Monday, 5 October 2020

The expectation of gratefulness and its difficulties


The expectation of gratefulness and its difficulties

Watching a section of the press and then the comments of others who have difficulties in understanding the problem of thankfulness and an inability to emphasise and walk in another's shoes lead me to write this piece.

Training people to become foster carers one of the things that I always emphasise is the fact that if you are expecting a foster child to be grateful, you are probably going to be disappointed.  I am sometimes wrong, and some are incredibly grateful, but we should not expect it.

Why should a child who has been taken away from birth parents be grateful? Instead, they might see you as the enemy.  Can you get into this paradigm and understand just how they feel and see you?

I was responsible for setting up housing in another part of the UK. Kindly offered to a house by a group on a rental basis.  After a short time,  offer withdrawn as placing people there, they decided that these asylum seekers were just not grateful, that recurring problem again.

Then there are those making it to the UK which then put into the Asylum-seeking group.  Should they be grateful for finding a safe place?  Sometimes discovering that place has itself been fraught with trauma by people who do not believe you, express racist attitudes towards you or regard you as an economic migrant. What do we mean by economic migrant? If you are starving and move somewhere to earn a living, are you an economic migrant? Maybe you had better die where you are.

Why should my expectations as an asylum seeker be ever so grateful?  Did I ask to be born in a country surrounded by war, did I pre-request that I will be placed in a country where food is short? Was I aware that despite my education, my degree there would be no work for me to earn a living, support myself and even a family and children?

Connecting with such people has been an enriching and educating experience.  Listing many times to heart-rending stories and very often thinking to myself, could I have gone through what you have gone through and If I had wouldn't, I be simply crazy mad?

Of course, many are suffering mental stress, post-traumatic stress disorder, acting in ways that seem to those who have not had the experience ungrateful, demanding unreasonable.

Then again, we argue about the cost of getting to the UK without any understanding of the shoes they walked in, and from whence they came. Several times in my experience, I have run into such people.  One young lady I regularly gave a lift to places in my car, a stranger in the UK, not demanding but looking for help.  One day I entered her home and was surprised to see pictures of her with many of the World Leaders, shocked, I asked how come that is you.  My Dad was the Prime Minister of so, and so country came the casual reply.

Another time with an asylum seeker who was surprised to find themselves in the UK, I asked where did you think you were, the reply was Belgium, and I could not understand the language here why are they not speaking French.

I asked another what they wanted to do and was told they planned to be the Minster of Health in the UK surprised at such ambition I wondered about the background.  Oh, my Father, who was killed in front of me was the Finance minister of my country they replied.  Why should we be surprised at their expectations of maybe meals and the like?

I have witnessed very bizarre reactions from such people, for which one should not be surprised considering their history and journeys.  Often with the increased pressure by a suspicious bureaucracy and cynical people.

One of our key workers pretended to by an asylum seeker, to try and understand the process, unbeknown to me until after the event I hasten to add.  Their report though was not encouraging, they felt badly treated, and belittled and was glad that they were born a UK citizen and did not have to face any more hostility.  I guess lots of us do not even want to try to empathise; we do not want to walk in anyone else shoes perhaps we prefer our ivory palace and its ignorance and who can blame you. I do not wish to risk my life on a rubber boat across the busiest shipping lane in the world. I would need to be significantly pushed to do that.

If you are going to stay in your corner; please do not become an armchair critic of people who are trying to survive, running away from persecution, war famine and just a terrible life.

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Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Let Me Clarify

Let Me Clarify

I feel I need to state what I believe to be the whole problem with the points-based system and Illegal immigration.

Reasons why I have a problem:

1. Such a system is totally selfish.  It really does not take account of the needs of those who are wanting to come. A points-based system does not take account of the jobs and posts that need to be filled, which are usually not at the levels of income that is being offered by those who live within a silver spoon lifestyle assuming theirs is the average pay.

2.    2.  The usual cry that I hear from such a post as this is: “Are you going to allow everyone to come to the UK?”  This is such an argument of straw.  I feel it is really a waste of space replying. However, the current 70 million people displaced via war, famine, and mismanagement of their governments are not all trying to come to, or want to come to the UK. Why are we behaving as if they did? Why are we even having such a discussion?

3.    3.    Along with this argument goes the thought, “But they are illegal!” Doh! Unfortunately for me, I have this debate with Insurance Brokers who tell me that they cannot insure certain places that house refugees.

“Why not?” I ask.  
“Because you know that they are illegal.”
“Yes, I know that they are refugees,” I respond.
“ …and refugees are illegal,” they say.
“Really!” I say with a higher-pitched tone of voice.  “Do you know what a refugee is?” I ask frustratingly.
“Of course, we do!” they say. “You know that too!”
“OK then! Let me put the record straight once and for all. Refugees are NOT illegal!”

