LIVE 8 – Why bother?

On the Live 8 website it states that:

“Every single day, 30,000 children die, needlessly, of extreme poverty. On July 6th, we finally have the opportunity to stop that shameful statistic. 8 world leaders, gathered in Scotland for the G8 summit, will be presented with a workable plan to double aid, drop the debt and make the trade laws fair. If these 8 men agree, then we will become the generation that made poverty history. But they’ll only do it if enough people tell them to. That’s why we’re staging LIVE 8. 10 concerts, 100 artists, a million spectators, 2 billion viewers, and 1 message… To get those 8 men, in that 1 room, to stop 30,000 children dying every single day of extreme poverty. We don’t want your money – we want you!”
Source:LIVE 8 – The Long Walk to Justice

What I want to know is how much more aid are we going to pour into Africa to support corrupt regimes? How much more aid are we going to allow to be diverted from the intended recipients? How long are we going to stand by and watch injustice upon injustice heaped upon the proponents of democracy in Africa?

Some more self indulgent & rich rock stars have made themselves feel better – so what!

Reasonable Hours of Work in the ICT Industry

A friend who works in IT support (for a very large and well known IT industry multi national doing security patching and stuff) just phoned me because his boss wants him to work overnight to do a release and then to front up to work again early tomorrow morning. This is not the first time his supervisor has asked this, and not the first time that I’ve heard this type of story. It even happened to me when I was younger and working in tech support roles.

These demands to work unreasonable hours make the ICT industry unattractive to work in. What is very sad is that this company has won awards for its diversity policies and its website raves about the programs that support work-life balance. Again, where is the congruence between the values articulated by the organization and the values it demonstrates towards the human beings that provide labour?

Of course, none of the fabulous diversity programs for work-life balance apply if you are contractor or a casual employee. My friend, who is a good tech support geek, is now thinking about retraining and leaving the IT industry for something with a more human friendly approach. While I generally do not support union campaigns this one does seem reasonable (no pun intended):

The Australian Council of Trades Unions is running a campaign for Reasonable Hours:

“The ACTU Reasonable Hours campaign aims to raise awareness about the effects of long working hours. ACTU research into workplace issues has found that long hours and the increasing intensification of work is the overwhelming primary concern of workers. For much of the last century Australia lead the world in fair working time. But in 1980 Australia started to buck the international trend and hours began to grow. Currently, Australia has the second longest working hours in the OECD. On current trends we will soon have the longest. It is a sad irony that Australia now has one of the worst records in the world. It is time to once again civilize working time.”

Cool dog monks

In my web travels I came across a monastery with monks that train and raise dogs. On their website they articulate some of joy and wisdom of having a close relationship with a non-human companion. This really resonated with me as I have learned to be more calm, patient and gentle since I started living with my dog companions.

I like what the monks have to say about being authentically human and how dogs can help people achieve this

After all Dog? God? same letters, is this just a coincidence ? Many dog people think that this is not just a coincidence.

As the monks say:

“Although our involvement with dogs spans nearly twenty-five years, we never cease reflecting on the dynamic nature of that connection and the intrinsic role it plays in the life of our community. Dogs are not an accidental element of the monastic life at New Skete, they are at the heart of a vision that sees the totality of life as a finely woven unity to which all of us are responsible.’

To anyone who knows us, this will be perfectly understandable. But to those who do not, the idea of a community of monks living in close relationship with dogs always provokes a lot of questions. We recall a visiting priest who once asked: ‘Why does your community attach so much importance to dogs? After all, they seem to take up so much time, time that could otherwise be spent in prayer and reading. . . Wouldn’t your community be better off supporting itself by a business that is more in keeping with what a monk’s life is supposed to be? Selling candles, perhaps?’

The priest assumed that dogs take us away from our spiritual priorities. In fact, just the opposite is the case. Being a monk has nothing to do with donning other-worldly veneers or conforming to set ideas about what seeking God means; it is about becoming a true human being, and dogs can play a pivotal role in that process. Precisely because they are living creatures, dependent and vulnerable, dogs continually take us outside of ourselves, the fundamental movement of being human and the only way to find God.

To be authentically human means learning to give oneself unselfishly, ungrudgingly, and to one who listens, the very nature of the dog calls this out in a unique and compelling way. In the very routine and ordinariness of a relationship with a dog, through the discipline and responsibility it entails, we learn about ourselves, about nature, about God and the spiritual path we are on in ways that would otherwise be unavailable to us. Without apologies, we have discovered that dogs play a crucial role in our growth in consciousness.”

The Monks of New Skete belong to the Eastern Orthodox Church and are members of the Orthodox Church in America, their book is Raising Your Dog with the Monks of New Skete

Article: Businesses don’t have social responsibilities; people do

This article has been reproduced in full below, it raises some very important issues about corporate and individual responsibility. Even staff in the Nazi concentration camps were assisted in rationalising terrible acts because they were only following orders. Thus they could abrogate individual responsibility to act in humane ways. We are in danger of pushing the accountability for good behaviour out there into someone else’s domain, not keeping our own accountability to do what is right.

