December Blog 2011


By Clive Lindley-Jones | December 14, 2011 12:09 pm

The Whole team at Helix House would like to thank you for all your custom and as well as  friends and acquaintances you have sent along to consult us this year and to wish you a very Happy Christmas and a wonderfully Healthy New Year!

Please note that the office will be closed from Saturday December 24th until Tuesday, 3rd of January, 2012.

Optimism in Britain

As all around us the affairs of the world struggle, as usual, with the imponderables of debt, currency failure, climate change and the failure of western democracies to function effectively, elsewhere in the world, the new middle classes of the Arab world and many other growing economies like the BRIC countries,  the forces of change are bubbling to the surface. It can all get quite depressing from this end, if we are not careful.However it is encouraging to see from a recent survey that we are a nation of optimistic thinkers…. continue. Contrary to our reputation for moaning, four in five Brits are optimists new research found that Britons look on the brighter side of life when faced with the prediction of depressing events happening to them in the future; read the results here.
At Helix House we too are optimistic and as we move rapidly into the darkest time of the year, when light levels drop and we withdraw into the warmth of our hearths, there are great compensations in enjoying these winter months of cosy inside life and getting together with others to renew our friendships. Which brings us onto the subject of kindness.

Random Acts of Kindness

The idea behind the World Kindness Movement (read more here)  crystallised at a conference in Tokyo in 1997 when the Small Kindness Movement of Japan brought together like-minded kindness movements from around the world. The WKM was officially launched in Singapore on 18 November 2000 at the 3rd WKM Conference. The mission of the WKM is to inspire individuals towards greater kindness and to connect nations to create a kinder world.  We all respond to kindness and recognise it when it comes our way. However, as a movement, it may all sound too sweet and nice for us hardbitten, tough types, who have seen what the world can dish out and don’t want to be another sucker.

But cynicism, like so many negative emotions, seems like an armour protecting us from hurt and being the fall-guy, and it is true we need to keep our wits about us, but it is really an invisible straight jacket that stops us from opening our heart and experiencing  many of the joys that life has to offer.

Several national  kindness movements seem to have sprung up and there is a UK section of this outfit. On the face of it it can look both sensible and too gooey by half, however, while I know nothing much about it, like the movements to put a scientific basis to positive psychology I have mentioned before,  ( read more about it here) there seems to be a legitimate arm of all these moves towards refocusing us away from what we can possess towards what we actually experience.  By helping us to see again how we can refocus ourselves towards greater happiness, which ultimately comes from within, and is hugely influenced by how we interact with and give to others, then it is, like all those encouraging books that espoused Random Acts of Kindness that were popular in the 1990’s, another reminder that giving is  invariable much more fun than receiving.

For more information on Kindness Day UK click here.

And so another year draws to a close soon. As the economic world shudders to a grinding halt and attempts desperately to redirect itself after decades of unwise excess, and we all have to tighten our belts and face an uncertain future, we can slow down for a few days over Christmas and take a moment to contemplate the whole nature of kindness, and focus on the joy of giving rather than receiving, the happiness that comes from relationships if they can be deep, honest and warm.

Book of the Month

The Leaderless Revolution: How Ordinary People will take power and change politics in the 21st Century. By: Carne Ross

Simon Shuster, 2011.

Satirists at the Onion have commented that 2011 has already used up the next decades entire supply of news, as elsewhere (Click here for the  Global protest article from The Guardian). 2011 is being compared with 1848, 1968 and 1989. All years with the common theme of the dissolution of centralised power and the demand for ‘autonomy’ and person freedom. Across the world change is clearly in the air, and, even in our own, sedate, country, change, usually not for the better, is apparent. How to negotiated such seismic shifts? Carne Ross, has done his share of free falls from high positions and has come up with a book to guide us.

Have you ever written to the government and received back one of those clever, yet annoying letters, written for the minister by some smart young civil servant, that leave you scratching your head, wondering quite what it has said and what to do now that your outrage seems to have been suffocated by obfuscating but eloquent words, seemingly, with the express purpose of, leaving everything  just as it is?

Well, if you were at the UN, in the years leading up to the Iraq war and questioned the British sanction policy against Iraq that caused an extra 500,000 child deaths, and wondered about the shenanigans that lead to the Iraq war, you might well have become a little disillusioned.   Carne Ross was the British Diplomat in charge of pushing forward all those bogus WMD stories at the UN.

Seeing him on Newsnight, some time ago, and hearing his criticisms of the Foreign Office that he used to work for, inspired me to read this, his recently published, book.

Ross is a former senior British Diplomat. Having resigned from the British Foreign service, Ross now runs the world’s first independent diplomatic advisory group, Independent Diplomat.Having been at the epi-center of the Establishment around the over heated time of the lead up to the war in Iraq, and found it wanting, Ross is an effective guide to the ways in which, increasingly, conventional politics is failing us, at both the level of the state, as well as the level of the more impenetrable supranational organizations like the UN or EU.

Ross does not believe in neat narratives but rather sees the world increasingly fragmenting, leading to a decline of state power and the  rise of non state actors, whether they are corporations, Mafia families, or more benign NGO’s.

Ross’s call to arms  is his view that something must be done and, if not government, who is left to do it? For Ross it is us, hence the title of his latest book. As he says it is no longer good enough to say international relations are not our business. We are all intimately connected now. Sadly, I fear that only about 10% of us, wonks have much interest in such subjects.

There is nothing like the disillusionment of the initiate especially If you have been the voice of the state, crafting those well modulated,  duplicitous words that shape policy.  Too often these fine pleadings rides roughshod over the lives of the ‘little people’, you and I,  who the state makes decisions about, often from thousands of miles away, quite possibly without ever actually going to the places concerned. Ross is aware of the tendencies of all foreign services to see themselves as the voice and even brain of the state and speak for it deciding the fate of not only their own nationals but those of others that their state can influence, often with minimal real consultation.

The UN charter was written in 1945 designed to stop interstate conflict. Now 80% of the issues before the UN are conflicts within states not between states. Independent Diplomat now carefully filters these non state actors  who hold high standards of  democratic  accountability and human rights and helps them gain a voice. Most of these groups never otherwise get a chance to sit down and explain their hopes and needs with the UN security council. This is what Ross and his teams attempt to do. As he says politics has changed fundamentally in recent decades. We need to focus not on process but on output!

This book is a noble effort, I am note sure it fully works, but it needs to be said and Ross is a convincing voice, in many ways, to lead us beyond the  limitations of so many old models that, as each day passes, are clearly failing us.

In some ways I found the most engrossing parts, his own story Carne Ross: An independent diplomat of his journey into, through and eventually out of the elite circle of the foreign office. His attempt to formulate a cosmopolitan, modern  peaceful anarchist model of citizen action and agency, while encouraging, perhaps needs more development to be widely embraced.

However next time you read one of those well constructed letters from a civil servant, you can wonder if this nameless writer is not also wondering if he/she might not gain greater satisfaction and deep meaning in her/his life by taking action, rather than cleverly obstructing it for ‘Sir Humphrey.’


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