Is there anybody out there…?

To say that Endemol’s baby, “Big Brother” is a run away success would be an understatement. It is a phantasmagoria of horrors – psychological bullying; cloying desperate peer approval; titillation and possibly most of all – vicariousness. There but for the grace of God go I…

 And yet, of course, this is precisely its obsessiveness: no matter how high our IQ’s, we are gripped – at least for the highlights show. We twist around so that we can hear one housemate bitch and snipe about another. We find ourselves bizarrely concerned about how privacy can be maintained for bathroom functions (‘are they supposed to hide behind that screen?!’)

Of course, all this is a far cry away from George Orwell’s quasi apocalyptic vision, as expressed with slightly more eloquence in “1984”. The origin of the phrase foresaw the constant surveillance that has inveigled its way into our life – installed, we are to believe for our own good. Our own protection. Seriously oblivious to the fact that we have now subconsciously modified the way we present ourselves.

This is not a mistake – this is not an exaggeration: we can see the motorist scan the road ahead as he approaches the lights…what will happen if I run them? Is there a CCTV to capture me? The moral of the story here is not the avoidance of surveillance, but the ignorance of the fact that you’re likely to run into the other guy coming the opposite way, with precisely the same intent…

More water than ice?

This fantastic image was shot by Gautier Deblonde, whilst on board one of the Cape Farewell Arctic voyages. These aim to sail into the Arctic on The Noorderlicht, through routes that are now navigable, when once in the not too distant past, they were icebound (see gautierdeblonde.com and capefarewell.com). A close friend said to me that this looks like Heaven, whereas in actual fact it may be closer to its environmental opposite…Whilst not quite the consensus view yet, many climate scientists now say that we are on the cusp of the “Tipping Point” – the position where the acceleration and impact of climate change through Greenhouse Gas Emissions becomes irreversible. This in itself is an almost inconceivable position: how can the simple way we live, day in day out, affect all our future generations? Unfortunately I’m not a good enough philosopher to present the rationale behind the mental blindspot that we almost all suffer from, but please believe me, it’s there… A clearer and more readily understandable example of this blindspot is illustrated by air travel. I assure you that since my first overhearing of this visionless psychological hole, I have tried to apply it every time I flown. The concept is simple: next time you are on a plane, try – I mean really try – to comprehend where you are.

Literally and temporally where you are. You are on a thin metal tube, hurtling through the sub freezing air at 30,000 feet, at 500 miles an hour, with a skin of a couple of centimetres of aluminium and foam, keeping you from certain death. The closest we can get is an abstract analytical affirmation of this…get my point…? Is Climate Change too much to comprehend; are we too limited not only to grasp the scale of the issue at hand, but too limited in our individual view of our own activity, to do anything about it?

No. Little by little we can relate to the vastness of the responsibility. There is a higher order at work here: whilst not quite capable of flying at 500 miles an hour, birds are perfectly adapted to flying at fairly high altitude, and sub-freezing temperatures. There can be an “intelligent design” in our response, and contradictorily it involves both humility and ambition. Faith in the ingenuity of man to rise to the technological challenge, and necessary humility in scaling our immediate wants down a little. Simple but purposeful steps: I would say “you know, the usual” – but this would be to trivialise the enormous. Drive less, and when you do, drive further (i.e. don’t only use the car for running to the shops, but for more inevitable journeys further afield. Be realistic – goading people to use the train more will only really work when Government Transport Policy, joins up with transnational environmental policy…in the meantime steps have to be rational and realistic). Wear more clothes in winter, using less heating; recycle more; promote and investigate alternative energy sources. I’m a natural writer, and so the temptation is to finish on a “lick”  – the technique for punctuating ones’ final comment with a moral (and preferably circular) insightful argument – but didn’t I ask for humility? Sometimes expect less.

The curse of web design

Just as we were saying, before our server connnection rudely interupted, today’s multimedia is definitely a mixed blessing. Though of course it is simply the way of the world – at 2:00 am we’re not so sure!

The flip side to this of course, is that thankfully the days where simply by being able to write meant that you occupied an elite, towering over essentially indentured labour – are long gone. Try explaining this to a typical modern 13 year old; if you don’t have your own blog on Bebo, then you’re nobody…

It is estimated that though the readership is still limited, the writers and readers of modern day Court Reports (where the Courts in question are those of mass communication and big business) are influential beyond their numbers. Again, one could say that we have a vested interest in this being the case.

Though in usage before he made it more powerfully famous, it was Douglas Hurd whose parting diplomatic mantra was to seek to “punch above your weight”. The web makes us all Heavyweights.

Christianity as an economic good?

In keeeping with the newly emboldened MBC Blog, today we touch on Religion! Tomorrow is Good Friday, and we approach the zenith of the Christian year, with Easter Sunday, so we felt now would be a good time to touch on some of the wider rangings of our dismal science.

 Chris Giles, the FT’s Economics Editor writes “Laurence Iannaccone of George Mason University, author of a comprehensive survey of the economics of religion, has his tongue nowhere near his cheek as he cites the premise that “individuals allocate their time and goods among religious and secular commodities so as to maximise lifetime and afterlife utility.”
Upon reading this I couldn’t help but feel that sometimes, whilst the ex poste data may justify both the study and applicability of economics to the practise fo religion – in some areas there should also be boundaries. Giles goes on to qualify his musings in a well rounded and thoughtful article, it is simply that for most (even economists!) the cost benefit effect of church attendance is far from their minds when contemplating both our Maker and our role in the World.He makes a very interesting point, saying that in societies where the fear of Hell is strong, economic performance is higher (fear of Hell encouraging more trust and less cheating – adding to productivity of energy expended!). Again, however, one may be best directed to study both religious and literary texts for more divine insight – I recommend James Joyce’s “Portrait of the artist as a young man” for filling the reader’s soul with the fear of eternal damnation….I only recently discovered a blood link to the Jesuits – now there’s something to think about…..

Pitching can be a rewarding business

Yesterday we ventured forth into the cut throat world of “pitching”.  A pitch is a presentation to a prospective client, with the aim of providing services to that client, subject to an agreed contractual framework.

I have often argued with colleagues that it is far better to pitch and fail – than pitch and succeed where there is an obvious mismatch between you and the prospective client.

This can be cultural, or project specific: either you don’t fit the chemistry of the organisation, or the project on offer is too far away from your core competency. Very often eager new (and some old!) smaller consultancies go after work they really shouldn’t. Whilst this is understandable, it doesn’t add to the longer term business. There is always an opportunity cost, and sometimes it’s just nicer to say ‘thanks but no thanks…’

MBC lobbies William Hague

 This week was a bit hectic to say the least…On Monday we met both William Hague and Carl Bildt, the Shadow Foreign Secretary and former leader of the Conservative Party, and former Prime Minister of Sweden, respectively.

I used the opportunity to quiz the Rt Hon Mr Hague about representation of different demographics in the UK Parliament – notably UK Asians. I am Anglo-Asian, and I’ve always felt strongly about seeing greater representation of a naturally conservative group of people, in the House of Commons…. The seminar in which this meeting took place was to review the Conservative Party’s approach to security and energy issues, and was a very fruitful day.

Later in the week, we presented a rationale for the adoption of Triple Play entertainment and communication services, through the medium of a mobile telecommunications network – a relatively novel idea! Interesting – we must await the outcome!

Time to kick back slightly and look forward to the Bank Holiday…