Archives for posts with tag: human-rights

If we stop and take a look at ourselves it is not a pretty sight. We are in the midst of an unprecedented knowledge boom yet our world does not reflect this. Few parts of it have peace and real freedom yet we know that war only provides horror and intense suffering and sorrow and solves nothing. In the end the result only comes through peace talks. In a world in which we used the knowledge we have those talks would be at the beginning, not the end.

In countries not at war there is still unnecessary suffering and deprivation. We still haven’t learned to share and accept that having too much doesn’t bring happiness. Having too little inevitably brings misery and hardship. Over Xmas our Australian Prime Minister was photographed helping to serve lunch to some of our impoverished citizens. They already had too many helpers so that it’s only purpose was to rub in the fact that his many tax-deductible properties were keeping poor people in that situation. But that’s another story.

If we go back to the world scene, what should we do? Firstly I assume that there is no question that democracy is better than dictatorship. Free and fair elections for all should be the free and accepted norm for every country in the future. Secondly we need to ensure that every citizen has the opportunity to succeed according to their abilities, including physical ones. Thirdly, the leaders we choose should have these goals, not self fulfilment, self-gratification and enrichment which tend to be their current goals.

So where do we start? New knowledge seems to be the catalyst which is triggering the desire for a better world, and in particular the necessity for those in leadership roles and others to keep their knowledge updated. This would lead to better informed decision making. We can no longer expect one person to have the necessary qualifications to lead a country. We should look to electing a leadership team with a wide variety of skills and up-to-date knowledge. The days when someone with out dated knowledge of law can be treasurer, for example, should be long gone.

We need to move to an election criteria in which my final suggestion would be the first. We can no longer have a situation in which those who stand for election tell us, and partially listen to us, at election time then forget about us. We need to elect representatives who will represent us, not just themselves or their parties. We need to elect people who will represent us and have a well-established mechanism for doing so, with frequent opportunities to listen to their electorate, not just tell us after the event.

If our leaders are not prepared to keep up to date with their knowledge then they have no part in the 21st century world. Leaders who help to serve lunch to our poorest at Xmas need to be replaced by leaders who sit down and listen to all citizens so that they are aware of their needs, aspirations and ideas, including the poor. This is 21st century leadership. It needs to be a team with up-to-date appropriate knowledge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Australian Parliament has just risen for the long summer holiday (not an expression they use!). It tends to lead us to a point where we look backwards and forwards, not only in Australia but in terms of the situation worldwide.

I think that all those who live in a so-called democracy would feel that it is the best form of governance over a large number of people, either individual groups of people from one parcel of land calling itself a nation, or groups of nations together calling themselves another name such as the European Union, with a looser alliance. The latter may or may not be a long-term stable relationship as we are seeing through Brexit. The other alternative is a binding together under a harsher regime such as a dictatorship.

Those of us who live under a loosely termed democracy feel we have the better deal but I suspect that we are being conned to a greater or lesser extent. My impression is that quite a lot of people in Britain feel that Brexit was a wrong decision, even though the population appeared to vote for it. By this I mean people voted according to the information they were given, largely as reported in the press. So did the press have an unrecognised power?

The recent American election also had its faults given that the candidate most voters wanted is not the one they have. This has created a quite disturbing situation given that this new powerful man in the world often makes conflicting statements so no-one really knows what he thinks, or, more importantly, what he will do.

The Australian parliament is nowhere near as important as this but what we see is the damage that can be done in a country which claims to be democratic and is only marginally in conflict with some of its neighbours. Two areas of governance in the last week have particularly troubled me. Any boss who requires their workers to work until midnight day after day would be regarded as a law-breaker since there is a huge danger in making unfair and unreliable laws in that state of tiredness. Not only that, unacceptable deals were done on the basis of ‘I’ll vote for your legislation if you vote for mine’ for legislation they wouldn’t otherwise have voted for. This is not democracy in which elected members are supposed to represent their constituencies and vote according to the latter’s wishes. An even more blatant violation of this is when members are given ‘a conscience vote’ on issues. Their conscience, or beliefs, have nothing to do with what they were elected for. Meanwhile whilst this horse trading is going on, large groups in the population have their needs unmet. Those who don’t fit into the accepted male/female categories, the poor and the needy, in other words the majority of the population, have their needs unmet and live as second class citizens. We call this democracy. I don’t think it is full democracy.

