Marketing and hacking

How that works out?

You start promoting yourself and the questions you are asked to address include “what does it feel like to have a dick inside you”.

(I was tempted to ask “for a man or for a woman?”)

Or you design an Amazon ad and you receive a confirmation that two days later turns out to have been a spoof.

Just two examples.

😁

Dutch PPE scandal


For those of you who consider me too critical of England… The Dutch have a PPE scandal too. One guy (former lobbyist/commentator Sywert van Lienden) made over 9 million euros (30 million, with two partners) on the purchase and sales of 40 million face masks. He sold them to the Dutch government for 100 million euros.

(He apparently initially claimed to be providing the masks “for free” or at cost through a non-profit, while he was in fact making good money.)

(They were not even considered still urgently needed by some at the time.)

He asked the Dutch government to pay 2.52 euro (2.28 and 2.78) while others were selling them at 1.50, including transport and import fees. The Dutch government chose to buy from the seller with the high price. He also sold some at 1.50, to others.

The problem may have been that civil servants have no idea of the market, its fluctuations and of what is a reasonable price and what isn’t.

The price difference may also relate to a difference in quality, however.

The Dutch government is launching an external investigation into the matter.

In the UK, such initiatives are rarely taken by the government but usually by organisations like the Good Law Project which have to take the UK government to court over such matters. You will also note a difference in scale between what happened in the Netherlands and what happened in the UK.

We earlier saw that Dutch civil servants acted very passively with regard to the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine that is being produced in the Netherlands.

(Gleaned from a quick look at Dutch media.)

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DEFRA consultation on regulation of genetic technologies (closes 17 March)

DEFRA currently has a consultation called “the regulation of genetic technologies”. Post-Brexit adaptations or not? Will we drop the phrase “even if their genetic change(s) could have been produced through traditional breeding” or not?

Post-Brexit, animal welfare protections are being abandoned. We can’t let that continue unbridled. This consultation is not just about animals, however. It is also about agriculture, bacteria and foodstuffs.

If you want to weigh in, you have up to 17 March, 1 minute before midnight. It will take you some time and you’d better have a bunch of references and links to data ready. 
consult.defra.gov.uk/agri-food-chai

It consists of two parts, that is, the actual consultation is Part 1. You can come back to Part 2 later after you’ve completed Part 1. I have been working on Part 1 so far. 

When I downloaded the 14-page document that goes with this gene editing consultation, I spotted several problems. There is a pretence of an emphasis on science and there is at least one or one half paragraph that has nothing to do with genetic technologies (obfuscation).

The document starts as follows:
“Building back greener is integral to creating a healthier, more resilient world for future generations and the Prime Minister has highlighted the need to take a more scientifically credible approach to regulation to help us meet some of the biggest challenges we face.”

This is the document’s fourth paragraph:
While GE is unlikely to be able to address all these complex challenges, a whole range of innovative approaches could help us make progress over time. These could include increasing agro-ecological approaches for land management, the use of robotics and artificial intelligence, vertical farming, and the development of undervalued protein sources.

The part in blue has nothing to do with gene editing. So why throw it in? The first sentence seems to suggest that there may not even be a need for gene editing. What is the purpose of this paragraph? To obfuscate? 

On page 5 it says:
“Our position follows the science, which says that the safety of an organism is dependent on its characteristics and use rather than on how it was produced.” 

That, with all due respect, sounds like pretentious nonsense. No references are given, no scientists are mentioned, no agencies or universities are named.

Anyone wishing to take part in this consultation, however, is supposed to provide evidence and literature references and the consultation is clearly not intended to draw the public’s opinion.

Also on page 5 of the consultation document, DEFRA mentions that Japan, Brazil, Australia and Argentina take a different position than the EU and there is the suggestion that the EU’s view is flawed. 

“Now the transition period has ended, retained EU law requires that all GE organisms are classified as GMOs irrespective of whether they could be produced by traditional breeding methods. This was confirmed by a Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) judgment in 20181. This is not consistent with the position taken by most countries who have reviewed their respective regulations like Argentina, Australia, Brazil and Japan, which have concluded that certain GEOs should not be regulated as GMOs.”

There is also a 2-page Gene Editing Explainer, which tells the public what to think, again without providing any literature references or links.

(Only Rothamsted Research in Hertfordshire is mentioned in it. Wikipedia says:
“previously known as the Rothamsted Experimental Station and then the Institute of Arable Crops Research” “one of the oldest agricultural research institutions in the world, having been founded in 1843”. It is located on the campus of “Rothamsted Enterprises”. I assume that it is comparable to some of the departments of Wageningen University and Research. I am unfamiliar with it, had never heard of it before.)

I am a little disgusted with the approach taken by DEFRA here. I have taken part in DEFRA consultations before, when that particular PM mentioned at the start of the document was not PM yet. I may not often agree with DEFRA, but DEFRA’s consultations did not use to annoy me. This one does.

