Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Reading Tea Leaves

My Paternal Grandmother was occasionally encouraged to look for patterns in the Tea Leaves at the bottom of her cup. Certain relatives were convinced that she was able to 'read' them and so divine the future.

Our 'Scientific' Culture is sometimes no better than this. It thinks that it sees patterns and then tries to direct us, based on these dimly perceived shapes.

Modern people are obsessed with 'Codes' , 'Ciphers' and Patterns. You can make a fortune writing books which claim to 'unlock' the secrets of either Science or Religion by means of some hitherto hidden key.

Modern Scientists try to do the same thing, to circumvent the need for Allah/ God Almighty by discovering the Ultimate 'Theory of Everything'.

In my view, this is the work of the Devil. True Religion does not base itself on Occult 'Knowledge'. It bases itself on trying to please God by following his Will.

There is nothing wrong with marvelling at Gods Creation or expanding ones Knowledge but this must never become the basis of Faith.

Human Beings will Never know the 'Secrets of the Universe' or at least, only as far as Allah/God Almighty permits it. We should learn to just sit back and admire and stop trying to control everything all the while.

'What is this life, if full of care, we have no time, to stand and stare'.

In other words, we need to be more Humble.

Be thankful when some Observation or Research serves to benefit us, relieves our suffering or satisfies our curiosity but stop fooling ourselves that we can ever really 'understand' what we are a part of.

Knowledge is a Gift, not a Right.

Monday, May 23, 2011

BBC News - 'Rapture': Believers perplexed after prediction fails

BBC News - 'Rapture': Believers perplexed after prediction fails

True Faith is about Trusting in the Ultimate Purposes of Allah/God Almighty and not trying to force the hand of God. These Evangelicals are misguided in thinking that they 'know' things that other people do not. If they spent as much time on works of mercy and charity as they do on pointless speculation about the 'end of the world', they would be perhaps more pleasing to God. They could give Religion a bad name. I wish that all people of Religion would get on with trying to make the World a more holy place and leave its ending to Allah/God Almighty. He will end the world in his own way and in his own time. The timing is not our concern. It could be in the next ten Seconds or the next Billion Years, for all we know. What is our concern, is how we conduct ourselves during the time allotted to us !

'Stop the World, I want to get off' is not a sign of 'Faith'. It is a sign of an inability to accept the tasks put in front of us. It does not surprise me that America is rife with this false form of Religion but there are also people of Firm Faith who just get on with things as life goes on. They are the people of True Faith.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Village Mentality

I have spent virtually all of my fifty odd years living in a typical, Lower Middle Class English Suburb, named Leicester Forest East.

The remarkable thing that I find is that although I have lived in the area for over fifty years, I feel no affection for it.

There are a lot worse places in which to live. I should be thankful but I am not fond of the place. I don't hate it, I just feel a cold indifference to it. I admit that this is rather sad.

It is essentially a dormitory and only comes alive at the weekends when the residents engage in a frenzy of DIY 'improvements' to their properties. The properties near me are mostly semi-detached houses and most of the residents have at least two vehicles. This results in much congestion. We have grass verges but they are often churned up by parked vehicles and the pavements are often blocked by the same.

The area has very few shops. People tend to drive out to the large shopping parks. There is one less shop in the vicinity than there was when I was five years old. This is despite the considerable expansion of housing during the ensuing decades.

Whenever more houses are built, the existing residents invariably complain about it. They forget that they are sitting on land that was once green. It amuses me that I have been in the area long enough to remember when most of the properties surrounding me were green fields.

They are about to build over four thousand extra houses in the wider area and I must be one of the few people who do not mind.

The majority are bemoaning the fact that the 'green fields' will be lost. The fact is that few of them have ever walked on these fields, they cannot bring themselves to fetch a newspaper without jumping into their 'People Carrier' first. They fail to preserve even the grass verge outside their own doorstep, which usually has the said 'People Carrier' parked on it but they miss the 'green fields'.

The area proudly proclaims itself to be a 'Neighborhood Watch Area'.

Every now and again you get some busybody poking their nose in - some self appointed custodian of the Public Good. People are quick to find fault with any minor 'misdemeanor' which you may have inadvertently committed. Occasionally, little notes are put through your door - often with no name attached - reminding you of what an inconsiderate resident you are.

When I was young, nobody had heard of a 'BarBQ' but now, thanks to Soap Operas such as 'Neighbors' and the growing American influence in British Society, it has become a major Summer activity. The aroma of Cheap Burgers and Charcoal Burning permeates the atmosphere. Dare to light a Bonfire and you will have a busybody calling or leaving you a note but you are free to pollute the air with as much cheap burger emissions as you want.

