriously mess up your life, especially through impurity. Proper control and regulation of the trade in drugs would at least deal with the impurity issue. But there are other reasons for adopting a more enlightened approach to the trade in drugs. You can't actually prevent young people, in particular, being curious about drugs, and wanting to experience their effects. Some people have to actually experience the downside of drugs in order to decide to no longer to use them.

The war on drugs is a waste of time

It is not only very expensive and misdirected activity, but counterproductive and harmful..

by Tom Lloyd, former chief constable


Despite all the money and effort poured into the so-called "war on drugs", the inexorable spread of drugs and the accompanying damage is powerful testament to failure. What we are doing is not only very expensive and misdirected activity, but actively counterproductive and harmful.

If your child was found in possession of drugs, would you want them to be arrested, charged and convicted (with all the stigma that entails) or advised, supported and treated if necessary? Every drug user is someone's child and, sadly, often the victim of emotional, physical and sexual abuse.

Drug-taking blocks the pain and yet we ostracise and criminalise rather than understand and support. "Drugs are bad, ban them!" is an easy mantra, but it ignores the history of alcohol prohibition in the US and our own recent experience of spending more than £10bn a year on the criminal justice system and losing more than £15bn to crime that has merely accompanied the rise in the drug trade. The criminals make around £6bn a year. They are the success story.

Nowhere in the country is free from drugs and the associated crime epidemic. Criminals continue to make huge profits, corroding and corrupting public and private lives. They target each new generation of children and create addicts who are ostracised, become diseased and die unnecessarily.

More recently, I have been working abroad and the problems that exist worldwide are recognised at the highest levels, with most acknowledging the harmful unintended consequences of the current approach. A huge criminal market (with enormous financial incentives) has been created using corruption and violence to make its huge profits.

The Swiss people voted by a two-thirds majority last year to ratify their successful heroin prescription programme as official government policy. For 15 years, heroin has been prescribed in special clinics under controlled conditions, resulting in less crime, death and disease and fewer new users. After this "medicalisation" heroin is no longer cool. Importantly, of the previously hopeless individuals many now hold down a job and live normal family lives. All we have managed is three trial runs, obviously successful, involving just over 100 heroin users. This is good news, but we must move more quickly.

As we wring our hands and close our eyes to the lessons from abroad, delay in expanding heroin prescribing will inevitably lead to more people who will die, contract HIV and Hepatitis C, continue to commit crime and prostitute themselves to feed their habits.

Prosecuting users is misguided and counterproductive; prosecuting dealers without tackling demand or their profits does not work. If the money wasted on misinformation, low-level enforcement and condemnation had been spent on tackling the underlying causes, so many blighted lives could have been different. There are other options, but sadly we cannot hold a rational public debate as serving officers or politicians who dare challenge the "war on drugs" orthodoxy justifiably fear being pilloried by our national press.

Politicians will not even conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis of the current approach. The drug policy thinktank Transform has calculated savings of up to £14bn a year if drugs were controlled and regulated. It's not as if we could not do with the money.

So, where are we? Law enforcement spending is up, criminal profits are up but drug use is also up. The game's up!

We know that we must change and we also know that police officers like to make things happen. This is the time for police leaders throughout the world to challenge the status quo and focus resources on serious, organised criminals, not blighted users, and to focus on harm reduction not some pie-in-the-sky dream of a drug-free society. Where they lead, politicians will follow.



"Tackling the underlying causes." 

If the underlying causes of drug use are curiosity and a search for alternative ways to experience reality; if they're the seeking of fun and good times; if they're self-medication for feeling physical, mental and emotional pain - then you can forget about "tackling" these causes. There's no way in the world to eradicate them.

If, however, the underlying causes are poverty or feelings of uselessness and worthlessness, then there are lots of things we need to do to tackle such things. Some of the answers are economic and financial; some are related to inadequate education and parenting.

If the cause is a need to feel a sense of peace, or a real sense of connection to others, to feel closeness and intimacy - then there is plenty we can and should do. Personal,emotional, and social intelligence are within everyone's grasp - give or take a few psychopaths.

If the need is to feel what some Buddhists call 'satori' - spiritual ecstacy or bliss - then we need to offer much better opportunities to understand and to develop spiritual intelligence.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Layer 495 . . . Ethical Fluff, Destroyers of Wealth, Industrial Psychopaths, Common Treasury, Fighting the Consensus and a Serious Mass Movement

A somewhat disappointing polemic today from Simon Jenkins - usually one of our most astute commentators (see Oxzen comment on CiF under the article).

He's absolutely right to criticise liberals for not being specific in their demands for changes in policy and legislation, and by doing so, hopefully, needle such liberals into more thoughtful and radical demands. But it's a pity he seems to be mocking some basically decent people in a similar fashion to the mass of right-wing commentators.

Not that Simon's responsible for a pretty crass headline. At least I hope he's not.
The ethical fluff of St Paul's and Rowan Williams is a liberal cop-out
Pythonesque preaching from Church of England top brass is of no practical help in this economic mess


George Monbiot is another must-read commentator. Yesterday's column was a classic.
The 1% are the very best destroyers of wealth the world has ever seen
Our common treasury in the last 30 years has been captured by industrial psychopaths. That's why we're nearly bankrupt

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren't responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.