It is a political document, isn’t it?

I may be way off, but I hear the PM’s voice in the background and I sense the assumption that the public at large does not have the capability to understand the science and/or that the public is not well informed enough to be able to contribute to this consultation.

(Note that research in Germany showed that providing more information did not make the public more accepting of the use of genetic technologies; link below. These kinds of studies are not my field of expertise and there may be plenty of studies that found the opposite. But if that were the case, then why did DEFRA provide so little information?) 

Below are my two cents, so far. Also biased, namely skewed toward caution, and written off the cuff.

In my opinion, organisms developed using genetic technologies such as gene editing (GE) must continue to be regulated as genetically modified organisms (GMOs) even if their genetic change(s) could have been produced through traditional breeding.

  1. Genetic technologies can have side effects that are not necessarily instantly clear. An example could be that the changes that Dr He introduced in a pair of human twins in China to make them immune to HIV could also have resulted in “off-target” changes and scientists are largely still in the dark about this. (Natural breeding does not have the potential for unintended changes that CRISPR still has.)
  2. The application of genetic technologies may also impact animal welfare differently than when their genetic change(s) are produced through traditional breeding. 

Regarding the question as to the risk associated with the application, the problem is that we cannot predict what we don’t know yet.

If you look back into history, you can see that in the past, we’ve often hailed as great progress what we later ended up banning.

  • We gave a Nobel Prize in medicine for the development of DDT. It almost eradicated the American bald eagle and that is only one aspect of its many side effects. DDT causes nerve damage and affects the hormone-producing systems of many animals, among other things lowering their fertility. In the United States, it was the environmentalist and marine biologist Rachel Carson’s work that eventually led to a ban on DDT and other pesticides.
  • We didn’t even foresee the blatantly obvious consequences of insecticides, namely that their use would affect pollination as well as bird populations.
  • Should I mention thalidomide? DES? That ibuprofen may affect male fertility?
  • Many people are pushing to have other harmful pesticides banned, such as glyphosate and chlorpyrifos. That isn’t because they’re afraid of progress. It’s because these substances are not as harmless as we thought.
  • When I was still based in the Netherlands and a board member of the Environmental Chemistry (and Toxicology) Section of the Royal Netherlands Chemical Society, our section organised a symposium on brominated flame retardants. They were already being found in tissues of animals in the Arctic. Did we see any of that coming? No, we did not. Subsequently, there was a push to phase them out in favour of others that turned out to have similar problems.
  • Did we expect to do damage to the ozone layer when we introduced CFCs?
  • Should I mention PFAS? (You may want to look into the situation in the Netherlands, where PFAS in soil have caused major upheaval because the Dutch want very little of it in their soils and the stuff is everywhere. When permitted levels were lowered, construction ground to a halt all over the country.) But we all thought that non-stick coatings (also called Teflon, PTFE, polytetrafluorethylene etc) were the greatest thing since sliced bread. People with pet birds started noticing disastrous effects. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFAO), also known as C8, dissolves well in water and does not decay. It is now globally present in the air and in seawater. In the Netherlands, discharges by the Chemours plant in Dordrecht led to increased PFOA concentrations in the Merwede river and in the groundwater along its banks. In the U.S., a former DuPont plant in West Virginia released more than 1.7 million pounds of C8 into the region’s water, soil and air between 1951 and 2003. C8 was phased out after a class-action lawsuit that alleged that it causes cancer. Chemours now makes a new compound called GenX instead, for which safety thresholds have yet to be established. Regular water treatment methods don’t remove it from drinking water. GenX may be safer than C8, but it is also alleged to have caused tumours and reproductive problems in lab animals.

None of what I just wrote has anything to do with the use of genetic technologies. My point is that we never know with 100% certainty that all forms of progress are safe and we have missed the blatantly obvious in the past. This uncertainty also goes for genetic technologies. 

I also think that dropping “even if their genetic change(s) could have been produced through traditional breeding” would likely make the regulation harder to apply. It would have companies trying to find all sorts of shortcuts (to “prove” that the effect of the technology they used could also have been produced through natural breeding). It might lead to frustrating discussions and costly legal proceedings. It might even lead to more campaigning, protests, etc.

(I did not look into how Japan, Brazil, Argentina and the United States handle these matters.)

There might well be effects on trade as well. German consumers for example traditionally have put great emphasis on ensuring that their food is as “clean” as possible.

https://www.loc.gov/law/help/restrictions-on-gmos/germany.php

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326462738_Does_information_change_German_consumers’_attitudes_about_genetically_modified_food
From the abstract:

“The consumers who are more accepting of genetic modifications are younger, less educated and less concerned about their nutrition. The average effect of our provided information is negligible. However, the initially less opposed become slightly more opposed. Our results thus do not support the view that a lack of information drives consumer attitudes. Instead, attitudes seem to mostly reflect fundamental preferences.”

