mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
"Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London.
No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life;
for there is in London all that life can afford."

~ Samuel Johnson ~

On Thursday morning I fly to DC, drawing to a close over nine years in the UK. It seems fitting for such an occasion to delve into the memory bank and recollect how things have changed since I first moved here on a sunny May morning in 2007...

  • Tony Blair was still PM, Ming Campbell was Lib Dem leader and Ken Livingstone Mayor of London.
  • A woman had yet to serve as Britain's Home Secretary.
  • It was legal to smoke in pubs.
  • £1 was worth nearly $2.
  • Kate and Wills had just broken up.
  • Waterloo Station was still the Eurostar terminus.
  • Free newspapers thelondonpaper and London Lite were still in production and you had to pay for The Evening Standard.
  • Steve McClaren was England's football manager and the national team had yet to play at the new Wembley.
  • Portsmouth FC, now in the fourth tier, had just finished 9th in the Premier League.
  • Mourinho was Abramovich's only managerial appointment.
  • There was no equal prize money at Wimbledon between men and women.
  • The Digital Switchover had yet to begin.
  • Britain's Got Talent, Outnumbered, Would I Lie To You & Only Connect hadn't aired; Parkinson & Grange Hill were still on.
  • The iPhone hadn't been released yet.
  • Spain hadn't won a football World Cup or European Championships since 1964.
  • Pep Guardiola had yet to manage Barcelona and therefore hadn't won any of his 15 major trophies to date.
  • Djokovic had not won a Grand Slam yet, Nadal just 3 and there was only one British appearance in a final since 1977.
  • Myspace was the most popular social network, Twitter was just a year old (with fewer than 700,000 users) & Facebook had 20 million active users (it's now over a billion).
  • Justin Bieber hadn't been 'discovered' yet, Lady Gaga hadn't released her first album and Taylor Swift was still unheard of despite having released her first album.
  • Jennifer Lawrence had not acted in a film yet.
  • And finally, a little-known African American senator from Illinois had just announced his candidacy to the US presidency.

I hope I return to Blighty 21 months from now. I'm sure the time will fly. But my life has not quite gone according to plan until now, so who knows what the future holds. What I do know is that my lifelong love affair with The Great Wen and all things British will never diminish. So long Great Britain and its great people, thank you for all the wonderful memories.

Signing out for the last time on this side of the pond (for now), this is That Bloke in the Big Smoke.
mcgillianaire: (Sachin Tendulkar)
[SOURCE]

The Cincinnati Reds beat the Philadelphia Phillies 2-1 on this night in 1935 in Major League Baseball’s first-ever night game, played courtesy of recently installed lights at Crosley Field in Cincinnati.

The first-ever night game in professional baseball took place May 2, 1930, when a Des Moines, Iowa, team hosted Wichita for a Western League game. The game drew 12,000 people at a time when Des Moines was averaging just 600 fans per game. Evening games soon became popular in the minors: As minor league ball clubs were routinely folding in the midst of the Great Depression, adaptable owners found the innovation a key to staying in business. The major leagues, though, took five years to catch up to their small-town counterparts.

The first big league night game on this day in 1935 drew 25,000 fans, who stood by as President Roosevelt symbolically switched on the lights from Washington, D.C. To capitalize on their new evening fan base, the Reds played a night game that year against every National League team–eight games in total–and despite their lousy record of 68-85, paid attendance rose 117 percent.

Though baseball owners had a well-deserved reputation for being old-fashioned, most teams soon followed suit, as they knew night games would benefit their bottom line. Teams upgraded their facilities to include lights throughout the 1930s and 40s, and before long, most of the league had night games on the schedule. Wrigley Field, on Chicago’s North Side–the second oldest major league park after Boston’s Fenway–was the last of the parks to begin hosting night games. Wrigley’s tradition of hosting only day games held for 74 seasons until August 8, 1988, when the Cubs hosted the Philadelphia Phillies. That game was rained out in the third inning, so Wrigley’s first night game is officially recorded as a 6-4 win over the New York Mets on August 9, 1988. The Cubs are the only major league team that still plays the majority of their home games during the day.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Here's a scenario: let's assume Britain votes to remain within the EU, but only by the narrowest of margins. Following the lead of their members, several Brexit Tories cross the floor to UKIP, throwing the government into chaos. A group of moderate Labour MPs frustrated at their inability to oust Jeremy Corbyn as leader, form an alliance with David Cameron, George Osborne and their rump Tories to try and prop up a minority administration. The Orange Book Lib Dems (all three of them?), after much soul-searching and fearing their continued irrelevance also decide to reluctantly join the alliance. At the next general election, the alliance merges into The Centrist Party and competes with UKIP, Labour, SNP, Greens and rump Lib Dems. Imagine that.
mcgillianaire: (Changing Guard London)
I voted for Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dems) and Sadiq Khan (Labour) respectively in the London Mayoral election. In the London Assembly, I voted for Nick da Costa (Lib Dem) in my Enfield and Haringey seat and allocated my List vote to the Greens.

