Category Archives: Inequality

Ending the damage the British boarding school does to its pupils – and to Britain

A motion approved by delegates at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton said a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and claimed that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice”. The party would therefore include in its next manifesto “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector”.

Below: the final paragraphs of an article first published here and also on this site, reproduced with two profile links added.

Psychohistorian and psychologist Nick Duffell speaks to Richard House about the distinct damage the British boarding school system does to its pupils – and Britain.

A file picture of Eton College

RH: Can you say more about how these traumas drive and distort the attitudes and decision-making of political leaders?

ND: Well, the main thing is that if you’ve been forced to completely dissociate from your natural vulnerability, you can never hope to understand the vulnerable in society.

Neuroscience now proves that if you don’t have emotional intelligence you cannot make good choices; for me, this is the science behind what economist Will Hutton says, that the Tory Party has consistently made bad decisions over decades.

And then there’s the duplicity habit, referred to earlier: if you have a strategic survival personality running your life, you lose touch with what’s true or what’s a lie; you can never be wrong — which is why, even now, Tony Blair cannot admit he was wrong over Iraq.

Boarding school survivors can’t join groups and become team players unless they’ve done the necessary inner work; so we haven’t even really joined Europe yet, despite feeling we should either lead it or quit it. In short, elite boarding is a terrible training for good leadership.

RH: It’s outrageous that, as Robert Verkaik outlines in his book Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, these schools receive massive fees, yet as charities pay no rates, corporation tax or investment-income tax. And were VAT charged on fees, it would yield £1.5 billion of tax annually. So what, in your view, is to be done? What line would you advise a left-Corbyn government to take with this toxic class-based schooling system?

ND: It’s vital that Corbyn engages some good advisers on mental health issues in the light of what we now know about psychopathology not only affecting the less privileged, but also the elite.

He should take note of George Monbiot’s recent suggestion in the Guardian of mandatory psychotherapy for would-be political leaders.

Boarding younger than 16 should be stopped, and the existing facilities become residential sixth-form colleges on the model of the Danish “efterskol” and the tax concessions to private schools should be reversed.

Original citation: Nick Duffell is a is psychotherapist, author and psychohistorian based in London. His books include Wounded Leaders, The Making of Them and (with Thurstine Basset) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. Richard House is a left-green Corbynista activist in Stroud.

 

 

 

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A Marshall Plan for stability and sufficiency: proposed by Essex Quaker Ted Dunn and German Chancellor, Angela Merkel

Mass migration deprives developing countries of the young, enterprising, dynamic citizens they desperately need at home

Free movement of peoples, as practised in Britain, is the opposite of internationalism, since it implies that we will continue to employ workers from other countries in agriculture and service industries and steal doctors, nurses, IT experts etc from poorer countries, rather than train enough of our own.

A year ago, Colin Hines and Jonathon Porritt challenged the “permanent propping up of whole sectors of our economy as a direct result of our failure to train people properly here in the UK”.

Hines and Porritt call for the training of enough IT experts, doctors, nurses and carers from our own population to “prevent the shameful theft of vital staff from the poorer countries which originally paid for their education” as government figures show that we currently have 1.38 million unemployed people seeking work.

Today, some of the mental and physical health risks to migrants are set out, for the first time, in a World Health Organization study

Migration is stressful: factors include loss of language, of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks

John Watson reports in Medscape that research suggests refugees or skilled office workers freely passing through borders opened to them by global trade, are connected by a higher risk for mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and somatic disorders (mental illness that causes one or more bodily symptoms).

Professor Dinesh Bhugrah is an authority on the stresses of migration. Individuals who migrate experience multiple stresses that can impact their mental well-being. Years of research have revealed that the rates of mental illness are increased in some migrant groups. Stresses include the loss of the familiar, including language (especially colloquial and dialect), attitudes, values, loss of cultural norms, religious customs, social structures and support networks.

