The National Trust Is A Treasure

I was reading articles last week about The National Trust recently posting information highlighting the strong  links that roughly one third of their properties have to the slave trade. Not just properties, many many artifacts. The thrust of the message was that everytime we visit these beautiful houses and admire the exquisite antique ornaments and furniture we are looking at the unjust gains of acts of oppression and cruelty. I can only applaud The National Trust for that reminder.

Horrified was I to read that some people had taken issue at the decision from The National Trust to draw attention to this subject. It seems they resent the reminders about the scandalous slave trade. This is not something new. I have been visiting National Trust properties for years and as for a long time we used to receive a journal from them featuring their properties. I definitely recall them publishing articles at least ten years ago pointing out which of their properties were owned by families who made their fortunes as a direct result of the suffering of others.

Yet some people in recent weeks have claimed to be so incensed by being “lectured” by The National Trust or having a biased presentation of British history thrust upon them that they were ready to cancel their National Trust membership. That’s right, they don’t like being reminded that much of the wealth Britain has amassed was gained through oppression and abuse. Silly, isn’t it! Or callous!

Call it what you will. I don’t see anything wrong with wanting to visit these fascinating houses. They are beautiful. I don’t see anything wrong with admiring the workmanship of the masonry, the carpentry, the artistry and all the extraordinary skill that is on display in these properties.

I am grateful for institutions like The National Trust and English Heritage that protect these properties which help to educate us about the history of this country, which includes deeply shameful pages. They do preserve a different era and it is very interesting to be able to see all of that history. But of course anyone of good conscience should recognise that there is something seriously wrong with a system that allows people to oppress others and gain riches as a result.

Even more concerning is how those riches were then used. While so many people lived in deplorable conditions in the crumbling properties on the land of those rich folk, they were sometimes using their wealth to show off. These beautiful homes and furnishings were a statement of wealth, Worse, some of them squandered their wealth on drinking and gambling. I remember when Goldfinch and I visited Stowe School…we were shocked to learn of how the fortune of the family was thrown away within a short time by two wreckless men.

of great interest

It’s not just here that history highlights crimes that have been repeated for thousands of years. The “greatest” boasters in history often were those who committed some of the most cruel acts on a gigantic scale. In many cases, wealth and fame have been gained by wicked acts.

We traipse around the stunning relics of those criminals who were revered in their day, but are now judged under the light of the generally common feeling that wealth gained by wickedness is not ok. I will continue to visit these buildings and peer at the artifacts within them, but I am very glad to be reminded that what I am looking at is not just to be admired. It is also evidence that for a very long time some people were content to amass more and more for themselves and their family, and to show off to their friends, compete for respect and admiration, whilst many many others lived in very difficult conditions.

There were some who did use their wealth to try to improve their local communities – hospitals, schools, better accommodations for their poor tenants. That can be perceived as some “righteous” us of “unrighteous” riches perhaps. I would hope that the expenditure to benefit others was not an attempt to win acclaim or be held up as a “noble”. Yeah…it would make you feel much better knowing you were being treated in a hospital paid for by a mafia godfather or a drugs baron. Nope!

Riches acquired through criminal acts then used to benefit others is still not right. No wonder the statues, streets, theatres and other public buildings named after those who profited from abysmal abuse get up people’s noses! But I do worry about the conscience of some of the wealthy. I suspect that they had a false notion that they were “divinely favoured”, perhaps fed to them by a corrupt clergy. You know the same clergy that taught that people could pay money for prayers to be said to liberate their beloved relatives from “limbo”.

I often think that much of what people have done that was obviously wrong was sometimes perpetuated by a snivelling sermon giver, who at the same time as enjoying the favour of a wealthy parishioner, made them think they could take their success as a divine blessing rather than criminal gains.

Anyway…I could write so much on this subject. The trust of my post is that I think The National Trust are doing the right thing in reminding us that so many of these beautiful houses and artifacts have a notorious history behind them. We all know that is still happens today. Modern day slavery is an enormous and global problem. As long as it still happens we need to be reminded that is is wrong to profit from dominating others with cruel oppression.