Another year, another #ToryFreeZone at the ballot box. A unique year as we return to the polls next month for the EU referendum. I've yet to make up my mind on that. It all boils down to whether the sovereignty gained is worth the inevitable economic uncertainty in the immediate and medium-term post-plebiscite. As a weak social democrat, one cannot easily dismiss Lord Owen's support for Brexit, nor that of the Green Party's Jenny Jones. They are very reasonable people with whom I don't always agree, but they are of the firm belief that the EU cannot be reformed in its present state and I am inclined to concur.

Unfortunately, the fact Brexit is also supported by the likes of Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson (among other odious creatures) makes it extremely difficult to convince oneself that this is indeed the right choice, made worse by the prospect of accepting a post-Brexit negotiation on their terms rather than the Owens and Joneses of the world, who would have very little say on it.
mcgillianaire: (Sachin Tendulkar)
A chronological list of his scores since the year started.

74   - T20   v West Aus
7    - ListA    "
91   - ODI   v Aus
59   - ODI      "
117  - ODI
106  - ODI
8    - ODI
90*  - T20I
59*  - T20I
50   - T20I
7    - T20I  v Bdesh
49   - T20I  v Pak
56*  - T20I  v SL
41*  - T20I  v Bdesh
23   - T20I  v NZ
55*  - T20I  v Pak
24   - T20I  v Bdesh
82*  - T20I  v Aus
89*  - T20I  v WI
75   - T20   v Hyd
79   - T20   v Del
33   - T20   v Mum
80   - T20   v Pun
100* - T20   v Guj

1454 runs @ 90.88 (24 innings, 8 not outs).

The Indians are playing a lot of shorter-format matches in the first half of this year, but they've got 14 Tests scheduled from June to December. Kohli is the only player who averages over 50 in ODIs and T20Is. My biggest hope for him is to become the first to average over 50 in all international formats. He currently averages 44 in Tests and if he can keep up this form and translate it into the longer-format, there's a chance of that happening. It would also help if he didn't burn himself out by the latter stages of the year, especially now that he's the Test captain as well. In 2014-15, Kohli became the first in history to score three hundreds in his first three innings as captain, all of them away in Australia. Later in the year he led India to its first away series win in four years against Sri Lanka, and then thrashed the Saffers 3-nil at home with only inclement weather preventing a probable whitewash. Kohli clearly models his game on the Ponting school of cricket and one trusts that this aggressive approach is exactly the tonic demanded of India in Tests. I'm also trying not to come across as all fangirly about VK but I can't help it. When Tendulkar retired (who btw turned 43 yesterday) there were a few candidates to usurp his mantle as India's best, but only one has slipped effortlessly into his shoes. To be sure, the boy Kohli has a long way to go before he can truly be compared with his idol, but if this year is anything to go by, the future looks promising. Long may the glut continue!
mcgillianaire: (India Flag)
TEST
26.95 - 1st match innings (HS: 119)
72.16 - 2nd match innings (169)
25.55 - 3rd match innings (96)
60.81 - 4th match innings (141)

ODI
41.23 - 1st match innings (138)
61.22 - 2nd match innings (183)

T20I
35.22 - 1st match innings (90*) [EDIT: After today's 89*, he now averages 40.16 in 1st match innings.]
91.80 - 2nd match innings (82*)

Those are his averages in each innings of a match. The figures in ODIs and T20Is did not surprise me as much as the 2nd and 4th match innings in Tests. And what a contrast with the figures in 1st and 3rd innings - how similar the averages are for those 2 innings. I'm yet to find a batsman who matches this trend across all three formats in 2nd innings (I compared with Root, Williamson, Smith, Amla and De Villiers). After Kohli's match-winning knock against Pakistan earlier in the tournament I wondered if we would see teams winning the toss and choosing to field against India. Then he went one step further against Australia. Does it seem as far-fetched? Kohli has over 900 runs in ODIs and T20Is this calendar year already.

Another stat to savour on: at exactly the same age (27y 147d), one Sachin Tendulkar also had 25 ODI centuries. However he needed 249 matches @ 42. Kohli's done it in 171 @ 51. Considering the Little Master is widely regarded as (one of) the greatest ODI batsmen, Kohli is well on his way to emulating the chap who inspired him. Which explains the rather fitting homage he paid to paaji (big brother) in the match against Pakistan.

Finally, here are the win percentages for the Test-playing nations in all T20Is so far:

62.67 - India
60.00 - South Africa
58.01 - Pakistan
56.02 - Sri Lanka
53.29 - New Zealand
51.82 - England
51.72 - Australia
51.36 - West Indies
33.33 - Bangladesh
24.50 - Zimbabwe

Given that Steve Smith averages 21.55 in T20Is, perhaps it is not all that surprising Australia have been a lot less successful in the shortest format. And perhaps the rankings don't lie either. Kohli and India top their respective categories. For now...
mcgillianaire: (Cricket Stumps)
          Mat   Inns    NO    Runs    HS     Ave    100   50
Tendulkar 114 	184 	19    9470   241*   57.39   33    37
Cook      125 	224 	12    9883   294    46.61   28    46
mcgillianaire: (Default)
We are lucky in the UK to have free access to a government-funded local library network. Despite the swingeing cuts imposed by the coalition in the last parliament that forced the closure of hundreds of branches, they haven't disappeared completely. If you are resident in the UK, you can sign up with any public library in the country*. And perhaps due to the effect of the changes in recent years, several councils in London have partnered together to provide a broader set of resources, particularly online. Indeed, two of my favourite aspects of public library membership in London provides me with unfettered, free online access to The Times newspaper and The Economist archives, in addition to the latest editions of over 330 magazines and journals such as The Economist, The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, National Geographic, Newsweek, Businessweek and The Week. The great thing is that you can read the magazines on your computer, tablet and smartphone.

