Standing One’s Ground

There is ever a temptation, especially when work is coming in too slowly, at times of the year like January when Christmas is spent out and clients’ resolutions to be more prudent are still in force, and potential clients are nursing hangovers and servicing debts incurred last year; for a guy or a gal to consider lowering standards to make doing business more attractive to would-be to clients.

One searches around looking for those places whereabouts corners can be cut and quick fixes will do; in fact looking to expunge the very items on which a self-respecting developer rests his true satisfaction and good repute.

The advice here is then: hold the line and persevere.

Of course when one is starving and the creditors are knocking at the house door this seems, and probably is, next to impossible advice to accept.  Like King Richard III on the field of Bosworth, one in this situation is likely to agree that ‘a horse; a horse; my kingdom for a horse!’ is the right kind of tactic.  The old adage says: ‘Needs must when the devil drives’; and again ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’.

Though if you have some means yet to keep the wolf from the door it is better, I would argue, to retain your normal fixed rates per hour and your pricing standards per job; to keep ploughing at those little significant but unheralded niceties and lubricants to the projects you do; making them run sweetly and quietly impressing your clients to boot.

One not only retains one’s will to live; and one’s will to live to one’s own standards; but there is no regret; nor no hill to climb back up to for you, from where you descended to so as to barter away quality for quick cash.

What my friend and colleague does in the event of austere times is to retrieve his full list of known and trustworthy contacts; friends, business people, family, well-wishers; all – and then he circulates amongst them a round robin mail explaining that need presses him and asking whether they, or else anybody among their acquaintance, and whom they can refer him to, is in need of work being done.

Now this might look like, or even faintly taste of throwing oneself upon charity; or worse; begging.  There are some major things to say about this concern.

The request in the round robin is for procuring work; and ever ‘the labourer is worthy of his hire’ – always.  Remember there is no cut-price cut-corners offers involved of your asking to do works for clients – at this stage.   You retain all your appurtenances and business regimen. You have changed your tack and approach just a little- from a more passive absorption of work and clients as they arrive on your desktop; to a more active seeking for work. It may be less of a wrench to change tack in this way for some rather than for others.  If you are one of the ones it is a wrench for, then it is to you I need to put the following narrative most clearly.

The great national bard of Scotland, Robert Burns, was dying, at the age of 37, of the physiological after-effects on his heart of him having contracted rheumatic fever as a boy, possibly from the necessity of his family causing him to have to go out and plough the fields on his father’s farm, with a horse and team, and at an age when his strength was not fitted to this arduous work.  He was in is last days taking the icy waters of the Firth of Forth on the North Sea coast, in January, at which time in Scotland, temperatures are well bellow freezing. This was on his doctor’s advice.

Burns was hoping that the waters would cure him, or at least preserve his life for a time. He was in fact days away from his death day and his taking the waters was in fact hastening that day.

During these final days he was broke, and in debt to quite a few and belligerent creditors.  He twice in these final days had received threats of imprisonment for debt from two separate persons he owed to; and twice he had found himself compelled, for the sake of his family and his own survival, to write letters to friends asking for a ten pound note each time, so that he was not thrown into prison to die in squalor.

Prisons in those days: well, San Quentin and Guantanamo are parties compared to them.  Many persons imprisoned for debt did not see daylight again but spent their lives incarcerated.  Many died prematurely because unless one’s relatives and friends brought in food to you daily, you starved.  Cells were not heated, exposed to the elements, never cleaned; there were no public conveniences (bathroom facilities); it was a waking nightmare and few survived.

Added to this Burns was a man who owned a seriously proud an extremely upright sense of honour; as gentlemen of the time did as a matter of course.  One is able to read his final letters asking for the £10 notes; they are extant.  As one reads them one feels so very acutely how hard and humiliating it was for him to have to write them. They are short and to the point, and full of sorrow and reluctance about the situation he has been forced into by circumstances. They are pitiful.

£10 was a good sum in those days (1786).

Here was a man like whom no person in Scotland at the time, and maybe since, has produced, or could produce, such fine quality works produced in such abundance, and such as have lasted, and will continue to last, as long at Lowland Scots English can be read and spoken.

Ask any Scots woman or man living today whether had they had £10 and they could have sent it by return post to Burns upon his request; if they would not have been willing to send £100, or £1000, or £10,000; and some people among them more; just to give him some succour, some comfort, at that terrible time.  And if they would have been able to send him a doctor; or otherwise to assist in prolonging his life a little; they would have found the best doctor their money could afford, or used any means remotely plausible, the save or prolong his life.

200 years have passed since then; and time passing and history emerging offers us all hindsight and focus.  Burns might have been abominably humiliated by his, what I would judge, misplaced strong sense of pride and respectability, at having to ask for money from friends; but his friends knew him; knew his humiliation and pain; and gladly gave him what he asked. No more; because more displays the unwanted condescension of superior pity; no less; because he had asked for that specific £10 amount exactly.  They respected his plight and his sense of honour.

Although I say Burns’ pride was misplaced in my opinion; the extreme opposite; showing no sense of pride at all and abjectly cravenly to beg and plead unbeseeemingly, no-one admires nor can tolerate, unless danger is very immediate and powerful; and the abjection is thus caused by the severe heat of a moment.

But generally persons who continually come across to us as ever exploiting their ‘neediness’ are difficult to like and hard to help with a goodwill.

So, strike that balance. Remember: ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire.’ Always

You don’t have to take shit simply because you are on your uppers; and you don’t need to invite it by you throwing away, casting to the wind, that self-esteem you can always fall back; on knowing in yourself that you have given your best shot; so that your sense of self-worth tells you that, for better or for worse, you did not let down at any time your nearest and dearest, nor even yourself.

Climbing back up the hill after opting for such a descent is arduous and can be cruelly difficult.

Proving Oneself in Business

In business one of the hardest things to establish – and it is also one of the easiest things to be destroyed – is one’s reputation.

The old funny applies with reputation:

‘Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you’

No-one goes through life without displeasing some people.  The old song applies here:

‘You can’t please everyone so you’d better please yourself’

The rider here is that pleasing oneself is to be synonymous with taking a modest pride in doing the best quality work you can offer your clients.

You will generate discords along the way nonetheless. These might arise from simple misunderstandings, or worse, from jealousies and rivalries, or worse from downright lies and malevolence.  A prevalent root cause for these bad vibes being generated is nailed by the Apostle Timothy:

‘The love of money is the root of all evil’

If business people are going to fall out it is most likely they will fall out over money; even when money is not the issue it will often be used as a pretext for what is the issue to be used against one.

