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Sunday, 12 February 2012

Breakfast with TED

A few weeks ago I became obsessed with the media coverage of the World Economic Forum, better know as DAVOS. I was enthralled by its simple concept of bringing together the most powerful business and political leaders in the world under one roof, to communicate, to share, to listen, and of course, to make deals. A fun fair for the rich and powerful in a ski resort where no attendee skis.

I would love to go to DAVOS to experience what must be an electrifying atmosphere of power and might. Just to be in the same room with what are effectively the rulers of the world and to be in a position to converse with them about where they see the worlds economies going over the next 12 months would no doubt change ones view on how the world really works.

In reality, I will most likely never get to be invited to DAVOS, nor will I ever be in a position to afford the reported €50,000 per ticket price for those who are important enough to be invited but not important enough to get a free ticket. You see this is a billionaires club and mere millionaires who are not key to the development of the world don't get in, so a mere mortal like myself hasn't a chance.

So what then, wait for another year to watch the coverage again, check out their website, not really the same is it... no.

But then I found TED. Have you seen TED? No... you don't know what your missing, because TED is cool. Not only that, its open to everyone, its free to access, its beautiful, its insightful, its funny, its challenging, its informative. Every morning I sit down and have breakfast with TED and every morning I go to work having learned something new.

TED to me is what I imagine DAVOS is like to the lucky exclusive few who get to attend. It opens your mind to different points of view, it allows you to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world we live in and it offers you the opportunity to think outside your "life box" whilst listening to someone describing theirs. 

For all the advances in communication technology, we still live in and by the confines of our "life box". This box is filled with every influence we have ever experienced, every lesson we have ever been thought, every aspect of what is considered a "normal way of life" we have observed and adopted as our own daily life routine and every common reaction to local situations, be they emotional, financial or political. TED offers us a window into the life boxes of others. Just like in DAVOS, people come together under one roof to communicate, to share & to listen,

But TED offers so much more, it offers everyone the opportunity to be inspired, to create, to action, to change and it does all this not by being exclusive but by being inclusive. It sets no agenda of must attend events, you decide what talk is of interest to you. TED simply gives you access to the recorded talks, its up to you to listen and make up your own mind as to how you want to react to what you have heard. Maybe it opens your mind, maybe not,

DAVOS will continue to be an exclusive place where the rulers of the world go to discuss future economic growth but TED will continue to be an inclusive place where the people of the world go to discuss personal growth.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Who's coming to town?

Who’s coming to town?

I remember how much I wanted that Yellow digger with the long handle, the one off the TV ad; it was the only thing I ever really wanted off Santa, it was in my dreams and in my prayers, although I never told my mother or grandmother that I was praying for a toy instead of all those poor children in Africa, that would not have gone down too well…

But I really wanted that Yellow digger with its big black wheels and the big scoop bucket. I wanted that digger more and more every day, so much so that when Christmas Eve came, I was more than happy to have my bath and get into my Christmas pyjama’s and go asleep as fast as I could because I believed, I truly believed, that Santa was coming to Dublin and he had my yellow digger with him.

Of course I ended up staying awake for what seemed like the whole night and had to be woken up by my mother the next morning. She held my hand as we walked down the stairs, I was still half asleep, and when the door to the sitting room opened I just stood there staring at the yellow digger with a big red bow under the Christmas tree. I remember my mother speaking to me, I don’t remember what was said, slowly I let go of her hand and ran to the yellow digger. Santa had answered my letter, my dreams, my prayers, I had my yellow digger and I was the happiest boy in Dublin.

I have never spoken to my mother about this wonderful childhood experience; never have I asked her how hard was it for “Santa” to get that yellow digger or what was sacrificed to make me the happiest boy in Dublin, or how long did it take to “make” the digger. I have never asked because a big part of me does not want to know. Knowing what it took her to have that yellow digger under our Christmas tree would ruin my memory of it, I don’t want to know.