Education Plays A Key Role

Children, Drawing, EducationI think I mentioned a while ago this annoying radio show one of my colleague likes to listen to at work. I heard a discussion on there the other day that left me baffled. The radio presenter and the person calling in were saying that the history of how Britain made it’s wealth is not taught in schools.

That seemed strange to me because it was taught to us as children at primary school and at high school. (My parents taught us too of course.) Our teachers made sure we understood that wealth is not a divine reward or blessing. Being wealthy is not at all good karma or whatever you call it. Wealth has often been the result of stripping the planet of its resources and stripping other people of dignity and basic human rights.

I wrote a post about my most recent visit to the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the whole floor devoted to the history of the slave trade and the mistreatment of others that brought wealth:

Slavery On A Sinister And Sadistic Scale

Liverpool Maritime Museum

Until people everywhere stop thinking of their own glory, their own desire for wealth, their own desire for fame and prominence, power and influence – there is going to be a lot of ugly cruel behaviour.

Our teachers taught us that change comes from within. Loving other people, heartfelt respect, honouring them. Viewing and treating others as greater than ourselves. Seeking to benefit others brings us inner joy. Wealth and riches are not the goal. A happy healthy human family and a clean earth upon which all creatures thrive is the grand prize that we all need to work towards.

Birkenau, Auschwitz, Concentration, CampI recall meeting a volunteer in her nineties who was in a concentration camp during the Second World War. She said something special to me. She told me that she met a woman who was of a different religion and a different language group to her, who was also a prisoner in the camp. The other prisoner gave her some of her own bread because she saw how frail and ill she had fallen. She told me that what kept her alive was not just the bread, but the love, the human kindness when she felt herself wanting to give up on life.

She was one phenomenal lady. She said that after the war, many people immersed themselves in making money, building their own businesses, finding a lovely home etc. She became a volunteer and worked for decades, living on a tiny budget and sleeping in very basic accommodation. She learnt the secret of real joy in life. It had nothing to do with possessions. It had to do with loving and giving.

Money, Dollars, Success, BusinessSo long as people seek their own glory and their own wealth – they will miss out on real joy – the real life! But what goals do educators put before children? I remember later in my schooling, teachers pressured me to look ahead at the best colleges and universities so I could make money, have an exciting career and they suggested that would be “success”.

I rejected that. I rejected the idea of using my exam grades to win advantages for myself. I became a volunteer. I feel far more successful because I have avoided the pursuit of things and money. I have seen people of all cultures working together on projects that change communities. I have seen real love in action.

Recently, I have heard a lot of people saying that all people should have equal access to opportunities, not just a select few within a particular ethnic group or culture. I understand that. It’s the “opportunities” I have a skeptical view of. The education system in this world, the money making careers, the fame and glory this world offers – they are all incredibly fickle. (I have family who are in well paid careers – doctors, finance directors, a member of parliament. My family is a mix of cultures and ethnic backgrounds…which I love. Some of my close relatives who are in lucrative careers have been the targets of racial slurs from childhood to adulthood. But that is a different subject.)

Woman, Black, Businesswoman, YoungA friend of mine said she had to fight for everything she has. She said it in the context that she has suffered racism and discrimination because of the shade of her skin. From some views she has done very well for herself. She went to a top university and she did end up in a high paying career. She is proud of those achievements. She lives in a beautiful house and drives a beautiful car. She loves her designer clothes and her luxury holidays.

She has a lot to say on the subject of equal opportunities, and I understand why. But when we discussed this issue, she kept on talking about equal opportunities for education at top schools and universities, and for lucrative careers or roles within the media.

I made two comments to her that I genuinely wondered about. The first was in the context that it is predicted that there will be a huge economic crisis ahead in the wake of the …you know and the effect that social restrictions have had on the economy. I made the comment that I was concerned there would be less opportunities on the table for any jobs, nevermind top jobs.

ruiegdfhlahThe other comment O made was that there should be dignity in every role. I feel as much pride in the work I have done as a cleaner, as when I worked in finance, in a legal firm or in healthcare.

I take even more pride and reward in the unpaid work I do working as a volunteer for charities. I have no interest in lucrative careers or the acclaim of a corrupt system. I do not want it’s offer of a high salary. Nope…I am much happier working with a team of volunteers of all ages from different backgrounds as we work together to make an area beautiful.