(* So long as you turn up once in person to prove your identity and residence, plus pick up your membership card.)
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
After 29 league games last season, Leicester City had just 19 points and marked nearly four months at the bottom of the Premier League table. If a new season had started immediately after that and included this season's matches, they would have 66 points from 31 matches. To put it in some perspective, this is a list of EPL teams since 1995/96* with the most points after 31 matches. The team in () was the eventual league champion, when different from the leader after 31 matches:

2014/15 - Chelsea            - 73 pts
2013/14 - Chelsea            - 69 pts (Manchester City)
2012/13 - Manchester United  - 77 pts
2011/12 - Manchester United  - 76 pts (Manchester City)
2010/11 - Manchester United  - 66 pts
2009/10 - Manchester United  - 69 pts (Chelsea)
2008/09 - Manchester United  - 71 pts
2007/08 - Manchester United  - 73 pts
2006/07 - Manchester United  - 78 pts
2005/06 - Chelsea            - 78 pts
2004/05 - Chelsea            - 80 pts
2003/04 - Arsenal            - 77 pts
2002/03 - Arsenal            - 66 pts (Manchester United)
2001/02 - Manchester United  - 64 pts (Arsenal)
2000/01 - Manchester United  - 70 pts
1999/00 - Manchester United  - 70 pts
1998/99 - Manchester United  - 64 pts
1997/98 - Arsenal            - 63 pts
1996/97 - Manchester United  - 63 pts
1995/96 - Manchester United**- 64 pts

** Newcastle United also had 64 pts

Addendum

Jan. 14th, 2016 10:15 pm
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
In my excitement to evaluate Leicester City's potential achievement, I forgot to mention a couple other aspects of this season's Premier League that has equally confounded expectations and added to the merriment. The first is the almost mirror-like collapse by defending champions Chelsea and the other is the welcome return of unpredictable results for practically every match, including the ones involving the usual top teams (though perhaps excluding Aston Villa). Long may it continue!
mcgillianaire: (Football player)
It's been a wee while since I made an entry about O Joga Bonito, but this season's English Premier League has earned it. I can't remember the last time when we were so far into a season (Gameweek 21 out of 38) and a team like Leicester City were still contending for the title. However unlikely it may still seem, the neutral in me wants them to go all the way. It would certainly surpass any achievement since the Premier League began (1992/93) and possibly eclipse the achievements of both Leeds United in 1991/92 and Aston Villa in 1980/81, because of their existing pedigree in English football. Of course, Blackburn Rovers won the title in 1994/95 under Dalglish, but they also had pedigree and their triumph was aided in no small part by owner Jack Walker's millions - the prescient precursor to the business model's successful replication by Chelsea and then Manchester City. No, we'd have to go back to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest - a fellow Midlands club - in 1977/78 to find the most recent equivalent accomplishment. Back then, The Reds won the league title immediately following promotion from the old Division Two - an extremely rare achievement in itself - and they remain the only club in Europe to have won more European Cups than league titles (2-to-1). I suppose even if The Foxes don't conquer the summit of English football, they'd take a place in the top four and entry into next season's Champions League. Even that would be an outstandingly incredible achievement. Goodness knows how excruciatingly frustrating it's been as a Liverpool fan aiming to achieve just that in the past half a dozen seasons. As another famous Scot might muse: Football, bloody hell!1

1 Bill Shankly quoted in the subject, Sir Alex Ferguson in the entry.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
[ Originally posted 21 October 2013. Last updated 16 July 2016. ]

In the hagiography that greeted Mrs T's death, other politicians of her era emerged out of the woodwork. I was intrigued. How many of these old fogeys were still knocking about? The oldest I was certain of was Tony Benn (88). I also knew
Peter Tapsell, Douglas Hurd, Shirley Williams, Norman Tebbit (all 83), Dennis Skinner, Nigel Lawson (both 81),
Roy Hattersley and Michael Heseltine (80), were still alive. But who else? My findings threw up some interesting names...

Read more... )
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
The problem with British politics is that there are two centre-left parties competing against each other in a first-past-the-post voting system, rather than forming an electoral alliance to defeat the Tories at any cost. Ideally, the Liberal Democrats would not even exist under present circumstances, and I say that as someone who has almost always voted for them and whose political philosophy most closely matches mine. But it cannot be denied, a vote for the Lib Dems in Labour-Tory marginals is an indirect vote for the Tories. And who suffers? The people who want and need a centre-left government.