With Christmas just about here I am reminded of that yellow digger and how happy I was to get it on Christmas morning but I am also well aware that this special time of joy and celebration is only for the lucky few, those who still have a job, those who are still able to provide for their loved ones. For many this is a time of sorrow and of high pressure, a time of regret and anger. This nightmare before Christmas is for many akin to the childhood fear of a lump of coal from Santa, a punishment for being long-term unemployed, an unjustified entry on the naughty list without explanation and with no Christmas star for guidance.

Of course you can be happy and unemployed, you can celebrate Christmas for its true meaning without the need to buy gifts and put on a large festive meal. But like any addiction, it’s hard not to do what you have always done. You have been exposed to so much pressure to provide, to buy, to spend, to see, to do, to wear, to dance and to drink like everyone else. You have been conditioned to accept as a norm an idea of what Christmas looks and feels like. You have been trained to feel this way, to act this way and to want this way of celebration by commercial means only. No simple real world celebration of the birth of Christ will do you, or so you believe.

You will do whatever it takes to make it a “Great “Christmas – which means a spending Christmas – lots of clothes and presents and food and drink and good times with no care as to the new year and the inevitable financial hangover, you will avoid looking in the mirror for fear of seeing a Christmas ghost with tales of reality.

This year is set to be the hardest yet if you go by the CSO figures which show the long-term unemployment rate has increased from 6.5% to 8.4% over the year to Q3 2011. Long-term unemployment accounted for 56.3% of total unemployment in Q3 2011 compared with 47.0% a year earlier and 25.5% in the third quarter of 2009.

This means that there are nearly 180,000 people out of work for over a year, they had no job last Christmas and they have no Job this Christmas…

Budget is designed to enhance quality of life

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Stand up and Surf

For many years we listened to our leaders telling us how strong a nation we where, how good it was to be here, how fortunate we were to be living the dream, how successful our economy was and how it was a model for all others to aspire too. We listened intently to the message and we acted as instructed. Homes were bought and sold in a manner akin to buying a coffee. We had a multitude of choice, half fat, skinny, full fat, double shot etc. etc, and we loved our coffee.

The bankers played their part, in the role of Master Barista, blending the beans to suit a variety of tastes. They offered us a vast menu filled with a variety of propositions to suit each and every one of us, encouraged by access to cheap money and promoted by the state, these masters of our addiction served us till we could drink no more. Today many coffee shops, like a great many other service sector businesses, are closed. A few have survived with the help of the state but in reality they are closed for business, their shelves may be full of beans but the Master Barista is no longer brewing.

When the times were good we experienced a level of happiness and contentment few before us had ever experienced. Our generation no longer looked to holiday at home, the world was our playground, warm sunny climes with calm seas our reward. The calm seas of our contented minds were the result of our general happiness. Small issues caused ripples across the sea but barely, if ever, made land.

However we now find that the pressure is building, waves have started to form that are capable of breaking on our shores and should that pressure continue to increase and multiply, the inevitable storm will rage against us.

Today, in Ireland, we the citizens are battling against raging storms within our minds caused by the pressure of everyday struggles. We find ourselves barley living the life we were repeatedly encouraged to live, looking for a reason as to why it has changed so much, abandoned to the crashing waves of debt with no one willing to safe us.

Alone and cold we now survive our daily lives without our coffee, replaced with regret and mourning, we suffer the withdrawal symptoms of a life we once had knowing in our heart of hearts that it is gone for good. Everyday is a struggle, everyday brings more and more waves of pressure, everyday we ask why, everyday we see injustice, everyday we feel threatened, and everyday the waves come closer to our shores. These incoming waves of pressure have started to create, in many, an opposing wave of anger directed towards those who encouraged our folly.

And this wave of anger, of demands for a solution, of claims for rights trampled on by the state and the banks, which is beginning to sweep the land of Ireland, will not stop. This wave will swell with every passing day and a storm will rage, in the hearts and minds of the citizens, in streets of every town and city. What will survive is unknown the storm however is now inevitable.

