Saturday, 11 January 2014

Just one more thing........: Too Wired or just Plain Tired

Just one more thing........: Too Wired or just Plain Tired: To anyone that bothers to read this, Happy New Year!! I know it’s been a while since I wrote... sorry let me rephrase, since I had a ra...

Too Wired or just Plain Tired

To anyone that bothers to read this, Happy New Year!!

I know it’s been a while since I wrote... sorry let me rephrase, since I had a rant!!! I could make all sorts of excuses but, the main reason has been time and if I’m being totally honest, the past year has, at times, left me feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the rapidly increasing bombardment of social media and the endless drivel of useless information that seems to find its way into what these days is referred to as “the news”!

During 2013 this persistent noise of information, opinion, statement, narcissism, egotism, call it what you will, started to leave me feeling apathetic towards all sorts of causes; some of which genuinely deserved my time. This realisation has given me cause for concern, because for a long time I have taken a very dim view of apathy, citing it as a major catalyst in the demise of our society. Not that I don’t think it’s occasionally good to take a step back, listen and observe the world around us. I do believe however that we all have a duty to point out and act when we encounter something that is genuinely wrong. There are far too many examples from the history of mankind where good people have stood by and watched while large scale injustice has been allowed to prevail. Then afterwards the world always asks the question “How did it come to this?”. I understand, it’s not always possible to act in a practical way, but we can still speak! We have a voice and we should use it.

So, in 2014, how do I prevent myself from becoming overwhelmed and apathetic once more? Simple, I have decided to prioritise the way I use information. While it is not always possible to completely control what information I may encounter, I can certainly decide what I take in and how I intend to use it. I am going to try and use my time more wisely when it comes to choosing which causes to contribute to or comment about. Anything I decide to dedicate my time to must be worthwhile and useful, not just to me, but others too. After all a wise man once said:
 "We must use time wisely and forever realise that the time is always ripe to do right."
                                                                                                                Nelson Mandela

Just one more thing... I found it rather amusing this week to hear that there is currently a major debate over who has the right to claim territory on the moon. Some lessons are never learned!


Thursday, 14 June 2012

A Bid for Sportsmanship

The continued progress of the Olympic torch through town and city brings the nation closer to the start of the games and the global spectacle that will take place in London this summer. The games themselves have the potential to promote unity, inspire, excite and improve the economy..... well, in London at least.

It’s true that there are a small handful of other locations elsewhere in the country that will be used for various gaming events and these locations will no doubt benefit both economically and educationally. However, there are’nt many of these extra sites, the majority of events will take place in and around London and the South East. It’s not that I object to any towns or cities benefiting, but what I do have concerns about is the fact that we, the tax payer, were told that the entire nation would benefit economically, educationally and culturally. Given the billions of pounds that the event is costing us, at a time of so called austerity, it is well worth us asking how exactly the rest of the nation is going to benefit from such heavy investment.

It was this question that I pondered recently while attending a meeting with the head teacher of a school where I sit on the board of governors. During the meeting I asked the Head what directive had been given by the government to schools for promoting the Games and using them as an education tool to benefit the pupils. His response was “None”! This rather shocked and disappointed me especially as the Olympic Games in one’s own nation is a once in a lifetime kind of event and the idea of hosting the Games had been sold to the country as an amazing opportunity to inspire and promote sporting culture among our young people. In fact to quote Seb Coe, Chair of the Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games:

London’s vision is to reach young people all around the world, to connect them with the inspirational power of the Games, so that they are inspired to choose sport”.

Clearly this “vision” is either not shared by government, or Seb Coe’s statement is a tokenistic sound bite used to aid those with other agendas.  In my view schools are the obvious choice as a vehicle for promoting and encouraging sporting culture among young people and yet the fact that such an obvious opportunity for inspiring our young people to choose sport has been overlooked or ignored, demonstrates that the true purpose of the games is not the promotion of sport but rather the opportunity for a small handful of individuals to make money. Despite this, my sentiment is that the nation as a whole gets a sporting chance to benefit from the Games if not economically, at least from the entertainment and excitement of watching our athletes perform to their full potential.