Programmes which would build peace, stability and sufficiency in troubled areas

Essex Quaker Ted Dunn, during the war, was a Friends Ambulance hospital administrator in Ethiopia. He spent the rest of his life as an organic market gardener and in meeting or contacting decision-makers in many countries to advocate regional peace and development programmes, sometimes compared with the Marshall Plan.

His work, though highly commended, met with indifference from the British Government and a general public preoccupied at that time with its own personal well-being and interests. A few of the recommendations may be seen below.

UK politicians and media have shown a similar lack of interest in Germany’s invitation to other developed countries to support the G-20 Compact with Africa – a Marshall-style plan to bolster the economies of poor countries and give people hope for the future.

Development Minister Gerd Mueller aims to develop joint solutions with African countries, with a focus on programmes for youth, education and training, strengthening economies and the rule of law.

The latest news (October ’18) is that Germany and Ghana have entered into a 100 million euros bilateral Investment and Reform Partnership agreement on investment promotion, increased use of renewable energy, promotion of rural youth employment, digital education for girls and women and fair taxation   and vocational training. More information may be seen here.

Like Dunn and Chancellor Merkel, Porritt and Hines advocate a redoubling of our commitments to improve people’s economic and social prospects in their own countries, tackling the root causes of why people feel they have no choice but to leave family, friends and communities in the first place.   

In agreement:

António GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, which has developed the 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) to transform our world, urges all to work to “Narrow the gaps. Bridge the divides. Rebuild trust by bringing people together around common goals. Unity is our path. Our future depends on it”.

Jeremy Corbyn, speaking at the United Nations’ Geneva headquarters said: “The world’s economy can and must deliver for the common good”.

Professor John Roberts said in one of his newsletters, “Increasingly my thoughts return to the overwhelming need for all of us to think (and then act) as world citizens, conscious of a primary loyalty not to our local nationalism but to the human race (however confused and divided) as a whole”.

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SOME COMMENDATIONS OF REGIONAL PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES

A serious and thoughtful attempt to deal with what is perhaps the most urgent problem facing mankind – Lord Peter Archer, QC

The proposal is an idea which deserves the most serious consideration. H. Dale Anderson, Deputy High Commissioner for Jamaica

I very much support this initiative – Stuart Holland MP, when Shadow Minister for Development

World Peace through regional peace and development programmes should, for example, wipe out the apartheid system in South Africa – Ahaja Shehu Awak; Nigerian High Commissioner

You certainly have my support – George Foulkes, Shadow Minister for the UN

I am a keen proponent of Regional Development. The creation of an International Criminal Tribunal  (is) . . . the lynchpin of the future development of international law. Peter Benenson, founder of Amnesty International

I firmly believe the proposal represents a very wise and potentially creative way in which the world could deal with its most pressing needs  –  John Sarum, Bishop of Salisbury

I think regionalization of the world’s problems is the only feasible way. Johan Galtung, Peace Researcher, founder of the International Peace research Institute, Oslo

We here will do what we can to further encourage your ideas in Commonwealth capitals whenever opportunities arise – Christopher Laidlaw, then Assistant Director of the Commonwealth  Office 

It is clear that in the fifth decade of the United Nations era there is need for new thinking about the way forward in developing world order. Ted Dunn has added to his efforts in furthering public education on world peace a new work that suggests a practical formula for establishing peace through a step by step approach. He focuses on the regional dimension in a novel way – a proposal for official development programmes which are based on and integrate social, economic and political justice. The formula requires a meaningful relationship between rich and poor countries – one which would be advantageous for their common development and thus necessarily contribute to world peace. It is an imaginative and practically-oriented work, grounded in a thorough knowledge of the historical record. It is to be heartily recommended – Shridath Ramphal, when Secretary General, Commonwealth Secretariat.