4.       4. Another issue about these disagreements is that most of the people I hear have got their figures wrong as to how many are here in the UK, how many come to Britain and how many leave the country! Even the government can’t get that figure right.  Surely it is not rocket science to computerise and be able to check people into the county and out of the country?

5.    5.    Usually, alongside the wrong numbers, goes the line that the UK is taking more than any other country. I will not bother to put the correct figures here, but just to say that it is total nonsense.

6.     6.  If we really wanted to do something about these terrible 7 million displaced people, running from danger, running from starvation, running from terrible unimaginable situations, we could do so. However that would take political will and a forceful, “we want to”. Unfortunately, we would rather spout about how “hard done” we are as a nation and what jobs we are losing. And we must not forget that our wages are going down and our schools are too full.  Most of these assumptions are incorrect. It would take working with the EU to do it.  However, certainly, it could be done. All that is required is the will and the care to do it.

7.     7.   As I said in the UN, “We can do these things, but we will need to get our hands dirty. And we do not want to do that.”

8.       At least I got some of these issues discussed in the House of Lords. However, talk still does not get it done. One has to do it.

Adrian Hawkes

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Have You Allowed Your Training to Put You in a Box?

Don't get me wrong. I am very much in favour of training and I believe Dr Donald Howard’s comment that, “Education is life and you never finish learning.”

When I was in college, one of my German roommates, Gerhard, said to me one day, “You must not get frustrated about the machine that is producing these students.”  I was in training at the time when, in the UK, they were pushing the fact that “eggs are good for you”, and they had a little lion stamp which was put on each egg, to tell you they were excellent and fresh.  All done by the UK Egg Marketing Board.

So, my German friend said, "If these students all come out with a lion stamped on their production line exterior, all looking and saying the same, it will be because they cannot be anything other than that."

Sir Ken Robinson FRSA claims that, "Schools kill creativity," arguing that, "We don't grow into creativity, we grow out of it, or rather, we get educated out of it". ... "True creativity," he argues, "is based on knowledge, which, in turn is based on literacy".

The difficulty, it seems to me, is that when we read, listen to lectures, in all sorts of disciplines we assume that what is said, because the person is a teacher/expert/master of the subject, then it all must be correct. So, people read newspapers, which they say they don't believe, and then quote what the article stated, as if it is undeniable factual truth.

In one course I attended, the lecturer said something that has become my mantra; he said: "Believe nothing. Check everything".  Why is it when trained in any discipline, social work, teaching, pastoring, whatever - we disengage that valuable critical part of our brain and assume, “Now, if I follow this to the letter, I have all the answers.”

Many times, I come into conflict with people trained in various disciplines because I can think of another way, or even dare to question that what's told is not feasible or practical.  Then I suggest another way to do it. 

I was being trained at college to be a preacher. The Principal of the college, a great guy, first-class Principal but a boring preacher, was, I noted, being copied by all the students in delivery and content.
“Why?” I asked them.

"He's the principal," was the answer. “Therefore, that is the way it should be done!”

“But he is boring and bad at delivery,” I complained. “He maybe good at lots of other things I confess, but no, not that one please.” 

I guess they needed the lion stamping on their head; I am told I was dropped on mine.

Henry Ford, the motor car construction line inventor, was asked if he had asked people what they want. His reply was, “Why would I do that? I know what they would say; “faster horses”. I am, however, building cars that they have not yet seen.”

I want trained social workers, teachers, lawyers etc., but I really don't want the ones that have, at an early stage, cut out the critical part of their brain, and only believe that what they have been taught is the only way it should be done.  I am fed up with that approach; it is not enough and will not take us into the future. 

Rutger Bregman says it well: "If we want to change the world, we need to be unrealistic, unreasonable and impossible!"

I am a Jesus follower and He was raised from the dead. So, yes! I want to change the world, and do not want to be put in a box. For that reason, it seems to me that unrealistic, unreasonable and impossible is the way to go. They are words that people use who do not have box thinking.

Maybe, before I go on anymore, I should stop with some more Henry Ford:

“I cannot discover that anyone knows enough to say definitely what is and what is not possible.”

I refuse to recognize the existence of impossibilities. I don't know anyone who knows enough about any subject to be able to say that something is or is not impossible. If someone who takes himself for an expert and declares that such and such a thing is impossible, right away there's a horde of nincompoops who sing the chorus: “It's impossible…”

(Two quotes famously attributed to Henry Ford.)