Many of the questions and the choices for answers in the DEFRA consultation survey are blatantly biased and it is quite clear that DEFRA would like to see the phrase “even if their genetic change(s) could have been produced through traditional breeding” dropped.

Am I being too critical? I don’t think so.

See also for example these two articles:

https://angelinasouren.com/2018/12/11/an-opinion/ by Cecile Janssens, professor at Emory University. A quote: “Most DNA mutations do nothing else other than cause the disease, but DNA variations may play a role in many diseases and traits. Take variations in the MC1R “red hair” gene, which not only increases the chance that your child will have red hair, but also increases their risk of skin cancer. Or variations in the OCA2 and HERC2 “eye color” genes that are also associated with the risk of various cancers, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. To be sure, these are statistical associations, reported in the scientific literature, some may be confirmed; others may not. But the message is clear: Editing DNA variations for “desirable” traits may have adverse consequences, including many that scientists don’t know about yet.


https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02087-5

 

So, what exactly is the science that DEFRA claims to be following? It is not this kind of science.



It is too soon to abandon caution. 
 

12 March 2021
Here is the PDF with my response: 

DEFRA-my_response

I expected Part 2 to take as long as Part 1 – I imagine that the start of Part 2 is the point at which many give up – but it did not. And in essence, it was a repeat of Part 1.

UK inequality is like a diamond

So hard that nothing shatters it…

This morning, I filmed this short video below. A few hours later, I spotted this JAW-DROPPING BIT OF BRITISH NEWS in The Guardian. Turns out that there is no pandemic, according to close to 50% of Brits. Because if you lost your job because of the pandemic, that’s on you. Nothing to do with the pandemic, these people say.

“Despite the exceptional circumstances [of Covid], Britons are more likely to think that job losses caused by the crisis are the result of personal failure than chance.”

They also say this:

One in eight Britons think lower earnings and higher unemployment among black people are due to a lack of motivation or willpower. Because most black people have “less in-born ability to learn”.

‘scuse me???!

Britain has something that no other country has. The class system. It makes people believe that they have few options and it makes them overlook opportunities. (This class system also impacted India because it used to be under British rule and it meant that the associated cronyism became applied in India.)

It makes others believe this too. It makes others believe that lower-class people and others who have little income are inherently limited in terms of skills and abilities. But not because of their poverty. These people see the poverty of others as a result of who those others are. They don’t see their poverty as a result of lack of income as a result of massive inequality which also brings low wages with it.

I too became heavily influenced by British class thinking after I moved to the UK so I know very well how heavy its burden can be. But I am still much more aware of it than Brits.

In 2019, there was a day for which I had train tickets to go to London but someone told me that it would be better not to go to London that day. I listened to that advice and did not apply my critical thinking skills.

The person who gave me that advice – I won’t name any names – is the kind of person many people turn to for advice. He is heavily influenced by class ideas and at the same time, has no idea of the extent to which poverty alone can hold people back, because of the many practical implications that poverty has. And he sees these kind of people are powerless, not as people who  seem very different people when empowered. Appearances can be so deceiving.

If I had gone to London that day, I might have returned with a boatload of paid work and if not, then I would not have wasted my train tickets – I did now – and have had a good day out. And in times of stress, such little bits of leisure are very important, particularly if they take you out of your regular environment and habits.

That I did not go to London, that’s fully on me, however.

 

In the video, I mention the CAB. I know that there is a lot of variation among the CABs but their main problem seems to be that they, too, operate with a class system mindset. They see powerlessness. Depending on where you are in the UK, there may be better advice options for you locally.

But… please, try to think from true strength as opposed to from weakness and powerlessness. Because thinking from strength will support you and carry you.

And don’t confuse admitting to feelings of insecurity or fear with weakness. See them and embrace them. Don’t fight them. If you don’t fight unpleasant feelings, they will move on. If you fight them, they will cling to you. 

When I was in my twenties, I bought a book that taught me about this stuff, that you shouldn’t focus on how poor you are – if that is your challenge – but more or less pretend that you already are where you want to be.

Stay well. Be prosperous and resourceful. You deserve it.

For all of you who still believe it’s 1985

The first bit in the first video – two years old – happened to a CRYPTOCURRENCY EXEC. Not the checkout girl around the corner or the older female adult who barely knows where to find the on/off button on a computer. (The latter would be a stereotypical assessment of me, ha ha, and my assertion that I am genuinely often dealing with hacking would typically be attributed to that plus that I “get delusional when stressed”.)

A friend/colleague of mine in the Netherlands, with PhD in math/physics/computer science, also recently got tricked TWICE, over the phone. Thankfully, other companies spotted the problem and protected her finances.

So I have been trying to tell Portsmouth City Council that currently, for example, anyone can call – or e-mail – local people, pretend to be PCC and ask people to pay, say, council tax over the phone, using their bank card. Because of the lockdown, this type of fraud is much easier at the moment.