 

 

 

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US Green New Deal campaign: US Senator Bernie Sanders

As Colin Hines and Richard Murphy write in the Guardian, British media has failed to notice that the US Green New Deal campaign is now centre stage. Supporters of the Green New Deal made their voices heard on Capitol Hill in December.

“The bold moral leadership of newly-elected members of Congress like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has me feeling more optimistic about our collective chances of averting climate breakdown than I have in years,” writes Naomi Klein. But a whole lot of things need happen very quickly if the political tide is going to shift in time – including finding new ways to engage the public in this fight.

In this hopeful moment, Naomi Klein had the opportunity to sit down with one of the few politicians who has consistently focused on this issue — Senator Bernie Sanders, whose  record speaks for itself. They spoke at the Sanders Institute Gathering in Burlington, Vermont, this weekend. Sen. Sanders then hosted a ‘town hall’ on climate change with guests including Ocasio-Cortez, 350.org founder Bill McKibben, activist and “Big Little Lies” star Shailene Woodley, climate scientist Brenda Ekwurzel, activist and musician Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and Mayor Dale Ross of deep-red Georgetown, Texas.

Naomi Klein’s interview with US Senator Bernie Sanders (Independent) was published on 3 Dec 2018 and may be seen here.

Highlights

Corporate media is not covering issues of poverty, inequality, health care and – above all – climate change so – after saying drily that the survival of the planet ‘might be of some concern’ – Bernie Sanders has been successfully working with ‘progressive media outlets’. One video had over a million views, more than CNN on the same evening.

As the latest ICC report says that we have 12 years to transform our energy system, Sanders proposes a ‘monumental task’ – getting countries all over the world to co-operate to do this:

“Think what it would mean for our people to get together to transform the energy system instead of waging war – making war on climate change.“ He continues:

The promise of a Green New Deal means:

  • reducing carbon emissions,
  • increasing energy efficiency,
  • transforming electricity generation and
  • using much more energy efficient building methods.

The poorest people in the world suffer most from pollution and climate change – see the incidence of asthma amongst children in the Bronx.

We must rebuild communities in a green way involving people from all communities which will have social and economic benefits – and above all – address climate change and our very survival.

How can it happen?

14,000 Californian homes were recently destroyed, this and other climate related calamities are signs of a worrying future unless we get our act together.

The grassroots will have to stand together. 18 members of the House select committee for the Green New Deal are already supporting these measures.

Remember in 1994 the passion which Newt Gingrich had the House sitting for 20 hours a day as he pressed his right-wing agenda.

We must push the progressive agenda with the same energy and passion, offering

  • a million new jobs
  • lower fuel bills
  • health care for all
  • living wage
  • and protection, training and resettlement for all who lose jobs during the process of change.

Hines also recommends:

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez Ignites Crowd In Climate Change Town Hall: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ha6PAyNVWbQ, New York Times article by Nobel Prize winner. Professor Paul Krugman , https://nyti.ms/2GMcJFm  and ‘Pass a Green New Deal’ in the Washington Post: which opens, “The world has until 2030 to drastically cut our emissions. Where do we begin?” and offers 11 policy ideas to protect the planet.

 

 

 

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Our food system: smarter metrics will lead to different conclusions from those based simply on the market price of outputs: Pavan Sukhdev

 

Pavan Sukhdev who studied physics at Oxford and moved into the international banking sector, is founder and chief executive of GIST Advisory, a sustainability consultancy based in Mumbai, India and Head of UNEP’s Green Economy Initiative.

He is also CEO of TEEBAgriFood, which sets out an evaluation approach that accounts for the impacts of the food system on livelihoods, equity, food security, health, greenhouse-gas emissions, water quality and biodiversity. This approach can reveal effects that are invisible using assessments that consider only the production and marketing segments of food-value chains. The insights gained can support better decision-making for policymakers, farmers, agribusinesses and civil society.