Given the extreme unlikelihood of the Lib Dems dissolving anytime soon and despite their recent electoral woes, anyone who seeks an alternative to a Tory government should encourage an electoral pact. The pact needn't cover the entire country, simply the constituencies where either party can defeat the Tories. A similar pact could be struck with Plaid in Wales and SNP north of Hadrian's Wall. The idea of a pact is nothing new, even in Britain, but it gained traction in my mind after the recent French elections. The Front National were resoundingly defeated in the second round after the Socialist Party withdrew some of its candidates. This enabled Sarkozy's centre-right party to win instead: the lesser of two evils. Such emergency measures can be viewed as the political equivalent of gamesmanship, going against or rubbing disturbingly close to the boundaries of fair democratic play. But in politics as with life, one must constantly make choices and in this instance, the choice was between explicit racist extremists and a more preferable, though not entirely tolerable lot. We should learn from them.
mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
Denis Healey, 1959 Labour Conference speech excerpt from his autobiography, The Time of My Life (1989):

"I pointed to the growing gap between the Labour activist and the voter:

    'Hugh Gaitskell was absolutely right when he said yesterday that what gets cheers at this conference does not necessarily get votes at elections. If it did we would have won Devonport [the seat which Michael Foot had just lost]. There are far too many people who … want to luxuriate complacently in moral righteousness in Opposition. But who is going to pay the price for their complacency?

    You can take the view that it is better to give up half a loaf if you cannot get the whole loaf, but the point is that it is not we who are giving up the half loaf. In Britain it is the unemployed and old age pensioners, and outside Britain there are millions of people in Asia and Africa who desperately need a Labour Government in this country to help them. If you take the view that it is all right to stay in Opposition so long as your Socialist heart is pure, you will be 'all right, Jack'. You will have your TV set, your motor car and your summer holidays on the Continent and still keep your Socialist soul intact. The people who pay the price for your sense of moral satisfaction are the Africans, millions of them, being slowly forced into racial slavery; the Indians and the Indonesians dying of starvation.

    We are not just a debating society. We are not just a Socialist Sunday School. We are a great movement that wants to help real people living on this earth at the present time. We shall never be able to help them unless we get power. We shall never get power unless we close the gap between our active workers and the average voter in the country.'

Thirty years later I am still making the same speech."

Roy Jenkins, BBC's Dimbleby Lecture excerpt, 22 Nov 1979:

"The paradox is that we need more change accompanied by more stability of direction. It is a paradox but not a contradiction. Too often we have superficial and quickly reversed political change without much purpose or underlying effect. This is not the only paradox. We need the innovating stimulus of the free market economy without either the unacceptable brutality of its untrammelled distribution of rewards or its indifference to unemployment. This is by no means an impossible combination. It works well in a number of countries. It means that you accept the broad line of division between the public and the private sectors and don't constantly threaten those in the private sector with nationalisation or expropriation.

You also make sure that the state knows its place, not only in relation to the economy, but in relation to the citizen. You are in favour of the right of dissent and the liberty of private conduct. You are against unnecessary centralisation and bureaucracy. You want to devolve decision-making wherever you sensibly can. You want parents in the school system, patients in the health service, residents in the neighbourhood, customers in both nationalised and private industry, to have as much say as possible. You want the nation to be self-confident and outward-looking, rather than insular, xenophobic and suspicious. You want the class system to fade without being replaced either by an aggressive and intolerant proletarianism or by the dominance of the brash and selfish values of a "get rich quick" society. You want the nation, without eschewing necessary controversy, to achieve a renewed sense of cohesion and common purpose.

Betty Boothroyd on Tony Benn in 1981, The Autobiography (2001):

"Tony [Benn] proved a valuable supporter of mine when I became Speaker, and I acknowledged his seniority and his right to express minority opinions by calling him regularly to speak. But we were at loggerheads in those desperate times. Declaring my support for Denis [Healey], I objected to candidates who offered simple solutions to complex problems and who promised to transform society in a matter of weeks. 'In a democracy, political life is not easy. Nor, in a democracy, is intensity of commitment a substitute for the wider breadth of support needed to return a Labour government.' I mentioned no names, but did not need to."

Chris Mullin, A View From The Foothills: The Diaries of Chris Mullin; Preface, xii (Spring 2009):

"What kind of politician am I? Had I been asked when I first went into Parliament, I might glibly have replied that I saw it as my mission 'to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable'. But over the years I have learned that there is more to politics than that. If you are to stand a chance of forming a government and to do that you have to take with you a swathe of the comfortable. It follows, therefore, that in an age of majority affluence, any serious politician has to spend a fair amount of time attending to the needs of the comfortable. Today, if I were asked to define my politics, I would reply that I am 'a socialist with a small "s", a liberal with a small "l", a green with a small "g" and a Democrat with a capital "D"'."