Yes, PCC, it is possible to fake an e-mail address and it is possible to fake a phone number.

I have raised this problem with several UK electricity companies – that they have NO SECURITY on the accounts and anyone can mess with your account if so inclined, such as close it or tell them that you have a new address – and the people I spoke with had NO IDEA what I was going on about.

One snapped at me that she simply had to ask me questions because of privacy regulations. She of course knew my DOB and likely quickly made the “useless old cow” judgement. She did not GET that the answers to the questions she asked are largely all over the internet – for example because I am a Company Director – and are in various databases that are accessible to literally thousands of people.

(I hung up on that person. She was rude.)

It’s totally NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.

Below is a video that I have posted before. It is about 18 months old.

The other side of this can be that if for example you lose your Google Authenticator app because your phone quits on you and you made no backup, some accounts ask you to supply a list of all your recent transactions as well as (a list of logins with) IP number – if you don’t have a static one, this can be a pain – and take a selfie with an ID document in such a way that the ID document is legible. It can be annoying and I have once gotten really annoyed about it because my selfie with ID kept getting rejected. But it’s better than the alternative.

Speaking of ID, if you need to supply an ID document WRITE ON IT, either digitally or with pen or pencil if you scan a copy, when and to whom you are supplying it. Through the actual document, in large letters, such that it cannot be easily used by someone else to steal your ID. This is a tip given to me years ago by the local Dutch consul.

You’ll also want to watch this one.

Next thing that happened

My printer starts spewing blank pages. Lots of them. When I tried to print one of the fundraising campaigns.

Also, when I invited people to the fundraiser, the computer hiccuped when I typed “Steve” as someone’s first name. No not Pitt. No not someone based outside of Portsmouth. A coincidence?

Why do all my phones only accept SIM cards that I have had for a long time?

What next?

I have changed the name of my Ltd company and will go forward to address issues like workplace bullying, which can be diversity-related. (There is a lot of otherisation in England. Too much.) And I think that my old business is totally toast by now.

I’ve also made an appointment for an assessment to have a lock fitted. Had tried that before, but did not work out for whatever reason. Have decided to try and crowdfund it: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/help-me-make-my-home-safe-again

I want to be able to stop having to ruminate about who is doing all these strange things to my life and why. It’s exhausting. And that’s an understatement. But positive-thinking it all away does not help one iota either. Securing my door should start to help. A lot. 

Two messages I sent this morning, for business advice

One went out to Team Forleo because you never know what tips they might come up with, though I am not holding my breath.

Another one went to Karyn Greenstreet who’s been a wonderful business coach for decades, together with her English husband, who is also her business partner. I interacted with her when I was still based in Amsterdam. I still benefit from the many good tips she and the people she works with have doled out over the years.

Is that not done here in Portsmouth? Well, deal with it.

And stop making my mouse pointer sticky just to fuck with me some more. 

(Asking for advice in England? Been there done that. Too often all you get is abusive shit or useless crap flung into your face, sometimes peppered with a few insults about daft Americans.)

Brexit, cultural differences and negotiation styles

Captions below. More information and some tips under the captions. Also available on YouTube.

READ THIS: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/dec/25/make-what-you-want-seem-normal-david-frost-and-the-brexit-deal

“It was a Trumpian use of alternative facts,”
said one EU source.

(It is not tied to the Trump era, however. I first ran into the above in Southampton, in 2006 or 2007. It’s part of the silly games the English often play. It renders you powerless and speechless, pulls the rug out from under you, thus putting them in the driver seat. Be prepared for this. Stay focused!)

…as a British official put it:
“They found it very difficult to deal with our obstinacy. It was wearying.”
)

READ THIS: https://www.amazon.co.uk/When-Cultures-Collide-Leading-Across/dp/147368482X/

READ THIS: https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/02/uk/2020-hurt-the-uk-2021-could-kill-it-intl-gbr/index.html

READ THIS: https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-3-types-of-negotiators-and-how-to-tell-which-one_b_594378c5e4b0d188d027fd4c

About Chris Voss: https://www.blackswanltd.com/our-team/chris-voss

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The Dutch Financial Times about Brexit

Echoing what I’ve been moaning about since I moved to “Britain” (that “Brits” are recalcitrant by definition and difficult to work with) and saying that Boris Johnson is full of it, with one major difference – and this is important – namely, equating English and British. (I stopped doing that after a while.)

In the Netherlands, the UK is called “England”. The distinction between Britain’s four nations barely ever features in the conversations there.

If you’re a non-English business Brit who deals with Europe and may have to do more negotiating now, this is something to keep in mind and be forgiving about.

This too is diversity.

(I’m about to make a video related to this, so be on the lookout for that post here, if the topic is of interest to you.)

(Also, I too am now often perceived as “difficult to work with” for Dutch people and Americans, I am sure, after 16 years in England.)

Opportunities in the pandemic

With most people short on funds but not on skills and experience, bartering may be a way to increase people’s options.