The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. 

So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgment, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?

On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses's scores either matched or exceeded those of [Broadmoor] patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.

The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.

The rest of us are invited, by governments and by fawning interviews in the press, to subscribe to their myth of election: the belief that they are possessed of superhuman talents. The very rich are often described as wealth creators. But they have preyed on the earth's natural wealth and their workers' labour and creativity, impoverishing both people and planet. Now they have almost bankrupted us. The wealth creators of neoliberal mythology are some of the most effective wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.

What has happened over the past 30 years is the capture of the world's common treasury by a handful of people, assisted by neoliberal policies which were first imposed on rich nations by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

I am now going to bombard you with figures. I'm sorry about that, but these numbers need to be tattooed on our minds . . . 

Until recently, we were mesmerised by the bosses' self-attribution. Their acolytes, in academia, the media, thinktanks and government, created an extensive infrastructure of junk economics and flattery to justify their seizure of other people's wealth. So immersed in this nonsense did we become that we seldom challenged its veracity.

This is now changing. On Sunday evening I witnessed a remarkable thing: a debate on the steps of St Paul's Cathedral between Stuart Fraser, chairman of the Corporation of the City of London, another official from the corporation, the turbulent priest Father William Taylor, John Christensen of the Tax Justice Network and the people of Occupy London. It had something of the flavour of the Putney debates of 1647. For the first time in decades – and all credit to the corporation officials for turning up – financial power was obliged to answer directly to the people.

It felt like history being made. The undeserving rich are now in the frame, and the rest of us want our money back.

A fully referenced version of this article can be found at www.monbiot.com/


Here's a remarkable piece of writing by a 16 year old who's still at school -
Ed Miliband is right to be radical
The Labour leader must stick to his instincts to inspire a generation who are acutely aware of the injustices they face

by Rory Weal

When politicians stand up for what they believe in and make politics seem capable of changing the terms of play, people sit up and listen. Yet in the haze of cynicism and pessimism that so often shrouds the political establishment the public, and young people in particular, have become disillusioned. There's often no vision of a better state of affairs, no message of hope or optimism.

Writing on Sunday in the Observer, Ed rightly talked about how it would be reckless to ignore the St Paul's protests, going on to explain why Labour needs to be tackling the "take what you can" culture that has emerged over recent decades. It's exactly what Labour needs to be doing – finding answers to the big questions, tackling injustices, and taking on the status quo. He further identified the protests as "reflecting the feeling of millions of people that the economy and country are not working for them" and David Cameron as "looking after the wealthiest 1%".

If politics doesn't have the answers, where do young people turn? The St Paul's protests are a cry of injustice from Britain's youth, as were the tuition fee protests of last year. Seeing financial speculators reap the rewards of their own failures while tuition fees soar to £9,000 a year is a pretty bitter pill to swallow. Party politics needs to empower people, and at the moment, it doesn't. If Labour is to win the support of my peers it must be optimistic and it must be radical. There is to be no room for half measures. Getting into a bidding war over who'll tackle the deficit in a slightly better way will not excite anyone, and young people, more than most, will see straight through it. Ed Miliband needs to stick to his instincts.

I fear the influence of voices in the Labour party who urge Ed to refrain; voices who say don't take on the Murdoch press, don't hold energy companies to account, don't tackle injustices in the financial sector. I urge Ed: don't listen to the doubters. Young people want to be inspired and they want to see our politics, and their country, change for the better.

Ed Miliband has shown he can take on those vested interests, but we shouldn't be afraid to fight the consensus and reshape the centre ground . . .

Young people and the public at large deserve a party that takes on established thinking and uses politics as a means to radically change Britain for the better. Ed has made a great start in laying out the rights and wrongs in society, but we must not lose momentum.

When I look around my classroom at school, I see young people caring passionately about the injustices around them, but not seeing politics as a means to address those injustices. That needs to change.

My generation want to see that optimistic vision. I know Ed does too. And if he remembers his clear message on his election as Labour leader, he has the potential to inspire a generation of young people.



Yet another excellent piece by a young man in the Guardian yesterday, about something that's happening today:
Students are fighting not just for education, but the welfare state
Our protest on Wednesday could mark the start of the resistance that breaks the coalition's cuts and privatising agenda

by Michael Chessum

Monday's announcement that the Metropolitan police may use baton rounds – similar to rubber bullets – on student demonstrators has reinforced the disenfranchisement of those planning to march: not only is our future being dismantled, but we will be violently repressed when we attempt to defend it. In using a press conference to ramp up the threat of violence, the police are precriminalising protest, making unrest more likely in the process.

The fundamentalism of the policies being pushed by the Tories, and echoed in police tactics, is rooted in desperation of the material collapse of global capitalism – and the scope of reform runs much further than the darkest years of Thatcherism. The coalition's marketisation of education and health; its criminalisation of squatting; its dismantling of youth work – all can be viewed as a completion of the Thatcher-Blair years

It has become clear to ordinary people that the political elite has run out of ideas and its agenda is born of desperation. It is in this context that movements of resistance, including the students', are appearing so dramatically and with such public support.

