what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life again


The British Labour party has a new Leader again – after a 4 month campaign. I found it hard to work up any real enthusiasm for the candidates since all 4 males seemed to have had the same sort of ambitious, tribal, fast-track careers with no experience of real life before they became the Ministers they had all recently been. Andrew Rawnsley always hoovers up the details of political life – and today’s piece and the public comments which follow are a good summary of the challenge which Ed Miliband now faces.
The article looked back at lessons from others who faced such challenges eg Margaret Thatcher when she seemd to face electoral oblivion in 1983 – a commentator put the matter starkly
If this is 1983 again There will be no Faulklands this time to pull you out of the shit; No north sea oil; no public utilities to sell; no miners to blame; no SDP (you already have them); No council houses left to sell.
The Foley and Jones books I mentioned yesterday are both clever musings about the complexities and contradictions of life – and what people can do to make life bearable if not happy. Foley is a bit academic, amusing if not downright cynical; Jones warmer, more open to the experiences and thoughts of ordinary people while still calling to aid famous writers of the past. Neither, however, looks at the wider happiness industry which has been with us for the past hundred years or so – although Foley does have a good dig at the self-esteem bit of it. One of the books which await me on my shelves is one which apparently savages the positive thinking approach which has become so fashionable in America - Smile or Die.
Ealier this year I decided to see whether the new offerings of positive psychologists had any useful insights and bought Martin Seligman’s hyped Authentic Happinessand Paul Gilbert’s The Compassionate Mind.
Perhaps I wasn’t in the mood or just tried to read too quickly but I didn’t find either all that novel or convincing. Like most people, I am interested in these issues – although I find the historical and comparative approach the more acceptable eg the useful summary 50 Self-Help Classics or, much more critically, The Happiness Myth – why what we think is right is wrong by Jennifer Hecht.

But I have to confess that I still find the John Cleese and Robin SkynnerLife - and how to survive it published in 1994 the most useful. A therapist and leading British comic (!) have a Socratic dialogue about the principles of healthy (family) relationships and then use these to explore the preconditions for healthy organisations and societies: and for leadership viz -
• valuing and respecting others
• ability to communicate
• willingness to wield authority firmly but always for the general welfare and with as much consultation as possible while handing power back when the crisis is over)
• capacity to face reality squarely
• flexibility and willingness to change
• belief in values above and beyond the personal or considerations of party.
On the anniversary of my mother's birthday, I have attached a rare picture of my mum, sister and me - in 1948 or so!!!

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