This is not just related to professionals and people who are self-employed. I think we need extraordinary business innovation now.

And while I don’t like the way Amazon is taking over the world, at all, I also suspect that the way forward for many smaller businesses is to join Amazon. Because that is an option many still seem to have when all other options have dropped away.

This may mean that you need someone to do the digital stuff for you. That’s where you can barter. You have goods that you aren’t selling right now, after all, because you had to close up shop. Barter locally, and you’ll be supporting people around you and at the same time getting what you need without it costing you money.  

Not everyone can do this. True. 

But even if you have a hairdressing salon, you can start selling great hair care products online – you have them in stock, I bet – and teaching people how to do their own hair at home, for example. If you had a loyal customer base, you can work with those clients and offer them a great service.

They would much rather buy these products from you and learn from you than go to someone else, after all. And it means that you retain them as customers so that at some point in the future when you open up shop again, perhaps at a new location, those customers will know where to find you and come back to you. It’s not ideal. I know. But you gotta work with what you’ve got or start something entirely different.

And the people you barter with to do digital stuff, maybe you can trade a box of fancy shampoo and a box of fancy conditioner, luxury stuff that they might not normally buy but can perhaps use as Christmas gifts. Heck, ask them what they would like. Ask them what they might be able to use. 

This may be a time, also, to go back to what we did before we had money. Coupons. Vouchers. IOUs. Promises.

Sally who was a great fisher would buy boots from John and vegetables from Karen. Sally might promise John to pay him back for his boots by giving him a kilogram of fish eventually.  John might exchange that promise of fish for vegetables from Karen’s garden so that Karen would be the one to go to Sally for the kilogram of fish. Or that website design. Use your imagination!

(And build trust. Don’t let “we’re all in this together” be an empty slogan.)

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A reminder. How is workplace bullying affecting your business? Do you know?

(image from the NY Post)

Since the start of the first lockdown, the number of internet searches for “workplace bullying” went down. As of about July, the number began to increase again. This indicates that now is a good time to ensure that such practices do not flare up again once the bulk of the pandemic is behind us.

Because workplace bullying is costing businesses a lot of money and not just that, business owners are expected to deal with it. They must look after their employees.

I am aware of two cases in England in which employees were set on fire at work and Landrover / Jaguar has just experienced a landmark case of constructive dismissal to do with workplace bullying.

In the UK, the incidence of workplace bullying is around 30% (2015, Trades Union Congress), with 71% of disabled women reporting some form of abuse and 91% of workers stating that bullying in the workplace wasn’t being dealt with appropriately.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (HR professionals) found a percentage of 15 for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 yet added that more than half did not report bullying.

  • Most bullying at work in the UK appears to take place in London and the southeast.
  • Most bullying is carried out by someone higher in the hierarchy.

In a study by Kew Law (employment law), 71% of the employees at 131 companies in the UK stated that they had either been bullied or witnessed bullying.

Are you sticking your head in the sand over it, ostrich-style?

Workplace bullying. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening when you know it is.

 

How is workplace bullying affecting your business?

(image from the NY Post)

Do you know?

In the UK, the incidence of workplace bullying is around 30% (2015, Trades Union Congress), with 71% of disabled women reporting some form of abuse and 91% of workers stating that bullying in the workplace wasn’t being dealt with appropriately.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (HR professionals) found a percentage of 15 for the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 yet added that more than half did not report bullying.

In a study by Kew Law (employment law), 71% of the employees at 131 companies in the UK stated that they had either been bullied or witnessed bullying.

Workplace bullying is very costly. Are you sticking your head in the sand over it, conveniently closing your eyes? Well then, with most staff still working from home, NOW may be the perfect time to wake up and address it. Workplace bullying. Don’t pretend it isn’t happening.

 

Another case of “not workplace bullying”?

Landrover / Jaguar:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/17/gender-fluid-engineer-wins-landmark-uk-discrimination-case

Constructive dismissal. Thank you, Judge Hughes.

All people who suffer from workplace bullying, certainly if it concerns the extreme kind of workplace bullying that George Cheese and Harry Hayward suffered from, should document what is happening, then leave and sue their employers. 

Mr Hayward was set on fire at his place of work. Although it was an accident, it was an accident waiting to happen.

 

Poverty therapy = abundance creation for everyone

Many people who are not poor have a bit of a habit of blaming people who are poor for the fact that they are poor.

Isn’t that like blaming people for the fact that they were born or for the fact that they have two legs?

People with enough money can actually BLAME and SHAME you for living frugally and not buying into consumerism. That’s nuts.

But after that, it gets more complicated.

Deep poverty is like a small cage you can’t get out of

First, there is the fact that deep poverty makes your world and your world view shrink. When that happens, the number of opportunities within mainstream society shrinks too. You become increasingly marginalized and the better-off may see you as some kind of potentially dangerous wild animal.

Second, deep poverty is often deeply traumatic and can upset people’s relationship with money badly.

