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


Is This What Really Frightens Us?

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt – “Citizenship in a Republic,”Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

This is a very interesting talk.  It’s funny.  It’s sad.  It answered some of my questions about why we do – or don’t do – what we do (or don’t do).

See what you think yourself.

War Happens

English: Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway ...

Martha Gellhorn and Ernest Hemingway with unidentified Chinese officers.

Martha Gellhorn, was a famous American war correspondent who covered most of the major wars of the 20th century.  At every war and conflict, from the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to the Vietnam War in the ’60s and 70’s, Martha was present, reporting on what she saw.  She even stowed away on a hospital ship so that she could cover the Normandy landings.

So, Martha Gellhorn knew war and she hated it.

Below is one of her statements about war.  It seems to me that it is also applicable to many other ills – famine, poverty, abuse – in our world.

War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say and it seems to me I have been saying it forever. Unless they are immediate victims, the majority of mankind behaves as if war was an act of God which could not be prevented; or they behave as if war elsewhere was none of their business. It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.
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Miss Guided

Recently I’ve been thinking – and talking – a lot about how women are portrayed in the media.  I’ve also been thinking about how women are seen in society – and in, particular, how they see themselves.

Yesterday I watched the aptly titled, MissRepresentation, a documentary that explores the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America in particular, and the role the media plays in this. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching.

There is no denying that women used to be seen as possessions for the convenience and entertainment of men.

There is no denying that that is possibly even more the case than ever.

Women are increasingly packaged as sex objects and everything is now sold to everybody, using women’s bodies.

I am not suggesting that women are to blame for this phenomenon.  I don’t think it’s caused by hormones or cattiness or any of the other rubbish accusations designed to disempower women.

But I am suggesting that women stop supporting it.

Stop believing the illusion that tells you that being thinner, younger-looking, compliant and presented like a sex-object will make you happier.  It won’t.  It can’t.  And when you aren’t happier even though you are complying it isn’t your fault – you’ve been sold a big, fat lie.  Even if you have to wrestle with yourself until you retrain your psyche – do it – that might actually make you happy.

Don’t buy the handbags or the magazines or perfume or clothes that are advertised by women portrayed as objects of sexual fantasies or with distorted, unnatural body-images.

Don’t watch the films or TV shows that reinforce the stereotypes.

Do watch the films and TV shows that don’t.  One of the interviewees in the movie (a man) makes the point that in the cinema of the 1940s and ’50s, women could get to play real people in movies – bitches, saints, moms, murderers, adventurers – not so nowadays, shockingly.

Stop believing that you have to be like a man – or be liked by a man – in order to make a success of your life.  Let’s face it, men are not any happier than women and have, largely, made a very unfriendly, unhelpful, unsafe and unsatisfying world for themselves as well as women.

Don’t get me wrong – men need to get on board with this boycott as well.

But women – come on – let’s stop waiting for the men to come along – maybe they’re not the early adopters they think they are?

How about we just stop supporting the system and stop accepting the stereotypes and stop conforming to the ‘way things are’ and try to create a new way for things to be – a way that is good for everyone, not just women (let’s not make the same mistakes as men).

Worst case scenario, if it all blows up in our pretty little botoxed faces we can always go back to what we have now…

The Future is Calling

A revolution is an idea which has found its bayonets. Napoleon Bonaparte

Are mobile phones the ‘bayonets’ of the next revolution?

Are there ways to use social media that we haven’t yet even begun to imagine?

Have a look for yourself and see what you think.

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

Personal Time?

In the interest of developing vision, it is worth examining how others see the world.  This video of a talk by Philip Zimbardo has a look at how our perception of time – real, physical time – influences our cultures and behaviour.

Hope you enjoy it.

Bargaining for a Living

English: A homeless man in Paris Français : Un...