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Adrian Hawkes

Thursday, 13 February 2020

The Spirit Level

The Spirit Level

Over the years I have listened to Politicians quote from this book and thought to myself, very clever but that is not your quote we have read the same book.
Going past the current debate on leaving the EU though one does have to consider which party and why this is and has been pushed so strongly we need to think about some the issues raised by The Spirit Level.

It is a fact that the UK is up there as one of the most prosperous countries, but it is also up there along with the USA as one of the most unequal countries.  It is a fact that since the referendum we have consistently dropped in the rankings of the most prospers countries we were number 5, not sure where we are now down to about 9 I think.

The spirit Level analyses countries and, in the USA, separate states to ascertain equality, and shows that the more equal a society is the better of everyone is.  Better of not just financially, but better of health wise, better of because the prisons are less full, better off because crime drops, in fact they live a safer healthy life all together.

Now we constantly here the phrase from the right wing that there will be a ‘drip down benefit’ when people are making more money, when right wing policies are followed, this for all to see is patently not working.  When that does not happen what happens is we scape goat, and one can see that being enacted out in policies, such as the ‘hostile environment policy’ which is supposed to be no more but its affect I am still witnessing, much as we are still witnessing the horrific effect of the wind rush problems.

I also am seeing, even from relatives that terrible comment that if you are poor then obviously you are lazy. Such terrible sound bite infantile answer to real politicly motivated structural societal problems.

So where am I going with this, well seems to me that we have moved for all sort of reasons to a more right-wing political establishment, and it seems the pressure is on to move that even further.  That kind of politics will not bring better equality, and surely if we are all better of in a more equal society isn’t that better for all of us?  So maybe we need to push hard towards the left, that might bring us back a little towards the centre. Hopefully bring us towards a more equal society.

The Spirit Level
The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better was published in 2009. Written by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson, the book highlights the "pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, (and) encouraging excessive consumption". It shows that for each of eleven different health and social problems: physical health, mental health, drug abuse, education, imprisonment, obesity, social mobility, trust and community life, violence, teenage pregnancies, and child well-being, outcomes are significantly worse in more unequal rich countries.

As of September 2012, the book had sold more than 150,000 copies in English. It is available in 23 foreign editions.

535 Words

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Only Remembered Because ...

Only remembered because…

Recently, I was told that answered prayer is not a reality. “It’s just one of those coincidences.”  To counteract their argument, I quoted a complicated story of what for me was an amazing answer to prayer. Here is my story:

In my Newcourt days we had to our Sunday Service one time a special speaker by the name of Dr Coker, from Nigeria. After he had spoken, people wanted to be prayed for, and I let him get on with it. One lady came forward who told him she had been married, very many years and wanted a child. However, nothing had happened. She asked him to pray that she would have a child. He answered her and said, “The next time I am here in this church, I will dedicate your baby.” Being perhaps a little cynical, as I sat on the platform, I thought to myself, (which of course the congregation would not know) “That wasn’t the wisest thing to say. The invitation for him to come and speak is in my prerogative and gift.  I might never ask the man to come back again.”  End of my thought. To be honest I never gave the prayer and his remark another thought.

Ten months or so later the lady came to me, now having given birth and asked me to dedicate her baby. My answer was, “Of course I will, bring the baby and family next week Sunday, we are dedicating a lot of babies then.” To tell you the truth, I had not remembered the prayer and “prophetic” word of Dr Coker. The lady, baby and family lined up with lots of other families and their newly born offspring. I began to move along the line and pray for each one. 

That Sunday too, we also had a special speaker. It was not Doctor Coker. I finally arrived at the lady in question. I was about to take the baby in my arms when the door at the back of the Newcourt auditorium opened and in walked – yes, you guessed it - Doctor Coker. It was almost the end of our meeting time together. As I saw his face, immediately I remembered his prayer and prophetic word. I asked the congregation if we could pause for a moment or to , as I wanted to question the man who had just walked in.

I asked Doctor Coker, “What are you doing here?” He answered, “Well! I had a few hours to kill and did not want to spend it at Heathrow as my flight to Nigeria is late tonight. I have been at a conference in Europe.  Your speaker is a friend of mine and I knew that he was with you today. So, I have come to see him.” I then answered him, “As you came through the door, I remembered your prayer and prophetic word that you gave to this woman the last time you were here. I believe you should join us on the platform and dedicate her baby, which he duly did.

I was at the said baby’s wedding recently, and I asked the Mother, if she remembered the circumstances surrounding her son’s birth and dedication. “How could I possibly forget,” she said animatedly.  Great coincidence, I guess. But personally, I hardly think so.