Money becomes a source of pain.

What happens next? You avoid money. You want to get rid of it. It makes you nervous and antsy because even when you have a small windfall, you are so acutely aware of all the things you need… and you know that the money will be gone before you know it and that it won’t be enough to cover the things you need, let alone the things that might really make a difference. So even windfalls can become a source of pain and discomfort.

Money becomes like the stove you burned your hand on or the dog that chased you and bit you when you were little.

Money becomes the thing that meant that you had to keep your kids home when all the other kids went on a school trip.

My office contains mostly items that came from Freecycle or the streets or are otherwise “pre-loved” and upcycled. The chair was new, from Argos, cost about £40. My office also has four floor lamps that I bought (partly to enable me to make videos), and three of those came from Argos at about £6 each, and the fourth one also came from Argos and was £15 or so. One lamp on my desk came from the streets (discarded, yes) and the other one from Freecycle and it’s lovely.

Money becomes the thing that makes you sell – or lose – your most treasured possessions (and for some mums on Universal Credit, your body).

Money becomes the pain you feel at Christmas when you know that your kids deserved so much better than what they got.

Money becomes the source of the pain you feel when you have to send your kids to school without breakfast.

And from then on, your relationship with money is forever troubled. Money will always make you feel uneasy and it may make you want to spend it all quickly. Before it’s gone again.

But there is also the other thing, people becoming overly cautious, and ending up spending too much over time because they spend too little in the moment. What is cheap in the moment can be very expensive in the long run. (I even see landlords and their staff fall into that trap.)

An example of that is buying a four-person set of flimsy plastic cutlery for yourself or a friend because it only costs one pound, whereas you’d be better off buying cheap all-metal cutlery for one or two that will last you many many years.

Money is the thing that made your kid trip and hurt his knees because of his shoes.

Prolonged deep poverty can result in a money-oriented form of, what is it? PTSD?

You end up making “bad” decision after bad decision because there is never enough of the stuff and you don’t know any longer what you could do that would really make a difference.

Take the kids to McDonalds on that rare day that you can afford it and stick out your tongue at the gossipping neighbours because life is too short and if your kids get hit by a bus tomorrow, one of the things you will end up regretting is that you hadn’t taken them to McDonalds the day before. Not only because of the food but because of what McDonalds meant for the kids. A feast! A party! Feelings of abundance and joy!

Part of my desk, with my Freecycle lamp. If you have a keen eye, you may spot another item that I bought “new” on the right side in this photo. It is a small original artwork, which I acquired for no more than £25 some years ago and which brings me joy on a daily basis. But I don’t have the latest gadgets, I don’t have the biggest screen on my desk and I haven’t run my fridge for about 18 months now. To my astonishment, I discovered that I actually only rarely need a fridge. We’ve all been taught that we need one and that we need to run it all the time. I needed mine for my eye drops, but then Pfizer started offering a version that does not need to be refrigerated and I now avoid pharmacies that don’t stock that version.

Going hungry too many times can do something similar. Some people have to skip lunch even when someone offers them lunch because if they say yes to that lunch, it will throw their bodies out of whack. Out of the poverty routine. That would make life harder for them.

Charlotte explains it in this video:

If you have gone without sufficient food or sufficient variety for a while, and then suddenly have enough money to eat, you may find that you can’t stop eating as if your body is thinking “quick, quick, before it is gone again”.

That’s biology.

Nobody’s fault.

Is there a poverty phone line?

No.

You can get DEBT COUNSELLING.

But debt counselling often only works if you have a sufficiently high and steady income and nothing ever breaks down and your kids behave like perfect little robots.

I would like to help change poor people’s relationship with money.

Been tossing that over for a few days now. I want to see something started like an AA meeting or support group for people in deep poverty.

AA meeting sounds too much like “It is all your fault”.

No, it isn’t. Money isn’t your fault. It is society’s fault. Money was not supposed to start dominating our lives the way it does these days. Money was supposed to support us, not crush us.

Support groups, then. Self-help groups.

I imagine a room and a table stacked high with notes or a bathtub filled with notes.

Is that abundance? No.

Abundance comes from many things, including what you can do with money.

But for people who have been living in deep poverty for too long, it is like having been locked up in a dark room for years and suddenly being released into the summer sunshine.

I’ll toss it around some more.

When money becomes like cancer, you no longer like money much…

Money is the thing that makes you sit in the dark and in the cold in the winter because you can’t afford to heat and light your home, makes you feel really really miserable and makes you notice how little daylight there is in the winter.

After a few days, you slide into a state of hibernation. It’s a waiting game, waiting for some money to come in.

Money is that thing that makes you pick up a piece of construction foam because you were hoping it was a bread crust.

Money is when you become really thin and somebody compliments you because you are really thin.

(LOL!)

