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Archive for the 'Armed conflict' Category

A Challenge to our Vision of Humanity

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

‘Are we all here, Do we really count?’ references a statement Australian sociologist and writer Hugh Mackay made some years ago. In his most recent non-fiction book he points out that The Good Life is not one “lived in isolation or in the pursuit of independent goals; a good life is lived at the heart of a thriving community, among people we trust … It is one in which we treat people the way we would like to be treated… A good life is not measured by security, wealth, status, achievement or levels of happiness. A good life is determined by our capacity for selflessness and our willingness to connect with those around us in a meaningful and useful way.” Mackay has written 14 books including novels, his latest being Infidelity.

Mackay’s lesson is the basis for contrasting statements about humanity with observations of the horrors which ordinary human beings have perpetrated or simply allowed. That humanity has made progress is an arguable statement which is too seldom not seriously thought about or realistically discussed. It is also a view which contrasts with the dominant economic view, one that as Professor Tim Jackson, Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey and one time Sustainability Commissioner for the UK, has pointed out shows we have evolved as social rather than economic beings.

Two books, Rachel Seiffert’s The Dark Room and Bernard Schlinck’s The Reader are among many scores of books and films which draw out the horrors and the conflicts faced by ordinary human beings, not politicians or generals or soldiers. Do these books and films make any difference to how we run out lives and influence the future of our society? Though there is greater international peace, the horrors continue within national boundaries, sometimes boundaries artificially drawn by colonising powers.

Conflicts continue to generate millions of refugees, deny a future to men, women and children, destroy towns and cities, economies and futures. Yet countries with influence seem unable to agree to stop them. Aid becomes another just another business, another opportunity for colonisation in another guise.

Faced with the need to help those fleeing persecution, arguments are advanced about queue jumping, about illegal asylum seekers, about population growth at the same time as skilled people from poorer countries are recruited to jobs in rich countries so corporations can avoid the costs of  training people already resident in that country. Inequality increases as fewer people gain greater wealth and what should be self evident truths remain denied. And discrimination on the basis of race and more continues, as it has for centuries.

A Prime Minister apologises, people weep, then what?

Continue to essay, “Are we really all here. do we all really count?

Tom Flynn and the Parthenon Sculptures and other outrages

Wednesday, April 9th, 2008

is the website of Tom Flynn Art Advisory Services. There are a large number of very interesting essays on a number of differnet issues facing museums including return of cultural property, the Churchill Museum at the War Cabinet Offices and so on. The blog and the website both have lots of interesting commentary, including (April 2008) commentary on the Parthenon sculptures and the UNESCO conference in Athens in March 2008 on the Return of Cultural Objects to their Countries of Origin. Tom has a post “Parthenon Marbles Case Overshadowed by Iraq Looting” on the museum security network about the Sculptures also.

This is a copy of the updated entry in the Links page of this site.

Enterprise Systems: Centralized control or Let genuine expertise flourish

Friday, November 16th, 2007

Despite the evidence to the contrary, some people still believe that leadership means giving direction rather than putting in place the processes which encourage above average performance by staff.

Centralized control is based on the proposition that people generally can’t be trusted and that only those at the top of the hierarchy have the knowledge and experience to make the right decisions. However, those at the top frequently do not have the most up-to-date information and what information they do have may not be relevant to the local situation at all. It turns out that co-ordination is most successfully achieved, not by managers enforcing rules and regulations, but by managers attending to building the organization’s culture, by emphasizing trust and seeking above average performance. Increasingly, flexible teams are recognized as necessary, indeed as the only workable proposition The standards in such groups are set by the members of the group themselves on the basis of what they understand to be best practice from their own observations. Remember the exhortation from James Collins and Gerry Porras that successful organizations build strong cultures.

In recent discussions I had with museum people in Australia about relations between museums and indigenous peoples the issue of centralized control – the unreasonable expectations of politicians and senior bureaucrats – was brought to the fore. Government representatives expect that once material like human remains is returned, the job has been completed and the responsibility of the museum has been met but indigenous people consider this to be the start of a relationship which stretches into the future. Governments obsessed about control rather than values will never succeed!

These issues are dealt with by Simon Head, Senior Fellow at the Rothermere American Institute at Oxford University. His most recent book is The New Ruthless Economy: Work and Power in the Digital Age. (August 2003).

(The audio of an interview on the Brian Lehrer Show on New York Public Radio with Simon Head can be heard here.)

In the New York Review of Books for August 16, 2007 (“They’re Micromanaging Your Every Move”) Head reviews three books, The Social Life of Information by John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid (Harvard Business School), Bait and Switch: The (Futile) Pursuit of the American Dream by Barbara Ehrenreich (Owl Books) and The Culture of the New Capitalism by Richard Sennett (Yale University Press).

Head reminds us of issues dealt with in his book which centres on the use of what are called “Enterprise Systems” or ES to control the work even of professionals such as computer specialists and doctors. ES is the method used to run call centres and retail stores like Walmart. (There are numerous articles about Walmart and its management practices.) Continue to essay.