Alan Milburn, Centre for Social Justice speech, 24 Jun 2015:

"Political parties have to exist for a purpose and so do party leaders. Without it they are nothing. Great leaders always have a big purpose. For Churchill it was victory in war, for Thatcher victory against a stifling state. For Blair it was victory against old-fashioned attitudes and institutions that held our country back. Today, to be blunt, voters are no longer sure what Labour is for. They do not see a compelling core purpose. In that regard we are not alone. Across the developed world, the Right is in the ascendancy buoyed by the collapse of communism, the grip of globalisation and the fall-out from the financial crisis. The Left has been wrong-footed, uncertain how to apply our traditional values in this new world. As always we get into trouble when we confuse the ends we believe in and the means we deploy. The one remains fixed - our commitment to fairness and justice, our insight that we achieve more together than we ever can alone. But the other - our means - has to be flexible if we are to succeed in the modern world. It is this calibration between what is fixed and what should be flexible that the centre-left has found most difficult to get right. And I think explains why across the developed world it has been losing more elections than it has been winning."
mcgillianaire: (Geetopadesham)
There are different ways to achieve political ends. Violence is a time-tested method to disrupt and divide peaceful societies anywhere and everywhere in the world. The scale of the tragedy may differ from place to place, but the intent and outcome are always the same. It matters not who the perpetrators are or what they claim to be fighting for. Throughout history, groups of people are prepared to use force to sow seeds of distrust. They want us to cower in fear. They want us to blame the other. They want us to target refugees. They want us to question everything. We must not succumb, now more than ever. Dozens of innocent civilians have been murdered. We know them, for they belong to our human family. Political boundaries and cultural distinctions are irrelevant at times like this. Toute notre solidarité avec le peuple de Paris et Beirut en ce moment de douleur. May the souls of the victims rest in peace, and may their families and friends find strength to overcome this calamity.
mcgillianaire: (Ari G)
Congratulations to Canada for throwing out the Tories and electing a majority Liberal government. About time, I might add. But is it just me who is uneasy with a seemingly growing trend of nepotism at the highest levels of Western democracies?
mcgillianaire: (Scale of Justice)
I've just handed in the following essay as part of my Academic Writing course at Harvard's Extension School. It culminates a six week process of cumulative work, that began with three assigned readings on aspects of education. We had to pick one of the three readings and build our exercises around it. The essay below is my final product. I hope you enjoy it. I think it can form the basis of a longer essay in the future, and there is certainly room for improvement, but I am fairly pleased with the way my writing has developed, particularly in regards to structure and transitions that have been a longstanding weakness of mine. I would love to receive feedback from you guys too! Thanks for taking the time to read it. The essays in the footnotes are worth a read too!



Intelligence does not have to be schooled and education takes multiple forms. What we need as a society is a recalibration of the assumptions we make about knowledge acquisition. In "Blue-Collar Brilliance", Mike Rose, a research professor at the Graduate School of Education and Information Studies at UCLA, challenges the widely-held notion that intelligence can only be measured by the amount of formal education a person has acquired, while offering an alternative viewpoint that emphasizes the extent to which blue and pink-collared workers harness their intellect.1 He is right to challenge the status-quo, but even his well-reasoned argument falls short of extending the thesis to society at large, regardless of whether someone is employed or not. And that is crucial, because for many people intelligence is still a synonym for formal education, and the more letters you have after your name, the more likely you are perceived to be of superior intelligence. By simply extending the cognitive-franchise to blue and pink-collared workers, we ignore and deny the cerebral contributions of millions of stay-at-home parents and other less academically qualified thinkers around the world.

The assumptions we make about knowledge and intelligence acquisition have a direct impact on the way our entire economy is structured. Just look at the salary and wage differentials between those generally classified as white and blue-collared workers. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2014, the mean annual wage for lawyers, airline pilots and financial managers was roughly $130,000. But for electricians and plumbers it was $54,000, and $42,000 for truck drivers. While for other blue and pink-collared workers such as janitors, grounds maintenance workers, auto mechanics and waitresses, they earned median hourly wages ranging from just $9.01 per hour to $17.84 per hour.2 Under the present system, wages do not reflect the amount of a worker’s thought and effort. The perfect example at the other extreme is that of a stay-at-home parent who does not earn any wage at all, but you would be hard-pressed to find one who does not stop thinking about their work (i.e. their children/partner) all day long. And despite the wide gap in mean wages between white and blue-collared workers, both groups of people toil a similar number of hours at their respective workplaces. If anything, blue and pink-collared employees work longer hours than their more formally educated counterparts, sometimes fitting in two or more jobs in order to make ends meet. And no doubt their experiences are as taxing on the mind as it is on the body.

But are the best and the brightest truly more intelligent? And have they acquired more knowledge? I do not believe so. Take for instance my octogenarian paternal grandmother. Denied formal schooling beyond fourth grade, she has remained a stay-at-home mom her entire life. Married before sixteen, five kids by her mid-twenties (including losing two in infancy), forced to accommodate six orphaned children from her in-law’s family soon after, and widowed at fifty, she has been compelled by circumstance to constantly adapt to a changing environment. Without a degree in home economics, she learnt how to ration a fixed supply of meager financial and food resources for the enlarged household. Religion helped provide direction in her life and she imparted the wisdom gained from its parables to her children. Even today when I visit her in my father’s hometown in southern India, it never ceases to amaze me how everybody who knows her, irrespective of age, solicits her advice to deal with life. Indeed she is the epitome of someone schooled in life. Despite lacking a formal education, she has cultivated her intelligence by acquiring knowledge through daily experience and put it to use without ever receiving a penny. And yet the society we live in would dismiss her rich contribution to it.

