When Angry, You Must Roar

Remember, a lion is a lion because he roars

There are times when our anger can be used productively, providing it is used correctly.

Nichiren wrote that wrath can be both good and bad.

Self-centred anger generates evil, but wrath at social injustice becomes the driving force for reform.

Strong language that censures and combats a great evil often attracts adverse reactions from society, but this must not intimidate or deter those who believe they are right.

Remember, a lion is a lion because he roars.

The Global Family

Global SocietyAs Globalisation proceeds, we enter an age in which everybody’s actions strongly influence everybody else.

If we realise this, we can then alter our mind-set and strive to build a global society of mutual coexistence and mutual prosperity.

This will be done by going beyond devotion to the interests of the individual or the  nation-state and devoting ourselves to the interests of all humanity.

As Dr Martin Luther King said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.

The key to the solution is the imagination to care for others.

It is the empathising heart, or what Buddhists mean when they talk about mercy.

The Broken Pound

The Broken PoundI know that I’m not the only one who is sick to the back teeth of the bankers taking liberties with their position, pocketing vast fortunes and laughing at us when we dare to complain.

The recent banking crisis is rather poorly named. As far as I can tell, the banks have all done rather well out of the whole debacle.

They have been ‘baled out’ by us, citizens of this nation, and come up smelling of roses. Would the same happen if you were to borrow irresponsibly and fail to pay it back, even for reasons beyond your own control, you can bet it wouldn’t.

There are people who want to keep us in the chains we all wear. Ok, we’re not slaves, like the African peoples who were bought, transported and sold, making places like Bristol and Liverpool vastly rich in the process. These chains are financial, and in a way, they are even more evil, because they are invisible and almost undetectable.

See the truth for yourself, take a moment to see the painful truths therein, and wonder why we are all sleepwalking into our own Airstrip One. I read 1984 in 1984, but I never thought it would become a near reality.

Then be brave, spread the message as far and fast as you can, the man really is coming to get us. In this anniversary year of The Great War, let’s just take a moment to think about just who we are really remembering, and what, if anything, has changed since then.

Back in 1914, the patriotic volunteers signed up to fight for their country, for a land fit for heroes. That land was never delivered, it was never going to be delivered, it was then, as now, all smoke and mirrors and false promises.

Come on, take those blinkers off, take a look at how money and the banks have us all in financial chains, and then pass it on, and on, and on …

Sometimes, We Must Roar

Remember, a lion is a lion because he roarsNichiren wrote that wrath can be both good and bad. Self-centred anger generates evil, but wrath at social injustice becomes the driving force for reform.

Strong language that censures and combats a great evil often attracts adverse reactions from society, but this must not intimidate or deter those who believe they are right.

Remember, a lion is a lion because he roars.

2207 Seymour Avenue

2207 Seymour AvenueWith details of the release of the three kidnapped women in Cleveland, Ohio still emerging, I was interested to hear an interview with one of the kidnappers neighbours this morning. Ariel Castro, one of the three brothers who have been arrested for the crimes, was a school bus driver and just a regular guy, according to people who knew him (or thought they did).

The neighbour, understandably shocked by the incident, said that he was questioning himself, because he had not seen the dark side of the man he had known for a year or more.

Of course, this is an extreme example of the fundamental darkness of an individual, but we all have a dark side, it is just that some of us supress it better than others. So should we really be shocked when occasionally we are exposed to the evil in others? Even Adolf Hitler loved Eva Braun, there is good and bad in us all.

I am as delighted as anyone that this story has a happy ending, of sorts, but none of us should be in any doubt that there are plenty of other stories out there, just waiting to be told.

Evil, or what we call evil, has its part in the very core of our make-up. Self-improvement, or human revolution as it is called in Buddhist circles, is the only way that it can be suppressed to the point of extinction.

Class, My Ass

The Class SystemDriving back from Reading tonight, following a great day with my son, his fiancée and his mum, I was listening to Radio 4. Following a rather interesting program about credit, the good and evil aspects of borrowing and the social stigma of bad debt, there was an article about the BBC part-sponsored, BBC Lab UK’s Great British Class Survey.

I had heard about the new classes, seven in all, that had been observed, following the compilation of the survey, in which over 161,000 people took part. The seven classes range from the Elite, the most privileged group, set apart from other classes because of wealth. Highest scoring economically, socially and culturally, to the newly classified Precariat the poorest, most deprived class who score low economically, socially and culturally.

I’m not convinced about all this, so I decided to conduct my own little one man survey, to see whether it stood up to scrutiny. I went to the BBC Class Calculator page and entered my current details, with all the financial, social and cultural options. I came out as an Emergent Service Worker, who are typically young, have little money, but are very social and cultural. Well they got the bit about little money right at least.

Then I entered my details from a few years back, before I was made redundant, lost my home and my marriage failed. The social and cultural options haven’t changed, only the earnings and the property, but amazingly I used to be Elite.

It is complete twaddle. Money doesn’t give you class, nor does losing it take your class away. All this little test proved was that we, as a society, value people far more for what they earn and own, than who and what they are as people. I know several people who don’t really have two pennies to rub together, yet they ooze class. On the other hand, I know lots of people who have more money than sense and who wouldn’t have any class even if they could buy it.

Why don’t we try to conduct another survey, where people’s class is measured by their sociability, their altruism, their compassion and their caring for those around them. That’s what gives a person class, not obscene amounts of filthy lucca tucked away in tax havens, or tied up in second and third homes, pushing prices still further out of the reach of the people who really need them.

