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Matthew Taylor and 21st Century Enlightenment

Matthew Taylor is the RSA’s Chief Executive, and in this animation video he explores how the idea of 21st Century Enlightenment could help us meet today’s challenges.

As this video sums up many of the concerns of this website, we’ve decided to feature it on our home page.

RSA Animate – 21st Century Enlightenment
http://youtu.be/AC7ANGMy0yo

Vale Nelson Mandela 1918-2013

“I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”

The Passing of Nelson Mandela

Photo of Nelson Mandela taken in 2008

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela 1918-2013

Today South Africa has lost the first President of its modern era, a man who has come to be regarded as “father of the nation”.

Commentaries on political figures are not usually within the scope of this blog. But Mandela was extraordinary, and his legacy profoundly relevant to the principles of Eurythmia – which aims to give the inspiration and means to regain and retain balance and harmony in the face of all that life throws at you.

And the quote above surely represents a true modern concept of sainthood – an honest recognition that one is not perfect, in fact subject to all kinds of deficiencies. But also an almost superhuman aspiration and determination to overcome your faults and become the best person you can be. And to make a difference in your community!

The “Long Walk”¹ to Saint Madiba

At the same time that South Africa has lost its beloved Madiba, the world has lost one of the great historical and inspirational figures of the last century. If you could count five great people of the previous 100 years who have had profound positive influence over the course of human events, or whose lives and work have inspired people far beyond what could normally be expected – to almost ‘miraculous’ effect, then one of those five must be Nelson Mandela.

Such greatness was not something one might have expected of a person who spent 27 years of his life in prison during the repressive and racist apartheid regime ruling life in South Africa between 1948 and 1994.

During that time, Mandela evolved into an inspirational figure both within and beyond South Africa. But the process of quasi-beatification to living saint really began as he gradually came to epitomise the feelings of great hope for humanity precipitated by the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989. What followed were people-powered, mostly peaceful collapses of many repressive regimes around the world, especially in the old Soviet system.

Mandela became a symbol of this new 90s spirit of freedom and hope. Released by the de Klerk government in 1990, he began working together with his former enemies and de Klerk in particular to transition South Africa peacefully into a fully representative democracy. The efforts of Mandela and de Klerk were recognised by the world community in 1993 with their sharing of that year’s Nobel Prize for Peace. Since then, their real growing friendship and respect for each other has come to symbolise the ideal of the growing together of their respective communities.

And while real progress for many in South Africa under Mandela’s successors has been disappointing, his great gift to his nation and the world was to become the living embodiment of evolutionary unification and sincere reconciliation. Foremost in this has been his complete repudiation of any spirit of retribution that might well have been the result of his and his people’s mistreatment over so long.

Let his words speak for themselves

Finally, it is best to let Mandela’s own words carry his most profound messages. These will not generally be the quotes to be found in most of the political or historical obituaries you will read today. But they do represent the Mandela that Eurythmia so admires:

“I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom come responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.”

“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

“You will achieve more in this world through acts of mercy than you will through acts of retribution.”

“It is said that no one truly knows a nation until one has been inside its jails. A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

“People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite… Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never explained.”

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

“Nothing is black or white.”

“Tread softly,
Breathe peacefully,
Laugh hysterically.”

“When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace.”

Rest in Peace, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

 

¹Reference to one of Mandela’s autobiographical works:
Mandela, Nelson (1995). Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela, Back Bay Books

 

Andrew Hamilton poses questions on how we treat others

Consulting Editor of Eureka Street, Andrew Hamilton, invites us to ask some hard questions of ourselves in the wake of an Australian election campaign in which the two parties capable of achieving government offered only a race to the bottom, appealing overwhelmingly to the baser aspects of human nature. He wonders how we will act, when faced with the increasing economic stresses brought on by an aging population and other strains on resources.

“In coming years we might expect the categories of those excluded from the claims of our shared humanity to become broader. They will include other unpopular, excluded and disadvantaged people within the community. The ageing of the population, the pressure on revenue and the expectation that we shall continue to enjoy the same wealth and services as before will mean that governments will be unable to meet all their commitments.

It is natural for governments in such circumstances to cut the support it gives to the disadvantaged, whether they be Indigenous communities, unemployed or addicted. This is easier when the sense of a shared humanity is weak. They can then be portrayed as other than us, and their claim to a shared humanity to be diminished by such qualities we attribute to them as laziness, addiction, innate stupidity and antisocial tendencies. Their support will then be measured, not by their need as human beings, but by their lesser status. It can be measured out to them as a gift conditioned by compliance with whatever conditions we impose on them.”

