So? Anybody Interested in Changing the World?


The people who don’t believe the world can be changed will say there’s no way it can be done.

They’ll say there’s no point.

They’ll ask you – ‘Who do you think you are?’

Ignore them.

The people who think the world can be changed will be willing to keep trying things until we work out how to attempt it.

This is a very interesting talk by Clay Shirky on how we all might start to change the world and how some people have already started…

and just to add to your tool-box –

And finally – a more recent talk by Clay Shirky – this is longer (but will download as a podcast from the Big Ideas site – here – Clay Shirky – Cognitive Surplus, so you can listen later) and it is really a very good sweeping look at the ‘new’ media.

Can I Ask You A Question?


Women are controlled (If you were any good you’d be thin)

Are mistrusted – (FGM)

Are to be feared (otherwise educate them – why not if they’re not up to much?)

Are to be objectified (child brides/super models)

And yet… They feel powerless.

Why?

Why when the establishment everywhere and every time seems to see women as so powerful they must be constantly controlled, why are women the only ones who can’t see this power?

Imagine what might happen if that power was unleashed?  Not power as we know it where women are ‘powerful’ if they are like men or liked by men.  But the real, thumping, all-encompassing, generative, protective power of real women.

Imagine what might happen?

Imagine – for example – in places where a girl who is raped must kill herself to restore her family’s honour, if the mothers in these places not only tried to protect their daughters but said to their sons – “Marry her son, she’s been raped but that is something that was done to her, not by her and so her honour is clearly intact – which is more than can be said of the men who raped her.  I am your mother and I am not just standing up for her, I am also really standing up for you.  I am trying to teach you that it’s always the perpetrators who are the guilty ones – not the victims.  Always.  I want you to understand this son because I want to make sure that your honour remains intact.  Because I love you.”

Imagine if that happened.

What’s stopping it?

Do You Feel The Love?


The first step in changing our world is an examination of what actually constitutes reality. We are all products of our environment and as a result we inevitably take many things for granted, believing them to be the natural order of things.

Social reality is an expression of human agreement, someone is the president of a country and has the powers of that office because a system of government is created and acknowledged by the inhabitants of that country. When the fundamental agreements which frame belief and behaviour change, social reality will change.(1)

In the early twentieth century, Antonio Gramsci, who spent most of his life in one of Mussolini’s prisons, identified a phenomenon he called cultural hegemony. Gramsci used this term to describe how we all believe that the way things are is the natural order of things.

A good example of how cultural hegemony operates is slavery. There was a time in the Western world when slavery was considered ‘the natural order’. Certain people were seen as a slave class and were owned by other people. Social realities, and even the economies of the time, were built around this idea and nobody – even the slaves in all likelihood – thought there was anything that could be done to change it.  Slavery was, in fact, so much part of social reality that wishing to escape from it was seen as an illness.

In 1851, American physician, Samuel A. Cartwright described a mental illness he called drapetomania – an illness he believed afflicted slaves who were inclined to run away. Cartwright said this illness was a result of masters who, “made themselves too familiar with [slaves], treating them as equals.“(2)

He went on to say that,

“If any one or more of them, at any time, are inclined to raise their heads to a level with their master or overseer, humanity and their own good requires that they should be punished until they fall into that submissive state which was intended for them to occupy. They have only to be kept in that state, and treated like children to prevent and cure them from running away.“(3)

It’s now clear to us that slavery is not the natural order of things but rather a social reality based on economic motives and mistaken ideas. People like us made that reality.  And, equally, people like us changed that reality.

So, how do we tell the difference between unchangeable reality which is outside of our control and reality that can be changed? As someone pointed out to me recently not everything is possible.  But what happens if we just accept the limitations (as we see them) and don’t try to change things? If God had wanted us to fly he’d have given us wings…

The question is tricky.  How can we tell the difference between mutable and immutable reality before we begin?  Maybe there is a solution just around the corner which we can’t see from where we stand?  Which seems like a good reason to start out.  And yet it is true that some efforts to effect change will be futile – so, how much banging our heads against the unchangeable can we stand before our heads explode?

I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, by the way.  Sorry.  But maybe you do.

I have been thinking about it though and all I can come up with is that I wonder if the answer is something to do with love?  Not Hollywood love but real, raw, visceral, never-giving-up love.  The kind of love that parents have for their children.  The kind of love that holds the atoms of a stone together.  Where nothing is too hard or not worth the effort even when the chances of success seem slim.  The kind of love that makes us try and try and try even when we fail and fail and fail – and then when we’ve tried everything possible – we try something else.  Maybe we try the impossible.  Because it matters.

