Friday, 11 December 2015

When Funny is Not Funny...

When Funny Is Not Funny…

Some years ago I was with a white friend who was marrying a black African girl, it was great fun. They had an English / African wedding which was full of dancing and laughter.
Later in conversation with the young man he asked, "Would you like to see what the African Elders have given me as a wedding present?" 
Of course I was interested; he showed me an ornate stick. 
"What is it?"  I asked. I could see it was a stick, but I didn't know what you were supposed to do with it.  
He laughed and said, "It’s presented to all young men who get married. It is a stick to beat your wife with to keep her in order." Then he laughed. I did not! 
He then said, "I of course would not use it, I just think it’s funny."  
I replied, "Well, personally I don’t think it’s funny at all. I cannot laugh at such a gift, such an action."
The problem with such an action is that it implies that in the culture, in the thinking that, although he thought it a bit of fun, it actually represents an attitude, a way of thinking, a cultural perspective that such an action could well be right, acceptable, and permissible.  I do not think that it is any of those things.  I think it is wrong thinking, wrong culturally, wrong humour, and in fact just plain wrong. It should not be given space.

More recently I listened to a conversation between a young couple. They were discussing the fact that a young African child had been taken into the UK care system. 
The young man, a white African asked, "Why has that happened?"  
"Well," was the response, "he has been badly abused, in fact often beaten."  The 2015 answer was, well that is normal, surely. He is black, that is the culture!  So, in that case it is not wrong?

I like culture. I have lectured degree students on it, have conducted courses with students as part of the Continual Professional development on the subject, and I have written a book on the topic. I love different cultural expressions, different food, fashion, greetings, ways of being, but sometimes we have to identify when people use the cultural get out like, 'this is just a cultural way that is different to yours.'  Sorry, but your culture needs to change, for that is morally wrong.  Personally, in those situations, your country of origin, your skin colour, your language group, your answers such as ‘in my culture we beat our wives’ are unacceptable.

On the same theme, some years ago I got talking with a Pastor of a particular ethnic group and we agreed to have coffee together. In the course of conversation he said, "I am having such problems with the people in my church, the husbands beat their wives too much." (By the way, maybe I need to say that here; the skin colour of this particular ethnic group was not black.)
 Anyway I said, "I don’t understand. What do you mean, 'they beat their wives too much'? Are you saying that it’s acceptable to beat them some, but not too much?" 
"Oh yes," he replied, "from where they come from it’s the culture (there is that word again) for men to beat their wives, but the village makes sure it is not too much. My fear here in the UK is they might kill their wives."
 I interrupted and said, "I’m sorry, but I think that beating your wife is unacceptable full stop. Any beating!"  
He got very angry with me and left, not even finishing his coffee. 
"How could you be so naive and narrow minded, and not pay attention to other peoples' culture?" he shouted over his shoulder as he walked out.

Frankly, I want to stay na├»ve and narrow minded, and I will do all in my power to make sure laws, and whatever else it takes to change such wrong-minded culture or otherwise thinking.  It is not funny, it is wrong. Can I say that any louder?

Adrian Hawkes
Edited by Kirsty de Paor

W. 698

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

You in your small corner and I in Mine

You in your small corner and I in Mine

When I was around 5 years old, I went to Sunday school.  I liked the people, I liked the other kids, but what I remember most is one song that they always sang. I guess I sang it too as I can still remember all the words; maybe you know it too. It starts off with, “Jesus Bids Us Shine” and ends with the line, “you in your small corner and I in Mine.”  I hated that line; I still don’t like it now.  I don’t think I liked corners and particularly not small ones; I certainly did not want to be in one.

When I was 11 years old I made my first trip, as the Brits say, “overseas”. I went to France with my school for a week. We travelled third class, as you could in those days, on a ferry across the channel to St Malo. Third class meant that you could not go inside the ferry; you had to stay on deck come rain or shine.  They did give you a blanket and you could snuggle up to the funnel to keep warm.

It was great fun in a hotel in Dinard with loads of school friends; however I remember thinking way back then how different France was, not just the scenery and the language but everyone seemed to be much more aware that there was a big world out there, other countries that spoke different languages, and many of the young people spoke French, Breton, and English.  Some it seemed spoke German and Dutch too.  It struck me then at 11 years old, that I lived on an island, and these people lived on a continent. In a sense, I was in a corner, and these people were more aware of the world than I.