We the people of Ireland must decide to either stand up and surf or seek shelter on faraway shores of faraway lands leaving our once proud nation devoid of hope for a brighter future…

“And the wave of anger, of demands for justice, of claims for rights trampled underfoot, which is beginning to sweep the lands of Latin America, will not stop. That wave will swell with every passing day”
Che Guevara, United Nations General assembly, 11 December 1964

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

The Claim Game

Ask any ordinary working family how much they earn and they’ll tell you not enough! They will tell you how much they are struggling to keep the wolf (bank) from their door. They will tell you how they now shop in German discount stores as opposed to one of the national symbol groups and they will tell you how much they fear anyone in the family unit getting sick, as they don’t have a medical card

They will go on to talk about the fear they have of events like birthdays, mothers day, fathers day, Easter and Christmas and the cost of daily, weekly and monthly life. They will tell you that they can barely afford to put petrol in the car, a car they need to get to work as they live outside of the city, or the cost of getting the kids back to school.

Ordinary decent working families in Ireland today live in fear, they are fighting for survival with their very last breaths and the air is running out. These people have worked all their lives, they have paid multiple taxes, they have done everything that has been asked of them by the government and for this they are doomed to play the game of life in peasantry. A life for some that is not worth living…

But there are others who play a very different game they play the claim game. It’s a game the whole family can play by making a claim to the Department of Social Protection for just about anything and everything. The winners of this game know how to play the system for all it’s worth! They know every tactic, every play, every “right” they have and they get paid.

There appears to be an international federation of “players” who actively partake in the claim game with a number of foreign national players sending their “winnings” back home, wherever “home” happens to be. This transfer of winnings is preformed week in, week out in the very building where they collect their winnings. There are too many stories told by friends and family about witnessing this very act of money transfer in the local post office for it to be a petty rumour.

Today in the Irish examiner we are told of a family who are “winning”over €90k a year and how a Senator thinks this is wrong, “€50,000 is more than enough for a family to survive on”

Well in the first place, he’s right. €90k a year (cash in hand!) for doing nothing is excessive and to say that €50,000 is more than enough for a family to survive on” is also right but I can tell you that he is very wrong if he thinks that most families come even close to that level of income. A family bringing in €50K has to earn well over €100K before tax to even see €50K coming into the household. What job pays that these days. The only families I know of earning that type of money work for banks or semi-state companies or better yet – the Government and they are at the top of those organisations

In effect, this “winning” family are taking in over €190K “before tax…

Time to learn how to play a new game me thinks…

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Our freedom again


Today for the first time since I was a young boy, I feel poor… I have reached my personal tipping point and there is no going back.

Today I lost something which was very dear to me. It was mine, my thing, my choice, my small indulgence, it was mine but now it is gone and with it my freedom. I feel lost without it even though many would be grateful to loose such a thing but again all I can say is that it was mine and I miss it so.

If I had made a choice to go without it then I am sure these thoughts and words would not exist in my mind and in front of my eyes, more and more words explaining how I feel, an open window to the darkest reaches of my being. But I feel empowered by each word I write; I feel the anger behind each sentence. The words are alive, and speaking to me in hate filled tones of the darkest kind imaginable.

The words I speak are the words of future revolution. Once again, oppressed men and women of Ireland will come together and rise up against the ones who claim rights over our lives, for who are they to claim this right and who are we to accept this in passing and without recourse. Once before, our nations young and old came together to fight for the right to live a free life, many laid down their lives in the pursuit of freedom and I see now that many will come to this point in the future and they will choose freedom, they will choose life beyond the stars for the sake of Irish freedom.

This will be their choice, theirs alone to have and to hold, and they will rejoice in the feeling of power and might this choice delivers upon them. This will be their finest moment, a self empowerment, a rising from within and they will rejoice in their own splendour.