I could go on but I had better not. You get the idea, I do not like the ethos of Lower Middle Class England. Nevertheless, my irritation with it is probably as integral a part of my personality as anything else is.

The Internet is a wonderful way of stepping out of these cloying 'localisms'. In times past, people were trapped within a very narrow circle of people, defined by their locale. This need no longer be the case. They say , 'Think Globally but Act Locally'. Whether this is desirable or possible depends on your Locale. In my case, I have no intention of trying to influence or interact with anyone locally.

The English Lower Middle Class like being Insular although they quickly absorb the very worst aspects of the Mass-Media Mono-Culture, this being the only sense in which you could say that they are 'Internationalist'. My line is to leave them to it. The present Government encourages this attitude with the thinly disguised racism of its Immigration Policy and its deliberate hankering after a 'Village Life' which never existed.

My Ancestors, on my Fathers side of the family, lived in real Leicestershire Villages. They toiled away working on the land or acting as servants within the rich households. Later on, they became coal miners. They knew what 'Village Life' was really all about. My Great Grandfather was Born in a Workhouse in Leicestershire, my Great Great Grandmother being only 18 at the time, Father unknown. His way out was to Join the Army, at 18. He ended up serving the British Crown in India, then part of the British Empire. The closet racists forget this, that England has always had a strong connection with India and many other countries.

The City of Leicester is a wonderful example of 'Multiculturalism' but the Government declares this to be 'failing'. It is only in the Lower Middle Class areas outside of the City where Multiculturalism may be failing. I am not going to be a part of this.

I am proud to be a Citizen of the World and have no wish to be sucked into a pseudo 'Village' of petty minded back-biters, gossips, racists and meddlers.  Furthermore, thanks to modern Communications Technology, I don't have to.

The fact is, the majority of people in England, myself included, do not live in 'Villages'. They live in Cities and Suburbs and there is nothing wrong with that.

It is good to be Modern, to be Diverse and to be able to live without having to justify your every move to some local busybody. This does not mean the dumping of Traditional Values. The Lower Middle Classes are usually as ignorant of these as they are of most other things.

The 'Village Mentality' is encouraged by the Government because they are afraid of people breaking out of their immediate social surroundings. Small mindedness is an instrument of Social Control and probably always has been.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Traditional Versus Revolutionary Capitalism

Society and Capitalism are at a Crossroads.

We have to collectively decide whether to proceed along a path of Upheaval and Revolutionary Change or a more Measured Process of Evolution.

The current World Economic Crisis is presenting us with a series of choices. These will determine which of these two roads humanity travels. My personal preference is for the Road of Measured Evolutionary Change but then I am getting too old for Revolutions !

The basic choice facing us is whether to follow Traditional or Revolutionary Capitalism.

The main difference between Traditional and Revolutionary Capitalism is in the way that Capital is Accumulated.

The Traditional Capitalist Accumulates Capital by Foregoing Consumption. It used to be referred to as 'Deferred Gratification'. This rather disciplined process of accumulation makes the Capitalist cautious when Investing. He/She tends to look for Investments which are likely to produce a Steady, Long Term Return on his/her Investment.

The Revolutionary Capitalist is impatient and not willing to forego anything. Capital is accumulated by Borrowing at Cheap Rates of Interest and using Derivatives to 'Leverage' the Investment. The Revolutionary Capitalist is willing to take High Risks and expects a Quick Return on his/her investment

Revolutionary Capitalism is generally at odds with the existing Political, Cultural and Ethical Norms of Society. It relies on a Rapid Expansion of Technology/Scientific Change and expects Society to Quickly Adapt to these changes. Revolutionary Capitalism does not regard itself as Serving Society, rather it regards Society as being led to the 'Promised Land'. Revolutionary Capitalism is on a Messianic Mission and will not allow 'Society' to get in the way or impede its 'Progress'.

Traditional Capitalism tends to operate in a Linear fashion. It uses 'Negative Feedback' to dampen down violent fluctuations. Revolutionary Capitalism operates in a Non-Linear fashion. It uses Powerful 'Positive Feedback' mechanisms to Amplify Inputs. This can produce Violent and Unpredictable Fluctuations.

In passing, have you noticed that the Popular Media often does not understand what 'Positive Feedback' and 'Negative Feedback' mean? They mistakenly think that the words 'Positive' and 'Negative' refer to the Desirability of the Outcome. This is nonsense and just shows how ignorant the Popular Media can be. They thus describe the recent turmoil as being due to 'Negative Feedback' when the opposite is the case. They are using a Technical Term which is used in Engineering and Cybernetics in a colloquial sense which conveys the opposite meaning!