My friend’s response to the details above was, “The anecdote you give is certainly a remarkable story. The reason stories like this are so remarkable is because they very rarely happen. If “miracles” and answers to prayer like this were something of a banality, it wouldn’t have stuck in anybody’s mind. Sorry to be a wet blanket, but such is the reality of everyday life.”

By the way, a “Banality” refers to the fact or condition of being unoriginal or commonplace. Dictionaries offer synonyms to “banality” with words like: triteness,  predictability, staleness, unimaginative, lack of originality, lack of inspiration, prosaicness dullness or even ordinariness. 

Of course, my friend did not answer the question, “Is this an answer to prayer or not?”
The thing is; my friend says they “rarely happen.”  It is not rare. For those who know God it is common, and, yes, sure, some of the more complex answer do stand out in your mind, but there are so many, if you will, smaller answers to prayer that it would take me a long time to recite. I would need the right mental prod to recall them all. 

Just for fun though I will tell you another of those “rare stories” that I really don’t think are rare.
When I moved to London, I often did not have very much money.  I had agreed and signed a form to say that my two children at the time (I ultimately had three), could attend a school outing.  It was only £5.00 each child.  The day came when the money had to be paid and Dad really did not have the afore mentioned and committed £10.00.  My young children were very agitated, and were just about to go to school on the final day for the school receipt of the £5.00 each.

What to do? 

It is very hard to reason with young children who have a set approach in which their Dad is supposed to be compliant.  So, it went a bit like this:

Me: “I am sorry kids, but I don’t have the money. I will come and explain to your teacher. I will come in with you to the class this morning.”

Children: (Dresses ready, coats on waiting for Dad to take them to school.) “No Dad! That is terrible! That is embarrassing! Just give us the money. 

Me: Err!! but I really don’t have it and I don’t know what to do!  (It is amazing how that kind of answer does not work – especially with young children.) 

Children: “Dad, you signed the form. You said we could go. Just pay the money. 

Me: “I know I signed the form. I thought I would have the money. I am not very sensible. Let me come and see if I can pay it all a little bit at a time.

Children: “No Dad! That’s a terrible Idea. It’s embarrassing. We do not want you to embarrass us. Just give us the money.”

Me: (Wondering frantically with silent screaming thoughts) “How do I give them £10.00 when I do not have £10.00. Even the bank account is overdrawn. Oh, dear! These children thought they had a bad Dad! So:- “I know children, let’s pray.”

With not very good grace they both bow their heads and their dad prays.

Me: “Father, I know I have signed a form to say I will pay today, but you know I don’t have the £10.00. My children are very cross with me and I have not been very sensible. Now, I don’t know what to do. Please could you help me somehow. Thank you for hearing me.  Amen.”
The children offered a grudging, “ Amen”.

Before they can say anything else, I say, “OK! Let’s go to school.” I hastily head out down our side corridor to our side door. We never ever use the front door. I open the side door and the biggest gust of wind blows in the largest pile of leaves I have ever seen.  That phenomena had never happened before and has never happened since.  I say to the Children, “Hang on! I can’t leave this pile of leaves for your mother.” I rush back in and get the dustpan and brush, still not wanting any further conversation with the children. I start to sweep up and then deliver said leaves back to our bin.  I think it was the second sweep when I noticed in the pile of leaves something that did not look like leaves at all. I put in my hand to extricate the “non-leaf item” and pull out  - a £10.00 note.  

My children were very impressed, and let me tell you, so was I. A coincidence? Well, let me keep praying for  coincidences  then!

Adrian Hawkes
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Monday, 11 November 2019

Welcoming Strangers.

Welcoming Strangers.

Let us look at this problem in a more rounded way.  

There is now something like 70.8 million displaced people in the world.  That is, people running away from war, persecution and terrible conditions. The population of the UK is around that number.

One could probably comfortably fit the entire population of the UK into California and would still have 49 other states left to populate. (There are eleven States of the USA that have greater land area than the UK. California is equal to 1.74 UK’S.) At the moment of my writing Turkey is hosting very many refugees. Turkey has a domiciled population of around 82 million.  It is currently hosting around 4 million refugees. Then there is Lebanon, a tiny country with a population of just over 6 million, currently hosting around 1.5 million refugees.

The USA has a population 327.2 million, but please remember the vast land area.  The USA probably has, according the UNHCR, been the biggest recipient of refugees.

The other mistake that people often make is that these refugee people are coming to “take” from you/us - wherever their new country of residency is – anything and everything that is free.  Over and over again that fake news is propagated in the UK in the right-wing press, when in reality such people contribute more to the UK tax coffers, often more than the average UK citizen. I personally am aware of people who came to the UK with nothing, not speaking the language but have created jobs and employment and contributed to the wealth of the UK in a great way.