I suspect what we really need in the months ahead is for the citizens of the world to get together and define what real democracy is and insist that our elected leaders follow this new role for themselves. I don’t think it will even happen in my lifetime unfortunately.

The only mention made of death in our society is usually through the old saying that taxes and death are the only two certainties in life. The rest of the time it seems to be a taboo subject. The only certainty about it is that it will happen, yet for most of us the how, where and when are not only complete uncertainties but not discussed.

I’m trying to work out how long I will last, given my current age, life expectancy for my age group and restrictions such as chronic illness. This sounds really potent yet seems to be the medical name for diabetes and other common diseases which affect life expectancy. I felt really doomed when I first heard the expression, but life has gone back to normal since then!

For older people it probably makes life a bit easier if we can work out a rough, probably inaccurate time limit. It gives us a bit of a time-line for things we would like to achieve before then, such as tidying up and sorting through possessions (called rather cutely ‘downsizing’!). It doesn’t seem to work for me, having recently passed on a whole lot of books I knew I would never read to charity, then restocking with other books I thought I might read!

The other uncertainties we face are the how  and where. Most people say they would like to die at home but few do. I suspect that this could be caused by medicos trying to use their new devises and medications on us when we would prefer to just quietly leave this world.

The big problem is the current discussion we are currently having in Australia about being allowed to do have a hand in our death and allow us to advance it when medication is not currently available to so painlessly. Euthanasia has almost been a taboo topic and is often described as murder. There are quite a few countries intelligent enough to allow it under very strict conditions and it seems to work well, with the conditions imposed preventing abuse. The opponents to this practise seem to base their objections on reasoning which is not based on intelligence and knowledge. These are often the same people who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion. The problem is that although their ranks are being reduced because more people are applying reason and logic to arguments, based on modern knowledge, these groups still have a traditional influence which they inflict on all of us.

If people oppose those of us who want to be able to die to escape excruciating pain, why should this minority be allowed to dictate what we choose to do? If I still looked at the world through religious eyes I suspect I would think that if God hadn’t yet released to us the knowledge to reduce all pain to a bearable level, then why shouldn’t we use the God-given knowledge we already have to choose to end our suffering? How heartless are these people if they are prepared to force their own families to have to watch them suffer needlessly, often for weeks and months? Not my idea of a Christian, loving world in which we really care about those we love, as well as our neighbours, in its full definition.

Dying would be less of a worrying uncertainty if people didn’t have to face the possibility of unrelieved excruciating pain accompanying it. Lets at least make this a certainty.

Yesterday I had the privilege of watching a Webinar of a meeting of a group of Australian Aboriginal people, hearing the views of young and old, male and female. All of them are achievers, all of them have suffered as Aboriginal people who are treated as second class citizens in their country. Importantly the whole event was convened by Aboriginal people. It did strike me as a sharp contrast to the conferences I attend on ageing, which are organised by younger people, the speakers are largely younger people, as are the attendees. One day hopefully all groups who are treated as second class people will have their voices heard at a national level, although I suspect it will not happen in my lifetime.

Yesterday’s Webinar happened not long after a respected TV show had exposed the unintelligent, and cruel, treatment of Aboriginal youngsters in a state-run detention facility. The cruelty of those involved, from ministers responsible for overseeing it, to administers responsible for running it, to staff involved in handling the inmates, was unbelievable. Australia was shocked. Many years ago an investigation had been undertaken into the fact that Aboriginals end up in prison far more frequently than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Since then the situation has worsened. I think, and hope, last week’s report is more likely to be effective because it had visual footage of the situation and therefore reached more people.

What struck me about yesterday’s Webinar was the lack of the ‘blame game’. The speakers were all being positive about what needs to be done, looking forward, not backward. They had very intelligent suggestions about the future, without blame or finger-pointing. These were the views of highly intelligent people, keen to look forward, not backwards.

