Saturday, December 16, 2017


Before the Sugar Boom, most of the labour on the island of Barbados was provided by indentured European servants. During the Cromwell era, many undesirables or Prisoners of War were legally or illegally rounded up and sent across. The demand for sugar increased the labour demand. In 1644, the population of the island was about 30,000 with about 800 of African descent. Traders from Dutch Brazil provided financing, equipment and enslaved Africans. By 1680, there were 17 slaves for every indentured servant. The Bussa rebellion in 1816 was the first of three large-scale slave rebellions in the British West Indies which shook the British Faith in slavery. I imagine the reaction 'back home' was similar to what happened when news of the Concentration Camps and Scorched Earth policy that won the Anglo-Boer war for the British. Suddenly the sugar didn't taste as good in the tea. At emancipation in 1833, the slave population of the island was 83,000

Friday, December 15, 2017


Although we conquered the seas long ago (ask the Polynesians), islands and water are useful tools for otherwise purely imaginary borders. Bahrain is an island country situated between the Qatar peninsula and Saudi Arabia. It has a similar size population to Swaziland but is about 1/3rd the size. Bahrain declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1971, and Swaziland in 1968. Both are still monarchies. The Al Khalifa family moved from Qatar to Bahrain in 1799. In 1820, they were recognised as rulers of the island by Britain. After discovery of oil in 1931 (which brought rapid modernisation), the British Royal Navy moved its entire middle eastern command to Bahrain in 1935. With the United States taking the baton as world power after WWII, Bahrain is now the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

With Ropes

I have approached approaches in one of two ways. Growing up, I was deeply involved in the Church.  I believed deeply that there was only one way, and it was the way I was learning. I didn't understand it fully, but I had guides (who also didn't understand it fully) and was very committed to going deeper with them. The truth was clear. It was me who needed to do the work. To iron out the inconsistencies. I could attack holes because it was my understanding that was at fault. The holes were holy.

This led to the first - a combative approach. I wanted to give myself fully. There was a period where people were 'Drunk in the spirit'. They had fully given themselves over and this had had physical manifestations. 

'Do not get drunk with wine, which will only ruin you; instead, be filled with the spirit'
Ephesians 5 : 18

The holy spirit had entered some of my fellow church-goers. Some would shake, some would tick, some would just glow with joy. Often it would be part of a service where we had been singing or listening to a sermon. We would then be asked to come to the front to give ourselves over to God if we had been moved by the spirit. To be born again. I desperately wanted this to happen to me.

I did go up on occasion. I always had a niggle I was faking, but the desire was genuine, the intent was good, and the love was there. I could shhh the niggle. I felt the '11th Commandment' (to love one another, as I have loved you) resonated deeply and I wanted to connect to that. But still. The holes. So behind the church tent, I would launch into my doubts with whichever poor guide had to be subjected to a very heady approach to a very hearty experience.

What about my friends who are really good people, but don't believe?
What about these truly awful things that have happened to people who don't deserve it?

My eventual moving away from the Church came from my head, and (more painfully) my heart. I dived into books and conversations trying to iron out those inconsistencies, and find that one truth. I couldn't. From the heart, life dealt me and those I loved too many blows to not get viscerally angry with the version of God I had grown up desperately trying to connect with. I couldn't connect to the 11th commandment with all the other pain that had built up. Like a relationship where you love someone, but have to create boundaries and walk away. I have never fallen out of love with anyone. I have had to walk away.

This led to the second - an exploratory approach. I stopped trying to iron out the holes in any philosophy I came across - IF the consequences were positive. If the story was constructive in helping me deal resiliently with life.

I was able to get involved in a fairly conservative form of Yoga - with Swami's wearing orange and Sanskrit chanting, by seeing the holy rather than the holey.

I think I will always be too attached to consistency to ever let go completely (without deeply trusting someone to come with me, and bring me back). I think of this as the difference between those who love rock climbing, and those who love rock climbing without ropes. I will never do extreme rock climbing without ropes. I value life too much to take that risk. I value the people I love too much. I will also not remain on the ground, if I am confident that I will be caught if I fall. 

Ropes snap, so there can never be certainty. Life is confusing, ambiguous, and uncertain. I can be very conscious about the risks I take. The consequences. The advantages. The costs. Then act. 'First with the head, then with the heart'.

