Nothing will change for the better until those of us interested in change for the better engage in informed conversations about how to bring about change for the better. No one is going to do it for us. Our own engagement in conversation must be at the heart of political change and personal change.
Besides the detriment to public health and the detriment to public wealth caused by the covid crisis and responses to it, societal isolation has been detrimental to our participation in public debate.
We are being informed or misinformed, governed or misgoverned by those who purport to be working for common good but whose efforts have steadily shifted wealth and agency from the many to the exclusive few.
It is not my intention or the purpose in any conversation to tell anyone what to think. Nor is my intention, even more arrogantly, to teach anyone how to think. I only wish, humbly, to invite anyone who cares enough to do so, to think with me.
We can think together without making thoughts our aim And dream together without making dreams our aim.
I truly appreciate everyone who has accepted my invitation to be part of the Facebook Conversation Group and the Breathing Together Zoom conversations associated with it. I hope everyone will accept a further invitation, even challenge, say, share, something, personal, political, philosophical, practical, persuasive or playful that invites conversation. Make it a habit. Do it at least once a week. Link to or direct to conversations in other forums. Respond to what others post. Just do it. I’m going to do it – not as a habit but as an obsession.
I’m currently writing and regularly updating here:
On Sunday I will be hosting a Zoom conversation titled “The Greater Reset”. The title is one that I have ‘stolen’ from an online event of the same name, ‘The Greater Reset‘, that, in turn, references Klaus Schwab’s ‘Great Reset‘.
The central question this Sunday is ‘where do we go from here?’ Covid has thrown us into a new world, that some think will be the ‘new normal’ and there has been much talk about the ‘Great Reset’ being proposed by Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum. I’m not taking any position on Schwab’s Reset (some consider it sinister, others as a cause for hope) I’m more interested in how we reset our lives, relationships and communities.
Our Sunday ‘Breathing Together’ conversations are informal online gatherings for members of the Conscious Conversations Facebook Group and other invitees.
These conversations have no agenda apart from the agendas that participants bring along and share. They have themes/titles that I or anyone else can suggest and I or someone else might talk around that theme but they are usually quite general and the conversation that arises can go anywhere. The intentions of Breathing Together are:
1. To creating a space that is safe for the expression of ideas not a space that is safe from the expression of ideas nor safe from challenge to ideas.
2. To encourage challenge that is conscious, compassionate, creative, courageous and courteous.
3. To share our work and ideas. Understanding that there is only so much that can be shared in an informal 90 minute conversation participants are invited to share or reference, in document form, any information that they want others to consider.
4. To use these conversations to find potential collaborators for existing or proposed projects.
The Breathing Together conversations are informal and unrecorded but may lead to agreed ‘spin-offs’ that are more focused, that are recorded and that relate to particular projects.
Details for the Sunday 24th Breathing Together Conversation:
Topic: Breathing Together – The Greater Reset Time: Jan 24, 2021 07:30 PM LondonJoin Zoom Meeting
“So, instead of admonishing our children at school and employees in organizations to “Stop talking and get to work,” we might be better served to encourage them to “Start talking and create together!”” Juanita Brown and Tom Hurley.
All of these site are worth more than looking at, they are worth working with. I will certainly be looking at and working with these sites in more depth because they resonate with my own values and I think can support the actualisation of these values within me as the individual and within the communities in which I exist.
The values that I’m talking about, and which I’m sure that most people bothering to read this share, are based on the two axiomatic premises of the unity of consciousness and the intrinsic worth of all conscious beings. These are nowhere better articulated that by Jesus in Matthew 22:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God [the essential Unity of Consciousness] with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself [recognise yourself in the other]. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
These are to be considered absolute moral principles that Jesus clearly distinguished from relative and situational observances that might be derived from them. The difference is most epigrammatically expressed in the famous:
“The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.”
Kant arrived at a similar articulation of absolute moral law by asking what law of action would a rational being construct if it did not know what situation it would be subject to when it was thrown into the actual world. His answer was that:
‘a) A person should act that the principle of one’s act could become a universal law of human action in a world in a world in which one would hope to live. b) A person should treat other people as having intrinsic value, and not mearely as a means to achieve one’s end.’