Remember the well known humorous story:

“This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got upset about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.”


Herald.com 07/21/2004: “Businesses don’t have social responsibilities; people do
BY HENRY MILLER www.project-syndicate.cz

Calvin Coolidge once said that the business of America is business. He might have added that the business of business everywhere is to pursue profits. Lately, some corporate leaders seem to have lost sight of that elementary precept.

Daniel Vasella, the chairman and CEO of Switzerland-based Novartis, the world’s fifth-largest pharmaceutical company, recently wrote that multinational companies “have a duty to adhere to fundamental values and to support and promote them.”

If he were referring to corporate values such as honesty, innovation, voluntary exchange and the wisdom of the marketplace, he would be right. But what he meant was “collaborat[ing] constructively with the U.N. and civil society to define the best way to improve human rights.”

The extension of human rights is a worthy goal, to be sure, but Vasella’s saccharine altruism brings to mind economist Milton Friedman’s reproachful observation that ‘businessmen believe that they are defending free enterprise when they declaim that business is not concerned `merely’ with profit but also with promoting desirable ‘social’ ends; that business has a ‘social conscience’ and takes seriously its responsibilities for providing employment, eliminating discrimination . . . and whatever else may be the catchwords of the contemporary crop of reformers.”

Friedman accused such executives of being “unwitting puppets of the intellectual forces that have been undermining the basis of a free society.”

The current catchwords are ”human rights” and ”corporate citizenship,” which prompts businesses trying to ”do good” (or perhaps just trying to look good) to deviate from their primary purpose. Take, for example, McDonald’s ending its popular ”supersized” portions in the name of discouraging obesity and businesses adopting less efficient, more ”sustainable” practices.

Businesses do not have social responsibilities; only people do. Inasmuch as corporate leaders work for the owners of the business, their responsibility is to pursue the best interests of their employers — interests that relate primarily to making as much money as possible while conforming to the legal rules and ethical norms of society. By taking actions on behalf of the company that he arbitrarily decides are ”socially responsible,” a corporate executive is, in effect, spending someone else’s money by reducing returns to shareholders.

One of the easiest things to do is to spend other people’s money on causes in which you believe; one of the most difficult, but most meaningful, is to spend your own money. If these executives donated even 5 percent of their salaries to such causes, they would be worthy of admiration, even if the causes were repugnant to some of us.

Diverting resources
Neither free enterprise nor the human condition is likely to benefit if companies decide to follow Vasella’s model. Their actions would, however, raise the cost of doing business, lower corporate productivity and feed the United Nations’ predilections for meddling. By diverting resources away from productive uses, businesses would end up hurting many of the very people they claim to want to help.

Henry Miller is a physician and fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Competitive Enterprise Institute. From 1979 to 1994, he was an official with the Food and Drug Administration.
©2004 Project Syndicate

Conservatives Fight Back – “Beware the Entertaining ‘Food Police’ “

The conservatives fight back against Supersize Me – there is a new web site that dissects & attempts to demolish Spurlock’s arguments against McDonald’s:

The “Food Police” are back, this time in a comedy entitled Super Size Me, produced by filmmaker Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock is a former TV show producer best known for his work creating the gross-out TV show “I Bet You Will” in which, among many other crazy stunts, he says he “bet a girl to let us shave her
head into a Mohawk… combined it with three sticks of butter and she ate her own hair in this giant butter hairball.”

Tech Central Station (TCS), a science, technology and public policy online journal, will serve as a clearing
house for materials related to the documentary Super Size Me. Our mission: to provide visitors with the facts and science-based information on obesity and nutrition to balance this film’s “gross-out” performance art.

TechCentralStation.com will have a special section on its website housing articles, analysis, studies, and other information relevant to Super Size Me. Visit www.techcentralstation.com to learn more.

According to Tech Central Station Host and nationally syndicated columnist, James K. Glassman, “Super Size Me is not a serious look at a real health problem. It is, instead, an outrageously dishonest and dangerous piece of self-promotion. Through his antics, Spurlock sends precisely the wrong message. He absolves us
of responsibility for our own fitness. We aren’t to blame for being fat; big corporations are!”

As for me, the only time I eat the traditional McDonald’s fare is when I am drunk and it is about 3 am. It really helps as I throw up almost immediately afterwards thus helping to avoid a bad hangover! On the other hand I am real fan of their new menu of salads & stuff – it’s worth checking out.

As to anyone who believes that you can eat any brand of junk food all the time and in large quantities & not become obese and/or unhealthy in some way – you need to work on both your mental faculties and logical reasoning capacity.

Brushes with Fame

Sometimes through life you run into famous people – we call these ‘brushes with fame’ in my family. Recently I was reminiscing with friends about two brushes with fame that related to well-known international politicians.