And so business reputation is a fragile thing. One bad apple spoils the whole barrel, so the proverb goes.  A guy or girl with an attitude firmly against you, and who is in a position to do you much harm, once let loose with motive, means and opportunity will work the works of idle hands upon you.  And to an extent your reputation will be in tatters.

If this happens, or has happened to you: take hope from it.  Those whom the well-poisoners are unable to infect; those who have resistance and some amount of immunity from their bad medicines, are those who will and who have stuck by you; and they and you have been tried and come through the fire.

Of Our Lord himself it is said in John’s Gospel that after He offered this followers some hard condition to accept that: From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.’

So look upon a partial loss of your goodwill towards you from others, lost through noises of unjustified rancour and ill will spread about concerning you; look upon it as a providential refining away of extraneous things to reveal better metals remaining.

In these times there are many online helps where business persons are able to seek and make connections and networks among similarly interested and disposed communities.  Quite often the connections will be made for only expedient reasons. To get business or to assist a friend in getting business; returning favours and reciprocal arrangements.

But life is larger than our plans and expedients, and has a way of doing the housekeeping and tidying things up in our lives of its own accord as we adventure ever into our futures.

In so far that any endorsement of one’s reputation is genuine; then it is useful and of value. It may be genuine in various ways. It may be heartfelt and so sincere. It may be accurate in fact, and so authentic. It may be positive or maybe less so; offering say a backhanded compliment or a damnation with faint praise – as the idioms go.  It may be glowing through and through but marred by a single – trivial or maybe more significant – detail of adverse criticism.  But when a positive endorsement is sincere and authentic it is at its best.

The place from which such an endorsement comes is of course crucial. From a substance abuser praise of heroin is not useful.  From a freshman praise of a prizewinning professor carries little weight or benefit.  These are examples taken from the view of the things of the world – that is by appearances – which is perhaps nine tenths of what the world relies on for its assessments of issues.

To get an authentic and sincere and positive endorsement from a person of calibre is good in the world – but to get such from a person of calibre and of good character is far, far better.  A glowing notice from the Dalai Lama is far more sound than a glowing notice from say Donald Trump. The old saying applies:

‘Would you buy a used car from this man?’

And so there are those clients who will follow where the world will lead them and so mostly judge upon appearances; and there are those clients, who are the best sort, and those most likely to return to you again and again, who will see that far further and consider you as an artisan; as a character; and as a sure and capable pair of hands. This then is the bedrock of reputation.

The dramatist contemporary of Shakespeare, Ben Jonson says in his inimitable way a few things akin to these my personal judgements on what makes good reputation. He writes:

‘To The Reader: If thou beest more, thou art an understander, and then I trust thee. If thou art one that takest up, and but a pretender, beware of what hands thou receivest thy commodity; for thou wert never more fair in the way to be cozened…’

An old British Army saying acts to explicate and to act as commentary on Ben Jonson’s prophesy that the person who is without judgement is s/he most likely to be swindled. It runs:

‘Bullshit baffles brains’

So don’t use the bullshit, use the solid grit, and like the guy in Matthew’s Gospel, build your house on rock, and the storm which comes will not wash you away like it does the guy who builds his house on sands.  Then your reputation will stand and withstand. Make sure your work and your earnest matches it.

Certainty and Scientific Method

The nature of scientific experiment, as part of scientific method, has been and continues to aim at making testing as ‘pure’ as is possible.  This is to say that when an experiment is to be carried out, then as many extraneous items of circumstance and presence surrounding the setting of it up are attempted to be eliminated.

Any condition or item extraneous to the composition and nature of the theory that is being tested is attempted to be taken away from it making interference with the course of the experiment.

When things are not able easily to be taken away, and they are extraneous and so not useful or pertinent to the testing of the theory in question, they are attempted to be neutralised or isolated in some way so that their effects of being present do not influence or alter inconveniently the results (expected) of a test.

When such things are not able to be taken away and also are not able easily to be neutralised or else isolated, then their influences or interferences with the procedure of an experiment and so with its (expected) results is attempted to be allowed for in the anticipated results of a test.  This is done so that a result of a test is able to be evaluated and then adjusted by allowing for the disorder or the unbalancing of an initial result by the interference of extraneous items or conditions unable to be removed beforehand from the proceedings of a test.

And so the ‘ideal’ experiment is one which would take place making use only of the essential ingredients needed to run a bona fide authentic test – the sufficient and necessary items only, with all other items and conditions expelled from having an influence on the outcome.

The nearest scientists come to this ‘pure’ or ‘ideal’ situation for doing experiments is when they conduct what are known as ‘thought experiments’.  Thought experiments are done when scientists think-through a set of circumstances and the interactions of those circumstances, so as to try to find a logical or other valid outcome, but crucially without their using physical apparatus or materials.  Thought experimentation is done wholly in the head.

The general nature of doing experimentations in these ways then necessitates that tested and established theories of science are expected to align themselves most conformably with the results and outcomes of new experiments. They are to align as being the science and its precepts whose reliability supports the new tests’ probability and probity for success, as well as providing their likelihood in being selected for trial in the first place. But all new tests are attempted, as far as this is possible, within a pure and ‘sanitised vacuum’ so to speak.

There might be such things as complex theories to be tested, or experiments which involve more than one theory to be tried, or else one or more established theories might be included as given parts of the set up model so as to support the conditions for experiment on proposed theory to be tested.

But the basic proposal holds good always; that all else which is unnecessary and extraneous to a proposed test is to be removed, neutralised or taken account of so as to get a result from the test that is as far as possible a ‘pure’ result, unadulterated as if existing in an ‘sanitised vacuum’.

The first thing to make a note of about this methodology is that even in the most ‘pure’ environments of experimentation, in the ‘thought experiments’, there is much scope for interferences and for extraneous items to intervene regardless in a ‘proper’ procedure.

The historical case of is the postulation of a gas called phlogiston. This gas was assumed to be of negative mass, and being thought such was thought accountable for the loss of mass witnessed in burnt ashes when compared with the mass of the items which were burnt, before their burning. There was involved in this supposed solution phlogiston a thought experiment which took the results of a physical experiment and misconstrued them by creating the concept of phlogiston. The interpretation of the findings was flawed, and was flawed for two reasons.

Firstly there was most likely insufficient circumstantial understanding of science available to and surrounding the creator of the concept of phlogiston. Such a lack in great part allowed opportunity for the creator of that concept to postulate a gas which had properties unlike any other comparable material then known or understood.