The moral law whether understood as justice or as love is foundational to our existence as human/rational/social/spiritual beings because it is through our apprehension of this law that we also apprehend our intrinsic unity with all being and the intrinsic worth of each person including ourselves.
Jesus’s warmly intuited Love is a higher realisation of the moral law than Kant’s coldly calculated Justice which resonates with the laws of the Old Testament and the Law of Karma.
Jesus understand that forgiveness is the fulfilment of the moral law while Kant sees forgiveness of the murderer as contradicting that law. Nevertheless for both Jesus and Kant a life without connection to the core moral intuition is hardly a life at all. This should be self-evident.
“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? “
It is dialogue/conversation that explicates the moral law because it is in conversation that we recognise our intrinsic unity with all and the intrinsic worth of each person including ourselves.
“If it is in speaking their word that people, by naming the world, transform it, dialogue imposes itself as the way by which they achieve significance as human beings.” — Paulo Freire
Acting from dialogue is very different from acting from the imposed authority of a ruler or even a majority. The concept of Ubuntu is not uniquely African though expressions may be particularly African.
“Ubuntu is rooted in what I call a relational form of personhood, basically meaning that you are because of the others,..in other words, as a human being, you—your humanity, your personhood—you are fostered in relation to other people… It is about coming together and building a consensus around what affects the community. And once you have debated, then it is understood what is best for the community, and then you have to buy into that.” -James Ogude
In Ubuntu is the same truth that Kalhil Gibran express in ‘The Prophet’
“Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self. You are the way and the wayfarers. And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind him, a caution against the stumbling stone. Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.”
We are a procession. Humanity is a procession, we recognise this in conversation athe kind of conversation that reaches into our authenticity. Revolutionary and transformative and inclusive conversation:
“it is necessary to trust in the oppressed and in their ability to reason. Whoever lacks this trust will fail to initiate (or will abandon) dialogue, reflection, and communication, and will fall into using slogans, communiques, monologues, and instructions. Superficial conversions to the cause of liberation carry this danger” Paulo Freire
Freire’s ‘Pedagogy of the Oppressed’ was published in 1968. I first read it sometime in the 1980’s and it speaks the same ‘root truth’ that Ubuntu, Freire, Gibran, Jesus and Kant express. We need to reach into these roots and pull inspiration from them. Personally I feel that I have to travel back forty or fifty years to re-ignite something that stalled that many years ago. A movement that perhaps arrived half a century before its time but that perhaps has laid the groundwork for the future if we recognise its prophetic significance. In 1980 Marilyn Ferguson wrote about ‘networks as a tool of transformation’ in the ‘Aquarian Conspiracy’:
NETWORKS—A TOOL OF TRANSFORMATION
“A revolution means that power changes hands, of course, but it does not necessarily mean open struggle, a coup, victor andvanquished. Power can be dispersed through the social fabric.
While most of our institutions are faltering, a twentiethcentury version of the ancient tribe or kinship has appeared: the network, a tool for the next step in human evolution.
Amplified by electronic communications, freed from the old restraints of family and culture, the network is the antidote to alienation. It generates power enough to remake society. It offers the individual emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and economic support. It is an invisible home, a powerful means of altering the course of institutions, especially government.
Anyone who discovers the rapid proliferation of networks and understands their strength can see the impetus for worldwide transformation. The network is the institution of our time: an open system, a dissipative structure so richly coherent that it is in constant flux, poised for reordering, capable of endless transformation. This organic mode of social organization is more biologically adaptive, more efficient, and more “conscious” than the hierarchical structures of modern civilization. The network is plastic, flexible. In effect, each member is the center of the network.
Networks are cooperative, not competitive. They are true grass roots: self-generating, self-organizing, sometimes even self-destructing. They represent a process, a journey, not a frozen structure.
As Theodore Roszak said, the old revolutionary mass movements offered no more refuge to the person than did capitalist societies. “We need a class smaller than a proletariat…. The new politics will speak for the millions—one by one.”
