How to Be Happy

One of the problems that naturally occurs when a light is shone on pain and suffering is that those who are looking at this picture are overwhelmed by pity.  This might seem like a good outcome – surely if we are sorry for someone we’ll try to help?  Well the answer to that is not a definite ‘yes’.  Sometimes when we feel sorry for people we also feel angry, or resentful or superior or confused.  We wonder how this can happen and why they can’t help themselves just like we have to do and if they have some inherent shortcoming that precludes them from building a wholesome and sustaining life for themselves… Continue reading

The Future is Made from Wishes

When I first saw this I didn’t think I’d post it as I have posted so much – so many links, so many articles, so many videos – on the importance of the education of girls and the development of women for the welfare of all human societies.  At this point even I am sick of hearing myself talk about this subject.

But I couldn’t talk myself out of posting this.  Please watch it.  It is so comprehensive and so complete that you’ll be glad you did watch it.



We are all convinced that our conception of beauty is natural. We think we like what we like, nobody teaches us what to like, either people are beautiful or they aren’t.

But is that really the case?

P.S. All of these girls look absolutely beautiful to me.

Sex in the (small) City

English: Limerick, looking northeast up the Ri...

Limerick - Looking North-East up the River Shannon

Last December, 27 men in Limerick, Ireland, were charged with trying to engage the services of a prostitute. These men were caught as the result of a police initiative – the oddly named, Operation Freewheel – and the ‘prostitutes’ were, of course, all undercover cops (or ‘Guards’ as we call them here in Ireland).

21 of the men pleaded guilty and were fined 470 euro each, to be paid to a local NGO that works with immigrants.  The remaining 6 men contested the charge and their cases are pending.

In the great scheme of things this is a pretty petty crime.  Seedy and unpleasant but petty. Nobody would ordinarily care that much. Except for one thing – the national papers published the names of the men involved.

Bedlam ensued.

Lots of people thought it was outrageous that these names be published.  Local papers didn’t publish the names – they too thought that it was wrong to name the men.

I was amazed at the controversy.  If 27 men were charged with theft or traffic offenses or fraud nobody would object to their names being published.  Nobody would say – ‘What about their families?’  or ‘It’s not fair on their wives and children.’ I imagine that the spouses and children of anybody who commits any crime are embarrassed by the actions of their relative.  So –

Why is this crime different to other crimes?

Who exactly will think badly of their wives and children?

If the answer to that question is – People.  Then that begs another question –

Who are these people?

Surely they are us?

Surely we can choose not to think badly of these families? As they have done absolutely nothing wrong that should be easy.

Surely if we (the people) do this then we can stop that particular consequence for the innocent families?

We speak about the people who make these judgements and do the gossiping as if they are a tribe of strangers who aren’t subject to our influence or control.  As if we’d truly like them to stop this bad, judgmental carry-on but have no power to make them desist. The thing is, this isn’t the case. There aren’t other unnamed, anonymous but extremely powerful people running around out there making these unfair judgements.

We’re the people these families dread.

We’re the people they believe think badly of them – though they have committed no crime.

The buck really does stop with us.

The power is completely ours.

We can clear our heads and discern between right and wrong.  We all know how to do this – it’s a natural capacity.  If we do that, then the innocent may still get hurt but we won’t add to their suffering. If we do that, we will be able to apply our laws in such a way that justice is done all round.

We can do this.  Immediately and without training or qualification.  We can stop this unnecessary suffering and the suffering of all families in similar positions.  It isn’t someone else’s job, it’s a job that belongs to all of us ordinary people.  There is only one thing we need in order to succeed at this –

We have to start thinking for ourselves.

Reverse Robin Hood – Rob the Poor and Give to the Rich

A couple of months ago I posted this quote from John Berger –

The poverty of our century is unlike that of any other.  It is not, as poverty was before, the result of natural scarcity, but of a set of priorities imposed upon the rest of the world by the rich.  Consequently, the modern poor are not pitied…but written off as trash.  The twentieth-century consumer economy has produced the first culture for which a beggar is a reminder of nothing.  

I was very taken with it.  In particular, I was taken with the idea of, ‘the modern poor’, being, ‘written off as trash.’

Is that true?

Do we blame people for being poor as though it is always an action they have taken or a choice they have made?

I suspect we do.

But I don’t know why.

Any ideas?


Photograph – Children in a company housing settlement, Puerto Rico, Photographer, Jack Delano.  December, 1941.

Repository: Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C. 20540 USA,

Part Of: Farm Security Administration – Office of War Information Collection 11671-25 (DLC) 93845501

General information about the FSA/OWI Color Photographs is available at

Persistent URL:

Call Number: LC-USF35-437

Let’s Dance

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.  – Friedrich Nietzsche

It’s easy to believe in war and injustice

in greed and corruption

in hatred and prejudice and violence.

It’s harder to believe in equity and justice and unity and peace.

But once upon a time…

Slavery was the norm – nobody thought it unreasonable that one human being own another.

Everybody believed women were inferior to men.

White people were genuinely thought to be superior to everyone else.

Appendicitis was usually a death sentence…

The thought of human beings flying was ludicrous and nobody had ever dreamed people all over the world could communicate almost instantaneously…

All change happens because at the very, very start someone believes it is possible.

We see what we believe so if we believe something is possible then we will search and search until we find the way to make it a reality – for better or worse.

So – while peace, love, understanding, equity, and justice might not be that easy to envisage, the first step in attaining any of those things is to believe they are attainable.  Strain your ears until you hear the music and then – dance…


Why Does This Make Me Cry?

This video seems to make me cry – but in a good way!



What is justice?

It’s a hard concept to pin down and even harder to put into effect.

But most definitely worth pursuing.

When we live without justice we also live without –






There really isn’t an easy formula for justice, even within our legal systems. But maybe there are principles we can apply, both personally and in our societies, in our pursuit of justice?

How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust?…To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr.

Horses for Courses

If it is true that we see what we believe, then it may also be true that we get what we expect.

As we go about our lives we imagine that unless we intend to influence things, we have no effect on what happens.  But is this true?

In 1904, William von Osten, believed he had taught his horse, Hans, to add, subtract, multiply and divide. Clever Hans’ talents weren’t limited to mathematics, he could also spell, read, solve problems of musical harmony and answer personal questions – all with taps of his hoof.

But investigation revealed that though von Osten wasn’t a fraud, his horse was not as smart as he seemed.

It turns out that Hans could only get the right answer if the asker already knew the answer. It seems that the reason Hans could answer questions was that the questioners all exhibited a number of subtle, involuntary and unconscious signals that the horse could ‘read’.  Neither consciousness of the possibility of giving these signals nor attempts not to give them were successful.  These are involuntary cues in the truest sense of the word.

This phenomenon became known as the Clever Hans Effect. Even today, comparative psychologists – who study animal behaviour – generally test animals in isolation to avoid this effect.

Human being are equally susceptible to the Clever Hans Effect.  Our expectations are not just vague, harmless whims but can actually influence outcomes.

So, whenever we are with others it’s worth asking ourselves if the way they act is just the way they act, or could it be, at least partially, influenced by how we expect them to act?