Secondly the reasoning of the creator of the concept of phlogiston seems to have opted for ‘the glass half empty’ choice over and above the ‘glass half full’ choice.

Like in solving x in a quadratic equation there can be a negative answer and a positive one; only the positive one being of actual use in a practical application, to say an engineering project.  The concept of phlogiston seems to have arisen as if an engineer was working to apply negative loads or stresses to an idea for a building he was planning.

The conceptualiser of phlogiston had not supposed that materials had left the ash, and they were at one time part of its mass, but at a time beforehand, when they were part of the material before it burnt to ash.  Instead he had opted for the nearest best alternative; that a gas of negative mass had been added to the materials during combustion, thus making their ash measure less in mass.

The lack of sufficient basement scientific understanding was the open gate through which the conceptualiser of phlogiston was able to walk though into a fallacious belief.

The simple truth is that an experimenter has to be able to have foreknowledge of the presence and the nature of all extraneous items and conditions which could present themselves and so might have potential to interfere with an experiment he is proposing. In this way he hopes to obtain a ‘pure’ state for the test’s performance.  And the case with phlogiston implies to us that even were this first obstacle overcome and a ‘pure’ state was made possible in which to test a theory, there might still remain pitfalls in the mind and in the reasoning of men and women which might intervene to cause an interpretation made wrongly from any perceived empirical result.

The misinterpretation of observed phenomena is an accidental and incidental occurrence however, and as such is harder to guard against than safeguards made by using one’s sound basement understanding of all the science one feels assured of, and so before the case eliminate as far as possible from a test interferences . This second demand requires only diligence and application; the first demand, for correct interpretation of observed results, might truly be wholly unluckily mistaken in certain unfortunate cases.

Tickers and Feeds

We have been working lately for a Ticker LED Display Signs business, which offers various topical News Feeds, as content for the LED Display Sign hardware it markets.

It struck me that this business setup is a useful analogue to place in an article like this to say something about how human societies work and gel as units, in so far as they continue to gel as units in a world as we, the Developed Nations, know it today.

The Display Signs in this world are newspapers and journals, TV and cinema and The Web, plus the talk which we hear and pass around – as gossip or as discussion – and so forth.  The Feeds are the content of these Display Signs – shows, movies, news, comedy, drama, study, gossip, discussion, debate and so on.

There is, in the Ticker company’s business model a resource called Custom Messaging; which is where a person with a Display Sign is able to create her own Feeds of content on her own topics in her own words – like people do these days on The Web at Twitter, Facebook and blogs and forums and so on.

This analogue of Ticker LEDs is, then, OK to use for saying something about the methodology of how societies communicate and exchange ideas and thoughts and feelings.

Another analogue worth adding to the Ticker LED one is taken from the world of the New York, London and Paris Fashion Houses.  The idea about using this came to me today when I was looking in a Bridal wear shop window (the shop also sells second-hand books, which was why I was looking in).  There were female mannequins in the window which had been dressed up by shop assistants into some quite suave Bridesmaid dresses. The dresses were something very much out of the ordinary, compared with everyday dress, and in this way they were like The London Week and other high fashion shows wherein models wearing spring and summer collections parade catwalks doing the crazy walks they do.

The Fashion Designers in the Fashion Houses are the ultimate Feeds and their designs are the definitive Content of their Feeds – regarding women’s dress for the new season. The Fashion Houses, their buildings, catwalks, models are the Sign Displays whereon the content of the Feeds are displayed. The audiences, whether fashion writers and critics or rich people interested in a new look, are subsidiary Feeds (authors) of the definitive Content (their reviews) on their various sub Display Signs like magazines and society talk.

The first analogue concerning Ticker LEDs emphasises the complexity and diversity of social communications and the bewildering amount that goes on, much of it like clockwork, and all around us. (The custom message content is of course not like clockwork, and, if anywhere, this it the place where ‘spanners in the works’ are most likely to be deliberately dropped in.)

The Fashion House analogue on the other hand emphasises very well the almost exclusive Top Down nature and direction of societal Display Signs and of their Feeds and Feed Contents.   Only The Web is a powerful source whereon even Joe Soap and his wife might have a say or else rip someone up. The Web is then a Custom Message source. It is available to most of us ‘also-rans’ in today’s rich societies, and importantly, it is available also for the same purposes to many ‘also-rans’ in less affluent and more repressive parts of the globe.

Let’s now look at the dynamics of Feeds and Content, using Fashion Houses as our model.  The Fashion Designers set the pace. (They are more often than not men.) Theirs is a High Calling.  They are The Dukes, The Duchesses. What they say goes.

(How a person gets to such an eminence and to such a level of almost absolutist autocracy is hard to fathom in an age, allegedly, of democracy?  Where does such aggregation and arrogation of authority come from indeed?)

They are, they would say, judged on their performance and by the fashion critics and other mediators in their audiences, Lady so and so and Dame this and that, who have the power to make or break them. But the fashion critics and the Ladies and dames would need to work in relative unison were they to want to bring down a Fashion Designer for any reason

The word ‘performance’ is a descriptor of note. The fashion show, it is called a show, is performed as a stylised ritual of catwalks, clapping, sequences, collections, silly walks and swishes aiming to be a female equivalent of courtship display. The names of the Fashion Houses, of the models who model for them, and their images, the set times of year for shows, and their seasonal frequency; all take the form of hallowed and revered ceremony; as if something else, situated elsewhere, than ‘in the real world’ were going on.

This is the hype; the nine-tenths hype which these things are in essence.  (I am not denigrating female life; I could have easily have chosen The NLA or The Premier League, or Grand Opera Houses, as equally powerful analogues).

The audiences of titled Ladies and Fashion Critics have it wholly in their interest to ‘take home with them’ the requisite high praise and the ‘shock and awe’ glamour of hype necessary for a good sales promotion of new clothes in the exclusive Knightsbridge shops over the following months. They all muck-in together to help set the trend and establish the standard.  In this way, and by these means, a complete wardrobe which would have had at best a certain artistic value only, and which is hardly ever very practical or greatly commercial in itself, is raised via hype to iconic heights which are necessary as a prerequisite and perquisite for launching with a splash the new fashions into the high-end retail sectors.