There are still those who view national mobilisation and local direct action as ineffective or taboo, rejecting it in favour of operational collaboration with institutions and their internal structural reviews. This model of activism looks more and more out of step with the realities of the situation that we face.

Unlike New Labour, which combined betrayal with negotiation, those now in power are wholly committed to the full privatisation of education. It is inconceivable that localised access schemes and outreach programmes, however good and well negotiated, will compensate for the vast structural inequalities of a new marketised system.

Students face an all-out battle in Wednesday's demonstration and its aftermath to derail the higher education white paper. They will have the support of academics, trade unions and, secretly, many vice-chancellors, who understand the folly of market chaos. This will mean confrontations with local university managements, as students take direct action to demand that university heads refuse to implement the white paper.

Nothing could be clearer from the past year of struggle than the ability of clear political demands to mobilise numbers in the streets. If the student movement can spell out and fight for a genuine ideological alternative to fees, debt and marketisation in education, it may well be closer to winning than many presume. In Chile and Germany long-term mass mobilisations have forced the reintroduction of free education; and the Occupy movements around the globe are shifting the discourse of dissent from market economics, a shift they have taken further into the mainstream than ever.

The government's assault on the welfare state, although rooted in class rather than age, constitutes the biggest peacetime generational betrayal in modern British history. 

All that is left to students and young people is to fight against this government – and to link our actions to the struggles of ordinary working people everywhere. The period from 9 November to the TUC day of action on 30 November may yet be remembered as the phase of resistance that began to break the government's agenda. In the process, students must prove that we are a serious mass movement, and not a one-off parade.


Monday, November 7, 2011

Layer 494 . . . Occupations, Protests, International Solidarity, Common Spaces, Common Goals, New Possibilities, Reality Checks, Two Bills and the Tobin Tax

We live in interesting times - when revolutions break out in autocracies, when politics a la Blair/Brown/Mandelson/Gould are said to give you cancer, when the Church of England is  forced to re-think its subservience to the City and bankers.

It's surely no exaggeration to say that the times we're living in are very much like the Sixties - with people all over the world asking questions about values, about ethics, about capitalism, about lifestyles, about democracy and about systems of government that seem only to perpetuate the status quo - to the severe disadvantage of the 99%.

Only it's much better this time around. It's no longer just students and trade unions marching on the streets of London, Paris, New York, Athens and California - it's people from right across the political spectrum joining in with the questioning and the challenging, the marches and the occupations. Middle class people also seem to be waking up to the fact that they're being screwed by the 1%.

This time around we have the Internet and the ability to talk to people around the world - for free! To have video conferences if we feel like it. We can also self-publish our thoughts and ideas, and send them at light speed around the world - and all for free!

I remember back in the sixties and seventies, teacher trade unionists complained about their managers' ability to speak with one another at any time of the day by telephone. No texts or tweets or emails or even mobile phones back then! Workers and protestors no longer need to laboriously arrange meetings in order to share thoughts or information or documents with one another.

Our voices can be heard, ARE heard, and will be heard. Even the 1% are being forced to listen - and be somewhat afraid.

For so long now the 1% have had the terms of debate entirely in their favour, as capitalist ideology, embourgeoisment and apparent material prosperity held sway. But the times they are a'changing.


I love Gary Younge's columns from America.
Who knows where the occupations are going – it's just great to be moving
As Wall Street wormed its way into everyone's life, so Occupy protests grow everywhere: symbolic for now, but changing debate


It is fitting, given the nature of the bailouts and hundreds of thousands of repossessions triggered by this economic crisis, that resistance to it would at some stage become a battle over public space with the risk of mass evictions. In the last few weeks, as popular support for these mostly peaceful protests has grown, the struggle for the right to stage them at all has intensified. From Vancouver to Melbourne and Boston to Bournemouth, encampments have been raided or banned.

Their ubiquity is testament to the breadth of appeal for this broadside against the political and financial elites and the converging crises in our economies and democracies for which they are responsible. The occupy model can be replicated because in one sense Wall Street is everywhere. It has insinuated itself into the lives of every pensioner, student, parent, library user, bus passenger, public employee and homeowner. It needs no translation. Every country has one. Every town and hamlet feels its influence.

For the protesters, however, this also makes it a particularly slippery adversary. Unfettered by national boundaries, unregulated by supine politicians and unaccountable to anyone, neoliberal globalisation is a force without a face and a system without a centre, offering little in the way of identifiable, resonant, physical targets. So if Wall Street is omnipresent, it is no less elusive: it's everywhere until you try to find someone responsible for the mess we are in, and then it disappears.

The Occupy movement has provided a large tent in which a range of previously atomised struggles can now camp. It's a place where those working against war and to protect environment, library services, legal aid, public healthcare, public sector jobs (to mention just a few) have been able to find one another. Every weeknight in Nashville between 100 and 150 people meet at 7pm for a general assembly which is open to the public. Laura Wallace, who works to distribute local foods from local farms, helps moderate the meetings. "I've lived here for five years and I never knew these people were out there," she says. "It's really exciting to be part of this bigger group that comes together in a common space with a common goal."