In the meantime, if you’re in deep poverty, but can get onto the internet and do have a headset, go here and listen to this for a while with your eyes closed to clear your mind:

https://mynoise.net/NoiseMachines/pureBinauralBrainwaveGenerator.php

I discovered binaural beats and how they influence brain activity when I was living in Florida in the mid-1990s. They can calm your mind and bring your stress levels down significantly.

If you use binaural beats at home, sit in an easy chair or lie on your bed and relax while you listen to this for half an hour, through your headphones. But listening for 2 or 5 minutes often helps too.

A quick shortcut? Crank up the two levels on the left to get your brain really really really relaxed, the kind of “relaxed” that deep sleep can do for you. Don’t touch the other controls.

 

Does your company benefit the world?

The UK has a particularly extreme form of capitalism, I read this morning. Is this news to you? It wasn’t for me.

These are the views of Colin Mayer, the author of a report on the future of “the corporation”. He is a professor at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.

According to him, various global crises such as the disastrous impact our activities have on our own habitat and the increasing inequality, certainly in the UK, are forcing us to remind ourselves what the purpose of business is.

To make money?

No.

If you go back in history, you will find that business as well as money once began as a way to address our basic needs.

Take the case of Peter, who was great at making boots and Carla, who was very skilled at catching fish, whereas Paul, Jenny and Chris had a wonderful apple orchard.

People particularly needed boots in the winter, but when lakes and rivers are frozen, fish can be harder to catch and you won’t see many apples on trees in mid-winter.

So instead of all these people needing to do all of these things, Peter would give a pair of boots to Carla, Paul, Jenny and Chris who promised to provide Peter with fish and apples.

And instead of all of these people needing to remember who they promised to provide with boots, apples and fish later, they came up with little notes they handed each other and that is part of the story of how money came about.

As a maker of boots I could, for example, exchange a promise of a basket of apples from Jenny for a promise of a catch of fish, if I had my own apple trees, but my neighbour didn’t but my neighbour had a cousin who was an excellent fisherman. So my neighbour could then take the note to Jenny and receive “my” basket of apples.

This is also part of the story of how the concept of business came about.

You began a business because you were good at something and dedicated and you were providing something worthwhile to everyone around you.

At some point in the past, this mechanism became increasingly skewed, particularly in the west, which had this great urge to impose its ways and views on people in other parts of the world as THE way to live, the ONLY way to live.

Many members of indigenous tribes around the world would disagree, I bet.

Capitalism. The accumulation of goods and money for the sake of accumulation, at any cost.

The cost turned out to be that we are slowly but surely making our own habitat unsuitable for human life.

Sure, we have become better at beating old-fashioned infectious diseases, but we have also been boosting an increasing number of new and old afflictions of which the incidence is increasing.

We have a global depression epidemic, which is a major cause of “disability”.

The various kinds of air pollution we unleashed are making an increasing number of people ill in all sorts of ways, and it does not just concern respiratory health.

Bioethics experts who suggest tweaking asthma genes to curb only one aspect of this are hopelessly out of touch with reality, partly as a result of a major flaw in their logic, namely linear thinking. “If I press this button, the ceiling light will go on. If I press this button again, the ceiling light will go off.”

The cost also includes modern slavery. Millions of people and millions of children are slaves. You can find them working at hotels and at universities, among other places. They’re all around you.

We don’t notice them because hey, extreme capitalism is the only right way to live, right? So we have learned to accept these costs as unavoidable collateral damage.

So we are increasingly making more money so that increasingly more money can and has to be spent on dealing with the problems caused by the business of making more money. That is the real circular economy.

But these costs to people, to the planet and to its many other inhabitants are not inevitable.

Is it hard to turn this tsunami of destructive business approaches around? Oh yeah.

But the tiny house and van life movements are proving that extreme capitalist views are crushing people, and are no longer contributing much to our lives.

The tiny house movement and the van life movement are also sparking new businesses that cater to these movements but don’t buy into the dogma of extreme capitalism.

So, if you want to put sanity back into your business, what should you do?

Differentiate yourself. Don’t blindly do what your government tells you to do and consider that enough. Don’t meekly follow everyone else’s example in your industry. Set the standard higher for yourself.

This also goes for local government. City councils and county councils.

Lead.

See? I knew it! (Or: Why the UK’s class system is stupid?)

You’re not stupid or flawed. You merely weren’t lucky.

https://www.technologyreview.com/s/610395/if-youre-so-smart-why-arent-you-rich-turns-out-its-just-chance/

Goes for scientists too.

“The team studied three models, in which research funding is distributed equally to all scientists; distributed randomly to a subset of scientists; or given preferentially to those who have been most successful in the past. Which of these is the best strategy?

The strategy that delivers the best returns, it turns out, is to divide the funding equally among all researchers. And the second- and third-best strategies involve distributing it at random to 10 or 20 percent of scientists.

In these cases, the researchers are best able to take advantage of the serendipitous discoveries they make from time to time. In hindsight, it is obvious that the fact a scientist has made an important chance discovery in the past does not mean he or she is more likely to make one in the future.”