Just one more thing..........There has been a lot of talk this past week about news papers, government, double standards and corruption with not only the continuation of the Leveson enquiry, but also the government stance on the BSkyB deal currently under scrutiny in the House of Commons. One may think that not only has the weather barometer been pointing towards rain, but also the moral barometer too. Maybe some things do come in pairs!

Friday, 30 March 2012

Call of Duty or a Duty of Care

Those who know me will be aware that I enjoy the occasional hour or two of escapism on my games console, and so, recently I was perusing the shelves of a store that sells games. While standing there deliberating the kind of game that I might want to play I noticed something. Almost every game on the shelves portrayed either violence or destruction of some form or another. Those that did’nt tended to put what could be considered a negative slant on the gaming subject. In fact, there were so few games that appeared to be positive in nature I was able to count them on one hand. This got me thinking.

In society we are quite vocal in our expectations of young people to respect and value ,not just their fellow human beings, but also the natural environment around them. However, increasingly, research demonstrates that children between the ages of 5 and 16 spend an average of six and a half hours in front of some form of electronic screen (BBC,2015). Couple this with the fact that the average North American child will witness approximately 200,000 acts of violence viewed through the screen they are looking at by the time they reach 18 (Kids Health, 2016) and it might be fair to say we have a recipe for disaster. In fact, there is now a sufficient enough number of longitudinal studies evidencing a significant connection between the playing of violent video games during childhood and increased aggression in adulthood (JAMA Pediatrics, 2014). So, if we - the adult world - decide it's ok to market violence, death and destruction to children from a young age, how can we expect anything other than violence and destruction when they start to conduct their life as young adults.

There’s something hypocritical in the fact that we as a society, on the one hand, utter words of complete disbelief and exclamation at youths who commit horrific acts such as the gang rape of a young girl or the stabbing of an elderly gentleman in order to steal his medals, but then don’t seem to have a problem with our children and young people playing video games that promote this kind of aggressive behaviour and certainly don’t petition against it. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against games consoles. I believe they have their place in modern society and can be used in a balanced way to encourage learning, personal development and positive recreation. There are some very clever and well conceived games out there that are of a much healthier nature than those which encourage the user to carry out ‘car jacking’ and the mindless killing of innocent people.

I feel this is fast becoming a community issue that poses a serious question.  As a so called 'developed society', are we willing to endorse, allow or encourage the use of morally and ethically corrupt gaming to continue to impact negatively on the development of our young people, and watch as each generation of society gets sucked further down into the gutter, or do we start taking responsibility for the consequences of virtually unchecked production of such damaging material by making a stand and demanding a higher standard for the next generation?

Just one more thing........ This week I have been somewhat bemused at the fact that my 2007 version of Microsoft Office is no longer supported by Microsoft updates. Unsatisfied with this state of affairs, I went to a local IT support shop to get some advice!! The young guy behind the counter looked at me in utter disbelief and exclaimed "that's ancient mate, you've got no hope!". Now I officially feel old!

Monday, 2 January 2012

The Future is Bright!!

And so, it starts. A new year. A fresh start, or for some, a leap into the unknown. There are those who say that in 2012 we are set for a very bumpy ride both at home and abroad. Whether speaking economically or geographically the general prognosis appears to be one in which the future looks grey. So, does that mean we should just give up and hide away somewhere. I say no!!

It’s true, there is high unemployment, increased homelessness and turmoil in our public services. However, all of these things provide us with the opportunity to show our true potential as compassionate, sympathetic and concerned human beings. I see 2012 as an opportunity to shine brightly and demonstrate those attributes and qualities that really should separate man from beast. Whether it’s a neighbour in need, feeding the homeless or just a simple smile, we have the ability to help others rise above the worst blows that life may deal. 2011 environmentally was one of the most destructive since records began. It started out with devastating floods in Australia, a destructive earthquake in New Zealand, a catastrophic tsunami in Japan (followed by nuclear meltdown), one of the worst tornado seasons on record for the Mid West United States, an earthquake in Turkey (more devastating than New Zealand), severe flooding in Thailand and seemed to finish with global economic crisis (this is before we even consider the uprisings and ongoing bloodshed in the Middle East).
I believe that we have within us the same determination, tenacity and fighting spirit that has brought the world through the horrendous situations 2011 presented. In fact, I believe that, in the words of a Japanese tsunami survivor “We must rise up above the worst we have experienced and make ourselves taller and stronger because there will always be disasters that are bigger than before and each time serves to prepare us for the next time so we can overcome!”
Just one more thing........ Have you ever noticed at Christmas time how silent the debate on carbon footprints becomes. Ironic when one considers how much more electricity is used for decorative lighting. As hard as it is to swallow, maybe we should face up to the fact that while a large chunk of mankind feels it can afford to celebrate with such extravagance at this time of the year, planet earth cannot afford the same luxury.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Retail Therapy