The occupations have shifted the conversation about what the problem is. Prior to its emergence the trend was not to talk truth to power but to slur the powerless. Politicians went almost unchallenged as they variously identified the troublesome 1% as Gypsies, Muslims, asylum seekers, trade union activists or public sector employees. Now we are back to talking about the people who created this crisis and the system that sustains them.

The very things that make [an occupation] cumbersome make it authentic. Its leadership and its base are one and the same thing. No corporate money sustains it; no cable station is dedicated to promoting it, no individual speaks for it.

Those who deride it for its lack of concrete demands simply don't understand its strategic function. There is no lack of specific suggestions out there for how to democratise our institutions and confront inequalities. What's missing are real democracies, free of corporate influence, that are capable of accommodating and enacting those demands even when they have majority support. The movement exists virtually without reference to electoral politics because the problem is not programmatic but systemic. When what is both desirable and popular is no longer achievable, politics is transformed from the art of the possible to the task of creating new possibilities.

Fortunately that task has long been joined in myriad ways by people, rooted in communities and workplaces, who have been fighting foreclosures, redundancies, service cuts and tuition hikes, who refused to accept there was no alternative. The strength of the Occupy movement at this stage resides in its ability to act as both conduit and co-ordinator for those fragmented groups: a doula for a revitalised, progressive coalition.

In few places has this been as evident as in Oakland, where after a brutal raid on its camp, occupiers called for a general strike, which shut down much of the city, including the port. A friend, who had initially been reluctant to participate, decided to down tools and join the throng.

Hope where there was cynicism; solidarity where there had been suspicion. The occupations are more effective as a launch pad than a destination. Nobody knows where this is going. It's just great to be on the move.

St Paul's, the church's reality check
The Occupy London protest has been a PR disaster for us, but Christianity started badly too. We can learn


by Rev Richard Coles

Amid the shriek of comment, the thump of rolling heads, the dissonance of Renaissance polyphony and Imagine played on a ukulele, one thing is certain about the St Paul's protest camp. It is a reality check – for the City, obliged to ask why a Mongolian village has appeared amid the towers of London; for the protesters, obliged to come up with a more coherent strategy for defeating global capitalism than morris dancing; for the media, reduced to turning thermal-imaging cameras on to the camp by night.

It is also a reality check for the church, and we seem to have come off spectacularly badly. On one thing all agree: for us, it has been a PR disaster. I feel very much for the departed chancellor and dean, good and faithful servants both, yet something within me shouts, Hallelujah!

Christianity at its best has always sought a horizon beyond catastrophe. While such an outcome may seem remote at the moment, this debacle at the very least obliges us to think about where we stand in relation to the powers of this earth, and the powerless and marginalised. "What would Jesus do?" the protesters' banners ask, rhetorically.


Two Bills

Bill Nighy seems to me to be a very good man, as well as a good actor, who's become a strong advocate for a 'Robin Hood Tax'.
A Robin Hood tax could turn the banks from villains to heroes
An EU-wide Robin Hood tax is close to becoming reality. Cameron must now tell the City to get on board



by Bill Nighy

It's a script that even Hollywood might have balked at. In the midst of the worst economic crisis since the second world war, a small band of merry men and women hatch a plan to protect the poor by taking on the world's titans of finance and making them pay their fair share to society. In the final scene Goldman Sachs transforms into the good Samaritan, generating billions to tackle the world's problems.

Sound far-fetched? Not after the European commission formally brought forward proposals for an EU-wide tax on financial transactions involving shares, bonds and derivatives. The announcement – accompanied by comments from Algirdas Semeta, the tax commissioner, linking at least some of the proceeds to fighting poverty and climate change – is just the latest sign that the Robin Hood tax (also known as the "Tobin tax") is on the verge of becoming a reality.
Bill Nighy takes Robin Hood tax to the G20
The actor, campaigner and Oxfam ambassador explains why the G20 can no longer ignore financial transaction tax at Cannes


Bill Nighy is not your usual film star. Gaunt and diffident, he turns beetroot red at the mention of his Man of the Year title (editor's special prize), awarded by GQ magazine and the idea of posing on the red carpets of the Cannes film festival fill him with dread.

But the man who played the dissolute rock star in Love Actually has arrived in the glamorous Cote d'Azur town to lobby the G20 community on the virtues of a financial transactions tax – the so-called Robin Hood tax.


I've never seen Bill Gates as a particularly bad capitalist, and he's certainly doing his bit at the moment to help the wretched of the earth, through his own charitable foundation and through his support for the idea of a Tobin Tax.
G20: Bill Gates adds his weight to calls for Robin Hood tax
Financial transaction tax could raise £30bn to fight poverty, Gates will tell leaders


Despite hostility from Britain and the US, the Microsoft founder will add weight to the growing campaign for a so-called Robin Hood tax when he tells the two-day summit in Cannes that a levy on finance would help hard-pressed rich nations to meet their aid pledges to the poor.


Layer 493 . . . Ed Miliband, Ken Costa, Tipping Points, Responsible Capitalism, the Spiritual Dimension, St Paul's Protests, Making Connections and the Dumbest Idea in the World.

It's been an interesting few days in the media for thinking about business, finance, capitalism and politics.
This morning, listening to the Today programme, I heard that Philip Gould has died. Ed Miliband has of course done the decent thing and lavished praise on him, as one of the 'co-founders' and drivers of New Labour, also dearly departed.