Recently I have again been made aware of the small corner thinking that is around me. I talk to supposedly well educated people who, when asked, who is the new Labour leader of the opposition, in the Westminster parliament, they do not know.  I listened to my wife talking to a full hairdresser’s salon about the abduction of people by terrorists, and discovered she was the only one there who knew anything about it. They were shocked to discover from her that such terrible things are going on in our world.  Do they not have TV’s or ever see a newspaper, I ask myself.

What is it that makes us want to live in a corner? What is it that gives us this disinterest in the rest of the world?  Is it selfishness? Is it a complete lack of concern for our fellow human beings? Maybe we are just hard hearted?  Why do we not take an interest in our world?

As a follower of Jesus, and I know many people who read what I write say they are Christians. We need to know that Scripture commands us to do things in the world. He never told us to live in a corner, rather we are told to care for strangers.

So what is going on? We are not stupid, are we? Are we really that uninformed, could we really not care about how we are governed, or what is happening in the rest of the world?

Do we really not know that we, the world, are facing the largest displacement of human beings ever?  Do we not know that this will affect us all, do we have no response?

Do you live in your corner?  Do you like it there?
Adrian Hawkes
Edited by Kirsty de Paor

W. 611

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Refugees: the current issues - is there a solution?

Refugees: the current issues - is there a solution?

I was privileged to have been able to speak at the United Nations on the subject recently. The reality is that this is the worst refugee crisis since World War Two; actually, in regards of displacement and movement of people, it’s worse. According to UNHCR there are currently 59.5 million displaced people in the world at the moment.

In the UK there is a lot of anti-immigration press, telling us how many "illegal people" there are and the fact that they are taking jobs, school places, and homes. This has created a great deal of tension and distrust.  Many of the figures quoted are not true, and when you look at real figures from reliable sources you find that the story is very different.

There is another story too, that is not being talked about much and that is one that needs to be brought to Europe's attention. In Europe, UK, Germany, and Italy particularly, there is a need for young workers who pay tax. The reason being that in the UK and other European countries the indigenous populations are getting older.  Most of us have things like state pensions, paid from taxes.  When these were originally introduced with a male retirement age of 65 and female retirement age of 60, life expectancy was between 68 and 69, very different to today predictions. The current life expectancy in the UK is heading towards 100 years. Who is going to pay for all those retired people? Whose taxes will fund it? We need the refugees' help to do that.  Politicians don't have very much to say about this.

There is a lot of nonsense being spread around too, that the refugees are just economic migrants. Really? The millions from Syria are just after better jobs are they? I don't think so!

We also talk about how many are coming to Europe, but in real terms it is only a small percentage of those displaced. In fact, in 2014 the UK took in 31,945 refugees compared with, say, Turkey's 1. 8 million, or the 600,00 in Jordan. Tiny Lebanon, with a population of just 4 million of its own people, took in 1 million refugees. We need to be talking about the millions in places like Jordan, the overwhelming number in Lebanon and the massive camps in Turkey.  Some politicians tell us, "We are doing our fair share; we are taking a big slice of the cake." Are we?

We also need to be asking the questions as to why the rich countries like Qatar, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia etc., at the moment seem to have no refugees from the war areas of Syria, yet they speak the same language.

Note also that in the Middle East those calling themselves Muslims have killed more people calling themselves Muslims than any other group has.

I note that a friend of mine in Poland has come under quite a bit of flak for persuading the government there to give refugee status to people from these areas that have some kind of Christian background, that we should just take all comers or none.  Well, I think we should, as countries, be taking those in need, but we should note that in many areas it is the minority groups like Christians and the Yazidis who have come under the most pressure. Many have even been thrown overboard and drowned from the boats that they were escaping on, by others who did not like their Christianity.  Many Christian groups also saying that even in the refugee camps the discrimination against them is too hard to bear.

I recently wrote to the UK prime minister with my suggestion for dealing with the problem. Sure, my solution would not deal with the short term issues; for that we have take in refugees. However, these problems are not going away any time soon.  The prime minister's answer to me and others is that we have to deal with the source. Maybe, but who is going to do that, and in the meantime, what do we do?