Today we live in constant debt; we are trained to do this as a method of controlling us so that we conform into the “Citizen bank”. This bank is not financially modelled, well not fully; it is the strategy of freedom control management. It’s simple really, let everyone feel and believe that they are free and they will wrap a tread of life around themselves so tightly, that they will become self conforming. They will work harder and pay taxes upon taxes, higher and higher until they can pay no more. And when that point comes, they will be offered a loan to help them into a “better structured” lifestyle.

These treads of life become a spider’s web of debt, once attached, you can never escape. The complex web structure is designed to offer you the vision of freedom through multiple paths of “escape” or fulfilment by offering you more and more avenues of credit. All the time you and drawn closer to the spider in the centre of the web.

Tonight I see that ordinary citizens of Ireland will over the next short period of time become self aware; they will finally see how corrupt our nation is; how unequal it is for the vast majority and how doomed it is without change. They will reach their own personal tipping point and they will awake to thoughts of revolution, thoughts of violence, thoughts of change, thoughts of life, thoughts of death, thoughts of freedom.

Tonight I am reborn in the shadow of Irish freedom with determination in my mind, body and soul. I dare to dream during the day and I swear to act on those dreams with all the energy I can amass until Ireland is free once more.

ár saoirse arís

Monday, 12 September 2011

A reasonable cause…

I remember watching on telly, the fall of the Berlin wall, I knew there and then that this was a significant event. I remember hearing about the release of Nelson Mandela and again I knew there and then that this was a significant event and I remember watching the news of the attack on the World Trade Centres in New York and once again I knew there and then that this was a significant event.

Knowing that these events were significant is the easy part; coming to terms with the extent of the significance of an event like these, is a whole different ball game; now throw in the question of cause…

Over this past weekend I watched two very different types of programmes; the Rugby World Cup and the coverage of the 10th anniversary of 9|11 and I can tell you that both were upsetting. In regard to the rugby, I have no comment (yet) as I will reserve my opinion for another day, but in regard to 9|11, the extensive coverage transported me back 10 years to memories of that faithful day when all around me sat my colleagues at their desks in the office where I worked, each one of them in shock at the tragedy unfolding on our computer screens.

The sheer magnitude of the event presented itself to one and all, apart from our manager who was getting increasingly annoyed at us for not working!

This event playing out on our computer screens was to us mere employees more important than the drawings we were supposed to be doing but our manager held a very different view “it’s not like its happening in Dublin”, “can we get back to work!
He was right of course, this attack was thousands of miles away from where we sat, there was very little chance if any existed at all of it being directly related to us and work had to be done. I have thought about his reaction many times since 9|11 and each time I do, I end up both annoyed at him for his uncaring attitude towards the event and sad for him for having this attitude in the first place.

What pressure must he have been under to establish a thought process within him which dismissed the 9|11 event as a world defining moment capable of affecting every person on the planet to nothing more than a distraction from the days work. Was this pressure to work put upon him by others or was it his own need to deliver work no matter what was going on at that time. Was his response correct or was it uncaring. In truth, I believe that he was under pressure from others to deliver and as such, he passed on this pressure to the worker ants. There was no room for caring in this model of business he practiced as caring did not deliver profits, in fact, caring cost money.

That’s it, this means war!” was a comment one of my colleagues repeated time and time again over the course of the afternoon, “The yanks won’t take that lying down – someone’s going to die” he continued. This reaction to the event was very human, very ordinary in fact but it was also very honest and believable. Of course the great nation of America was going to war, that was beyond doubt but with who? That was the real question. We speculated to no avail but agreed, “someone’s going to die” you don’t hit the Yanks and get away with it!

The media, which were dealing with the biggest story of this generation, of course quickly relayed the call for war. America had been attacked “without cause” and America would react to this by attacking those who where behind the attackers. They told the world that it had a choice, stand by our side or be in our sights. The effect of this attack was about to be felt throughout the entire world in a fashion unseen before now. Throughout history, the human race has witnessed the effects of traditional wars and we have looked to place the finger of blame on a sole figurehead. We have names in our heads of men who have caused the deaths of millions and we have taken sides against these men if an effort to bring to an end the suffering and death of the innocent.