Many years ago – in the mid 1990’s – in Sydney Australia I met George Bush Snr at a function. Funnily enough Mr Bush stopped to chat with me (much to the concern of the security folk) during a circuit of the room. We chatted for about five minutes about how he was enjoying his trip, nothing of any consequence was discussed. But one thing I do recall is that he seemed like a really nice guy who seemed to take a genuine pleasure in meeting people. You can see how this would have come in handy in his old job.
Then not long after that, at another function, I met Margaret Thatcher – nowadays Baroness Thatcher – at another function. While Lady Thatcher was very polite and chatted with me for a few minutes it was hard to see how anyone had ever warmed to her on casual acquaintance. She did not seem the type to be comfortable just chatting with anyone, and she gave off a more intense vibe than Mr Bush.

I now wonder if the different levels of warmth I experienced from each of these politicians was the result of a cultural difference between the US and UK?

More on Bullies @ work

Recently I posted on bullies @ work & made some fairly harsh comments about a colleague who had been doing this sort of thing often and openly. The other day I actually had some time to talk with this person and discovered that they had been going through a very difficult time at work. It seems that the behaviour I was seeing was a reflection of the behaviour that was being displayed by this person’s own superior. Also the other day I was under a lot of pressure from senior management and was very snappy with a few of my own team members. This really got me thinking that bullying is not just an incident – it is really a culture.

The nature of bullying is that it is tied to the power relations of a workplace. These are still essentially hierarchical (in spite of what organisational management theorists would have use believe). Further, the threat of job loss or downsizing means many people operate in a fearful way. All of this goes towards making bullying almost inevitable.

What can people do about this? How can people low down on the food chain make it stop? I do not have the answer, but many folk I know are going out on their own to escape. It is definitely one response. But those of us in management positions have to ask ourselves do we want to leave the world of work just as dysfunctional when we leave it as when we arrived?

Bullies @ work

I am getting really tired of bullying in the workplace. I’ve worked in many places – being in info tech I change jobs every two years – and the bullies are mainly babyboomer men (there do not seem to be many women bullies where I’ve worked).

At the moment there is someone who is in a hierarchically superior position in the workplace and who screams at people for real or imagined infractions, and calls them stupid in front of the entire office. The strange thing is everyone is letting this person continue acting like this! I seem to be the only person who thinks this is wrong behaviour that must be stopped.

One thing I know is that a lot of people are thinking about leaving their jobs because of this one person. Strangely enough all it takes is this bully’s own manager to speak up that this behaviour is not acceptable.

Why is it that management can be simultaneously running programs to make this a better place to work but still let this guy abuse and emotionally destroy people, tearing them apart verbally. They do not seem to perceive that their rhetoric is not balanced with action.

In short, people in this company are not modeling the behaviours they are articulating in their values. We can see what is happening and it is undermining all the good work. What good are corporate values if staff are crying in the toilets due to a workplace bully who is part of the management?

Strange thoughts on women & men …

According to Yvonne Roberts, society has not shaken off stereotypes of mothers, homemakers or tarts :

“It is striking how a number of recent events have revealed the enduring power of traditional stereotypes – not least the bad girl and the good mother, now defined by the Vatican as showing the traits of “listening, welcoming, humility, fruitfulness, praise and waiting”. The bad girl is, for instance, the underlying theme of the sagas around the sex lives of the famous, such as England football manager Sven-Goran Eriksson. The idea is that it’s natural for men to want to have their cake and eat it, while women are invariably cast as the tarts.”
Source: “Why a man can’t see the other woman“, Sydney Morning Herald, August 4, 2004

Hmmm, of course there are no negative stereotypes associated with men. That’s why they are so happy that they are killing themselves at a higher rate than women (suicide has been a commoner cause of male death than road crashes since about 1990, see here for report).

Then later Yvonne comments :

“Women, against the odds, are attempting to balance autonomy and dependence; self-fulfilment with a desire and obligation to care for others. In the present climate, as hurdle after hurdle remain in their way, they are encouraged to blame themselves – instead of examining how and why the hurdles were constructed in the first place.”

Funny way of thinking – is the assumption here that men do not do this too?

I am annoyed by this article – again portraying women as victims. In reality, all people have problems balancing autonomy and connectedness, self-centred desire and obligation to care for others. As Freud explained so well, we all face these dilemmas. They are part of the human condition.

Stereotypes too are part of the human condition. Jung wrote of the power of archetypes in human life. The power of archetypes can be a driving force for good or evil in a society. It all comes down to what individuals do.

Deeds, or what we actually do with our lives in spite of the human dilemmas and stereoptypes are important. As George Eliot (1819 – 1880) put it

“Our deeds determine us, as much as we determine our deeds.”

The Failure of the Human Potential Movement: From Self-Actualization to Experientialism

“I’m convinced that when an atmosphere is created which puts an extreme emphasis on experience over understanding, that atmosphere will inevitably create and encourage infantile selfishness.”

Source: The Failure of the Human Potential Movement: From Self-Actualization to Experientialism (c) 1998 Geoffrey Hill

This is a relatively old essay but it gives a good critique of the Human Potential Movement and the impact that this and related ideologies have had on modern western society.

The focus on personal experience without any rational analysis or thought has helped to deliver us a society where every idea no matter how stupid is seen as equally valid.

Really a quite preposterous thing when one stops to think about it!