Give your business a boost with Buddhism

What business can learn from buddhism

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Haley A Beer, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick and Edward Gamble, Montana State University

Millennials, we are told, have a different attitude to work than their elders. They want to work for organisations committed to values and ethics, where there is a higher purpose than simply making a profit.

Businesses wanting to attract the best millennial talent might therefore learn a few lessons from ancient spiritual teachings, such as those of Buddhism. The fourth largest religion in the world has been focused on attaining a higher meaning and following the path to moksha – liberation – since the sixth century.

Organisations, especially in the non-profit and charity sector, can re-energise their employees by aligning the way they measure performance with the principles of Buddhism. This could also improve productivity, an important measure of economic activity and living standards.

These were the findings of our research. We interviewed 63 executives from not-for-profit organisations and found that most had simply imported practices and strategic models from the business world to measure their performance. Unfortunately, this is a world driven by maximising profit, which goes against the underlying purposes of these organisations.

Engaged and energised

Many studies have established that most staff are not only motivated by money, while the carrot and stick approach, which mixes reward and punishment, is also outdated. Employee engagement is now the ultimate goal for managers and it involves more than just job satisfaction.

It might be that an individual is perfectly content with a job and yet not engaged in it. Instead, engagement is found where work is absorbing, and to which employees feel naturally dedicated; work that one gets wrapped up in and is energised by. Engaged employees are prepared to go beyond the call of duty and actually drive the business; they show up because they want to, not because they have to.

Employees and businesses benefit from an injection of spirituality.
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Some might think spirituality and business should not be mixed in together, but both play an important role in society and people’s lives. They should be seen as interdependent. Spiritual disciplines may very well offer insights into techniques for achieving lasting employee engagement that everyone is searching for. At the very least, ancient wisdom could offer some lessons for understanding what it means to seek and achieve higher meaning in your life.

A different focus

This is perhaps even more applicable in not-for-profit organisations. Many non-profits use standard performance measures, that have been tailored to help traditional organisations maximise revenues while reducing costs. The rationale provided for the use of performance measurement is also usually a commercial one, suggesting that measurement only supports efficiency and effectiveness.

This can obscure their ethical and benevolent dimensions. Focus instead is placed on understanding data like the number of products delivered, or what rating a service has in numerical terms. Employees are rewarded for their capacities to score highly on given criteria. Although none of this is inherently wrong, it means that discussions and attention are pushed towards money.

Meanwhile, rich social interactions, trust, and positive, but unquantifiable, stories go unnoticed and unrewarded. Employees would be better able to believe in their organisation if it’s clear that their performance measures drive social connectedness and create social value.

Our research found that spiritual philosophies can provide this. Buddhism, for example, teaches its followers to take greater personal responsibility for their actions, to have a healthy detachment where necessary, and embrace a wholesome view of their actions.

This can include how socially connected and conscious employees are, but also their entrepreneurial awareness. Risk-taking and innovation are core to many of these organisations so employees must have the mindfulness to evaluate and exploit opportunities when they arise.

It also applies to financial meaning – how money is spent, but also where it comes from. Spiritual rationales for goals and activities can complement commercial ones. Most employees in the non-profit sector want to help people and this is what motivates them to work in this industry, often for less money.

Evidence also suggests that embracing spirituality within organisations may lead to better decision-making, enhanced creativity, reduced absenteeism, and greater emotional control.

Buddhist principles are not just for not-for-profits, however. Spiritual principles such as higher meaning, awareness (of self and the environment) and connectedness (belonging to a community), are likely to be relevant in other sectors, particularly if corporations want to re-engage and re-energise their workforce.

The ConversationMany are already dabbling in this with corporate social responsibility programmes, corporate volunteering, and sustainability targets. Several large companies, such as Google and the retailer Target, are even already adopting spiritually-informed practices to reap some of these benefits. But management practices such as measuring performance have not caught up with the deeper desire that many employees might have. We are just scratching the surface of how we can find more meaning and more productivity from our work.

Haley A Beer, Assistant Professor of Performance and Responsibility, Warwick Business School, University of Warwick and Edward Gamble, Assistant Professor of Accounting, Montana State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

What I heard last week

I had a conversation with a gentleman who used to work at a very large company. (I won’t indicate what kind of company it was and I certainly won’t say which one it was.)

 

That company, he told me, used to cooperate a lot with a similar large American company. (I won’t say which one that was either.)

At those companies, they used to call their counterparts at the other company instantly when one of them made an exciting discovery. They would ask each other to come over, so that they could teach each other, and share.

Every once in a while, they’d get together and have a conversation that went somewhat like this:

“We gave you that, and well, that’s worth about 50 million. But you gave us this, and that’s also worth about 50 million. You owe us six pence.”

And then they went and had lunch together.

What put a stop to it?

Competitiveness.

Cooperation