Interestingly the Today programme re-played an interview they did a while ago with Gould, after the onset of his cancer, in which he was asked whether he thought that the 'nastiness and aggression of politics' had been a factor in getting cancer. He said, "That's true."
@7.20am http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9633000/9633054.stm
Ed Miliband: business, finance and politics are out of touch with people
St Paul's protests have highlighted the biggest issue now: the gap between ordinary people's values and the City's

by Ed Miliband

This is a frightening time for Britain: unemployment at record levels, inflation going up, living standards squeezed; a European crisis, lurching from Athens to Brussels to Cannes, adding to the sense that the economy is on the brink; a government sitting on the sidelines, unwilling or unable to help.

That is the backdrop for the protests at St Paul's and hundreds of similar demonstrations in cities across the world. 

They  present a challenge: to the church and to business – and also to politics. The challenge is that they reflect a crisis of concern for millions of people about the biggest issue of our time: the gap between their values and the way our country is run.

The role of politicians is not to protest, but to find answers. I am determined that mainstream politics, and the Labour party in particular, speaks to that crisis and rises to the challenge.

Many of those who earn the most, exercise great power, enjoy enormous privilege – in the City and elsewhere – do so with values that are out of kilter with almost everyone else. The warning lights on the dashboard are flashing. And only the most reckless will ignore or, still worse, dismiss the danger signals.

The problem – as I said in my Labour conference speech at the end of September – is a system of irresponsible, predatory capitalism based on the short term, rather than productive, responsible behaviour which benefits business and most people in the long term.

Just think about the last couple of weeks: the energy companies making record profits per customer, and the top directors getting a 50% pay rise while everyone else feels their living standards squeezed. Banks not heeding the lessons of the financial crisis: still dishing out big bonuses and still not lending to the entrepreneurs our economy needs.

You do not have to be in a tent to feel angry. People feel let down by aspects of business, finance and politics which seem in touch with the richest 1% – but badly out of touch with the reality facing the other 99%. They wonder if things can be different — and whether politics can make a difference.

There is much about what David Cameron and George Osborne are doing with which I disagree. But our problems go deeper than any one government. "Take what you can." "In it for yourself." "The fast buck." Most people never embraced these values but we were told they would help us, and Britain, to succeed. But too many thought they could do whatever they wanted, and pay themselves whatever they wanted. And some became so powerful or so big, they believed no one would dare challenge them.

When people at the top show such irresponsibility, it should be not be a surprise to find it elsewhere in society too. We must make big changes in the way our country works. And that is why the choices we make now to address people's immediate worries should also pave the way to a better economy, society and country in the long term.

Any family would find it impossible to pay off a mortgage or a credit card bill if no one in that household is earning an income. That is the immediate problem in our economy. With unemployment at a 17-year high, there are not enough people in work to help pay down the deficit. Nowhere is this more true than for young people.

Business as usual is not an option. In every generation, there comes a moment when the existing way of doing things is challenged. It happened in 1945. It happened in 1979 and again in 1997. This is another of those moments because the deeper issues raised by the current crisis are too important to be left shivering on the steps of St Paul's. We cannot leave it to the protesters to lead this debate.

But we can only win this debate with a movement which stretches beyond politics. That is why in the months and years ahead Labour is determined to construct and to lead a coalition which includes business and civil society to make the case for a responsible economy, fairer society and a more just world.


Incidentally, this is what Oxzen said about Ed Miliband in September 2010 -

He spoke well. His delivery was good. His voice is not unpleasant. Infinitely better than Blair or Brown. A decent effort. And he will probably get better.

He deserves support at least for what he said about inequality, the gap between rich and poor, re-regulating the City and financial services, values, work-life balance, civil liberties, Palestine, Iraq, support for the Alternative Vote, creating new businesses and industries, and above all redistributing prosperity, tackling low pay, and introducing a living wage.

This is indeed a new beginning. Bye bye New Labour. Well done Ed.


How time flies.

Brother Ed talks a lot about  "a more responsible capitalism in future".

Clearly capitalism is now well and truly under the microscope. It doesn't seem all that long ago that New Labour was terrified of even using the word 'capitalism'. Can anyone remember Blair or Brown or Mandelson ever using this word?

Nowadays we have Michael Portillo - once seen as the most right-wing of Tories - making 2 hours of Radio 4 documentary on the crisis in capitalism, and saying it has to change.


Nowadays there are smart people like Portillo questioning the role of the State, the failure of its supervision, and the need for much greater regulation of the City and financial institutions..

Nowadays we hear the likes of Nigel Lawson, Thatcher's Chancellor of the Exchequer for several years,  talking about the need to separate High Street banking from Casino banking, and the need to break up "huge, unmanageable banking conglomerates" - because "regulation alone can't beat greed".

Maybe a tipping point really has been reached when the decent people on the right wing in politics begin to talk publicly about the need for finance to not only 'oil the wheels of wealth creation' but ALSO to 'make a better world'.

On the Today programme this morning there was an excellent interview with Ken Costa, The former Chairman of Lazard International, who's the man asked by the Bishop of London to "start a dialogue" on how ethical capitalism might work.