Glossy clothes magazines in large variety gradated variously in the marketplace to suit any social standing are published monthly. These carry pitches, in registers at various levels, and in a very clearly demarcated pecking order, so that they are fanning downwards through the social classes to the bottom. At the bottom is the type of the girl who would have worked on a till at a Woolworths.  As the images of the clothes, and the clothes themselves also, slide down the societal pecking order their opulence diminishes as do their prices. Their practicality is gradually enhanced as they trend down the line towards wholly practical at the bottom, and their levels of outlandishness reciprocally decrease. The Dime shop serving girls cannot afford the bucks to look ‘funny’ and would not understand clothes as kitsch ‘art’ either.

This sequencing in a societally downwards trend is planned and done deliberately so as to get maximum cash returns from a Season’s clothes.  It follows fairly predictable sets of patterns which oddly enough work by themselves in society automatically, more or less.

‘Everyone in their place and a place for everyone’

The Web is of course The Place, if any, where this rigidly constraining, in part self-incarcerating, systematisation in the shape and direction of our societies, is best to be challenged and broken down.  It is the single place in modern life where Custom Messages are able to ‘get through’; where ‘spanners can be thrown into the works’. The Place where people of any rank or class are able to say what they feel and speak their own thoughts for themselves. The Web is where new and better organisations can be and where they are being established and nurtured (Bitcoin, Crowd sourcing, Creative Commons).

And this is why the law  – and the governments and businesses behind it – are trying to close The Web down – I don’t mean shut it – I mean grab control – shanghai us – put us back in our box – whatever you call it – put the lid back on.

So along with the criminals the politicals were rounded up also and sent to slave labour camps in the USSR (see Solzhenitsyn’s ‘The Gulag Archipelago’).  Likewise the same tactic is being used by our masters to load into one big bag labelled ‘Wreckers: Beware!’ the guys who scam, and who hack to rob cash, who slander in malice, and plant viruses with schadenfreude – to bag up all these criminals up in the very same bag, and under the same label, as you and me; who want merely justice, love, peace, truth, concord, happiness and kindness to one another.

And who want a better life than the ones facades of hype and falsity feed like foison to people as though beasts; and which entrap us in our dependencies on a convinced need to emulate where we are led to understand real life is played out

Money as Debt: The Sway of Property Possession

Ownership of an item seems to me only to be able to occur once the item in question has dropped out of circulation in the marketplace as it being a value-counter within the system of the means of exchange.  In other words, only when an item is on the market for sale or to buy does it take part as a good of value in the monetary system of exchange.  When it is not for sale or is unable to be bought it is of no value in the system of means of exchange. But possession of, as opposed to ownership, of property is nonetheless able to act as a token, a latent call, upon the goods and services of another in redemption of a debt owed. What the Americans call ‘collateral’ and ‘leverage’

I guess the words ‘possession’ and ‘latent’ are crucial here. They say: I have the power and I am able to exert it – at will. The worst form of tyrannical oppression.

This is because any saleable item can change from it being not for sale to it being for sale, and in doing so it will add to the sum total of value in the system of the means of exchange as that sum of value stands at any given time. Since there are items coming and going, on and off the market, in a scale of billions of items all day every day, the market left to itself fluctuates and is never able to be wholly stable.

There exists an element of risk though. To nominate that one’s good is in the market (for sale or as collateral or leverage) means that one has to engage to sell it when a buyer arises.  Of course one might withdraw from selling it at the last moment without penalty; once or twice, or when withdrawal is common practice in the field of the goods sector marketplace one’s good is being withdrawn from. But when it is not normal or acceptable one will get two or three waivers before buyers begin to shun you and seek goods elsewhere.

But as collateral or as leverage; neither of these uses of goods on the marketplace can be effectively made without the actual possibility of the goods in question having to be sold or used as validation or as realisation of an obligation incurred.  This then is the risk – a person eventually might have to sell or realise as cash an item which s/he had no intention of selling and was hoping not to have to sell.

When the collateral or leverage are not in fact able to act as such and are not of substantive value once they are forced to be realised as money; then you get the situation we all know the implications of so well.

This is because the market is exposed to manipulations by big holders of property and goods; provided they have a store enough of items of value sufficient to work the market in their favour, by adding them to the market for sale or by taking them off the market for sale.

This is the case with banks and money. When one holds a monopoly in creating debts for others, and in being able to incur debt to oneself without owing to a creditor, the way seems paved for you to go into the marketplace and work the market in your favour. Maybe, whence the old saying? ‘Money comes to money.’

There is indeed bias in the system which looks to remain certain and in place whichever way you turn the penny; and it displays itself in the phenomenon of there being a Top Layer of wealthy entities (the crème de la crème or the scum- both rise to the top?) which holds the cords and pulls the strings regarding the marketplace and the value and means of exchange.

This bias tends towards this Top Layer never being placed in a position where it can be seriously challenged or superseded by an opposition element which has been established on the same terms, as the Top Laver’s operations and in its own image. No-one with the same approach as that of the Top Layer is able to supplant this layer – to join it maybe – but unlike a Mafia boss a person or entity is not able to wipe out all trace of rival families.

The Top Layer is secured permanent in this way because the system is ever preloaded (in great measure by the Top Layer itself) towards its benefit. Normally only weakness, incompetence or an accident of apocalyptic proportions from within; an implosion, is able to topple any entity from this Top Layer into penury or perdition.

So unless humans wipe out the planet wholesale by wars and depredations, the risk of there being an Epic Fall from grace out of the Top Layer, in every way will come from internal endogenous dysfunctionality only, or else from a revolutionary radical grass roots systemic change (a people-led apocalypse)

Now you might see where I’m heading? Because in truth the banks did nearly top themselves in the years that ran up to 2008 and after, selling to one another this and that great parcel of garbage and so in the final instance incurring massive debts on these sales because there came a point at which the parcels could no longer be passed on again and again in the ‘normal’ way of commerce.

The garbage they sold on to one another in their sectors was garbage in that no-one in their marketplaces to whom they sold it, in the final instance would or could acknowledge it any more as being authentic, sincere and genuinely transactable security upon that level of debt which ostensibly it had been marketed represented as being.

It collateral value, its value as leverage, was exposed publicly to be zero.

Thus the inevitable event of the Great Crash came, people stopped buying the garbage; and those left with parcels of it on their hands took the massive hits. It is generally agreed (after the event and on hindsight) that the banks’ own folly and greed, in performance comprising the whole nine yards of the Seven Deadly Sins, were their instruments of violence and destruction against themselves in their self-inflicted near fatal self-harm.