“Achieving Work Life Balance” Checklists

Here is a series of checklists, which can help promote work life balance.

Achieving personal and family balance

  • Learn how to say no – diplomatically.
  • Whatever you’re doing, concentrate on that, and don’t be focusing your mind on past events or future plans.
  • Turn off distractions – no mobile phone, TV or email alerts! If you’re spending time with family, friends, or yourself, make it quality time.
  • Create some space for yourself at the beginning of the day. Meditate, or just give yourself some quiet time to enjoy that cup of coffee or read the newspaper.
  • Pursuing spiritual activities is not a waste of valuable time! Perhaps this could be a time for morning meditation, or for others an early morning surf could be their ‘spiritual salute to the morning’. You choose!
  • Share roles, particularly in housework. There is no place in an advanced culture in the 21st Century for housework to be arbitrarily divided up along the lines of traditional sex roles. Divide up tasks by all means – but be absolutely clear who is supposed to do what! You may actually prefer to divide tasks along traditional gender lines – if al parties genuinely agree, why not? But don’t use it as an excuse to fob off the drudge tasks on to one person, while the other gets the ‘fun’ tasks. You need to be fair in the division of labour. And have regular reviews of the tasks to make sure no-one’s feeling resentful, because things have been working out differently in practice than in theory! In other words – communicate!
  • Written lists and timetables are useful. If everything is set down, you have a plan, probably a schedule and a checklist all rolled into one. And there’s less room for misunderstanding, shirking or slacking off. There it is in black and white. (Or colour, if you prefer!) Lists and timetables can be made for chores, finances, health and fitness programs, knowing where everyone is or is supposed to be at any given time, as well as for planning holidays, events to attend and so on.
  • Schedule down-time and block out things on your calendar for quality time with family members. Write it in – it gives you something to look forward to as well as helping you plan.
  • Always leave time to do something you enjoy doing that has no tangible connection to your ‘responsibilities’. Time to enjoy yourself and be creative, relax, perhaps pursue a hobby.
  • Do personal development and other activities mentioned on this website.
  • Avoid or at least limit exposure to negative people who drain you of energy.
  • If you can afford it, outsource things that can free up some of your time. Have someone else do your lawn mowing, get a cleaner. As well as making time for yourself, you’re supporting others in their aspirations.
  • Get enough exercise and movement in the fresh air.
  • When you’re away from work, disconnect.

Achieving balance at work

  • If you’re commuting to and from work, have your radio station tuned to relaxing music – classical is ideal!
  • Approach your employer and enquire about whether they have work life balance policies, and point out the benefits if they haven’t. You might be able to arrange a flexible working agreement that will benefit both parties.
  • Always present any suggestions in a win/win situation for both parties. But if the employer is not willing to play ball, be polite and quietly consider your options after you’ve had some time to think about the situation.
  • Flexible working arrangements may include telecommuting or working from home at least some days in the week; part-time work; job sharing; time off in lieu; flexible hours or flexitime; a staggered return to work in the event of returning from an extended absence through illness, maternity/paternity leave etc; agreements on a set number of hours to work over a week, a fortnight or a year; possibilities for study leave or professional development; possibilities to redesign your work; and other ideas. Much of this is now enshrined in legislation. Find out what the rules for your work situation are.
  • Know when to walk away from any situation. There’s a difference between perseverance, which is a positive trait, and stubbornness, which is negative. But sometimes, if you’re the person involved, it’s hard to know when you’ve crossed that line.
  • Be prepared to downshift, sea-change or tree-change, if the work life balance destabilisation all becomes too much, or if you’re not getting out of the arrangements the results you want. It’s all very well to make yourself a multi-millionarire by the time you’re 30, but if you’re dead from overwork at 40, that’s not a good trade-off.
  • Multi-tasking is a croc. It is not as wonderful as its proponents (who are probably Facebook, e-mail and TV addicts!) claim it is. Studies show most multi-tasking results in less efficient and polished task completion than if you concentrate on one thing at a time.
  • Listen to your body. If you’re not feeling well, rest. If you are really ill, it is just stupid to go to work and infect everyone you meet. That TV advertisement we probably all know with the jingle “soldier on with XXXX, soldier on” panders to workaholics and short-sighted employers, as well as making billions for the particular pharmaceutical company. But how happy is your employer going to be if, instead of one person at home in bed with the flu, 25% of the workforce is off, just because someone is obsessed with ‘soldiering on’. It’s not the Siege of Leningrad! The city will not fall if you are in bed ill for a couple of days!
  • Avoid or at least limit exposure to negative people who drain you of energy.
  • When you’re away from work, disconnect.