@7.33am http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9633000/9633054.stm

Here's a few examples of what he had to say -

"We split up the human person and forget there's an ethical and a spiritual dimension."

"Ethics is both caught and taught."

"Bankers CAN behave morally and ethically."

"There are many people who are concerned about where we are going with the market economy."

"We cannot just consider maximising profits for shareholders."


"We need to change the way we do business . . . "

"There needs to be fairness, and clearly we've got got to a tipping point where we need to encourage employees to do good things and to do the right thing."

Oxzen's view is that we can't expect the world of business and finance to change its ways overnight, and we can't leave it to that world to teach its workforce about the moral, the ethical and the spiritual. Clearly we need to educate young people whilst they're still at school - to the extent that they don't just learn about values and ethics and virtuous behaviour and social justice until AFTER they've left school and have gone to work in the City, or wherever.
Ken Costa: The City must rediscover its morality
One of the UK’s most senior investment bankers and the man charged by the Church of England with reconnecting “the financial with the ethical” has demanded that the City rediscover its moral compass and engage in one of the most fundamental reforms of the market system to regain public trust.


Ken Costa, the former chairman of Lazards International, says that one of the foundation stones of the capitalist system – maximising shareholder returns – should no longer be the “sole criteria” for judging how a company is run.

Last week Mr Costa was asked by the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, to head a team of leading figures in the financial and religious world to “start a dialogue” on how a form of ethical capitalism could work.

Mr Costa says that markets have lost sight of their moral duty and gives details of how the Church initiative will work.

“It will be an interactive dialogue that will aim to bridge the differences between protesters and the City,” Mr Costa writes.

“It will look at how the market has managed to slip its moral moorings and explore pragmatic ways of uniting the financial and the ethical. And it will be an opportunity for making connections between people and ideas that have come to forget or dismiss one another. It will ask some penetrating questions about shareholders. Is it still the case that the promotion of shareholder value is the object of all companies?”

St Paul's initiative: 'It's time for radical change'
There is worldwide a new awakening of civic consciousness. It recognises that we cannot go on as before.


by Ken Costa

There is now an urgent need to reconnect the financial with the ethical. This is the key challenge facing capitalism today. And it could yet prove to be one of the most exciting and productive movements of modern times.

The events of the last week have reminded us, as if we needed reminding, that there is, as Rowan Williams put it in the Financial Times, “widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment”.

For some time and particularly during the exuberant irrationality of the last few decades, the market economy has shifted from its moral foundations with disastrous consequences. I cannot recall when public feeling worldwide has run so high, and even if only a minority takes its anger on to the streets, no-one should imagine that the majority is indifferent to their cause.

We are mistaken if we believe legislation will solve our problems. You cannot regulate into existence a culture of honesty, integrity, truthfulness and responsibility and, at the end of the day, it is precisely these values that we need.

Bob Diamond, the chief executive of Barclays bank, rightly observed in the inaugural BBC Today Programme Business Lecture last week that banks can and must learn to behave as “good citizens”. It is an instructive illustration because we all know that it is not the law that makes a good citizen. Rather, it is a commitment to honesty, fairness, trust, integrity, and so forth. In short, citizenship is a moral attribute.

[We need to]re-embed the financial spirit, our drive to do well, with the moral spirit, our desire to do good. 

Above all it is to reconnect the various different silos of our humanity – economic, moral and spiritual – so that we live as whole people all the time and not simply as money-makers on weekdays and morally concerned citizens at the weekend.

The present duty put on all boards to maximise shareholder value as the sole criterion for satisfying the return to shareholders cannot continue. I am aware that this is a big change that will need detailed discussion but we need to start with big ideas.

As we have those discussions we could do well to remember what Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric, said on the issue. Shareholder value, he said in 2009, is “the dumbest idea in the world”.

St Paul, I believe, would have been quite at home in the protesters’ camp this week. He is, however, a man more (mis)quoted than understood, as epitomised by that best known of biblical aphorisms: money is the root of all evil. Paul, of course, thought the love of money, rather than money itself, was the problem. It was when money became separated from the moral and spiritual foundations that gave it its meaning and purpose that serious problems arose.

The financial world today faces just such problems and the only way we can hope to address them is if we overcome our tendency to divide the world into them and us. Now is the time to work together to reconnect the financial system that we all need with the moral framework that we cannot do without.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Layer 492 . . . Iran, Palestine, Education, Plan B and Protest Songs

London Calling

I'm writing whilst listening to Bruce and the E Street Band in a window on a screen - the brilliant DVD of their Hyde Park concert.

It's impossible to forget that gig - the opening chords crashing into the evening; London Calling; the Strummer-like yelps - Ow Ow Ow Ow . . . Bruce yelling - "Is there anybody alive out there??!!!"

There was life a-plenty on the streets of Stokie, walking home from last night's firework party. Approaching midnight, but bars and cafes still busy - spilling out on to pavements. Walking and meditating . . . on London.

Walking through the terraced streets - noticing glammed-up midnight girls getting into cars - heading off to bars and clubs.

I do enjoy these 3 generation get-togethers - like the one at the firework party. It's brilliant seeing the excitement and wonder on the faces of the little ones as fireworks light up the garden and the sky; as huge bangs ricochet around the onlookers. Even at midnight the streets sounded like a city in the middle of a civil war.