If only those running this country, and I suspect the same applies in most other countries, would listen to such groups. The current situation leads to a lack of respect for parliamentarians, and one has only to look at current and past members of Parliament to realise the low standard required to be elected, for an answer to the current situation to be obvious. The behaviour of those , including those involved in positions of authority, particularly in places such as the juvenile detention centres, is often inexcusable. One way to overcome this is to expect and demand a high level of behaviour of all those whose salaries are paid by governments.

Meanwhile the Aboriginals I had the privilege of listening to yesterday, struggle to have their voices heard. We need to create an environment in which those who struggle to create a better world for all are given the respect they deserve and their voices are heard, particularly when they speak on behalf of those groups whose talents are frequently overlooked, from young to old. Think of the rich, in all meanings of that word, world it would create.

May those who are speaking up continue their fight until we have the better world they are fighting for. One day it will happen, I hope.

Earlier this week Playschool, an Australian children’s TV programme, celebrated 50 years of providing entertainment and learning to Australia’s youngest people. The programme has been, and hopefully always will be, under the guidance of experts in early education. A brilliant idea that children should have the best right from the beginning. If you mention the word ‘Playschool’ to millions of Australians the opening tune pops up in their heads. Not only did the program teach that it’s OK to be different but included such differences through the presenters themselves and the participating children. Music, dancing and singing, which I believe are essential to all human beings, were, and are, a major part of each episode. To those Australians trying to deny their connections to this programme I only have to mention Big Ted and Jemima to bring back memories.

On the actual birthday ABC TV aired their Q and A programme featuring the leader of a political party based on highlighting political and religious differences, and fostering a lack of understanding between them, a group which has recently re-entered our parliament. France has just suffered yet another mass murder based once again on religious differences. And in the US a money addict has been anointed head of one of their major parties and will stand for President later in the year. Not a happy and prosperous world.

If only all these people had started their early lives, and education, by learning that people are different and that these differences should be respected. We all have the right to live together working towards a common good. We all have the right to be different and pull together, through understanding each other, to create a prosperous and safe world for us all. These were the messages that Playschool taught millions of young Australians through love and understanding. I wonder if that is why we live in such a relatively peaceful country today? Thanks Playschool for what you have done for us individually, for our families and for what you contributed to Australia for over 50 years.

 

 

 

 

 

The last couple of decades in particular have seen us make huge advances in communication and other areas of technology which seem to have affected the lives of many people in the world. The ones who have missed out are those who seem to miss out on everything- food, clothing, shelter and medical expertise. And we don’t seem to care.

Does humanity have to be like this? Is there one country in the world which is going against the trend and reducing the gap between the top rich 1% and the bottom poor 1%? If there is such a country I would guess that its leaders are not rich, as are currently the leaders, and potential leaders, in the most influential countries in the world.

Citizens in the USA seem to be heading in the direction of having to choose between two rich citizens for their next leader even though I am sure that there are many, many, people who would make better leaders because they have more knowledge and ability and are not tainted by being money addicts.

So many countries in the world have this problem of admiring the rich, presumably because they wish they were in that position themselves. In Australia the media is listing the top people on our rich list presumably lauding them for having this particular trait, which in the field of medicine would be labelled an addiction. In the past so many rich people have used their wealth to honour their names and families by putting their money into charitable trusts or noteworthy buildings, both of which honoured their memories for generations to come. Today’s rich seem more intent on spending as much of their wealth on themselves and leaving their offspring in the same situation rather than leaving a lasting memory. Is this because the Christian church, which encouraged the former behaviour, is no longer as influential as it was?

Is there no one today with the power and influence to encourage a fairer sharing of resources? Could I be right in feeling that if we did have fewer rich people and fewer poor people the world would be a much better place? We can’t just assume that those at the bottom leg of the ladder are brainless and untalented. Many of those who have reached the top today have done so because they got a leg up and opportunities from their rich families, rarely just from their own abilities.

Could we measure the degree of success of today’s world by the extent to which the basic necessities are available to all, and all have access to a good education and the opportunity to make use of it to the best of their ability? If we could make such a measurement I suspect today’s world  would end up with a big ‘FAIL’.