Our assumptions about intelligence, work and social class affect the way we treat even our fellow workers. Consider the example of a nurse in my father’s hospital who assists with surgeries. Various surgeons, including my father work with him, and through many years of experience and observation, the nurse has gained sufficient knowledge to offer useful suggestions to my father during a surgery, particularly in the middle of a tricky procedure or sticky situation. More often than not, the nurse’s insight has proven significant. But when my father recommended the nurse’s input to a fellow surgeon friend, the latter was not immediately convinced. It took several further surgeries before he acknowledged the nurse’s potential and contribution. Had the nurse completed the academic qualification to perform surgeries himself and offer suggestions, there would not have been any hesitation on the other surgeon’s part to accept my father’s advice. Rose posits that “generalizations about intelligence, work, and social class deeply affect our assumptions about ourselves and each other, guiding the ways we use our minds to learn, build knowledge, solve problems, and make our way through the world” and he is absolutely right.

Rose offers several compelling reasons as to why we need to redress the imbalance in the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition, by outlining how blue-collar workers’ “use of tools requires the studied refinement of stance, grip, balance, and fine-motor skills” while specifying how “carpenters have an eye for length, line, and angle; mechanics troubleshoot by listening, [and] hair stylists are attuned to shape, texture, and motion”. It is high time we added to this list the millions of lifelong homemakers who also tap into their intellect on a daily basis by rearing children and keeping families together.

With all this in mind, you may wonder how we might recalibrate the assumptions we make about intelligence and knowledge acquisition? For that we need to identify why it is calibrated wrong in the first place. Rose argues that “our culture – in Cartesian fashion – separates the body from the mind, so that, for example, we assume that the use of a tool does not involve abstraction. We reinforce this notion by defining intelligence solely on grades in school and numbers on IQ tests”. William Deresiewicz, an award-winning essayist and literary critic, builds on this by describing how “being at an elite college, and going on from an elite college – all involve numerical rankings. You learn to think of yourself in terms of those numbers”, while adding that “one of the great errors of an elite education, then, is that it teaches you to think that measures of intelligence and academic achievement are measures of value in some moral or metaphysical sense. But they’re not”.3 And they are both right.

Even so, Deresiewicz concedes that “the advantages of an elite education are indeed undeniable”. Yet, however incredible these elite institutions are, and however substantial the contribution they make to society, they also own a share of the responsibility for reinforcing divisions of people by class, occupation and intelligence. Deresiewicz hits the nail on the head when he says that “the problem begins when students are encouraged to forget this truth, when academic excellence becomes excellence in some absolute sense, when ‘better at X’ becomes simply ‘better’”. And that is the entrenched reality we need to overcome in order to redress the imbalance perpetuated by the prevailing system. One possible solution is to acknowledge, honor or even compensate those forms of intelligence that are not directly linked to formal education.

Yet attempting to change the way most people think is potentially a fool’s errand. But if we do not make any effort at all to change even slightly the way people make assumptions about intelligence, class and occupation, then life will carry on as it is and we will continue devaluing and degrading the contributions of millions – perhaps even billions – around the world. The onus is on us to make a difference, however small it may be. After all, as the sixth century B.C. Chinese philosopher Laozi pointed out, even “a journey of a thousand [miles] begins with a single step”.4 We already know that there are different ways to acquire knowledge and intelligence. So the journey we need to embark on does not involve uncharted territory. It simply requires a reorientation and retracing of steps to a fairer and more balanced society. Is that too much to ask?

1. https://theamericanscholar.org/blue-collar-brilliance/
2. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
3. https://theamericanscholar.org/the-disadvantages-of-an-elite-education/
4. https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Laozi#Tao_Te_Ching
  • You should also read this thought-provoking essay on education by Louis Menand - another of the three assigned to us.
  • mcgillianaire: (South Park Me)
    I'm in America. I've been here 3 weeks, and I'll be here for 9 more. The weather in Providence, RI is a lot warmer (and sunnier) than London - so far. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I'm staying with my sister and future bro-in-law. I'm taking a couple of online courses from Harvard's continuing education school and a course to prepare for the GRE. The GRE is a standardized test for postgrad studies in 'Murica. I've decided to turn my back on the legal profession and return to university next year. I'll be applying for public policy degrees in the neighborhood. Boston is commuting distance so there are quite a few options to pick from. I definitely don't have the grades or accomplishments to even consider the likes of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, but hopefully I will get admitted to the next rung of alternatives below it.

    My family would like me to remain in America after my postgrad degree, preferably close to my sister, but I am pretty clear in my mind that this is just a short adventure across the pond. That said, I am really looking forward to the opportunity of studying in America, and I am open to the idea of staying here for a year or two afterwards if I can secure a job in DC (or anywhere else, as long as it's in public policy). But I would like to return to London eventually.