‘The Aquarian Conspiracy’, the websites about the principles and practices of conversation together with the technologies that support conversational communities and networks. I need to revisit lessons from the past and learn fresh things about their application in the present. Different people will have different resources to draw upon but we all need to draw on whatever our root values are because we and our world need those values, of conscious solidarity, more than ever.
When ‘experts’ tell me something has been thoroughly assessed but give no details of the evidence or argument supporting that assessment they are asking for confidence on the basis of authority rather than understanding. This respects neither scientific nor democratic principles of discourse.
Covid -19 Exists I have not at any point doubted the existence of the virus named as ‘Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)’ and commonly referred to by the name of the disease it causes ‘Covid-19’. I will refer to it as the Covid-19 virus. It seems misguided to allege that this virus does not exist or that it has not been ‘isolated’, that is to say properly identified. If this were the case I do not doubt that there would be plenty of scientists who make this case but there are none. An article on the Virology Down Under website, “Sigh, yes, the ‘COVID virus’ is real” , seems to shoot down any argument against the Covid-19 virus’s existence quite definitively. For similar reasons I have not doubted the virus causes the Covid- 19 disease and that it is different to and more dangerous than the flu.
I do not distrust expertise qua expertise. There is much that I cannot understand with regard to propositions offered by experts in any field, particularly the hard sciences because I do not have the conceptual framework for full comprehension. I accept certain propositions without fully understanding them because they are offered with evidence for the propositions themselves, explanation of the processes through which such evidence was obtained and arguments connecting evidence to propositions.
Questions about the Pfizer Vaccine With regard to the issue of coronavirus vaccines and in regard to an early rollout of a vaccine developed by Pfizer I had a few initial questions and concerns that I quickly jotted down:
Questions (On Safety): Has this been tested on people of varying age and health profiles? How does the experience of side effects and the vaccine’s effectiveness as a prophylactic vary across the range of profiles?
Further Questions (On the Costs to Benefits Relationship): What is the current overall and predictable overall risk profile of the Covid-19 virus with regard to infection, morbidity and mortality? How do the overall and co-morbidity related risk profiles of the virus compare to the overall and co-morbidity related risk profiles of the vaccine.
Ethical Observation: Any action that affects a community or communities and requires our consent or compliance also requires for that consent and compliance that we weigh it with regard to its impacts on the welfare of the many, the welfare of more vulnerable minorities and on the welfare and right of the individual.
Logistical Observation: In order to make decisions that are rational and ethical government needs to make and present a risk assessment based on what is known of the actual (the facts) and what we take to be the ethical (our values).
Concerns: I am concerned that I do not see this very basic level of public assessment and consideration taking place anywhere. I am concerned that decisions are being made and will be made not on the basis of the facts, the ethics and the logistics but on the basis of the ‘sunk costs’ of previous commitments, investments and decisions.
In fact there has been and there is an ongoing public debate about the virus and the vaccine but the presentation of this to the public in and by most of the media and by both major political parties has been decidedly one sided in support of the position succinctly articulated by George Monbiot that:
“Once a vaccine against Covid-19 which has received regulatory approval is offered to you, [you should] please accept it. It will help protect you and other people. Getting vaccinated is a pro-social act.”
Pfizer’s history includes convictions for criminal practices including bribery. They should be treated with caution. It is fair also to question the motives of governments that offer public contracts to this company.
In the video below we learn:”The SEC alleges that employees and agents of Pfizer’s subsidiaries in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia made improper payments to foreign officials to obtain regulatory and formulary approvals, sales, and increased prescriptions for the company’s pharmaceutical products” 2012.
It is reasonable that we should question the decisions of a government that has been shown to be both corrupt and incompetent. The government does not deserve the trust of the public on anything and it is time that the public recognises that it does not. I suspect that institutional incompetence and corruption is not just a flaw of this particular government but of the whole present system of establishment. Neither the replacement of Boris Johnson with Rishi Sunak nor the replacement of the Conservative government with a Labour one, whose leadership has whispered no challenge to the corona cronyism, will change the systems of preference and privilege that define establishment governance. Only the profound disgust and distrust of a public awakened to the long scam and prepared to take persistent action against it will make the difference.