Everyone Sank

In 2008

Everyone was spending like there was no Gomorrah

Then the barrel fell over

And the edge of it ran down the hill to the bottom

And stopped


We all got laid off, got back on the road, played hell,

Dusted ourselves down

The dealers joshed and jostled at the heads of the queues


That day

God rolled up the rainbow like a fancy cotton carpet

Put it in his back pocket

Drove down to El Dorado’s to the beach


Gaming the slots, soliciting dancing girls:

Now there’s no-one to square, pick up the party pieces

Spending Time on Reports?

A developer, like most of us, can think s/he knows what s/he is doing, where s/he is going, with a project, and believe that the project is well-mapped out in the cerebral cortex, and ready to roll.  There’s a certain sense of confidence arises when one feels one has a general grasp of what is needed to be done.

The old saying: The proof of the pudding is in the eating – is important and true here. And adopting a practice, and making it your standard practice, to resolve to write down in everyday language those confident thoughts milling between neurones in your head, will indeed expose the holes and non-sequiturs, and at the very least bring a greater clarity to your aid.

It is not that you might be wrong: that your sense of confidence is misplaced in believing in being able to achieve what you have been charged to build. In these cases that sense of inner confidence; what the TV detective calls a ‘hunch’, is normally a kind of internal radar which is pretty accurate.

It is that your unconscious mind is allowing you that sense of confidence; and because of this you will find that you cannot really very easily bring up with faciltity into you to consciousness everything which goes into the building of a projected job; and certainly you will find that you cannot do such a thing all at once.

‘We don’t want a madhouse and the whole thing here’

Your unconscious mind is fitting together ideas and projections and all sort of connectors and conjunctions so as for you to be able to say to your client with confidence: I can do this for you.  The trick is to learn how to mine the data out of your unconscious by writing down meticulously the project as a plan; and so you are realising consciously those unconscious connectors and conjunctions you are reliant upon for doing the work well.

The effort will be surprisingly hard for you. To write down in everyday language a skeleton upon which you aim to hang flesh on your projected task to make it live.  There will be pauses and problems and unforeseen mantraps and cul-de-sacs to negotiate: things overlooked and things misremembered and things which you have half an idea of but need to polish up on.  But overall your ‘hunch’ nevertheless will generally transpire as being a correct one.

What will also be difficult will be to get your thoughts down in, say, English, so that they accurately reflect what you want to say.  There was a philosopher of science who once said famously:

‘There is nothing I can say which cannot be misunderstood’

But the attempting to ‘say what you mean and to mean what you say’ will bring awareness and clarity and in bringing it will act to debug your mind before your mind is applied as a tool to construct a virtual reality in the image of itself.

Look upon it as being a personal challenge to see the writing through to the finish; and do finish it before you begin to start work proper on development of the item of work.  Use your writing as your personal Requirement Document, and maybe run it past your client to see whether a) it agrees with what s/he has in his head for the work and b) whether what s/he has in his head for the work necessarily needs to be modified in the light of what you have achieve in performing this exercise.

So why waste time with all this? Why not just get on and do.  Why not just go straight to writing a comprehensive technical specification document – if you actually do write such things beforehand to working to realise the product of a job.

Well: people buy Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training and pay money for the privilege of a mental workout which has no direct practical applications. At best Dr Kawashima can help generally to improve one’s concentration and sharpen one’s thought processes but these benefits depend on one obtaining a transfer of skill or aptitude over into everyday and particular practical situations which confront us.

Dr Kawashima provides you with entertainment and is at least in part a game.  The essence of a game is that there is no actual consequential penalty or loss riding on its completion; unlike when one is doing a job of work to earn one’s living. When one messes up on a paying job the pay check will not arrive; and one’s reputation will need at the least some massage and resuscitation.  There is a living riding on the outcomes of ones occupational achievement.

So why buy a game when instead you can do it yourself for real and increase your capabilities, your reputation, your income, and your sense of well-being and accomplishment, by applying a bit of brain training in a crucial and live situation.

You can improve and so find mining one’s unconscious data more felicitous and productive as you practice it further. It constitutes a good habit into which one is able to train oneself, and grow up into.

It can be hard going it alone.  So a guy or gal to bounce things off is a good recommendation: someone likeminded maybe, and someone also eager to do some extra-mural mental gym.  As the old poet said wisely:

‘When two go together, one sees before the other’

I guarantee you that you will be surprised how instructive the famous saying of the philosopher of science can be for you.  Take it as your maxim and your tenet and refer always to it as you go; so as to examine yourself and your work for those sneaky omissions and elisions, and those sly misnomers or those elusive double-dealing double-meanings.

When you have brought out from your depths to a written form with which you are happy a document which lays out clearly, comprehensively and concisely your upcoming job of work as a plan or a working blueprint, the gain is in the sense of restful and unruffled grounding you possess, and are able to give to the work of making the thing a reality.

It is not wasted time. It is not unnecessary. It is time spent up front working through hypothetically what you might have done actually and in fact and in the doing in fact could have turned into a real pig’s ear what now instead is likely to be a much smoother and much more enjoyable, rewarding task: a joy.

Furthermore, at the back end of a job approached this way there is most likely going to be a lot less debugging, fewer back to formulas and redactions.  Perhaps most importantly, you might feel like taking a reasonable and modest pride in yourself too?

Business and Behaviour

Isaac Newton formulated a law of motion saying: ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’; and his law has stood us in good stead for hundreds of years since.

Its application was in the field of physics; but it has application also in human relations; maybe not quite as regularly as in physics, but pretty often nonetheless.

In discussing how it applies to human relations in this article,  and more especially so in business relations, I want to show and so advocate how handling well one’s own behaviour, towards oneself and towards others, is to the general good, and as such is productive of  more wealth creation than is say and aggressive or a scattergun approach to handling oneself and others.

Shakespeare’s Jew of Venice, Shylock, was much maligned for his race and creed (as was too general for Jews in those days) and he pleads in the courtroom, where, in part, because he is a Jew, he is accused of being an inhuman monster:

“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”

This ‘we’ he is talking about might be humanity in general because his claims are not only applicable to Jews.  Our natural passions prefer us giving others like for like: ‘As you give, thus shall you be meted out’.

Our natural passions unrestrained are for loving those who love us and hating those who hate us; and are for helping those who help us and harming those who harm us. ‘Every action has a reaction’.

The Biblical law ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ is not, as it is too commonly taken to be by non-Jews, a call for vengeance and for doing hurt to people as much as they hurt you.  It is very much the opposite. It is a restraint, a curb, a regulation, which is set so as to prohibit those hurt or cheated from taking too much vengeance on the perpetrators.  This law is saying then that only as much as an eye can be taken in recompense for the taking of an eye.