Heidemarie Schwermer is a sixty-nine year old German woman who lives entirely without money.  Until 1996, Heidemarie lived her life pretty much along the same lines as her compatriots – she taught for almost 20 years and practiced as a psychotherapist for many years after that.  She raised two children and now also has three grandchildren.

In 1994, she moved to Dortmund where she determined to do something about the homelessness she saw all around her.  So she opened a swap shop – a place where people could trade skills or things for other skills or things.  The shop didn’t succeed in helping the homeless but it did attract many unemployed people and retirees and thereby became well known.

As time passed, Heidemarie grew tired of her life and quit her job.  She began to do all sorts of other jobs – whatever she could find – in exchange for low wages or other services.  By 1995, she was spending almost no money and still managing very well.  In 1996, after her children moved out – she embarked on an experiment that was to last a year – she sold her apartment and decided to live like a nomad – trading goods and services for goods and services.  She loved it so much that she’s still living that way, 15 years later.

Everything Heidemarie owns fits into a single-back suitcase and a rucksack.  She has an emergency fund of 200 euro and any other money she earns she gives to charities.

Interesting experiment which at the very least make us question the way we view – and use – money in our societies.

(Thanks to Tales from the Lou’s Blog for posting on this yesterday – see below for link)

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A Proud Legacy

Yesterday an Irish journalist died. She was 54. Her name was Mary Raftery and while she didn’t live as long as most Westerners can hope to live – she did more good than most of us will probably ever do, no matter how long we live.

She is best known for a television documentary she made in 1999.  The programme – entitled States of Fear – comprehensively, shockingly and with meticulously researched evidence outlined the widespread and horrific sexual and physical abuse of children in Ireland.  In particular, States of Fear, investigated the treatment of children who had been forced to live in state residential facilities between the 1930s and 1970s.

This programme not only resulted in the establishment of The Commission of Inquiry into Child Abuse but reclaimed the lives of many of these victims and caused a massive change in Irish society. For the first time, most ordinary people believed the stories told by these victims and took their side.

In 2002, she made another ground-breaking documentary – Cardinal Sins – about the cover-up of sexual abuse of children in the Dublin Archdiocese.  This programme also resulted in another government investigation – The Investigation into the Dublin Archdiocese (and the Catholic Diocese of Cloyne) – better known as the Murphy Commission.

Mary Raftery as an investigative journalist was instrumental in uncovering several other serious social issues.  As recently as September last, she produced Behind the Walls – a documentary on the psychiatric system in Ireland.  In this documentary she pointed out that in the 50s and 60s, Ireland locked a higher percentage of its population into psychiatric institutions than anybody else in the world – and that includes the former Soviet Union.

Tribute after tribute has pointed out that Mary Raftery was absolutely dedicated to championing the cause of the people whose victimisation she uncovered. According to the people who worked with her, she showed these interviewees the programmes she made about them before release and welcomed their input. Fellow journalists describe her as absolutely determined but her peers also describe the fact that her determination was to work for justice – not to further her own career.

One person after another – including many senior members of the Catholic Church – had the same thing to say about Mary Raftery –

She worked for acknowledgement and justice for victims of institutional child abuse and not only did she succeed in that she also made Ireland a safer place for present and future generations of children.

What an amazing legacy.


“Occupy” Living Space?

In 1993, Venezuelan businessman David Brillembourg died leaving behind him an unfinished skyscraper intended to be the third highest building in Caracas.  The building’s official title is Edificio Confinanzas but it is better known as David’s Tower. After Brillembourg’s death his business went to the wall and the building lay empty for 14 years.

Venezuela has a huge problem with shortage of living accommodation, many thousands of people are homeless not only due to poverty but also as a result of frequent floods.

In 2007, local families in Caracas, desperate for a place to live, began to move into the giant skyscraper.  Now c. 2,500 people live as squatters in this building.

Surely if there is something we all deserve to ‘occupy’ it has to be living space?

Have a look at this fantastic series of photographs from Foreign Policy here –