I do not agree at all with the glorification of humans. At all. These statues being pulled down, they should never have gone up to begin with. I don’t agree with glorifying people. But my friend thinks there should be statues, but they should reflect all cultures. She said she would like to see a statue of herself one day.

I love my friend very much and I understand why gaining those things was important to her. I am proud of her determined spirit. But in some ways it saddens me. How does gaining those things help the planet, help the human race, help one to find real joy and satisfaction in life?

dahfaehgfPersonally, I think we should all be given an assignment. We should all be assigned to an area of land and work with our neighbours to make that area a paradise.

I think at some point we may all find ourselves not worrying about the things we used to worry about. I only see a future where the human family as one huge team are working together to make this whole globe beautiful and clean. When will educators start to prioritise on teaching us that getting high grades in your exams is not as important as working together and being able to look after our home, our health and each other?

Anyway…we were just talking, my friend and I…and although we agree on many things…we don’t seem to see eye to eye about the solution. We both said education is key to affecting out future. But we obviously don’t agree on the nature of that education. We didn’t argue, we are too fond of each other to have arguments when we do not share an opinion. But we did acknowledge that we have different goals for this world.

Grades Mean Nada!

I realized today…that part of me that teachers tried to develop has long since ceased to breathe. The seed they planted has dried up and withered.

Woman in Red Long Sleeve Writing On Chalk Board

Today I sat an exam. I aced it. It’s not the first test I have aced. I went through years of schooling and college education acing tests and being given A* grades. But it all became meaningless a long time ago.

It’s just a piece of paper. In fact nowadays, they try not to give you a piece of paper – everything is digital. But at least the course I had to do for work is out of the way. Grades mean nothing. Nada! Zilch! Educators like to put you in a little box and boost your ego. I have never bought into their nonsense.

What matters is the qualities within – the secret person of the heart – the love you show to others without any hope of reward, the courage to keep going when your hopes and dreams have been crushed, the mildness you display when others wrong you.

PEOPLE SIMPLY DO NOT CARE HOW MUCH YOU KNOW

THEY WANT TO KNOW HOW MUCH YOU CARE

 

Education For Life

At the beginning of March, Fandango asked us a very interesting question. Since then, the world has gone to war. A war against an invisible enemy. Life has changed for many people, and will soon affect even more of us. I wanted to republish this post, specifically for all those who are anxious about their schools and colleges closing down and wondering what will happen now they cannot sit the exams they have been studying for:

Fandango has asked such a very interesting question…I don’t know where to begin with it! So while I collect my thoughts, I will let you know the question which has captured my attention:

What does it mean to you in the 21st century to be well educated?

colaWell…I think I will begin by mentioning something a colleague of mine said around three years ago. My colleague said that “only educated people should be allowed to vote”. Now, this statement didn’t provoke me too much because I deliberately choose to stay neutral in politics, as I work as a volunteer for international charities that are strictly neutral in politics. However, the statement my colleague made was in the midst of a speech from them decrying the results of recent democratic elections and votes in a number of western lands.

Now…the purpose of my post is certainly not to dive into politics, but I remember my colleague’s statement because in essence it reflected their (perhaps unconscious) opinion that anyone who disagreed with their political leanings was “uneducated”.

igsaI pressed my colleague on the statement they had made. I asked what they meant by “educated”. My colleague thought the answer was obvious, “only people who have been through university”. So I asked, if only university graduates were allowed to vote, would that change the results of elections and votes? My colleague indicated they thought it likely. I thought that was interesting. How many people think that anyone who does not share their political views (or their religious views) is “uneducated”?

I avoided any comment on politics and replied “I chose not to go to university”. My colleague was shocked. I explained to my colleague why despite leaving school with A grades I chose to reject a university education, in favour of what I perceived as a better education. I still prize the education I received as I worked along with hundreds of other volunteers, being trained in a host of skills by charities who needed people to work on projects to benefit communities.