Sukhdev writes in Nature: “Today’s food systems are broken. Our diets are the leading cause of disease. Some 800 million people worldwide still suffer from hunger, while more than 2 billion are overweight or obese. As much as 57% of global greenhouse-gas emissions come from food-related activities, which include everything from clearing land for agriculture, to growing, gathering, processing and packaging, to transporting farm goods and disposing of waste”.

He points out the inadequacy of the metrics we use to evaluate these systems: the most common yardstick is ‘productivity per hectare’ – far too narrow.

Broader metrics are needed to account for the interacting complex of agricultural lands, pastures, inland fisheries, natural ecosystems, labour, infrastructure, technology, policies, markets and traditions that are involved in growing, processing, distributing and consuming food. He continues:

“Health experts know to look beyond calorie counts to understand nutrition. Policymakers are less willing to accept gross domestic product as a proxy for national well-being and are turning to expanded measures of progress. And some private-sector leaders are looking beyond financial profit and loss, and assessing the impacts of their business on natural, human and social capital”.

He draws attention to a report released this week by the United Nations Environment Programme called ‘The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity for Agriculture and Food’ (TEEBAgriFood) which demonstrates how to capture the complex reality of food systems through a wide-angle lens, commenting: “If this work helps to divert even a fraction of brain power and political will from maximizing yields to maximizing broader benefits, it will make for healthier people, communities and ecosystems”.

See this video on http://teebweb.org/agrifood/. Scroll down to find the 12 minute Keynote Speech: Prof. Johan Rockström with CEO Pavan Sukhdev.

One study based in New Zealand (H. S. Sandhu et al. Ecol. Econ. 64, 835–848; 2008) used a broader framework to compare conventional and organic agriculture, and found that important, non-marketed, ecosystem services have much higher value in the organic sector:

Researchers considered the benefits provided by 15 conventional and 14 organic fields used for crops such as carrots, peas and wheat. These benefits included two ‘provisioning’ ecosystem services (food and raw materials) and nine ‘regulating and supporting’ services, such as pollination, biological pest control and nutrient cycling. Organic farming practices such as composting and maintaining vegetation cover lead to higher biomass and diversity, below and above ground. Conventional agriculture suppresses these and diminishes soil health, farm biodiversity, water quality and air quality. The study found that the total economic value of ecosystem services from organic fields ranged from US$1,610 to US$19,420 per hectare per year; that from conventional fields ranged from $1,270 to $14,570 per hectare per year.

This analysis only partially employed the TEEBAgrifood framework because it covered only production. To investigate other trade-offs and impacts, researchers should also compare food affordability and the impacts of nutrition, human health and social equity between the two agricultural systems.

A second example concerns pesticide policies.

In the late 1980s, Thailand began encouraging the use of pesticides to increase agricultural yields. In 2010, productivity gains started to fall and policymakers became increasingly aware of pesticides’ harmful effects on the environment and health.

Researchers examined the effects of increasing taxes to make pesticides more expensive, and of encouraging farmers to adopt non-chemical forms of pest management (S. Praneetvatakul et al. Environ. Sci. Policy 27, 103–113; 2013). They considered the costs of enforcing food-safety standards. They also examined the risks of exposure to chemical agents. These risks were higher for farm workers than for consumers, so the researchers argued for an increased environmental tax. This, combined with support to encourage a switch to new farming practices, would deliver the greatest benefits most effectively, the researchers argued. Standard productivity measures could not have helped to assess such nuanced effects.

Sukhdev continues:

“We need many more studies to show how considering broad impacts leads to conclusions that differ from those based simply on market prices of output. Several pilots are planned or under way, and I encourage more researchers to test the evaluation tool in studies of farming, food products and policy scenarios, as well as in dietary comparisons.

“If we can keep the pressure of evidence strong for just five years, I expect to start to see large changes in how agricultural, health and environmental ministries across the world set policies, incentives, subsidies and taxes.

“Only if we diagnose our food system honestly, can we heal it”.

Source: Nature 558, 7 (2018)  doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-05328-1

 

 

 

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