The suggestion that we can ‘trust the science’ while not trusting the government that effectively commissions ‘the science’ from profit-driven manufacturers is naive. This BMJ article suggests:
“Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health.1 Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science.”
Noting the commendation of the release of full trial protocols by four manufacturers I note also criticism of the ‘clinical relevance’ of the protocols in another BMJ article:
The first question is whether the right endpoints are being studied. Contrary to prevailing assumptions (including those of a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner), none of the vaccine trials are designed to detect a significant reduction in hospital admissions, admission to intensive care, or death.9 Rather than studying severe disease, these mega-trials all set a primary endpoint of symptomatic covid-19 of essentially any severity: a laboratory positive result plus mild symptoms such as cough and fever count as outcome events. These studies seem designed to answer the easiest question in the least amount of time, not the most clinically relevant questions.
In the first week of December it was announced by the government that the MHRA has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use. But “the full safety data and clinical trial results [had] still not been published by Pfizer and neither has any technical analysis by the MHRA”
In short in addition to there being questions concerning the relevance of the trial protocols we do not have, at the time approval was announced, information on the trial results. Why are these things not matters of concern?
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again … and again.
The position that the Labour Left finds itself in today is a logical consequence of all the things the Labour leadership and membership have accepted in the past. The removal of Rebecca Long-Bailey from her front bench position and the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn are the logical consequences of premises and principles adopted by the leadership of the Labour Party and acquiesced to by its membership:
“The only acceptable response to any accusation of racist prejudice is self-scrutiny, self-criticism and self-improvement.”
~ Rebecca Long Bailey 12 Jan 2020
Do people really not appreciate what this statement implies? How dangerous it is, and how humiliating, because it deprives the potentially innocent the right to speak in their own defence? Do people not realise that its effect is potentially racist because those who are most subject to having their voices silenced, to being accused of speaking out of turn and to be presumed to have nothing of value to say are the black and the poor? It is most often power that accuses and the powerless that stand accused.
“Any MPs, Peers, councillors, members or CLPs who support,campaign or provide a platform for people who have been suspended or expelled in the wake of antisemitic incidents should themselves be suspended from membership.”
~ The Ten Pledges
This is the fifth article of the Ten Pledges made by the leadership of the Labour Party in January of this year. What it means is so clear and its wrongness so clear that I feel foolish attempting to make it more clear, but a logical consequence of the acceptance of this principle is that any member now supporting Jeremy Corbyn should now be suspended themselves.
Premises and principles have corollories and that if you accept the premises you implicitly accept its corollories?
“When an expert looks into a problem you have – whether it’s a doctor, a mechanic, or a plumber – you take their advice and follow it without thinking twice.
So when the Board of Deputies, the Jewish Labour Movement (JLM), and imminently the Equalities and Human Rights Commission give the Labour Party specific recommendations about how we need to root out the poison of antisemitism from our movement, our starting point must not be to dispute their proposals but ensure every single one is implemented unless we can rationally explain why not.”
~ Emily Thornberry 8 Jan 2020
“Without thinking twice” says Thorberry. Think about that if you will. How can you rationally explain why anything might be wrong unless you accept the possibility that it might be wrong, unless you are prepared to think again and to question both yourself and those who are ‘advising’ you.
“Without thinking” the Labour Party has abandoned the obligation to think, it has become explicitly hostile to reasoned discourse and to human decency. Starmer’s endorsement of the of the Overseas Operations Bill and of the Covert Intelligence Sources Bill is an implicit endorsment of torture and murder that has been acquiesced to by the great majority of Labour MPs.
The endorsement of savagery is the ultimate consequence of the abandonment of reason. I note with respect that a small number of Labour MPs including Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott have oppossed these bills:
It is not the suspension of Jeremy Corbyn, but the suspension or expulsion, of decency, compassion and reason from the Labour Party and from our public consciousness that most concerns me most and that should concern all of us.
One of the reasons that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks is that most old dogs are embarassed about doing things badly. I’m trying to overcome that inhibition – hence this. It’s my first ‘vlog post’ for my blog (which will remain text oriented) so it’s not good but here it is anyway.