Category Archives: Brief Notes

Securing the Future for All

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At the time of writing, Pope Francis has been making the news for his visit to Egypt, a 90% Muslim country, and the message of peace he has made with Islamic leaders. But he has also just given a secular TED talk which is very worthy of our reflection.

Solidarity

His first message is about solidarity (which not only means unity, but in the register of Catholicism, also connotes the social aspect of morality as a whole):

“How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries.”

So as Francis said elsewhere this week, we need to resist our cultural dichotomy that gives efficiency free reign over the economy and consigns solidarity to our social lives. But I love how he phrases this in this talk, bringing to my mind the idea of transposing what social work strives to do into all other contexts of human life. That is, the idea of the attention and care given to people in social work becoming the paradigm for how we relate to other persons generally. And as I’ve said before I think almost everyone should be involved in some kind of social work whether it’s with children, the elderly, or the disabled etc. (See related posts here.) But the important part is the spirit in which you connect with others, not whether you work with helping people directly. Francis continues by linking this to what have become the core messages of his papacy:

“Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the ‘culture of waste,’ which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realising it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.”

The challenges of our time, including but not limited to the environmental crisis, demand that we equip people with the skills and mindset to tackle them. Education –life-long education– must promote a ‘culture of care’ for all people, and prioritise the value of connecting with others on a personal level, as subjects rather than as objects. (See an article where I discuss this in more detail.) Fostering such a culture allows associations comprised of mutual assistance to evolve into fraternal communities comprised of ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.

Tenderness

Building on this theme, the Pope speaks about the need for a “revolution of tenderness”, not a political revolution, but a revolution in how we relate to one another. Tenderness he says, is giving attention to the other in a heartfelt way, but not only engaging and listening with one’s heart but through the senses, often including touch.

What tenderness means is “to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need” – including nature. Tenderness is “being on the same level as the other”, co-creating a shared space of communication, a space of relationship for souls to be touched.

Francis adds humility to tenderness as another ingredient we need for our works of solidarity to be a service to others, rather than power which we impose on them. Elsewhere he has said that solidarity with the poor and with our endangered environment requires the courage to live what, by comparison to worldly expectations, are lives of simplicity. To do this is the gift of humility.

Hope

Francis says that “the future does have a name, and its name is Hope.” Hopefulness is the virtue of focusing, not on the past -or even the present- but on a positive future. With this essential role, “hope is the humble, hidden seed of life” and it is a final ingredient for a solidarity that can secure a just future for all:

“Does hope begin when we have an ‘us?’ No. Hope began with one ‘you.’ [But] when there is an ‘us,’ there begins a revolution.” Therefore “the future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold enormous responsibility, but the future is most of all in the hands of those people who recognise the other as ‘you’ and themselves as part of an ‘us’.  We all need each other.”

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Watch the full talk here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=36zrJfAFcuc

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Mobile Principles

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As Benjamin Gibbard sang, “The glove compartment isn’t accurately named, and everybody knows it.”

Phone Compartment

It’s good to see a well thought out ethical campaign from the government. Especially as we’ll no longer be getting progressive safety legislation from the EU. And I said ethical, not because the campaign will do good, but because it goes further than simply informing people of the change in the legal penalties and actually helps them to improve their behaviour. Such guidance is an important responsibility of governments, especially given that law and morality are inextricable. Read the rest of this entry

Any Hope (for the British) Left? 8 Positives from the 2015 Election

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Increased support for a more representative electoral system is one of the reasons to be hopeful.

Increased support for a more representative electoral system is one of the reasons to be hopeful.

In the UK, us left-wingers were dealt a devastating blow last week with the election of a Conservative government for the next 5 years. The proverbial dust has settled, but is this little more than glitter on a turd? I hope not, and here are my reasons for being positive.

Read the rest of this entry

10 Reasons Not to Vote UKIP

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Unfortunate juxtaposition.

In the UK’s upcoming 2015 general election, many people seem tempted to vote for Nigel Farage’s UK Independence Party (an anti-Europe, anti-immigration party), seeing it as a fresh change from the tired old politics of the main parties. Here are some rather quick, but no less damning thoughts as to why that’s a terrible idea. Read the rest of this entry

The Problem With Little White Girls (and Boys)

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Perfect, succinct article about why people, young or otherwise, from the minority or ‘first’ world going on these feel good trips to the majority world in the name of ‘charity’ is a bad thing. This is partly because it is much more cost effective and environmentally friendly to send the funds directly to give the jobs to skilled natives, but do click through to read the article for more.

Pippa Biddle

White people aren’t told that the color of their skin is a problem very often. We sail through police check points, don’t garner sideways glances in affluent neighborhoods, and are generally understood to be predispositioned for success based on a physical characteristic (the color of our skin) we have little control over beyond sunscreen and tanning oil.

After six years of working in and traveling through a number of different countries where white people are in the numerical minority, I’ve come to realize that there is one place being white is not only a hindrance, but negative –  most of the developing world.

Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania. Removing rocks from buckets of beans in Tanzania.

In high school, I travelled to Tanzania as part of a school trip. There were 14 white girls, 1 black girl who, to her frustration, was called white by almost everyone we met in Tanzania, and a few teachers/chaperones…

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The Pipe You Can Save

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A philosophy satire post I helped with.

fauxphilnews

[The following is a “guest post” by Roger Scruton. Actual passages from Mr. Scruton’s columns in The Wall Street Journal appear in quotes, followed by links to the original articles.]

Each day 19,000 children die from preventable, poverty-related causes. For the vast majority of these children, their early death means that they will never have the chance to take up smoking. And if the World Health Organization has its way, the number of such tragedies will only increase.

The WHO is aggressively pursuing anti-smoking policies in the developing world. Measures range from excise taxes to warning labels to complete bans on advertising. “This despite the fact that tobacco-smoking has not been identified as the sole cause of any of the diseases associated with it.” [1] “Of course tobacco, used to excess, can damage one’s health.” But “what do we mean by health? The average smoker gains mental relaxation, social confidence and…

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