America's itch to brawl has a new target – but bombs can't conquer Iran

A post-imperial virus has infected foreign policy. We've been here before, we know the human cost, and now we must stop


I really couldn't believe my ears and my eyes when I discovered late last week that Israel, America and Britain are threatening to bomb Iran. What the fuck!

Simon Jenkins sums the situation up very well:
This time there will be no excuses. Plans for British support for an American assault on Iran, revealed in today's Guardian, are appalling. They would risk what even the "wars of 9/11" did not bring: a Christian-Muslim armageddon engulfing the region. This time no one should say they were not warned, that minds were elsewhere, that we were told it would be swift and surgical. Nobody should say that.

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine can promote peace, truth and reconciliation

The Israel-Palestine situation demands truth and reconciliation. We hope to aid that process

by Desmond Tutu and Michael Mansfield

We have visited Israel/Palestine on a number of occasions and every time have been struck by the similarities with the South African apartheid regime. The separate roads and areas for Palestinians, the humiliation at roadblocks and checkpoints, the evictions and house demolitions. Parts of East Jerusalem resemble what was District Six in Cape Town. It is a cause for abiding sadness and anguish. It revolves around the way in which the arrogance of power brings about a desensitisation. Once this has occurred it permits atrocious acts and attitudes to be visited on those over whom power and control are exercised. What such people are doing to themselves just as much as their victims should also be of concern.

This pantomime of choice has created a mess, and an awful paradox

Choice is a driver of inequality. The more money and education you have, the better the choices you can make

Labour did make huge efforts to compensate within a system that naturally generated inequality. But they made no effort to change the system itself. League tables stayed. Testing stayed. Teaching to the test stayed, and so did the idea that education was for the achievement of academic results, not for the nurturing of eager enquiring minds.
Very well said, Deborah. When did we EVER hear a politician talking about nurturing eager enquiring minds????


And how come we're such a stupid country we allow them to get away with this???

Our kids deserve a LOT better.


The moribund mainstream of politics risks letting loose the ghouls

Lib Dems no longer occupy the centre left, Labour is mired in the past. And so appears evil genius Nigel Farage


by John Harris - excellent as ever
Read [Plan B], and you get a sense of what politics might be like if its practitioners actually rose to the moment.
[Plan B says] - "Stop cutting - the economy needs a kickstart, which the private sector cannot manage, and which only the state can achieve." There's more: "Raise benefits levels for the poorest families," it advises, "to ensure that money goes to people who most need it, and who will spend it, thus boosting aggregate demand." Using the most straightforward of arguments, it also makes the case for a domestic separation of retail and investment banking, convincing moves on executive pay and more. As the Guardian subsequently reported, its plans are supported by a cabal of non-parliamentary Lib Dems, though not a single Labour voice – from either inside or outside the shadow cabinet – would come out to publicly express any interest, let alone support. As a result, for all that the text chimes with the moment, it has the quality of Soviet-era samizdat: a dangerous broadside from well beyond a tired mainstream".

We Lib Dems back the Compass Plan B


Letter in the Guardian.


100 leading economists tell George Osborne: we must turn to Plan B

Chancellor must change strategy and enact emergency measures to avoid a double-dip recession, experts say

A hundred leading economists have made an impassioned call for the government to step back from the brink of a new economic crisis and back a Plan B to save existing jobs and create new ones, amid growing fears of a double-dip recession.
In a letter to the Observer, the umbrella group of distinguished experts from across the country argue that the chancellor must rethink his strategy and enact emergency measures to kickstart growth and save the UK from growing unemployment and a further fall in living standards.
Condemning the intransigence of the chancellor, George Osborne, as he pursues the coalition government's austerity programme, the economists write: "It is now clear that Plan A isn't working. Wave after wave of economic figures… have all concluded the British economy is faltering." And they warn: "Doing nothing is not an option."

Billy Bragg and Johnny Flynn: where have all the protest songs gone?

As many young people become political and take to the streets, musicians Billy Bragg and Johnny Flynn reflect on the dearth of protest songs to accompany them



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Layer 491 . . . The Churches of England, A Debate, The Media, Rowan Williams, John Sentamu, the Moral Agenda, Taxes on Bankers and Jarrow Marchers

I went to church last night - and I've never before seen a church so packed, with every pew taken and with extra seats needing to be brought in. A very lovely church it is too - St Peter's has been the parish church of De Beauvoir Town since 1841.

No need to worry - Oxzen hasn't had a moment of revelation and decided to follow The Lord. Indeed not. The Church of England is going through some interesting times, with its two archbishops saying some very enlightened things these past few days, but Oxzen still sees no reason to convert to a belief in God.

Last night St Peter's hosted the third "Hackney Debate":
"George Alagiah chairs a discussion on media regulation and ownership, phone hacking and journalistic ethics, and public responsibility."
The speakers were Nick Higham, James Anslow and Suzanne Moore - all of them (and George) residents of Hackney.

George Alagiah strikes me as a lovely man and someone with enormous intelligence, together with superb communication skills.