Last week I had a conversation with a friend about how much retail has altered and the impact online and big supermarket consumerism is having on small business. There is no doubt that many people in small business believe online shopping and huge superstore facilities are creating a scenario that is difficult to compete with and therefore endangering not only the economy but also the variety of products available to customers. In addition to this could it be that our desire for instant retail gratification and convenience consumerism is causing us to miss out on a large chunk of the whole shopping experience that used to be the most enjoyable part. I think it is.

It's true that it certainly is much less time consuming using the internet to buy things, and it's definitely more convenient to buy everything you need in one supermarket. However, what about choice. And what about customer service. And if we really think it through, what about being made to feel good about what you're about to buy (or have just bought). Is there as much enjoyment in the clinical process of purchasing online as there is in going to a small boutique shop where you can peruse and discuss, try on, touch, smell or even taste before you buy and as a result discover wonderful gems that surprise and delight, which you may never otherwise have encountered.

I believe that in trying to persue convenience we are doing ourselves out of the most enjoyable part of shopping, the part that personalises shopping and makes it about you and not just about extracting money from your wallet for mass profit!

Just one more thing........we are fast approaching that time again when we are supposed to reflect on the past year and attempt to look ahead with a positive attitude. Well, one might find it hard at the moment given the state of economic affairs and the usual turmoil in various areas of the globe to be positive. However, the way I see it is that there has always been economic strife and general unrest, so I say continue to "fight the good fight" and have another dram, then suddenly the outlook for the future looks a lot more palatable.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Opportunity knocks.....or does it?

Recent days have seen the subject of youth unemployment hit the headlines. With government quoted figures of over a million out of work 16 to 24 year olds the subject is a hot topic for debate. The politicians and the general public alike have been quick to respond, with all commentators presenting a variety of causes and solutions. What I have often noticed in situations like this is that people are often quick to point the finger and criticise. While I believe it is true that the government does need to act, as they have a clear responsibility to, and some of the ideas they are presenting may help, I do believe that wider society in general (that’s you and me) has to shoulder some of the responsibility.
The government has said that its new intervention plan aimed at combating the problem will provide some form of solution for around 400,000 of those affected. But what about the other 600,000 + who don’t fall into this bracket? That’s where the rest of us could potentially have a role to play. When I was 18 I had just finished sixth form. I came away from both compulsory and further education with little more than 5 very average GCSE’s and had very little in the way of work experience. To any potential employer I was by no means a catch. This meant that at some point I had to rely on someone to give me a break. Take a risk. Throw me a bone. Call it what you will, but without someone giving me the opportunity, I had no way of proving my true potential and value as an asset to the work place. I was blessed with such an opportunity and while it was not the best paid position in the world, it was a foot on the first rung of the career ladder.
I believe that every single one of us has the ability, either through advice, assistance or paid work, to give young people today an opportunity to be something more than just an unemployment statistic. Sure, young people have to make the decision to engage, but if the opportunity is not available then there’s not much of a decision in the first place. Most of us, maybe all of us, had to be given some form of an opportunity to get to where we are today. Someone took a chance and saw something in us. Ask yourself the question, do you offer the same opportunity to the young people you encounter?
Just one more thing.........This past week has been one of collapsed currency talk and projected financial misery in both the UK and Euro-zone. As a result I found myself slipping subconsciously into a mode of negative outlook and dull thoughts for the future. Then I remembered the millions of people living in abject poverty around the world and thought “perspective Conrad, perspective!!!”