My mad suggestion is that we lease land for 99 years and start a new big city; like a new Hong Kong.  We put it under the laws and administration of a country like the UK. We use aid budget to fund jobs in the new land, creating new housing, roads, schools, hospitals and general infrastructure, charging a levy to the EU for asylum seekers that they did not take. The country setting it up has first bite of infrastructure contracts, thus benefiting its GDP.  The new occupants are given passports, possibly stamped and not allowed to work or receive benefits in Europe, a bit like the stamp on Channel Island passports, who of course hold UK passports.  Mad? Of course it is, but we need a mad answer to such a mad situation. I am glad as I watch the global response to such madness, that there are other mad people out there that think this is a possibility. Recently an Egyptian multi-millionaire offered to buy an island to do just what I am suggesting. Another rich philanthropist in the USA also wants to buy an island, and then in the UK Lord David Alton recently put the whole idea to the British House of Lords. (

I started by saying I was privileged to have been able to put the problem to a UN audience recently, but talking is not enough. We have to do something. I am glad that the pressure being put on the government by the ordinary person is having some effect, and note that the UK will now take 20,000 refugees. Even Iceland has offered places for 10,000. In terms of the pressure being put on governments by their populace to do more, at a recent march to put on the pressure in London, I was amused by some of posters. One youngster carried one that said, "A refugee can come and stay at my house and play mine craft." Though I thought the best was one that said, "We need to be more German," especially as the UK had just agreed to take 20,000 people over five years on the day that Germany took in 40,000.
Adrian Hawkes

Edited By: Kirsty De Paor


Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Fences on Cliff Tops

Fences on Cliff Tops

Often times when we make new laws or change old ones, we are not thinking of the consequences unseen up the road.  We would do well to do so; even when those decisions or laws are made with the best intentions in mind.

Early on in the UK, a law was brought in to make tenancy of rented housing more secure.  The good reason for it was that some people were being put out of their rented house for very little good reason.  However, the unforeseen consequences were that for a period it actually created homelessness. People were reluctant to give others a room in their house if they thought they would turn out to be a bad tenant.  That of course was not the intention, but that was what happened.

I wonder, as I look at recent changes in legislation in the USA and the UK, if we are heading for unforeseen circumstances that we will not like. Of course, from a legislation point of view it may have been done for good reasons like equality and freedom, but are we really sure of the outcomes?

I don’t know, but I do wonder what our new freedom so called, our new equality so called, the removal of fences if you will; I wonder what they will bring up the road.  I wonder if they will have good or bad effects on our society.

It is a bit like that fence on the cliff top, the very low one with the sign that says it is dangerous to step over the fence.  Then of course, in the name of freedom and equality someone questions why it is dangerous, and they step over the fence and walk around on the wrong side of the fence. Then they shout, "Look I am okay! Nothing has happened to me! Who said it was dangerous?"

Then there is a great furore and complaints to the local authority about taking away our freedom to walk on the cliff top, and putting up wrong signs, and questions as to who made this rule anyway.  Eventually, even though the powers that be know that the cliff in question has erosion at its edge, the fence is removed; the signs are taken down.

Of course the first fence crossers  were just dancing around very near the said fence, they were only interested in challenging the fence, they were not interested in getting a better view, their wailing, running, and dancing was close to where they crossed over.

But now we are all free to walk where we like. We can go to the cliff edge.  It may take time but it will come, when one or two stand right on the edge of the cliff to admire their view. There is nothing to stop them, no fence, no danger signs; they are just expressing their freedom to be there.

The cliff gives way and they are plunged to their death on the rocks below.

Maybe the fence had a purpose after all?

Adrian Hawkes
Edited By: Kirsty de Paor

W. 519

Thursday, 4 June 2015



It’s an old adage, and probably correct that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!

Thinking about the subject, I am somewhat puzzled by:

a.) The unwillingness and fight against federalism in the UK.

            ‘We don’t want it at any price’ seems to be the politicians' mantra; what is the difference between that and localising government, or giving more power to local areas, be it Manchester, Scotland, London, or Wales.

b.) Isn’t the localising government some form of Federalism?

            The positive side speculates that you bring government and decision making down to the local people and that must be better. The negative side, from my opinion, is that what actually happens. It is easier to be a big fish in a small pool than a big fish in a big pool, and so we get small, narrow minded, power hungry, ‘I must protect my insecurities by projecting power,’ kind of people who aren't beneficial to anyone.  Is that not what happens?