The three speakers all seemed very inclined to accept the status quo with regard to media regulation and the Press Council - i.e. no more regulation, no more control on media ownership, no statutory body to monitor the activities of the press and media. None of them seemed to speak with any great passion about the appalling British media and its collusion with governments to keep our politics, our economics and our financial system going along the same old track. There was even praise for Murdoch and the tabloids generally.

Even Suzanne Moore oozed complacency - telling us that if we don't like the tabloids and the right-wing press then we can find better news reporting and comment elsewhere on the Internet. Maybe she's right - maybe it's not even worth complaining about the power of the right-wing press to dominate the national conversation, since there's nothing we can effectively do about it.

Personally I'd have preferred to listen to platform speakers who could show similar outrage to that expressed by several members of the audience. Maybe if you have a regular column in the Mail on Sunday AND a column in The Guardian, as Suzanne does, you're a bit beyond outrage.


Respect to the Reverend Julia Porter-Pryce, who's the driving force behind making this particular church relevant to its community, and has opened up her church to be a venue for these public debates. It's a great venue, and even had wine on sale before and during the debate.

Have a look at the St Peter's website to find out more about what they're doing for the community -
"transforming its Crypt into a real community asset - a thriving centre for social interaction, creativity, cultural expression and community support. We're making the space fully accessible, flexible, practical and welcoming. It's home to the cold-weather night shelter, a thriving community cafe and many groups promoting creativity and healthy living." 

During the first phase of the St Paul's site occupation, the head of the Church of England very wisely kept out of the debate about the camp, the occupation and LSX. He's now speaking out.

Oxzen has previously commented very favourably on Archbish Rowan Williams -



Occupy London: archbishop of Canterbury backs new tax on banking

Rowan Williams says the protest at St Paul's shows 'widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment'


The archbishop of Canterbury has outlined a package of political and financial measures needed to take forward the "moral agenda" of Occupy London campaigners encamped outside St Paul's Cathedral.

Backing a new tax on banking, Rowan Williams said the protest against financial inequality and banking excesses had been seen "by an unexpectedly large number of people as the expression of a widespread and deep exasperation with the financial establishment that shows no sign of diminishing".

Endorsing the idea of a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions, he said: "There is still a powerful sense around – fair or not – of a whole society paying for the errors and irresponsibility of bankers; of impatience with a return to 'business as usual' – represented by still-soaring bonuses and little visible change in banking practices."

Williams stepped into the debate as another senior figure in the Church of England, the bishop of London, Richard Chartres, told the Guardian that the protesters' voices chimed in with "alarm bells ringing around the world about the connection between finance and ethics and human flourishing".


Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams calls for new tax on bankers

The Archbishop of Canterbury has thrown his weight behind the St Paul’s Cathedral anti-capitalist protesters as he called for a new tax on banks.


“The demands of the protesters have been vague. Many people are frustrated beyond measure at what they see as the disastrous effects of global capitalism; but it isn’t easy to say what we should do differently. It is time we tried to be more specific,” Dr Williams said.

Archbishop Sentamu targets City greed

He suggests denying honours and the Queen's Awards for Industry to fat cat firms; and an interesting way of embarrassing tax avoiders

The Archbishop of York, Dr. John Sentamu, has spoken out about the greed which provoked the St Paul's camp. Typically, he makes two practical suggestions [which can be read here - http://www.archbishopofyork.org/articles.php/2238/archbishops-call-to-re-establish-a-fairer-society]
Changes in public attitudes can take place quite quickly.  Over the last few decades racism has lost its respectability and is seen as unacceptable.  The same applies to homophobia (the irrational fear of homosexuals) and discrimination against women.  My belief and trust is that a society which has shown itself capable of making such rapid changes to attitudes in these areas will also prove capable of recognising that our society will work best when we recognise that as human beings we are all, fundamentally of equal worth and members of one society. 
Let us do it. Let us do it now.

Archbishop of York attacks high-paid executives

Dr John Sentamu has attacked the salaries of top executives saying that huge differences between the rich and poor "weaken community life and make societies less cohesive".


Archbishop of York John Sentamu attacks executive pay



Jarrow marchers complete journey

A group of activists who have recreated the famous 1936 Jarrow March for Jobs will complete their 330-mile journey by highlighting the growing "crisis" of youth unemployment.

Dozens of people have taken part in the trek from the North East to London, where a rally on Saturday afternoon will be addressed by politicians and union leaders.

Youth Fight for Jobs, which organised the march, will hand in a petition to 10 Downing Street calling for a huge Government job scheme, apprenticeships, the reinstatement of the Education Maintenance Allowance, the reopening of axed youth services and action on tuition fees.

Spokeswoman Claire Laker Mansfield said: "Young people have shown that far from being lazy or scroungers, they want a future with decent jobs and education. The marchers have received huge support up and down the country. People have fed them, put them up and made it clear they back our demands.

"We think it is unfair that in the 21st century young people are facing long-term unemployment. There are almost a million young people out of work, and the jobs market is not getting any better."

Great-grandchildren of those who took part in the original march 75 years ago were among those taking part in the protest march, which started on October 1.

In 1936, 200 jobless men marched from Jarrow in north east England to London with a 12,000-name petition calling for government action to create jobs.

- UK Press Association