    I haven't quite left permanently either. Once my three months on the visa waiver program ends, I'll be flying back to London for the Christmas period. As amazing as the weather is right now and as cool as it is to be in America, I miss Blighty. Thank fuck, if you'll pardon my French, for smartphones and tablets. And thank fuck for the BBC. The radio app has been a godsend. It's like I've never left. Although waking up to You & Yours has been an interesting experience; sort of like the opposite of waking up to Up All Night when I'm in Oman or India. And with free VPN apps, I've even been able to tune into Sky Sports to watch live events, while catching-up on the latest comedies via the iPlayer app!

    It was also interesting to vote in the Labour leadership election while sat on my computer here in America. I didn't give Jeremy Corbyn any of my nominations and instead plumped for Kendall, Cooper and Burnham in that order. None of my choices did well in the deputy leadership and London mayoral candidate election either. But nothing was as amusing as the media and shadow cabinet meltdown that greeted Corbyn's victory declaration. The Tories and right-wing media predictably labelled him a threat to humanity. And Blairites clearly didn't know what to do; cross the floor, jump ship or piss from inside the tent. Basically a raft of similar options that will not change the result in 2020.

    And poor Corbyn, the chap clearly wants politics to change, but I don't think he feels comfortable leading the circus. Leadership necessitates compromise, and if there is something that sets Corbyn apart, it is his principled consistency. Love or loathe him, he has made a career out of it. The leadership will be a test of his political ambition and nous, neither of which he has displayed until now. Yet there are many attributes that I admire in Corbyn (the backbencher), and it is refreshing that someone of his disposition has risen to the top of British politics.

    Alas, one wonders whether Labour should reduce itself to simply a party of protest, or seek to position itself as a government-in-waiting, ready to take over from the Tories at a general election. It's one thing to secure a thumping mandate from the cheerleading squad, quite another appealing to a wider electorate.

    I wasn't even bothered about his appearance at PMQs, at St Paul's cathedral, his insistence to remain silent during the national anthem, or the chaotic manner in which the shadow cabinet was formed. It reflected a person for whom substance matters over spin. But I can understand why the electorate may have viewed it differently. You know, the same people whose votes he needs in 2020. Corbyn faces an uphill battle. The Tories plan to reduce the number of MPs and re-draw constituency boundaries - largely to their benefit. And there's still no sign that Scotland will abandon the SNP. Which leaves about 50-75 marginals to gain from the Tories in order to form a government.

    Corbynistas are banking on three things: the 35% that didn't vote in May, old Labour UKIP voters and old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters. It's true, a lot of people didn't vote in May and Corbyn's election may inspire some people to vote for the first time/again. On the contrary, Labour voters who really don't like Corbyn's policies, but voted for Labour earlier this year, may jump ship too. It also remains to be seen whether young voters stick with Corbyn, if he continues to compromise on his principles (eg: accepting a role as a privy counsellor etc). As for old Labour UKIP voters, UKIP finished second in many Labour-held seats. There wouldn't be much point if those voters returned to Labour. Labour needs UKIP voters in Tory-held seats to 'return to the fold'. It's a big ask. One suspects such UKIP voters would not have been impressed with Corbyn's refusal to sing the national anthem at an event commemorating the Battle of Britain. And as for old Labour Green/Lib Dem voters, well they may gain a dozen seats or so that way, but what use will that be? They need at least 50. I just cannot see Corbyn winning a general election.

    It may all be be a moot point. Several pundits have chipped in with their predictions of how long they think Corbyn will last, ranging from a few days to three years. Even members of his shadow cabinet refuse to say with any conviction that he will fight the next general election. For what it's worth, my guess is between six months to a year. Once the novelty wears off, once conference season ends, once there are a few more media "gaffes", and once the opinion polls tank, we'll see whether he roughs it out. Unlike power-hungry careerists who would refuse to fall on their sword until the last possible moment, I think Mr Corbyn would recognise his role in a sinking ship and jump.

    One of Corbyn's illustrious predecessor's is often quoted (though perhaps incorrectly) as saying that a week is a long time in politics. Well, what a week it has been. To those who complained that politics had become a sterile affair, you've got your comeuppance. Now then, are you prepared for the consequences? I'll be watching from afar with interest.
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    There are many things to like about Jeremy Corbyn, even if one does not agree with his politics. One facet in particular stands out: he is a principled politician who walks the walk. And few can claim the same at the highest levels of politics anywhere in the world. That alone should be enough to welcome his participation in Labour's leadership election. Mr Corbyn represents a significant chunk of the Labour family, one that has been forced to accept the domination of the party's opposite-wing since the early 1980s. It has been an uneasy marriage of convenience period of submission, aided by resignation in the face of nineteen years of Tory government. But the shackles are off. The loony-left will stay silent no more.