This isn’t good enough. In the past the plague affected everyone, rich and poor, and today’s superbugs are threatening to do the same. We need to pull together to make this world a happier successful place which we all share. Technology and other modern advances can’t do this on their own- it needs a caring human race to facilitate it.

Australia is currently preparing for a general election at the beginning of July. This time it is for the whole of both houses because the prime minister told upper house members that if they didn’t vote for two pieces of his legislation he would cause a spill of all their positions. Bills should be passed on their merits, not because members are being bullied to pass them or risk losing their jobs. This undemocratic behaviour was accepted without a word of dissent by parliamentarians and members of the public. Is bullying so entrenched in our society that we don’t even recognise it?

A couple of years ago one lady saw her former husband murder their son very publically- he then killed himself so he avoided retribution. She had suffered years of bullying from him before this event and had a police order against him approaching her. Unfortunately the death of her son took place at a public event ( cricket practice) so the order would have been difficult to apply.

As a result of her ordeal she set up a campaign to raise awareness of physical bullying which has now resulted in a series of television ads showing scenes of physical bullying. I think that this is a wonderful outcome of the mother’s suffering and will result in their being less of this type of violence. It also shows how one ordinary citizen can make a difference to other people’s lives.

My concern is that there are two types of bullying- physical and mental and unfortunately the latter is harder to recognise and prevent, hence the ease with which the prime minister got away with it, even though it violated our democracy.

One of the huge problems with the present situation is that to my knowledge there is no research into what makes a bully, which it is why it is hard to recognise and deal with. As a teacher I was aware of it, particularly amongst the staff. It was mental bullying, in which these people were determined to establish their superiority, which is what motivates bullying of either type. It was so successful that one teacher rose to be head of one of the largest public schools. He certainly didn’t have the normal leadership qualities.

We need to recognise this cancer within our society, and through recognition, eliminate it. It isn’t good for society and is a detriment to genuine progress. It is going to be interesting to see the outcomes of the election – whether the prime minister’s bullying paid off or not  and whether it eliminated what he felt was an obstructionist upper house, or strengthened it, and whether he himself is re-elected.

To finish off my story about the two bullies I worked with. Both of them were called in to their sons’ primary schools over bullying issues- one son was also being a bully, the other was being bullied (apparently his behaviour attracted the school’s bullies). Is this where bullying is learned, at home?

 

The other day I listened to an interview with a scholar who has recognised the importance of this attribute in the world and at all levels of society. It was not something which had been brought to my attention before but the more I thought about it the more I realised that this may be the missing link in modern societies. The more we crowd together in cities the more it seems to become a survival of the fittest. We come to know fewer people around us and the rest are regarded as strangers about whom  we know little, if anything.

During the interview mention was made of an exhibition in Melbourne, Australia, on the topic. The exhibition was apparently made up of people who are more disadvantaged than the rest of us and who had recorded their stories and left a pair of their shoes. Visitors to the exhibition were asked to stand in a pair of these shoes and listen to the person’s story. This physical contact was very important and those who visited it came away saying that it had been a very emotional experience and had changed them. They had experienced life through the eyes (and feet) of somewhat more disadvantaged than themselves. It was based on the old suggestion that we walk a mile in the shoes of someone less privileged than ourselves to better understand them.

It is many decades since the last world scale war and the cessation of these could be a measure of our progress towards a more peaceful planet, but there are so many wars going on at any one time, creating millions of refugees and injured people, as well as those who lose their lives, are we really making progress? Does the problem lie with the sort of people we choose as , or who are able to become, our leaders, whether we have a western style democracy or a dictatorship? We don’t realise, or we fail to admit, the extent to which empathy should be part of any such selection process.

During the interview I was listening to, the comment was made that rich people tend to have a lower level of empathy than the rest of us, which fits in with the definition of them as money addicts. Certainly in Australia we would have a very different type of person in our Parliaments if the degree of empathy of potential candidates was able to be measured and was taken into account in the selection criteria. This would also seem to apply in the USA in the current Presidential election process.

Is the study of empathy, and ways of measuring it, our key to a more successful and prosperous (for all) planet? What a breakthrough that would be. No more competition to build the biggest and most effective weapons with their power to kill and maim the greatest number of people as a measure of a country’s success.