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1) Paul Lample, Revelation and Social Reality, p.9

2)  Cartwright, Samuel A. (1851). “Report on the Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race”DeBow’s ReviewXI.http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aia/part4/4h3106t.html. Retrieved 2007-10-04.

3) Arthur L. Caplan, James J. McCartney, and Dominic A. Sisti (2004). Health, Disease, and Illness: Concepts in Medicine. Washington, D.C.:Georgetown University Press. p. 35 ISBN 1589010140.

Believing is Seeing


I’ve been thinking.  Why is it that on the one hand we are so terrified of change we’ll go to extreme lengths to avoid it, while on the other hand we are told – and tell ourselves – that real, sustainable change is impossible?

These are contradictory beliefs.

I believe all change – including change for the better – is totally possible.  But we have to want it and also really sincerely believe it can happen.

Have you ever misplaced a shoe at home?  You know it’s somewhere in the house.  Maybe the dog hid it under the sofa?  Maybe you accidentally kicked it under the bed.  Maybe one of the kids ran off with it.  But you know it’s there somewhere so you keep on looking until you find it.  You truly believe that all the frustration and searching is going to be worthwhile because it simply has to be in the house somewhere.

Social change is the same.  It is completely within our control, even if it doesn’t seem that way.

Traditions are man-made and not immutable, no matter what anybody tells us.  Traditions and practices can – and must – be changed if they are harming us.

Step one = we have to do whatever it takes to convince ourselves that this change is possible.

Try something.  The next time someone says to you – ‘Yeah, I know it’s terrible/wrong/unjust – but that’s just the way things are – you have to accept it.’  Instead of accepting this awful ‘truth’, try this for an answer –

‘No – if we all agree it’s wrong then we don’t have to accept it – we just need to change it.’

Slumkids are Kids Too…


In 1999, Sugata Mitra – now Professor of Educational Technology at Newcastlle University in the UK, was working in Delhi when he had a crazy idea.

The complex in which he worked was surrounded by a slum and he wondered what would happen if he embedded an internet-enabled computer in the wall of the complex at kid-height, so that the children running around outside could reach it?  Would the children ignore the computer?  Break it up?  Or – most unlikely of all – would the children learn to use the computer? (Preposterous notion given that these were slum children who hardly ever went to school, never saw the internet and didn’t speak or read English)

So – what do you think happened?

Have a look for yourself.

P.S. – Fun fact – when Vikas Swarup read about Sugata Mitra’s experiment he began to think about slum children educating themselves and was inspired to write Q&A – the novel that was adapted to become Slumdog Millionaire.

Art for Art’s Sake?


Are children the only people who can really partake in art for art’s sake?  Is it important to do this?  Is it a waste of time?

Many of you will have seen these videos already –  but I hadn’t so just in case I thought I’d post them.  I also thought it might be worth asking ourselves exactly what this boy is doing in the first video?  And why? And if there is a link between his work and the work of the artists in the second video?

Just wondering what you might think…

Continue reading

Trusting The Truth


Do you love your children?  For most of us the answer is Yes.

Child 1

Child 1 (Photo credit: Tony Trần)

Do you sometimes make them do things that are unpleasant – or even painful – for their own good?

Again the answer is Yes and we do this because we love them, don’t we?

All the doctor and dentist appointments.  The homework and discipline and training in the face of reluctance and protest.  But parents suck it up because they know it is for the future well-being of their child.

My niece had very serious scoliosis and had two extremely painful surgeries when she was just 13.  I am happy to say that they were fantastically successful surgeries but there were no guarantees beforehand and they did involve a lot of pain and suffering for her whole family – and especially for her.

What would you do to prevent your child being ostracized, cut off or rejected?  If she might be condemned to never being respectable.  Never finding a husband.  Never having a family of her own.  You’d do a lot – most of us would – even if it was a risky and painful road, we’d be frightened not to take it.

It takes immense courage to stay with what you know to be true in the face of social pressure and tradition.  What if you are wrong?  It’s a scary place to be.

We can’t always trust our gut.  Our gut will tell us to fit in and do whatever the herd does because there’s ‘safety’ that way.  The people in this video are showing magnificent courage.  Their capacity to hold fast and stay with the truth even while they recognise the pressure around them is inspiring.

I am in awe.

Slavery is Alive and Well…


               Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Article 4

No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms

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http://talesfromthelou.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/2-4-million-victims-of-human-trafficking-worldwide-says-un

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/9185811/2.4-million-victims-of-human-trafficking-worldwide-says-UN.html