And so an ‘equal and opposite’ reaction against having been harmed or annoyed might often be considered insufficient by the natural person listening to his natural passions for revenge.

Can you see where this is going with business and with business relationships?  When a guy has gotten out of order and deliberately messed you up in some way; not paying on time or sabotaging a project or such; the temptation for you is to take a hammer and smash his business or sometimes smash him himself?  You feel you want, as you say, to make an example of him.

What you really want is not so much to deter others from doing likewise to you; rather you want satisfaction pure and simple of your incensed passions against him.  As Shakespeare has Shylock say: ‘let the forfeit be nominated for an equal pound of his fair flesh’.

Hence a punishment felt to be too heavy is sometimes said by observers to be a person injured demanding as redress ‘a pound of flesh’.

This way the spirit of Cain is raised in us, and we ponder murder in our hearts.  And this is why in business we need and make regulations and sign agreements with partners, and we propose penalties beforehand, at a time when we are calm, and can see the objective situation better, with a cool head.

So when, as it frequently is, a case of an injured party in business seeking punitive costs or harms so as to aim to ruin or smash their adversary, only the lawyers are winners in fact.  This is because contrary to the saying that ‘vengeance is best served cold’, in reality most times vengeance allows no real satisfaction at all.  Not even psychologically as – a much misused term – ‘closure’.  Shakespeare has another Venetian of his say about jealousy something which equally can be said about punitive vengeance being served out; that it ‘mocks the meat it feeds on’.

The meat of vengeance is in a sense of victory, supremacy, dominance in an exultant punisher for having crushed another altogether.  It offers nothing at all that is practically useful or beneficial; not even to the avenger taking relishing with his meat – especially not to the avenger even.

In these cases avengers feed on meats which whet an appetite better quelled than indulged; better regulated than given free rein.  It is a meat which sickens the health of a mind and a body because it substitutes one grievous loss as recompense for another grievous loss. Punitive loss and harm offered to and wreaked upon a business enemy or opponent, substitutes for the offerer as recompense for a business loss suffered by him, usually concerning work or money.  It just cannot be healthy for a body and a mind to accept as due quittance such a punitive loss inflicted by them on another, even when that other was cause of the loss; and whether or not that other had been culpable.

In these case the balance and equanimity of business relations suffer generally and adversely, because the precedent set and the example given by attritional acts of revenge, act to pollute the wellsprings of good faith, and of prima facie goodwill upon which doing business with facility best thrives.  In practice this means to an economic community real actual loss of wealth and productivity.

This lack of balance and equanimity when a community or a part of it is at war with itself, and when business minds find themselves happy to be fed on red meats of punitive revenges: this cannot but destabilise and throw into disorder such a community; and to the extent that that those minds hold sway and influence within that community.

Simply put, the result is that buyers and seller in a community become inhibited and cautious, less trustful and more predisposed to secrecy, deception and a close-handed self-regard, so that their doing business through their companies and deals will become likewise much eviscerated.

Revenge has been termed ‘a kind of wild justice’.  How much more wild and predatory then is an attritional revenge?

So if we can keep our business reparations to a maximum of ‘an eye for and eye’;  and maybe in practice it would remain most beneficial for us all in business to stay ourselves a good deal short of such a demand; we might in fact be removing burdens from our own shoulders by doing so?

It’s an imperfect place, the business environment, as is the wide world in general, and very few human disturbances in it are so black and white cut and dried 100% good/bad, true/false, right/wrong, that firstly

It could equally well have been ourselves in a dock at another time and place; and

Few cases are without mitigations, either in favour of a defendant or against a claimant.

In the summing up, I would like to use Shakespeare again, and take from his play Hamlet for your recommendation this exchange:

Lord Polonius: My Lord, I will use them [a troupe of actors] according to their desert 

Hamlet: God’s bodykins, man, much better:  use every man

After his desert and who should ‘scape whipping?

Use them after your own honour and dignity: the less

They deserve, the more merit is your bounty.

Take them in.

The Business

There are guys and girls who head up businesses and organisations, who like Jack Sparrow, are in a position to ‘make it up as they go along’, because within their domains they assume the position like Judge Dredd and are able to say ‘I am the Law’.

There are not often Fools or Jesters in their inner circles who are privileged and so are to able to criticise and by way of satire and clowning, and in this way to speak out and pit truth against a Top Banana’s poor decision or unjust behaviour.

Even in days of old when these things were the vogue sometimes even Kings would not hear their Fool speak and jest against them, and would punish them for speaking out and not falling into line.

The game is the same today.  Once upon a time the rest of us depended on our Liege Lord for bread, drink, shelter, protection, law, and order, and when the Liege Lord cast a person aside he or she was faced with hunger and homelessness.  It was a case of finding another Liege Lord or dying.

These days we know it as ‘getting the push’ or ‘being fired’.  Our brief is not to go so far as outright objection or contrariness, to toe the line and kowtow if need be: we have our babies at home and mouths to feed.

But this extent of power to hire and fire, to elevate or to cast down, and the running stream of sedative and tranquilising pussyfooting agreement and assent to their ideas from their circles, right down to concession to and condolence on even the most trivial fit of pique: these are the causes of those who had sight becoming blind, and those who had direction becoming lost.

Once upon a time Bob Dylan saw it clearly. He sang of these guys and girls with their swollen heads immersed in clouds of glory, saying:

‘Your corrupt ways have finally made you blind’

and again

‘The blind men make the rules

For the wise men and the fools

It’s all right ma

It’s life and life only’

Where there are no boundaries to behaviour there are no rules for social intercourse. Like the young boys in the school yard playing soccer, the kid with the ball is king and the rest trail after him like a swarm of bees wherever he goes and whichever way he turns. The soccer match turns out like follow my leader and tactics, positions, game plays, infringements and penalty kicks are wholly unconsidered and unused.

The guys and girls at the helm of companies and corporations have vast freedom; so much so that temptations to indulge and to rage and to dismiss and to order and to generally play at prima donna come more and more easily upon them day by day, until, in the words of historian Lord Acton:

‘Power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely’

These guys and girls are like the philosophers looking up at the stars who fell into a pit. Their sights are upon the ascendant and the increase and the aggregation, and their appetites for these feed upon them, so that the appetites in them increase at a rate faster and further than they can be sated. A lame man chases a butterfly, but only intending to capture it and mount it in his album – uncovetous inclinations to appreciating its pendant beauty and natural state are not enough, they do not figure on the register. Possession is nine tenths of their law.