            Working in Social services and connected areas, I constantly come up against (maybe because it is small and local) the power hungry, insecure people who are splashing their power around, often wrongly, and with damaging results.  They love to tell me their qualifications, and who they are, pointing out that that is why their decision will stand, whatever minnows like me think, and it will not be considered if, maybe, I just might be correct. That does not matter; they have the power.

            One senior manager recently said, on being confronted about caring for the staff working under him, “I don’t care about my staff.” Great.
            I hope they don’t have the investors in people mark, and how stupid to not know that caring for staff is the best way of getting a good job done!

            I have to say that the other people I find that I constantly clash with are social workers; they always love to tell me that they are qualified. (not all; there are very good ones too) Is that coming from their insecurities? One of them reminded me why we started an agency for foster care recently.        
            Having fostered for local boroughs, observed other boroughs, and talked with many foster carers, the thing that I noted was that partly because social workers were very busy, too big a case load, the foster carers did not get looked after well.  Foster carers are very aware of that.  My thinking is you have to look after the carers as well as possible; that way they will look after the children as well as possible. The situation is not look after the children and forget the carers, or look after the careers and forget the children. It is not either or, it should be both. One social worker recently reminded me of these things. In a dispute on what should happen they said, “I really don’t care about foster carers, they are just paid to do a job.”  In my opinion that is completely crazy; it's the terrible power factor at work again.
            So these little fish have a degree. They are now so qualified, they are the fount of all knowledge, so it does not matter about anyone else’s opinion, be they good staff, or great foster carers, or just the minnows who happen to be on the receiving end of this power projection. They have the power.

            So my question is this: is it better to have the large pool where it’s harder for these insecure fish to get to positions of power, and use it badly, or is it better to have a big pool where maybe the insecure don’t quite swim to the top so easily, and therefore power is exercised with more thought and care?

Adrian Hawkes
Edited by Kirsty De Paor

W. 634

Friday, 27 March 2015

Charles Finny on Atheism

Charles Finny on Atheism

 Difficulty: Another difficulty of Atheism is that it is fundamentally inconsistent with itself. To the doctrine that God created the universe out of nothing, Atheists object, "ex nihilo nihil fit." But in accounting for the existence of the universe as it is, they ascribe all events to chance. Now chance is either nothing or something. If nothing, to ascribe the existence of the universe to it, is to contradict their favourite maxim just quoted. If something adequate to the production of such effects, then they admit causality, and chance is only another name for God.

NB Normally a much bigger blog from me each month, little bit behind at the moment, its coming soon.. But I do like this from Finny.  Hope you do too.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Upstream Issues

Upstream Issues

I heard someone telling a story recently about how they were working in fish conservation and checking on clean water in rivers and streams in the UK.  Apparently they found an area of a stream where the fish were struggling for oxygen and dying. Workers then take out any dead fish and then it’s apparently possible to push oxygen into the water, often the water agencies do this by, as the Environment Agency says, pouring Hydrogen Peroxide into the water upstream. This releases extra Oxygen into the water. Such action appears to somewhat reduced the potential fish kill.

Of course you can keep doing this sort of thing, but of course what is really happening is that you are dealing with an event like an illness or a tragedy that sometime keeps occurring, you put it right but then later on it appears again.  Often in the case of the fish dying, checking up stream you discover that there is a factory that periodically discharges its waste into the stream and this waste is toxic or depletes the oxygen in the water thus killing the fish.  So it is better to deal with the cause of the upstream issue rather than the results the downstream of fish dying.

It seems to me that this is often the case in our society at large.  We deal with the results and never think about the cause.  Now I know it’s not the whole answer but in this country we constantly hear we are short of houses, when you ask people what is the upstream issue they will tell you it’s immigration; Now I am sure that is true to some extent but is there another factory upstream creating the need?  What I would like to ask, happens when people get divorced? Oh yes there is often the trauma for the couple, definitely for any children involved, but then housing do they still live in the same house or are now two houses needed?

Now I think there are lots of upstream issues in our world that I think we need to look upstream to really help rather than just sticking plaster on the hurt at the point where the upstream issue has impacted.  Let’s think about some of the things we are reacting too.  What about the current government tax receipts shortages, are the upstream factories putting poison into the system?