This event was however very different; there was no one nation attacking another, no military equipment been deployed against the nation under attack. This was the action of a small number of men using the equipment of everyday society to attack the civilians of a nation, which the attackers held responsible for causing the attack in the name of retaliation.

On that beautiful morning in New York, the innocent numbering in there thousands were murdered and in the hearts, minds and souls of every American was a number of questions; who has done this? Where do they live? How long will it be until they are dead?

Each question was a reasonable and understandable reaction to the attack, each question was caused by an event that was in the minds of their attackers a reaction to prior events carried out in the names of the citizens and as such it was more than just a reasonable cause, it was a holy one…

Friday, 9 September 2011

Private number

“Mind the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves”… My granny told me this many times growing up. She was the “second in command” in a household of eight, but as we all know, Ireland of yesteryear was run by the “mammy” of the house while the head man was out doing hard manual work over long hours with the obligatory stop off in the village for a couple of scoops before home and dinner.

At that time in Dublin, the economics of weekly survival was in the hands of the predominantly Jewish moneylenders who would deal with the mammy’s every Friday evening. These men were small in stature but they more than made up for it with the power they commanded. The stories about them are not of violence, far from it, you see these men of power used words and lots of them. They were educated men with money and power, they had no need or inclination to resort to acts or even threats of violence; they simply talked their “clients” into submission.

At the same time each and every week like clockwork they would walk the streets of Dublin, where curtains twitched constantly, their heads down looking at their polished shoes, their hands buried deep in the pockets of their long coats and with their hats firmly on their heads. Unlike any other night of the week, the streets were quiet, no children out playing, time stood still until the money collector had been and gone. The mammy’s of course knew he was coming but that didn’t stop them from peaking out the window to watch his progress, “he’s in with Sheila now”, “another six stops until he is knocking on my door”, “five, four, three…”

When the knock came, it was as if the Christ Church bells where inside the house. The mammy knew she had to answer the door she had no choice. With her purse tucked in the apron pockets, children out of sight, doors closed and only the landing light on to illuminate the hallway in a dim glow, the door was opened. “Ah… hello Misses Fitzgerald…” The mammy smiled but not fully, you can’t seem to be happy, you can’t let him know anything or he’ll want more. The money collector was stood in front of the mammy with his little book in his hands, the mammy always stared at it, she hated and feared that book as much as she did the man who held it.

And so with the business completed, off the money collector would go always leaving the mammy with the same words echoing around inside her mind “see you next week”

This was Dublin in the rare old times, but it is also Dublin of the now times. The man has changed, the knock at the door remains but it is now more likely to be the sound of the home telephone or the mobile ringing, constantly ringing. Ringing, ringing, ringing, morning, noon and night. Just like in the past, there are no threats of violence; they simply talk their “clients” into submission. The same clients they advertised too, the same clients that were shown into the private consultation room and spoken to by the highly trained “Mortgage Advisor” The same clients who received the “sign on” gift of a bottle opener to be used on the champagne they would drink to celebrate their new home.

These clients had no idea what was happening at the time when they signed away their remaining independent lives, sure they had a solicitor “working on their behalf” but it was most likely one off a “recommended” list. Speed of completion was top of the agenda for all concerned; any delay would see these people “lose” the new house they had queued up to place a deposit on. The Builders / Developers didn’t like to be kept waiting! Each month the price of the new house would go up, not due to inflation; more likely down to the length of the queues of people the builder could see waiting for the show house to open on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The longer the queue, the more the price would rise for the release of the next “block” of houses.

Today, the young couple, the single person, the young family, your friends and neighbours sit in their homes waiting and waiting for the sound of ringing…“Oh… hello Misses Fitzgerald…this is Tina from… I’m calling about your arrears…”