    And why should they? This is their party too. They have as much right to be heard as the Blairites. After all, what is the point of democracy if alternative viewpoints are shut out of the mainstream? A healthy democracy is one in which (aspirant) political leaders can access a fair platform to freely exchange ideas with the body politic, regardless of how impractical, nasty, or ridiculous they may seem. Choice is paramount in the court of public opinion. Let the people decide whose evidence stands intense scrutiny.

    That doesn't mean I believe Mr Corbyn can become prime minister, or more importantly, would be a good one if he did. I certainly prefer his brand of politics to that of the swivel-eyed right. But I would rather we avoided both in government. What the country needs is a radical centrist government of all the talents. In my Labour ministry, Mr Corbyn would either be offered Foreign or Environment Secretary. The former is a job he is best-suited to and one that I suspect he secretly craves. A cynic might even say, apart from outright exclusion, it is a role in which he could cause least economic damage with his socialist leanings. There might be some truth in that.

    To some/many people, the Labour leadership contest is a debate about what the party stands for. Not for me. Leaders come and leaders go, the party carries on. Leadership contests reflect the political realities of a particular time. For better or worse, the conditions are ripe for Mr Corbyn. He isn't the first candidate from his wing of the party to contest the leadership and he won't be the last. He isn't even their most charismatic spokesperson. But he has struck a chord and gained momentum.

    It is unfortunate that some commentators have used fairly pungent language to dismiss other candidates and scaremonger their supporters. Blame for this can be apportioned to all sides. Sad as it is, that is one of the fair prices we pay for a free society. But we should do more to encourage a courteous battle that attacks policies rather than personalities. Because at the end of the day, regardless of the unhelpful labels attached to candidates and their supporters, people like me will always prefer a Labour government, however right-wing, to a Tory one that drifts left/centre (on individual policies) for opportunistic purposes.

    Politicians consciously choose their party membership. This is crucial because even though the politics of Cameron, Osborne, Clegg, Blair and Kendall may seem very similar, the fact they belong to different parties is significant. It signals to me that the philosophy underpinning their politics is at some level driven by the general aims of their party. And that makes all the difference. People like me cannot stomach the thought of voting Tory, let alone work for the party. But we do share an enthusiasm for the positive aspects of individual freedom, private enterprise and wealth creation. We are also greatly troubled by the vast disparities in wealth, education and health, at home and abroad, and the negative impacts of our imperial legacy. The question is, how do we square the circle?

    It is a conundrum that I have grappled with ever since I became politically aware as a preadolescent. And though my politics now is closer-aligned to Liz Kendall than the other three candidates, the diplomat in me can identify with Andy Burnham's obvious desire to unite opposing factions of the party. That there is significant disagreement among the Labour family is to be cherished. Dissent is at the heart of our open and tolerant society. The key is to recognise that the majority of us largely agree on the ultimate aim: to establish as fair a playing field as possible for everyone, not just in Britain, but if possible, even the world. The disagreement pertains solely to the means adopted.

    The problem is exacerbated by a fixation of pigeon-holing people, policies and ideas into neat boxes to fit our narrow world-view. Speak in favour of free markets and be accused of Blairism, or worse, of being a Tory. Talk about re-nationalising the railways, and be accused of importing communism. Talk about limiting AIDS treatment to British citizens, and be accused of racism. And so forth. We need to take a much more liberal and loose approach to strict definitions. We also need to learn how to let go of the past and treat the present on its own merits. It is understandable why the mass media adopts these simplistic strategies to explain complex issues, but we don't have to play their game.

    We need to co-opt a grown-up politics where it is perfectly normal to discuss Corbyn's policies with those of his opponents, as though the only differences between them were the reasons put forward as to why one should be favoured over another. I truly believe that there are always positives to gain even from those whose politics are diametrically opposed to mine. Ideally, we need to take the best of everything, discard the worst, but be willing to discuss absolutely anything so that we can test, scrutnise and tease out the best and worst bits, before jumping to conclusions. There are few (if any) easy solutions to the myriad of decisions taken by politicians. Every choice results in benefits and costs. Every. Single. One. Even the best ones.

    Ultimately, every generation should have an opportunity to challenge allegedly settled states of affair. Who knows, the debate might throw up some interesting or unforeseen perspectives from which we could all learn something. Or perhaps not. But we won't know for sure until we try. So to those who say, Jez We Can, count me in for the ride. We can worry about the destination after 12 September.
    mcgillianaire: (Union Jack)
    "One of the things that always makes me furious is the knee-jerk stupidity of saying that the Daily Mail used to support fascism, thereby implying that it is somehow tainted goods in its modern form. I certainly have my differences with the politics of the modern Mail, but it is blind prejudice to link what it published, for a brief period, in the 1930s to what it does today. So I was delighted to see on Anna Raccoon's blog last week a piece by Matt Wardman in which he presented a media history lesson. He omitted a crucial fact and I'll come to that in a moment. But he made two very important points - firstly, the Mail was not the only paper to carry articles supporting Oswald Mosley's blackshirts. The Daily Mirror did too."

    (Don't damn the Daily Mail for its fascist flirtation 80 years ago, Roy Greenslade, 6 December 2011)

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