Monthly Archives: May 2012

Why do societies fail ? Nothing lasts forever.

If you think about it, nothings lasts forever ! I know it might be an obvious statement but does this law of physics apply to the way human beings live their lives? And if so what causes this?

The Universe is about 14.6 billion years old and was created after the Big Bang but what existed before to cause the Big Bang? Well maybe it was the remains of an old Universe that had died due to its age and the old energy eventually caused a huge  explosion. I don’t know and I am no where near an expert on the subject but it makes you think because everything has a “shelf life”. Nothing lasts forever. This same physical law also seems to apply to the lives of humans. Is there some sort of physical law that says its time for renewal. A bit like Doctor Who and his re-generation!

I was thinking about history in particular and the way some societies become powerful and then go into decline. Way back in 3150BC the Egyptian Empire was in full swing under the Pharaoh’s. Egypt ruled the world and was all powerful until about 30BC when it became a Roman province. Egypt had a huge army that could defeat anybody and it had invented many things such as mining and writing. It also built many amazing monuments like temples and pyramids. I think they were also early Mathematicians.

At this time Greece also had its own empire and in 332AD Greece conquered Egypt and imposed its own way of life.

By 400AD Egypt had become The Byzantine Empire and was increasingly turning to the East. By 639AD Egypt had been captured by a large force of Arabs and Muslims and the Egyptian way of life, including its government, and even its language, disappeared.

The Roman Empire was, of course, thought to be  invincible as well but that only lasted 500 years.

There have been other Empires. Even the British had its own which lasted maybe 200 years at best.

Europe is an Empire of sorts, although not as powerful as previous ones but the common factor is that none of these lasted forever and in most cases they ceased to exist at all. I’m not saying that Europe will cease to exist but it will change, of that there is do doubt because everything seems to have a limited life. Not just planets, animals, humans and everything else but actual ways of life. Maybe this is natures way of improving things and will the British way of life eventually disappear as we know it to be replaced with something else? I think the answer is a certain “yes it will”.

There was a very interesting magazine article about the rise and fall of the Roman Empire on the BBC website and you can read it here. The article does ask the question about why the Roman Empire failed and it says that complex societies like the Roman ones are run by people and are then actually brought down by the same people.

But why are the people responsible for a failed empire? Well, it seems that the gap between rich and poor is a major reason. This leads to a loss of group feeling toward the state or a loss of a common cause that leads to dissatisfaction and a breakdown in social order followed by system collapse.

Everything self destructs. Is Europe about to be part of this destructive mechanism caused by the gap between rich and poor and the fact that nothing lasts forever?

Cycling the Leeds/Liverpool towpath

I love riding my bike along the canal tow path, especially when the weather is warm. Yesterday I did a bike ride and this morning I was up early and riding my bike by 09.00am. The weather was sunny and it was nice and cool. Perfect for riding.

These are some pictures I took on the Leeds/Liverpool canal on a beautiful warm and sunny day. Away from traffic and past some of Britains industrial heritage. Highly recommended !

 

 

 

Eurovision – that’s enough, thank you !

I watched Eurovision last year and decided that I would watch it again last night. I had heard the UK entry by Englebert Humperdink and thought it stood a decent chance. It was a nice ballad and I thought it was well suited to Eurovision. Unfortunately for the UK our song was first to be sung and as many people don’t start watching until half way through it was at a disadvantage even without the blatant political voting.

I listened to the first few songs including the Russian grannies but then found myself being drawn to the football on ITV. That was equally boring so it was not a good night for TV.

What’s annoying about Eurovision, and I say this every year, is the fact that votes are given to songs not based on how good the song is but based on whether one country likes another. As the UK entry came second from last we can assume that not many other countries like us, that is until they want our tourist visitors and help with sorting out the Euro. The UK song did not warrant a mere 12 votes compared to Sweden’s 300 plus.

So, I think enough is enough. It’s now embarrassing for the UK to be in the competition and that should be our last one. It’s not a proper competition anymore.

As for ITV putting on a decent nights TV to compete with Eurovision, all they could manage was Norway vs England live from Oslo followed by the news, and then followed by highlights of ….Norway vs England !!

Shocking state of 80% of school leavers in Scotland.

Shocking news in The Scotsman newspaper today about an employer who says that 80% of young people in Scotland are unemployable. Being involved in both business and further education myself I was both interested to read this story and it left me wondering whether the same could be said of young people in the rest of the UK.

The paper reports that -

The “recurring” problems identified among applicants included a poor attitude to others, no concept of citizenship, poor communication skills, a poor understanding of the standards expected and an “inability to make a decision based on anything other than ‘I want’.”

But the submission added: “The single biggest issue causing difficulties for the transition from school to employment is the discrepancy in working hours. Our apprentice intakes consistently describe a maximum of 18 hours in class per week, extended holidays and little or no access to extracurricular activities.” Youngsters who go on to college come into the workplace a year or more year later with a “further deterioration in concept of ―working week”, the submission added.

I suspect that in England the figures will not be as high as those in Scotland but other employers in England have also said similar things in the past.

The employer concerned, in Scotland, said the firm had 2,280 applications for apprenticeships in 2011 – but found that 1,850 were simply not fit for the workplace. It took on 121 youngsters, although 430 were employable. If these numbers are indeed mirrored throughout the UK then educational establishments really do have to try harder to supply the skills needed for employment.

Read the full article in The Scotsman here

I must go to college chant the Chinese !

Pisa tests – the Programme for International Student Assessment have just released their latest league tables for the best educated students and it comes as no surprise to me that the Chinese are well out in front of both the USA and Europe.

Barack Obama said that the nation which “out-educates us today will out-compete us tomorrow”. That is very true and with 9 out 10 Chinese students realising that if they study hard they will succeed, they are setting an example to the rest of the world. Chinese high school children chant slogans such as “I must go to college” before they take an exam. It’s the same as a football team getting themselves ready for a big game.

The Chinese know that they are responsible for their own success because if they don’t succeed there is no welfare state to help them. This creates a situation where Chinese students are committed to education with an energy like no other nation.

We all know what poverty means, but I believe that many people in the UK and Europe have a “Poverty of Ambition”. This means that we don’t have the same hunger for success as they do in China and India. There is a very good report written by Forbes Magazine about this subject which I highly recommend you read, and you can read it here.

Poverty of ambition is the real poverty because without ambition and a hunger to improve ourselves we will never truly have all that we desire. Eventually this will affect the fabric of our culture and society and it won’t be easy to turn things around. It’s not as though we are doing badly, it’s just that western countries including the USA are slipping behind in education of their populations and this needs to be reversed.

We need, somehow, to reverse the trend of education not being “cool” especially with many teenage boys and instill the belief in all students that if they work hard and have the right attitude they can succeed. In China the emphasis is on ALL students doing well, not just the bright ones. This means that we must have the best teachers in the more deprived areas of the country. It’s easy to create an education system where the ones at the top succeed but there are bigger challenges to overcome in cities that don’t believe education is the key to success.

As Forbes magazine says, we need to recover the animal spirits that once drove this country to the heights that it once had. This needs teachers to be driving their students forward using the latest technology and teaching methods but it also needs parents to want their children to do better than they did and to have an enthusiasm for education. There is too much of “My dad is a plumber so I will be one as well” attitude.

Whilst knowledge and skills are hugely important, effort, commitment and enthusiasm are more important in my opinion.

We face an uphill battle that we must win !