paints an informative picture of world affairs. It is not a snapshot, it has much more depth than that. He sounds resigned to Brexit happening, an event that can only be truly welcomed by catastrophe capitalists, many of whom are billionaires and don't officially live here to avoid paying our taxes. Leaving the EU will allow them to keep doing that. The fractured, divided, disintegrating UK, which exhibits some of the worst health, wealth and social inequalities in the developed world, will apparently just have to get by on British self-reliance. Which begs the seemingly perennial question of us non-billionaires: If Brexit is the solution, what is the problem?
I was shocked by Eileen Reid's
suggestion that academic naivete had played a part in the murder of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones at the Fishmongers Hall in London last week. We live in a diverse and multicultural society and the different circumstances in which we live will shape the ways in which we can resist the ever present threat of terror. Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones had, as young intellectuals, made decisions about how they thought best to challenge this kind of terror and they paid for it with their lives. As I understand it, Jack had been the first to confront the killer and had, therefore, been the first to be killed. Principled might seem a more appropriate word to describe his behaviour rather than 'naive'.
I am not sure who Reid means when she talks glibly about 'ordinary folk... who understand profoundly the issues affecting them'. There is certainly enormous value, in cases like this, in having input from ordinary Muslims who have had some experience of contact with radicalism. There are a small number of ex-radicals who are currently working with young Muslims to show them that there are alternative routes to those suggested by fundamentalist radicals and while their role is key the responsibility of carrying the burden of this work should not remain with them alone.
It is also the case that there is a growing threat of terror from people who define themselves as alternative right and are likely to come from a different background from Islamic killers. Here too there are a small number of former radicals who have an important role to play but here too they need support from groups from other backgrounds.
The value of voluntary organisations is that they are able to respond in ways that are both fresh and innovative to crises that emerge in society. It is ordinary people who set up such organisations, often before statutory organisations have done so, and they employ people with specialist expertise to keep abreast of these developments. We should all be grateful to people like Jack and Saskia for the work that that they had done in seeking to keep hope alive about the possibility of human rehabilitation. Society will be at a loss without the contributions of such principled and imaginative people.
Mobile phones.... they bring us closer to folk in New Zealand and further from the people in the same room. People now use their thumbs rather than their tongues in communication. Emojis are a return to using pictorial symbols rather than words. But whatever flippant comments we make about mobile phones, and however much we recognise their value, especially in emergency situations, they have had a profound effect on our culture.
If people were bullied at school, home was a place of security. Now 2am can be a time when 'unhelpful' messages come by Facebook. Perhaps the most serious effect of the mobile phone is the expectation that people are available 24/7. Increasingly, there is culture of expecting employees to read/answer emails while on holiday, and for parents (and sometimes head teachers) to expect school staff to deal with emails in the evenings and weekends. Increasingly too, there are people off work suffering from stress-related issues.
It is common to mockingly caricature the Hebridean Sabbath, but is there not a need to recapture the note of working hard when working, and then being completely off? The fourth commandment affirms that people are more valuable than their economic role, challenging people with the responsibility to ensure that others have the opportunity to be refreshed and not exploited. Fifty years ago it would have been thought impossible to change the culture of smoking but it happened. Is it not time for the culture to be changed so that it is seen as taboo – except in genuine emergencies – for people to be contacted by employers during their off-duty, and for school staff to be free from work-related phone messages in the evening and at weekends?
I challenge CBI, STUC, Scottish Government and Education Scotland to introduce a code of responsible use for mobile phones. A failure to do so would indicate a failure to value people.
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