Mass production is a symptom of this runaway surge of covetous and desperate insatiable appetite in the guys and girls at the helm who want, and want, and want to accumulate to an nth degree.  Like an illness it has been caught by contagion by the very masses who are those who feed the wayward and runaway desires at the top for more and more production. Consumerism is like consumption; a tuberculosis, a wasting illness, gradually depleting not just material resources; it depletes our reasonable self-regards and like a main line fix its hold on us is very hard to be kicked and we be made clean.

There was a guy once who said:

‘Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean’

And he got the reply:

‘I will: be thou clean’

The guy was a leper, like us.  There were ten in another story, and only one came back to say thanks. The others just partied and had a hoot. The guy who said thanks was the guy who offered what was due.

The Top Bananas made mass production. Mass production made working masses to supply it and to demand it.  The Top Bananas made consumerism.  Consumerism made nine out of ten blasé and forgetful of a natural thanksgiving for grace.  The sickness of aggregation, addition, and increase was passed down to the masses as consumerism.  The uncontrolled, uncontrollable appetite of the Top Bananas was passed down to the masses in consumerism. The masses were hooked on the same fix.

Nine out of ten have said yes to the Top Bananas. Have agreed and acquiesced and kowtowed and shied away from contradiction and confrontation of Top Banana unrestricted uncontrolled appetites, and have ended up with the same sickness, the same infection, as the consequence.  Like sheep their way has been lost, and every one has gone their own way.

The appeasement by Neville Chamberlain of Adolf Hitler encouraged Hitler, emboldened him, signalled to him, made way for him, to annexe the Rhineland and Austria and to invade Poland. Thus began World War Two.

The appeasement being made to Top Banana no boundaries blind and lost, stumbling unaccountable, unaccounted, guts and groins – and where is this leading?

‘…. what rough beast, its hour come round at last

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?’

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Wealth Creation

This is the heart of Capitalism. The means for doing so are unconstrained except by two forces; a) the law – what can be ‘got away with’; and b) what the public, the consumers, will accept

Thus this level of freedom allows a proliferation of goods and services to come about in the marketplace; anything which is not unlawful and which will sell, or which people can be persuaded to buy.

Within these very broad limits there exists and has been built up by great artifice a massive edifice which comprises the convoluted machinery for marketing products and services.

These are things like branding, copyright, licensing, and advertising, specialisations, tie-ins, and all kinds of differentiations, the great majority of which are artificially raised up so as to create evidence for Capitalism’s famous boast of it being able to encompass and produce all things to suit every need.

This is also Capitalism’s vaunted freedom – which allows traders a free hand to enter the marketplace with their particular goods and services and compete there for position and for custom.

Nonetheless, like Newton’s third law of motion, this freedom for traders trading under a Capitalist regime has equal and opposite consequences elsewhere within the political economic system.  In other words, this positive freedom is not without its negatives. As The Book of Job has it: ‘The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away’. And again, as Milton Friedman, one of the High Priests of capitalism himself said famously: ‘There’s no such thing as a free lunch’.

Within this locus of operation then wherein Capitalists operate, is ample scope for a vast complexity of purely human artifice and ingenuity erected deliberately to complicate and multiply the workings of the marketplace; and the whole thrust of such complexity and multiplicity is ever to interpose wherever they can be placed what The Bible calls ‘stumbling blocks’ for the people this marketplace presumes to serve

Such a vast edifice has been created by the entrepreneurs and their well-wishers and it is their prime generator for their amassment of wealth.

Of course it is true that ‘variety is the spice of life’, but it is also true that when a person is seriously ill a she is likely to suffer ‘complications’ and when drugs are introduced as medicine to help her she will most likely suffer ‘side-effects’ from taking them.

So it is that what we have created into our political economic status quo is a monstrous illness held back from mortality by the administration of tailored drugs which further antagonise the social body.

A few examples: In the field of electronics, its products and services; one is too often tied into a network; into a number of created-as-essential accessory items like batteries and adapters; into a required Operating System; and into deals and regulations imposing exit fees and minimum contract periods and penalty clauses, and so on and so on endlessly.  This is not freedom for the guys called ‘consumers’ – this is freedom for the big guys to elaborate complexities of arrangements with the deliberate and sole intention of claiming turf which ought to belong to others, that is, to the people whom the boast they are serving.

The general rule applies for the big guys that any wheeze or ruse, any sleight of hand or ingenious trickery is fair game provided it is not answerable in law.  And they will work to keep people called consumers in the dark about the more nefarious ones of these trickeries buried in their common policy.

Likewise in the finance services sector the effort is always to multiply and complicate for their own sakes, so as to boot-up the stakes and so enlarge the returns; all with a minimum of risk to the big guy puppet masters – all risk if possible being borne by the guys on strings who have bought their house-of-card services and products.

Like in the field of politics, to be a cool trader is to couch words and deals in fancy dress; to deliver a minimum which might be understood to fulfil the written and spoken promise of the deals and the advertising.  The caution is to keep sweet the persons and companies who have a capability to wound severely one’s operations, whilst doing all that is able to be imagined to extract the maximum return from that body of persons who as individuals are not greatly capable of doing them harm – that  is,  from those customer consumers who buy from them.

A religious example: The Lord Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers in the Jerusalem Temple precincts. He did so because by way of an artificial set regulation imposed from above, and in cahoots with the money changers, an arbitrary limitation had been placed on the type of coin which was deemed acceptable to be used in religious observances there.

The money changers were in effect making money out of a false and artificial differentiation arbitrarily raised so as deliberately to allow the making of money by them thus.  This is nothing other than extortion, of a kind able to bypass the force of the law.  It has as much logic to it, in terms of an honest and equitable treatment of others, as that notice to naughty boys in the park which says: ‘Any person caught throwing stones at this notice will be prosecuted’.

Branding itself often carries out a similar heist upon the shopper.  It is known that many companies supply supermarket ‘own brand’ items to British supermarkets, who also market the same product under a well-known international brand. The product is identical; the price is different; the customer knows nothing – is deliberately kept in the dark – and too often goes for the international brand item – for quality.

Is economic freedom a bad thing then?  Is it allowable for service providers and manufacturers to differentiate unnecessarily by policy and place needless hurdles for their customers to jump so as to tie them into deals or else to wring that bit extra from them?  Clearly one size does not always fit all and some variety is desirable, even necessary.  A ladies shop filled only with size 18 dresses only which are all the same pattern would not draw a wide variety of women. And shoppers and customers without doubt have an element of choice whom they buy from.