I hope that the exhibition mentioned above will be able to move to many more places and many more countries so that it can be experienced across the world and take on the importance it seems to deserve. Maybe the missing link in our search for a better world is the lack of recognition of the importance of empathy as a human trait.

I think many people are questioning the type of people who rise to leadership positions in any society. Some of them do so by force, inflicting brutal regimes on their people. This doesn’t work because subdued people never produce their best work and there is little room for talent to be encouraged except when it relates to enforcing, and usually spreading, their violence.

In so-called democracies, there also seem to be problems. In Australia, in spite of frequent and peaceful changes in leadership, we never seem to produce leaders who reflect the desires of most of their countrymen. My feeling is that most people want to create a fair society, with a fair share of the wealth and goods, usually springing from our resources, for all, regardless of talent and skills. My feeling that as long as we elect rich people, in other words money addicts, to our top jobs we will never achieve this.

These thoughts were triggered last night by a talk I went to given by an Aboriginal, a representative of our poorest people, the original inhabitants. We know that their share in our wealth is less than it should be, with lower life expectancy and educational achievement.

This Aboriginal man is a very successful journalist who happened to write an article last year about our treatment of one of our top sports people, also an Aboriginal, who was called an ape by a 13 year old at a football match. The player involved took exception to this which annoyed the crowd who booed him whenever he appeared on the field, including in subsequent matches. Eventually he took time off as it was all too much to deal with.

This behaviour inspired last night’s speaker, Stan Grant, to write an article about the plight of our Aboriginal people in his newspaper which was read by countless people (it went viral) and inspired him to write a book about his story as an Aboriginal person which is rapidly becoming a best seller. The venue for the meeting last night had to be changed to accommodate the thousands of people who wanted to hear what he had to say, and buy his book.

So what did he say which inspired me to write this blog? It wasn’t so much what he said but his even handed approach to the problems which face Australians in our treatment of the first settlers in this land. No bitterness or rancour, just sadness at what was/is happening to his people, and the quiet response as to how we could handle problems to satisfy those involved.

This led me to the thought that if we had more leaders in the world, with his qualities, we would have a much more prosperous and happier place to live. We would all have the opportunity to achieve to the best of our ability. We would move from a world in which we moved from thinking about ‘me’ to thinking about ‘us’.

Stan Grant’s book which is proving so popular is called ‘Talking to my country’.

 

Centuries seem to be a convenient measuring unit for our history with each being accredited with specific human progress. The 19th century was the breeding ground for the industrial revolution, the 20th for two world wars followed by remarkable progress in technology which led to all parts of the world being instantly connected.

Are we now sufficiently civilised and knowledgeable to decide what we would like to achieve in the 21st century (we are now well into it) or will we just randomly move in whatever direction fate takes us? I would argue that since the whole world is connected in terms of easy communication we should be able to move from the selfish ‘I want’ of each country to a worldwide ‘We want’ of the world population. Diseases (pandemics) and climate change are making it very evident that the latter view is the only one that will work. If we accept this argument then can we take human history into our own hands and set goals to try to achieve it? It’s not a new idea, after all that is what the United Nations was set up to achieve, but that was in a different time, with different communications restrictions and different world values, particularly in terms of equality.

Is this early part of the 21st century an appropriate time for the world to decide that the legacy today’s people should leave is one of thinking in terms of a shared earth and setting goals for what we as its inhabitants want to leave for the generations who come after us? Do we want to set the agenda, as far as we can, for the 21st century and our legacy for our grandchildren, great-grandchildren etc.? Given the enormous skills, knowledge and abilities we have inherited from those who have gone before us let’s use them to create a unified, shared planet. Let’s not leave the legacy of the 21st century to chance but rather decide that this is the way to go to benefit the whole world population and plan to achieve that.

Wars, such as those currently in several parts of the world, benefit no-one except a few people’s ego’s and this is usually short lived. The damage to people’s lives lasts for far longer. The current situation where there are millions of displaced people across the world is a sad reflection on our skills as global population managers. We can do better than this. We just need a few people with a genuine passion for a better world for all to unite to push for new goals. In the 21st century we have the knowledge, skills and ability to achieve it. What are we waiting for?