Nature, Human, A, Lid, Basket, PortraitI then asked her about people who have lived their lives without a university education but have lived by the best of principles and consistently showed beautiful qualities such as kindness, honesty, loyalty, humility, cleanliness, modesty, hospitality….etc. Are such people somehow “lesser” simply for not attending an establishment of higher education? Well I know many people who did not go to university whom I respect enormously for their wisdom and the wonderful name they have made for themselves as good people, loving parents and are much loved by members of their community.

What of those who have been through university and graduated with degrees? I know many who have been through university and graduated with a degree. Some have done just fine. Others not so well.

Graduation, Man, Cap, Gown, EducationI know of some who despite their “education” at a renowned university are still in enormous debt. Then I personally know some who have been through university and yet have fallen into the traps of ambition and greed. I know of someone who started using recreational drugs as a university student. Once they had reached the top of their profession they ended up on the front page of national newspapers due to their escapades with Class A drugs. I know of another university graduate who has worked in business and politics, whose name was sullied due to corruption charges.

On the whole, a university education involves academic challenges, sometimes with a leaning towards a future vocation. That may be a useful tool opening up the door to a higher salary perhaps, or making it easier to apply for a visa to live and work in another country.

Student, Library, Books, Book, Learn

I think all people should be given the opportunity to learn to read. Reading is one of the most wonderfully empowering aspects of education. I remember starting to feel uncomfortable at high school with the way my teachers approached our lessons. I could see some wanted us to remember what they told us in order to pass an exam. When I look back, I appreciate those of my teachers who encouraged us to contemplate fascinating subjects and use our reasoning abilities, the teachers who asked provoking questions – just like our very own Fandango!

Child, Black, Black And White, PortraitFor 21st century living – what kind of education is most useful? I have strong opinions I suppose on this subject. I fear that in some ways a significant amount of people need to go right back to basics when it comes to education.

  • How to look after our bodies, our homes, our neighbourhoods, our planet
  • How to look after our emotional health, how to care for our family members, how to build strong communities
  • How to be balanced with our use of time and money
  • How to be content, generous, unselfish and how to brighten not just the day for other people, but lighten their load and quieten their fears
  • How to resolve misunderstandings peaceably
  • How to give more than we take
  • How to discern between propaganda and accurate reports
  • How to endure when challenges come along
  • How to be prepared for the failure and collapse of a corrupt and greedy world system that is soon going to turn on itself

Family, Child, Forest, Happy, Fun, LoveNot all have a loving family to provide a great start in life, the kind of education that lasts for a lifetime. For many family life has crumbled. In some cases family members have passed on some very harmful attitudes and habits. Others are more influenced by friends and peers, or even their favourite “role-models” in the media or entertainment world. Some may adopt a certain outlook or manner of conduct to fit in with a social group, a club or a certain faith.

Who is responsible to provide a real education? You know A REAL EDUCATION! One that teaches people how to love their fellow human as themselves. A real education teaches people that there is no such thing as superiority of race, that regardless of where we are born or our appearance, what matters most and what is truly deserving of commendation is unselfish love. Real love for ourselves, our fellow humans and for all creatures we share our beautiful planet with should guide our every step.

Any education that inflates egos, fosters ambition and greed and makes a person feel they are superior to their fellow humans is an utter failure.

PEOPLE DON’T USUALLY

CARE

HOW MUCH YOU

KNOW

THEY WANT TO

KNOW

HOW MUCH YOU

CARE!

I have had the privilege of travelling and working with people who live in areas where university educations have not reached yet. Travel has been a huge education to me.

asaIf I had my way, everyone born in a western country would go and live for at least year in an area where plumbing and central heating are a rare commodity, where noone has ever seen a refrigerator or a washing machine, nor a flat screen TV, a supermarket, an i-pad or a thousand other things that people here seem to think are necessary for life. I hear people complaining about stuff here in England, and I often think, “Go and live over there for a year…and when you come back, I am not sure you will be the same person.” I would love for education to include being moved to a different part of the planet with a very different set of economic circumstances from your own.

I learnt more from those beautiful smiling, hospitable, joyful, hard working people about contentment and what matters most than any of the university educated colleagues I have been stuck with in paid jobs. Paid jobs which seem to reward those who can make the most profit out of others and sell them things they don’t actually need. Paid jobs that sometimes leave employees so stressed and exhausted they hardly know what to do with themselves outside work and so just switch on Netflix or football.