At the moment we have more children coming into the care system than ever before, 2014 hit the highest need for Foster Carers for children than ever, we are doing our best with help and plasters, but is there an upstream issue we should be looking at?  In 2013 there were 68,110 children in the care system costing the taxpayer £2.5 Billion. The predicted increase in 2014 is said to be around 7%.  Will it go up again in 2015 are we dealing only with symptoms or is someone looking upstream and if so what is the cause?

According to the National Statistic office these figures are continuing to rise:
Number of children looked after at 31st march each year:
  • ·        2010 64,470
  • ·         2011 65,500
  • ·         2012 67,070
  • ·         2013 68,060
  • ·         2014 68,840

So I have picked up on just a couple of areas of our society and I am asking the question – its great and necessary to care, and to deal with symptoms, just like we would care in any situation such as a road accident for example, but it would be better to put things in place to stop the accident happening if we could, surely we should try and examine the upstream issues – don’t you think?

Adrian Hawkes
w. 701
Edited by Gena Areola

Another Upstream Issue
The report is yet another example of the way that the practical action of the churches has been combined with a prophetic role in speaking out against structural injustice.  This is the synthesis we should always be looking for – compassion and justice – so that we continue to help people who are drowning in the river, but we also go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.

By John Kurt in Resistance and Renewal speaking about food banks and their need

Sunday, 4 January 2015


Many who read this probably do not know what a metanarrative is, that does not matter you will have one.  The word really means ‘the big picture’ but we often use it in terms of a ‘world view’.  “What’s that?” you might ask, well even though we don’t think about it often we all have one. And the thing about ‘world views’ because it’s the way we think, ultimately it will affect the way we live, our actions and all that we seek to do or not as the case might be.

There are lots of world views out there Christianity has its world view, its big picture if you will the start and the end, Communism has a world view, Atheism has a world view, Hinduism has a world view as does Buddhism.

Very often we do not think about our ‘world view’ but we are nevertheless living by them and when a lot of people adopt a particular world view it has an effect on our country, our culture, our laws in fact everything.

There is a great move in the UK and in fact many western countries to push us into a materialistic world view, that world view will ultimately change lots of things if more of us accept that, even subconsciously accept it, even though we may never have sat down and analysed ‘our world view’ even though we have maybe never thought about ‘world views' until you read what I am saying now.
I had a small discussion on TV with Richard Dawkins he got somewhat upset with me when I said that he was a good evangelist for his religion, i.e. Atheism, he of course does not see it as a religion. I do, and certainly that religious view will, in its tail give us a world view, that if we accept will lead us in certain directions.

Another funny thing happened while we were making the particularly slot in the TV programme, I am not sure why that particular part of that discussion arose but Richard said to me “I am more Moral than you are” I of course asked “and how is that so” to which Richard responded “well I don’t pillage or rape and I don’t need a god to stop me doing so, you on the other hand would argue that its God that gives you a moral base and so stops you from doing those things."

I responded by saying “bully for you, maybe you should watch the news more” my implication being that there is an awful lot of pillage and raping and other nasty things that people do to each other with their own justification. Maybe I should have asked, what is your morality and how does it work.  However just recently I have been able to see some of the argument more clearly from Richard’s perspective.

I don’t know if you ever saw the TV series of Faulty Towers, where Basil’s car breaks down, first Basil shouts at the car and then beats it with a stick because it won’t start Richard Dawkins uses this skit to explain his ‘moral’ position, and show us how we should act if we hold his world view / metanarrative.  Here is what he says:

Let's all stop beating Basil's car

Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software. 

Basil Fawlty, British television's hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn't start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. "Right! I warned you. You've had this coming to you!" He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas?

Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don't we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn't the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes? 

Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn't surprise me). 

But doesn't a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused's physiology, heredity and environment. Don't judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car? 

Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?

Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.

My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.'

So now I see the moral perspective that the atheist would have us come from, that is the world view. No responsibility, no blame, a mechanistic world view no less.

Let’s just fix them or replace them (does that mean we just kill them?)  I do think that ‘following Jesus’ gives us a much more enlightened metanarrative world view.  What do you think?

Adrian Hawkes

Edited Gena Areola