Again, on the whole subject of socialism, please read my spiel on that. You might be surprised to know that the USA was the great innovator as far as socialism was concerned.

But let me then look at it from another angle. Who are we?  I am referring to people who are Jesus followers. We are citizens of another Kingdom. Our job is to seek the Kingdom of God on earth, i.e. to be salt and light. To do this we are to speak to the rulers and the power holders, calling them to account and seeking to bring to the earth Justice, Peace, etc., for that is what comprises the Kingdom of God. So, we have a great responsibility where there is injustice, unrighteousness and the  dehumanisation of people who are made in the image of God.   We are also called to be welcoming people who are strangers. We are even called, if they are our enemies, to love them!

As a follower of Christ, I do not believe there is “no answer” to that 70.8 million. I am just Joe Blogs, but I can think of at least three major answers. One at least I did manage to get the UK upper house to discusses. However, talking is not action.  I also remember the invitation to the UN to talk about refugees and asylum seekers there, where I said that people of faith are the ones that must get their hands dirty, if looking after people means to be solution providers. We are trying and are currently housing around 30 and providing carers for another 20 foster children.  That to me seems a very small contribution, and I plan for us to do more.  

I am of the opinion that the UK, and the USA whilst doing something can do more and better. I think holding people who are running away from persecution and war should be treated with kindness and care and not, as in the UK, placed in Yarl’s Wood Detention Centre, for indefinite periods (The UK is the only European country that has no time limit on how long one can be kept in detention), or have children placed in overcrowded centres on the USA boarders.
Adrian Hawkes
Blog 11.11.19
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Friday, 6 September 2019

Fake News or Lazy Journalism?

Fake News or Lazy Journalism?

I wasn’t really looking for such an article. I was looking for something else totally unrelated. However, you know what it’s like when you search the web, all sort of things pop up, relevant, interesting and “don’t waste your time looking here,” but there it was.
The article was in a well-known newspaper, about a couple of years old now, but it was talking about an independent school’s system – a system of which I am familiar as I have set up numerous such schools in several countries across the world.
I could guess where the information came from, as I am aware that there is a lobby that is very anti this particular school system. This lobby feeds information to schools and university’s ad infinitum.  All negative. It’s funny how people can get a bee in their bonnet and then spend all their time attacking issues they don’t quite understand, even if what they are saying is quite untrue, or even if there is another side to the argument.
In my own life I have been at the receiving end of this kind of reporting a couple of times.  I remember one reporter, who I kindly gave my time to, when halfway through the interview, and photo shoot, my little grey cells clicked.  I said to her, “I know how you are writing this report, and what you are going to say is not true and does not represent the facts.  In fact, I do not want to answer any more of you biased questions because I have already sussed what you will write, and it will be detrimental to me and more importantly, quite untrue.  The well-known magazine did a three-page spread. It was totally untrue. However, it still looked like “a good story.”
Anyway! Back to my newspaper web discovery. 
The article told how the kind of school that I and many other are involved with, could not prepare students for Further Education, and particularly could not prepare them for University. My problem with the article was that in the last few years, students in the local UK school that I am involved with – that is a school that utilises the system that the lobbyists and the reporter I referred to above - sent all their “staying on” students (Those that were taking either our certification (ICCE) in either the intermediate level or the advanced level, on to various Universities of their choice. Not only did they not have the problems that the article talked about, but they found University life just right and ended up usually around the top percentile of their year.
I take the trouble to keep in touch with as many past students as possible. Perhaps one of them sums up what I am talking about better than I can express.  This young man wrote to me, in answer to my question, “How are you doing at University?” Here is a copy of what he said:“ I have to tell you that I am not the cleverest student in this place. However, I also believe that I will end up with a good degree pass. What is sad,” he went on to say, “is that many of my fellow student won’t even complete.  The thing is,” he said, “I learnt in the school I went to, how to set academic study goals, how to manage time, and how to complete and hand in work on time.  Many of my fellow students maybe brighter than me, but they won’t finish the course.” 
On his completion with a good degree, I asked, “Did any not finish?” He answered, “Sadly, a lot did not.”
I checked the stats from Channel 4. Here is a summary:  On average, one in 10 UK undergraduates will drop out of university before their second year of study. In some institutions, that figure is as high as one in four.
So;  Was it fake news? Or was it just lazy journalism?  Nobody interviewed me for another side to the rather poor information that they were giving out as factual. 
Our students do just great.
Adrian Hawkes