Thatcher and Reagan were Revolutionary Capitalists. The Current Economic Crisis is the direct result of their World View.

The 'Solution' that will be offered to the Present Turmoil by followers of Thatcher and Reagan will be a Further Round of Rapid Scientific/Technological Change/Expansion. This will be Regardless of any Damage to our Environment, Culture, Social Cohesion or Religion. We will be expected to Subject ourselves to Any Change Demanded regardless of how this affects our Family, Way of Life, Values or Religion.

Revolutionary Capitalism has to Run in order to Stand Still. If it stops Running the Inherent Instability of the System will result in a Collapse.

The Alternative is to Reject this 'Solution' and insist that Capitalism Reverts to its Traditional Role of Serving Society, rather than Attempting to Lead it.

This Alternative requires a Change not only on behalf of Capitalists but also of Governments and People (or 'Consumers' as we are often described as being these days).

Capitalists will have to relearn the Virtues of Thrift, Saving and the Intelligent Assessment of Risk. They will also have to remind themselves that they are an Integral Part of a Wider Society not a Messianic Sect leading us to the 'Promised Land'. Governments will have to Realise that Capitalism is not the 'Goose which Lays the Golden Eggs' for Unlimited Public Spending. Finally People (or Consumers, if that is what you prefer to be described as being) need to Live Simpler Lives. We should not want to live in a Pleasure Dome. There is more to Life than just Shopping. You are meant to Live a Life not assume a 'Life Style'.

Which Road will Humanity Choose to Take? Will People Choose at all or merely Choose not to Choose, thus handing over the Choice to others who are willing to Choose?

Only time will tell. 'You pays your money and you takes your choice'.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

False Religion and Human Nature

If True Religion calls us to transcend the limitations of Human Nature, what is the cause of False Religion?
The irony is that it is, again, Human Nature!

Just as Capitalism and Socialism tend to appeal to Greed and Laziness, respectively, False Religion tends to appeal to Power.
The seeking of Power and Control over People, in the name of God, is the essence of False Religion.

True Religion demands that there is a struggle to overcome the Ego. It is only when the Ego has been transcended that the greater 'Self' can emerge.
This greater 'Self' is where a proper relationship with God can grow. We all need an 'Ego'. It would be impossible to survive in the everyday world without it, but it has to be subservient to the greater 'Self' and thus to God.

The False Religious Leader has failed to transcend the Ego and ends up acting in an egotistical way, all in the name of God.
This is extremely dangerous both for the Leader and those whom he/she would lead.

Egotistical Religious Leaders often condone great Evils which can include Murder, Genocide, Slavery, Oppression and the misinterpretation of the Word of God.
The modern world is replete with many examples of this.

Despite these dangers, I believe that Religion is absolutely indispensable for civilized life. Without True Religion, we end up being victims of a Human Nature which can only find its true role in relation to God.

How do we avoid False Religion?

In my view, there are two ways.
Firstly by overcoming the temptation to identify with the Ego (the Ego is a means, not an end).
Secondly, by holding true to the principle that we are not obliged to obey anyone except God. No Human Being has the right, no matter how knowledgeable or holy they may appear to be, to act 'in the name of God' on our behalf.  God has the ultimate Sovereignty over Human Beings and will have the last word.

This is not a recipe for a sort of religious anarchy. It is right to look for wise men and women to emulate but only God should be served.
The violence that is carried out 'in the Name of God' is all about Power and much of it can be traced to the activities of various Government Intelligence Agencies. Despite all this, the world does need True Religion.

Human Nature

It strikes me that Human Nature is the Great Constant.
All our attempts to create the perfect world are thwarted by it.

Capitalism claims that it can harness Human Greed for the Common Good, Socialism tends to pander to Human Laziness.

True Religion - with all its many faults - asks us to strive to overcome both Greed and Laziness.
In other words, to try to transcend our Human Nature.

It is perhaps not surprising that this appeal tends to be unpopular ! 

Sunday, March 28, 2010

How Diurnal is this Journal?

I had originally intended to write something everyday but it is clear that this has not been the case!

I also took the liberty of deleting some entries which appeared to be far too trivial even for a blog.
The fact is that I liked the longer articles but did not like the shorter ones.

I find that the main advantage of keeping a blog is that it helps to clarify my opinions.
The fact that another human being MIGHT read it somehow forces me to be clear about what I really believe.

I have therefore resolved to try and write something most days but to maintain the style of the previous entries.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Northern Rock - A Failure of Government or a Failure of Business?

To hear some Commentators and certainly the Conservative Opposition here in the UK, you would think that the Failure of Northern Rock was a Failure of Government.