If you are an employer or manager

  • In the normal work routine, schedule one work day a week with NO Meetings – and enforce it.
  • Have someone chair meetings who can do it efficiently, who can run them on time, who can quickly cut to the core of an issue, and who can diplomatically but firmly cut wafflers and ‘me-me-me-people’ off. At meetings the 80/20 rule is that 20% of the participants waste 80% of the time, because they don’t know when to shut up!
  • Investigate how flexible working arrangements may increase employees’ job satisfaction, loyalty and productivity. Such arrangements might include telecommuting or working from home at least some days in the week; part-time work; job sharing; time off in lieu; flexible hours or flexitime; a staggered return to work in the event of returning from an extended absence through illness, maternity/paternity leave etc; agreements on a set number of hours to work over a week, a fortnight or a year; possibilities for study leave or professional development; possibilities to redesign an employee’s work; and other ideas. Much of this is now enshrined in legislation. Find out the rules and consider what arrangements could suit your firm.
  • Happy employees want to be innovative, indulge their creative intelligence, and expand their skills. This could provide you with innovations and benefits you never dreamed of.
  • Delegate. Trust your people, allow them room to succeed and to show what they can do.
  • If you give employees a choice in their rostering, they will feel more control, and you will reap the benefits.
  • Maintain an enlightened and common sense attitude towards sick leave. If an employee is really ill, it is counterproductive for them to go to work and infect other employees, or to undermine their health or recovery. How happy will you be if, instead of one person at home in bed with the flu, 25% of your workforce is off sick, just because someone (perhaps you) was obsessed with ‘soldiering on’. It’s not the Siege of Leningrad! The city will not fall if an employee is home in bed ill for a couple of days!
  • Avoid or at least limit exposure to negative people who drain you of energy.
  • Germany has been running democratic workplaces for decades, in which all employees of the company feel they can have a say in how things are done, where they can share ownership and management of the company (even with profit-sharing schemes!). It is a work model that benefits everyone, and can have surprisingly beneficial effects on the bottom line.
  • Allow for some buffer times where appropriate. Murphy’s Law (if something can go wrong, it will) is an immutable law of the universe, and sometimes time is just needed to catch up. If the diary is so artificially overloaded that, when something goes over time, the whole schedule is thrown out, there is something wrong with the planning.
  • Finally, many of the top entrepreneurs and other people successful in their fields also schedule in ‘thinking time’ – a time when nothing in particular is planned, a time for calm reflection, rumination, and an opportunity for the mind to naturally generate those spontaneous flashes of inspiration, which are often the keystone of dramatic breakthroughs or new innovations.

The “Frankenfood” debate

Here are two trailers of movies that will have you at least thinking about what you’re eating and feeding your families. Watch the full movies – and it’s probably something you can’t afford not to do – and this just may change the whole way you shop and eat.

The first is Food, Inc. a 2008 documentary by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Kenner.

This film looks at corporate farming in America, but much of it seems applicable to Australian audiences, with our food market dominated by our supermarket duopoly. It suggests the agribusiness models produce food that can be unhealthy, environmentally harmful, and abusive towards animals, employees and dissenters. This film is a must see!


Food, Inc Movie Trailer
http://youtu.be/QqQVll-MP3I

The documentary film Genetic Roulette: The Gamble of Our Lives (2012) by bestselling author Jeffrey M. Smith suggests that GM foods are causing many of the increases in previously rare diseases and allergies of recent times.


Genetic Roulette Movie Trailer
http://youtu.be/Vv96D_ZURzs

Genetic Roulette – The Gamble of Our Lives won the 2012 Movie of the Year by the Solari Report and the Top Transformational Film of 2012 by AwareGuide!

The evidence presented suggests that genetically modified and engineered foods may be major contributors to rising disease rates in the US population, especially among children. Gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, inflammatory diseases, and infertility are just some of the problems implicated in humans, pets, livestock, and lab animals that eat genetically modified soybeans and corn.

It examines the role of everyone’s favourite chemical company Monsanto, as well as the policies and actions of the United States’ FDA and the USDA.

The film may convince you to change what you eat, and whether you intend to sit quietly by, while the genetic nature of our food supply is changed – not to feed the world, so it is asserted, but to feed corporate profits.

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