Businessman, Businessmen, Business

In the 21st century, we see mankind still circulating the same strange ideas about greatness that have existed for thousands of years. People amassing wealth for themselves – far far more than they need, yet wanting to be honoured for their greatness and their goodness. Wanting glory and praise from others.

Men Holding Green GrassesAlongside them the millions of quiet people who go about their life in a modest way, time and time again displaying an unselfish attitude, often unnoticed by human eyes. Each one of them precious, incredibly precious, but hardly ever receiving a well done from any source accept their own conscience.

I am all for learning. I love the process of learning in the various forms it takes. I have never stopped being sent for training to learn new skills that are useful to the charities I work for. I have training and experiences in many fields. In addition I love reading about history and science, especially physics. I love people. I love learning from friends of many different cultures – especially when it comes to food! I have friends teach me to cook dishes from other European lands, West Africa, India, Pakistan and China.

No matter where a person is from, we all have the potential for beautiful unselfish qualities that build others up, or selfish, self important traits that build noone up accept ourselves.

Silhouette of Man Throwing Fishing Net into Body of WaterOne last point….I have mentioned this before but there is a story I have heard told in a number of cultures. I love it! In some ways it highlights the stupidity of the western way of life and western education. Rather than repeating it again, I am going to include a link to another post where I explained why I think it is so significant:

There’s More Than One Way To Skin A Fish

Even now, there are people who are receiving a superior education. They are learning the ways of love, the ways of peace. They are learning to work together with others as a team without seeking their own glory. They are being trained for the future. There is a lot of work ahead. A lot of work. This planet is going to need help to become the paradise that it is supposed to be. But first we have to wait peaceably while the current corrupt greedy state of affairs plays out it’s own downfall.

Love goodness, love peace, love creation, love people, love yourself,

love the Giver of Life!

________________

This was my response to a very interesting FANDANGO’S PROVOCATIVE QUESTION:

Fandango’s Provocative Question #59

FPQ

Learners At Love

Love brings the very best out of you, if you let it.

oz.pngI have mentioned in a couple of posts that when I was out in Australia, I met a young woman who was very interesting. We had a long conversation and met up a few days later for a coffee to continue our discussion. I have kept in touch with her every since.

She recommended that I go to an event on the other side of London in August. Which I did. I listened to the subject of “love” being discussed. Real love. It made me think of Jack a lot. Three weeks later I spoke to Jack for the first time on over four years.

I am sure that considering more carefully what real love means, prepared me for some of the awful awkwardness Jack and I encountered when we first began to talk.

cools.pngAnyway, my friend in Australia, has just been over to Melbourne for the same event. It seems to be a worldwide series. She said there were around 46,000 people at the venue she attended. She has promised to send me some photographs.

I still remember so much of what I heard. I think everyone on the planet should hear that program. It is the kind of education that all mankind needs. All mankind. Education in how to live and how to love.

The more I see of this world, the more obvious it is that many people have no idea what life is about and they have no idea what love is about.

White and Pink Floral Freestanding Letter DecorWhat a day it will be when everyone on the planet is qualified and educated in the ways of love. We are all LEARNERS AT LOVE. But there isn’t any education more important right now tham learning what real love is and how to apply it in our lives.

I am so glad that I met that lovely Australian young women, and I am so grateful that she encouraged me to trek across London to learn more about love. It was the highlight of the year.

When I Grow Up…

typewriter-2306479_1920

No, it is not 12th August…I am just very behind with my writing.  My drafts folder has twenty posts which I have started but need to finish.  Last month turned out to be a bit crazy and so, here I am trying to catch up.

I was really taken with  the writing prompts from Sarah Elizabeth Moore in her August Write away Challenge, so although I did not have time to keep up with them during August, I am going to crack on with the prompts that caught my attention because they were brilliant writing prompts and she presented them so beautifully.