It is the vast differences in scale and in the weights of resources available to the parties which allow the balance to tip always in favour of the corporate provider of items and as against an individual buyer.

Even this lack of equal resources need not necessarily lead to inequity; it leads only to a temptation towards and an opening up of the possibilities for exploitation. The political economic system provides the opportunity and the means; the low levels in the big guys of self-understanding, listening to conscience, apprehension of a higher reality, of a due car for others, and of ability to curb their avarice and greed – these are their motives.

The Lord Jesus states very clearly:

‘Where your treasure is; there will your heart be also’

The question might be raised with good reason whether it is our human nature which has created such a monster of a political economic system; or whether our political economic system has made monsters of us?  If the first we are locked into something we cannot control and which is inevitable. If the second, then we are enslaved to our own creation – but perhaps not inevitably so

My own opinion is very strong that we humans have power to change things. Simply put, the power is given to us by the historical fact of The Lord Jesus Christ and his life and work seen in the Gospels. I believe he is the Son of God, but a person only needs to understand him and his deeds and his words as these present in the Gospels, so as to gain fully spiritual and immensely practical answers to our self-inflicted, self-engaged and self-interested political and economic systems for self-harm.


Laborare est Orare

Some old Roman first coined this phrase. It translates as ‘Work is Prayer’. We have discussed the ‘sweat of our brows’ and the need for us to earn livings. But this article is about our offering up what we do, our occupation and labours, in goodwill to God as a gift in thanks for his care over us.

The Anglican Liturgy says it:

‘All things come of Thee
And of Thine own do we give Thee’

There is for work to be prayer a necessary condition to be met: that any such offering made to God is a freewill offering; that it is offered without ulterior intentions attached to the giving and without bad grace shown towards to him. Thus work as prayer arises out of our own sense of satisfaction and fulfilment in our work. Unless this is so we have no sense of gratitude for it having been provided to us to do; and have not accepted a gift as being a challenge allowed us to master, so to do and complete it as we are best able to perform.

Thus work done as attached to the prime aim of reward is unable to be prayer. Work done solely for money say is the work of the timeserver. Work done for ambition is the work of the power-seeker; and work done for the esteem of others is the work of the egoist.

I guess we are all in part and at times the timeserver, the power seeker and the egoist, and that some days we pray better than other days in our work. I want now to talk about some guys and girls I have seen on TV, in what are figuratively called ‘fly on the wall’ programmes, programmes which lead a viewer to an insider’s view of a certain aspect of life.

The programmes had in common that they followed plain inglorious people doing plain inglorious jobs – such as railway station assistants whose job was to help and guide soccer fans to their home destinations after a big match. Other jobs were the guys who keep the underground sewers systems of cities clear and running; and guys who collect and dispose of household garbage.

All are pretty lowly jobs in the esteem of the ordinary person; dirty, or else hassle, or else laborious; or a combination of these things. The people doing them don’t get much status or kudos from the public – not in the same way as the star or the celebrity or the self made industrialist gets celebrated, admired, envied, feted and emulated.

Their jobs are done better for lack of their celebration; and celebration is perhaps a major life distraction for those who claim it or crave it from us? These guys and girls were nobodies; and happy to be nobodies. They, to a person, were engaged, well-disposed to and happy in their work, and contented with their situation at the base of society’s ranks of esteem; but nonetheless doing well a job of importance and skill and application; and in many ways difficult.

If money, as wages, were a factor in their lives then many of them would have moved on some years ago. Of course they wanted to earn and needed to earn but they got by on what they got and so were in that sense and to that extent at one with their lots.

I don’t want to paint them as being saints, and so paint the ‘go for it’ guys as sinners; I don’t want to be that black and white about things. It is a matter of emphasis, of inclination and disposition, as is seen in comparing the ‘go-getter’ whose aims and aspirations are ever troubling them as their desires stretch out and recede the greater they are being realised by them; and comparing this tortuous syndrome with the guy or girl who accepts some imposed limits and knows her/his own limitations, and so compromises (but not on life?) in trading off in return for an amount of contentment, satisfaction, a certain amount of self-determination and plain wellbeing; the enjoyment of the pleasures and snares of wealth, position, reputation, influence and so on.

In other words, the trade off and its acceptance is a reflection of the person concerned; of his/her disposition and character; as well as it being a circumstance which reinforces and develops that same character and disposition. Thus a ‘go-getter’ typically wants in the first place and grows by the circumstance of his life situation to want ever more greatly; whereas a more staid person generally settles for less, and gets added in a touch of serenity; so as to grow in that choice of situation to become more settled and more serene. This is at least the generality which I believe holds good in many instances.

Thus our life-choices define and direct us.

A girl working at the railway after the big game was ushering people to their trains when a drunken woman became agitated and was rude to her. Policy was that drunks were to be asked to sit on a bench and sober on the platform before embarking. The station girl kept unruffled and was decent to the drunken lady and sat her down after explaining the policy. Two hours later the now-sobered lady cam to the girl who had ushered her, and she apologised, and kissed the girl’s cheek demurely. The girl gave her a lovely smile and brushed off the apology by ‘that’s ok’.

Later the same girl usher was interviewed for the programme, and she spoke of how she loved the work and about the sense of usefulness and the emotional rewards of seeing people home safely. No rancour. No resentments. No sweat.

The girl was no more than thirty; and she was typical. She showed and shared typically the characteristics of the crews of sewer unblockers and the teams of garbage disposal men in the other two ‘fly on the wall’ programmes; the same sense of modest pride in themselves for doing socially-vital services, as it were unsung and without display or fuss. All showed the same gentle good humour and a fairly modest but solid self-esteem – built obviously from the inside – from their own secure estimation of their own worths based on a fairly dispassionate focussed self-assessment. To have come this far in life at thirty the girl was astonishingly precocious; and her sewer and garbage colleagues too had attained an impressive level of understanding of life.

Thus there was room, even though they may not have owned to there being so, but only because of a lack of a formal education, for them to have called their kinds of services they were providing to their community, diverse versions of ‘laborare est orare’. Coleridge wrote:

Farewell, farewell! but this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding-Guest!
He prayeth well, who loveth well
Both man and bird and beast.

He prayeth best, who loveth best
All things both great and small;
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.

Simply put, our good service to others is a fulfilment of the laws of life and of love which underpin and maintain our world. The Lord Jesus goes as far as to say that together with a due reverence given to God, on this kind of freewill offering of service to others:

‘hangs all the law and the prophets’

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