Gordon Brown is accused of 'returning to the Nationalisation of the 70's'.

It seems to me that you could just as easily view it as a 'Failure of the Capitalism of the 80's'.

After all, it was Northern Rock - a Private Company - which Failed. It could not Maintain its Liquidity and threatened to go 'Bust'. The fact that it has plenty of Assets is beside the point. Many a Business goes under due to a Lack of 'Cash Flow' regardless of a Healthy Asset Base.

An out and out 'Thatcherite' would probably argue that the Bank should have been left to do just that - Go Bust. This is a more consistent position than the one being adopted by the Conservative Opposition. They supported the 'Bail Out' using Tax Payers Money. That is not consistent with a view that the Market should prevail and take its natural course.

The Shareholders risked their money and so did the Savers. If they turn out to be wrong about the Return on their Investment, why should they be protected? Nobody forced them to invest their money in Northern Rock. This would be the consistent 'Capitalist' position.

Most people would agree that had Northern Rock been allowed to fail the consequences could have been dire for the rest of the UK Banking System. The Social Consequences and the 'Knock On' effect on the rest of the Economy could have brought about a Severe Recession or even a Slump. This is why the Conservative Opposition supported the 'Left Wing' position that Tax Payers Money should be used to Underpin the Survival of the Bank.

The 'House of cards' which is our present Debt Ridden Economy might collapse. Too many people have used Cheap Credit to Buy Properties which they cannot afford. This has Inflated the Price of Property and these Inflated Property Prices have been treated as an Asset instead of a Liability. People have used the Nominal Asset Value of their Mortgaged Property to Borrow even More Money.

Banks have taken the same Cavalier Attitude towards Debt. Instead of properly Assessing Credit Risk and Taking Responsibility for the Risks Taken, they have sought to Displace the Risk. They want the Return without the Risk. They therefore attempt to Sell the Risk on or create some 'exotic' Derivative in the attempt to Displace the Risk onto a 'Speculator'. These Derivatives have ended up Creating an Illiquid Market of Risk. The Final Consequences of this Process are still Not Clear.

Sooner or later the 'Chickens' were bound to come Home to Roost and they have. The 'Credit Squeeze' and the accompanying Downturn in Property Prices was an entirely Predictable turn of Events. The only thing which could not be predicted was when it would happen. We still cannot be sure how long this has to run and how far it may go. Only the 'Market' knows and it is not telling!

Yet this is all now being portrayed as a 'Failure' of the Present Government.

In my view any Failure of Government rests with Previous Governments. They deliberately Engineered a Credit Boom in order to Rejuvenate a Flagging Economy. They therefore created a 'Demand Led' Economy rather than a 'Supply Side' Economy. These Governments were mainly Conservative although the practice was then inherited and continued by 'New Labour'.

In fact the 'Western' Economy as a whole is far too much 'Demand Led' in my view. The 'Supply Side' has shifted mainly to China with the United States doing most of the Consuming. This has created a Massive Imbalance which threatens to Destabilise the Whole System. Some people talk about 'Decoupling' by which they mean that China, India and others might develop enough of an Alternative Export Market to mitigate the effects of this imbalance. We can only hope that this takes place.

If it does not, the Present Imbalance will 'Correct' itself sooner or later. The Social Consequences of this 'Correction' could be very severe indeed.
Government Intervention would be demanded by the Electorate. Will this then be regarded as a Failure of Government or a Failure of Capitalism?

I have always believed that Market Capitalism is the most effective way to run an Economy but only if it operates within 'Boundary Conditions'. These 'Boundary Conditions' are set by Society. This is why Capitalism only works for the Public Good within a Democratic Framework. Markets must always be regarded as a Means to an End, not an End in Themselves. Only People are an End in Themselves.

Markets, like the Climate, are subject to Periodic Bouts of Erratic Behaviour. In between times all is well and nobody notices their operation. In times of Turbulence and Irrationality it is entirely right that the Government should Intervene. It is Disingenuous to Portray this as a 'Failure'.

I am not a Socialist because I believe that Socialism is the Cure which ends up being worse than the Disease. I do not believe that an Economy can be directed by a collection of 'Peoples Committees'.

Equally, I am not a believer in Pure Market Capitalism either. Sometimes Markets Fail to Serve the Common Good and when this happens the Government has a duty to act on the Behalf of the People who Elected it. If this later turns out to be a Mistake then the Government can be Unelected at a Later Date.

This is why Democracy is Essential. Without it, either the Government or the 'Market' is Always Right. In practice both Governments and Markets make mistakes. Democracy is our only Means of ultimately Correcting these Mistakes.