So my answer to:

Well, for a start I did not want to grow up at all.  It really distressed me when I hit the age of ten.  Everyone teased me, “now you are in double figures”, and I knew at that point there was no turning back!  I wanted to be a child forever.  I am sure many of you would have had similar sentiments at one stage that being an adult has always seemed an unavoidable outcome.  But if we could remain in a Peter Pan state, many of us would take that option.

Now, at a very early age, adults would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I hated that question.  I had a vague idea of what everyone on the planet should be doing when they grow up, caring for the animals, growing vegetation, building their own house and furniture, making their own clothes and curtains, and supporting their neighbours, enjoying happy times together, eating, dancing, singing.  I think I described my vague idea of how things would turn out for me in this post:

Later, I had a little friend at school who was very creative, I was always academically minded – maths, reading, comprehension, writing were my strengths.  I could not draw or  play an instrument or design something. (I did love sports though.)  I was fascinated my my little friend and she did influence me…in fact I think she is the reason I became vegetarian!

So…when my teacher recorded each one of us saying into a microphone, “When I grow up I want to be a…”, my idea came straight from my little friend.  So when it was my turn, I announced to the class and to my teacher: “When I grow up I want to be a…sculpture.”

I had not realized that a person who carves a sculpture is called a sculptor.  Oh well!  It gave my teacher a laugh.

I was probably seven or eight years old when I started to stand out with the ferocious pace at which I worked through every comprehension exercise, workbook and reading book the school possessed.  The teachers even at primary school started trying to fill my little head with ideas of being a doctor or lawyer or politician like some of my other relatives.  But I had already rejected that idea in my young heart.

Why?  Well, when I was six years old I was given a public speaking assignment in front of an audience of around two hundred.  The theme I was assigned was bizarre considering I was only six.  It was “What is the value of a university education?”  My first question for my mum was, “what is university?

Well, off I went and read all sorts about universities…and I came to the conclusion a university education does not guarantee the career of your choosing and many young people become involved in harmful habits while living on a university campus.  I presented the results of my research with conviction and won the public speaking contest.  But the information I had read had taken root in my heart.  I fought the idea of going to university the rest of my schooling life, which is pretty hard when you get A grades in every subject except art and 100% scores in maths tests.

I did understand the need to be able to work once I left school to earn money.  My parents had taught me a hard work ethic.  But at school they, kept on trying to get me to choose a goal, a form of work that I would enjoy and find satisfying.  It was very stressful to be asked this question when I truly had no idea what I wanted to do.  I told them:

  • A bunjee jumping instructor
  • A canoeing instructor
  • A spy
  • An actress
  • A writer
  • A journalist

That was good enough for my teachers…they helped me to develop a career plan in order to become a journalist.  Did I want to be a journalist?  Nah!!!!  But it did help to have something to suggest to the teachers, so they would leave me alone.

My parents wanted me to go to university because they were worried that without a university education I would struggle to make ends meet.  I eventually enrolled on a course to train to be a legal secretary and then after achieving my diploma within a year…I ended up working in finance for eight years.  But I have also earnt money by cleaning, gardening, decorating, walking dogs, cooking, driving and working in healthcare.  I like variety.

constructionHowever, this was just paid part time work, in order to earn my bread and butter.  I knew exactly what I wanted to be the moment I walked onto a construction site as a volunteer.  From then on, I knew what I wanted to be for the rest of my life – a volunteer, working on projects wherever there was a need, teaching people the skills I had been taught.

I was not wrong.  I have learnt an array of useful skills that can be a help on projects all over the world.  I have always had more than I need, and far far more friends than I can keep up with.  I have had incredible opportunities to travel.  My life has been rich and exciting.  I view paid work as a way to earn my bread and butter.  But my career, the purpose of my life is to get involved in as many projects I can as a volunteer.

I still think that the way the world works right now is upside down and back to front…I think the vague idea I had at the age of five, of what everyone on the planet should be doing when they grow up – caring for the animals, growing vegetation, building their own house and furniture, making their own clothes and curtains, and supporting their neighbours, enjoying happy times together, eating, dancing, singing – was very sensible actually.

One thing is for sure…if you do have a demanding career after years of studying at university…I hope you also have a good work/life balance – ways to relax and refresh yourself, a hobby, a loving family or group of friends.