We are being governed and controlled by those people who are, by and large, in the Elite class, and who will do their utmost to keep themselves there, not to say, keep the rest of us as far down the ladder as they possibly can. The UKIP results this week may be a protest vote, but by all that’s holy, it’s time for a serious shake up in the way this country is structured.

Taxing Times For Starbucks?

Starbucks looking to buck the trendI was pleased to hear, on the radio today, that Starbucks the US coffee chain, are in conversation with the UK tax authorities (HMRC) with a view to restructuring their business in order to pay, what is deemed to be, a reasonable amount of corporation tax on their UK based operating profits.

Whilst it should be stressed that Starbucks are not breaking the law, their methods of doing business, using tax differentials across Europe, through which they can actually post an operating loss in the UK, has been seen by many to be wholly unethical.

Naturally, the accountants and tax planners employed by Starbucks are actually only doing the job for which they are paid. So a degree of the blame for this situation must fall on the HMRC and the Treasury for the way they have structured UK tax law.

With other companies such as Amazon and Google also falling under the ‘tax-dodging’ spotlight, it is heartening that the bad publicity, combined with a drop in customer figures and brand respect, has actually forced the company to think again about their social responsibility.

Whilst these companies undoubtedly bring a significant number of service related jobs to the UK economy, this is no excuse for allowing them to shirk their responsibilities when it comes to paying their fair share of tax. As customers, we have a very powerful lobby against these companies, by voting with our feet, and must keep up the pressure until justice is seen to be done.

It would be fun to be a fly on the wall at the meetings going on in Starbuck Central right now. You can bet that one of the phrases being used is ‘how little can we get away with’ and not ‘won’t it be great to pay our share’.

Having two brothers in the accountancy game, I’m loath to question their motives. But it would be really great to think that this dose of ‘enforced responsibility’ might ripple down (or up) into other areas of society whose ethics fall too close to ‘poor’ on the social responsibility scale.

Pick Of The Weak

Will Self For PMThe recent changes in tax allowances and other social benefits have highlighted the Government’s intention to increase the strain on the weaker members of society whilst putting yet more money back into the hands of the strong.

The change to the higher tax rate, from 50 to 45%, whilst being an understandable change if it actually brings more money into the Treasury, is a huge slap in the face for the less well off members of society. What ever happened to the ‘we’re all in this together’ way of looking at things.

In an economy that is struggling to offer any further employment, it beggars belief that the payment of Income Supplements should now be based on working 24 hours a week rather than the current 16. Companies are finding it hard to provide enough work for the employees they have now, let alone finding an effective increase of 50% for those most needy of the work.

I’m all in favour of making the Benefits System fair and just. We hear about the alleged scroungers who are milking the system. We never seem to hear about those who are living on or below the ‘bread-line’ and having real difficulties in making ends meet.

How can we expect a bunch of millionaire ministers to have the vaguest idea of how ‘the other half’ live? They are more concerned with lining their own pockets, and those of their cronies, with little or no regard to the millions of people who have no real voice in how the country is run.

Come on Cameron and Co. Let’s see a little more Wisdom, Courage and Compassion from you guys. We are paying your wages, and yet you are picking on the oldest and weakest in society. It’s high time we had a government made up of more people like Billy Bragg, Will Self and others who, although wealthy in their own right, at least have the gumption to stand up for the working and middle classes.

Bring Forth Wrath

Roaring LionNichiren wrote that wrath can be both good and bad. Self-centred anger generates evil, but wrath at social injustice becomes the driving force for reform. Strong language that censures and combats a great evil often attracts adverse reactions from society, but this must not intimidate or deter those who believe they are right.

Remember, a lion is a lion because he roars.

Who Cares?

Elderly Care - Time For Change?Does the failure of Southern Cross highlight our society’s failure to show enough care for our ageing relatives?

The Southern Cross care home operator has been forced to suspend its operations as its landlords have left the group en mass. This affects 752 homes and will affect, to some degree, all of its 31,000 elderly residents, some of whom may be forced to move as part of the restructuring.

Whilst the Government have assured residents that none will be left homeless, it begs the question, whose pocket did all the money raised, when Southern Cross sold the properties to their landlords, land up in and is it really prudent to leave the twilight years of our loved ones in the hands of profit making private companies?

Of course there are mitigating circumstances, there always are. Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, said the collapse of Southern Cross showed there were serious problems with the funding of care in the independent sector.

“I think the Southern Cross issue which has come to a head today, is very much an issue that other providers are facing because of the levels of resource that they have to deliver care on,” he told BBC Radio 4’s You and Yours programme.

“Fees are a really big issue and we’ve had several years of nil increases, and of course we’ve had inflation rates running at 4-5%.”

David Rogers, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Councils take the welfare of care home residents extremely seriously and throughout this process that has always been their priority.”

“It’s greatly reassuring, and testament to the good work which has been going on behind the scenes and the resilience of the care home system, that a solution has been found which will hopefully avoid major upheaval for the vulnerable people involved.” (Source BBC News)

But are they missing the point? These people, many of whom have been forced by the Government rules on benefits, to sell their homes or pay for their care from their life-time savings. Where has the culture of caring for our families gone? Are we all too busy, or too lazy to look after our parents?

Time was, when there would be three generations living under one roof, all caring for each other and relying on themselves, rather than the state. That must now be the exception rather than the rule. Maybe it’s time to think about where our priorities lie, and whether, in the longer term, we would be better to get back to good ‘old fashioned’ family values.

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