First with the head
then with the heart

I love exploring. It comes from a position of constructive curiosity rather than destruction. To find the truth in something, not the truth of something.

But I will do it with ropes.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

No Try

The trick in hypnosis is that there is no trick. It is just a deep state of relaxation, and a willingness to hand over control to someone else. If it isn't up to you to decide what the obstacles are, you are more likely to do things without even trying. More likely to do or not do. More let's see exploration than I can't predetermination. I am a 'Try Hard'. If someone says 'You can't lift your hand', I find it incredibly difficult not to challenge them and test if I can. Of course, I can lift my hand. That isn't the point. If I challenge on that first point, I don't get to go on the journey. Fiction can go further than fact because it isn't constrained by our understanding of each step.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Righteous Indignation

I grew up with the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple as a parable around righteous indignation. That occasionally it is right to lose your temper. I am a big believer in tolerance. That rules should be clear, but based on consent rather than enforcement. I like rules that can then effectively disappear while people are creative within them. When people understand, and like, the agreements that they have made with each other. A friend observed that within my tolerance, I do get very angry. I do get triggered. I do have a deep seated belief in right and wrong. I find this tough to hear as I like the idea of being tolerant, and work at it. Yet bubbling under there is a raging bull. He also observed that growing up in Apartheid South Africa could have led to this scarred view of needing to stand up to power. The law was wrong. The law wasn't to be tolerated. It certainly wasn't consensual. I would love to let the bull chill.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Beyond the Hand

Living hand to mouth forces control of the hand. You have to work, or you starve. Putting some of the extra aside for tomorrow means if for whatever reason you can't work, you don't starve. It gives you a buffer. Putting the extra to work can create an engine that eventually will allow you to shift your attention from the hand, to the heart and the mind. It can allow you to detach. Detachment isn't ignoring something. It is only giving that thing the emotional energy it deserves, and no more. Money is incredibly useful as a trust and exchange mechanism for stuff. It allows good ideas, that can be monetised, to thrive - good business ideas. Not all good ideas are good business ideas. Not all good business ideas are good ideas. Creating financial engines can allow people, and even states (Sovereign Wealth Funds) and communities (Community Wealth Funds), the freedom to seek fulfilment in other ideas. We can detach from money while still recognising just how useful and important it is.

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

What is Enough?

In the essay 'Famine, Affluence and Morality', Peter Singer looks at the ethics of 'How much is enough'. When we know there are people struggling, what are the ethics around our own level of consumption? What are our obligations to others? How much is doing enough? Toby Ord is part of the Effective Altruism movement which looks critically at where, how, and why we give. He is the founder of 'Giving What We Can' and has committed to capping his own 'allowance' at £18,000 and giving away the balance of what he earns. 

In discussing the project I am involved in working on to build a Community Wealth Fund that pays a Universal Basic Income to 150 people, I was pointed in the direction of leanFIRE. F-I = Financial Independence. R-E = Retire Early. If you combine the concepts of building an engine to finance your expenditure with lean living, the size of the engine required comes down. The leanFIRE group discuss a Sustainable Withdraw Rate (SWR). This is what the Engine would need to earn to pay the amount you need sustainably. 3% seems a sensible figure.

If you combined Toby Ord's approach with a SWR of 3%, you would need a £600,000 engine. To pay a Universal Basic Income roughly equal to the median income per person in the world (c. £180/month) you would need an engine of £72,000 (3% is £2,160). The median income per person in the UK is about £21,000. The UK is a rich country. Toby isn't being a martyr, but living on that amount in the UK still requires some tough decisions.

Monday, December 04, 2017

The Bahamas

Columbus first reached what he thought was a new route to China & Japan without going through the Muslim lands, he had stepped foot on what we now call The Bahamas in 1492. The local inhabitants were the Lucayan People, the last of whom were removed, and sent into slavery, by 1520. English colonists settled the islands in 1648 and it formally became a Crown Colony. After American independence, many loyalists were settled in the Bahamas, bringing their slaves with them and establishing plantations on land grants. Later slavery was abolished (1807 in Britain, 1834 in The Bahamas). It became a safe haven for freed slaves and today more than 90% of the population is predominantly of African descent. The Bahamas became an independent Commonwealth Realm in 1973, retaining Elizabeth II as Monarch.

Sign at a state park in Florida commemorating escapes to The Bahamas