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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Let Freedom Reign

We are hearing a lot these days about 'Freedom'. It is claimed by some to be a God-given 'right'. Hmmm!

What is 'freedom'? Is it the same thing as 'liberty'? What does the Declaration of Independence mean: 'all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness'?

I know what 'Life' means, maybe. But 'life' doesn't seem to me to be an 'inalienable' right as far as governments are concerned, anyway. Particularly in America, Land of the Executioners. In fact the only 'right to life' for some is the 'some' who are not yet born. In fact, for some, the 'right to kill' would be a more apt description of an 'inalienable right'.

The only way I can begin to understand the concept of 'freedom' is to think of it as being able to choose our personal 'limits' and 'boundaries' -- for good or ill.

'The pursuit of 'Happiness': Well, where is the 'truth' in that?

It is an error to consider these concepts as 'rights' given to us by God. They may be 'aspirations' or 'needs' that are integral to our nature and necessary to our fulfillment as humans and that may have something to do in our relationship with the Creator -- but ultimately 'inalienable' rights are rights we give each other.

I do not belief that God is absent from this process. But I do believe that humankind is the catulus from which our life, our liberty and our pursuit of happiness is enabled. I believe that what is important is not always the solution that working together we can agree upon. What is important is how we work together in our struggle to pursue divergent aspirations and needs.

And Freedom? Freedom is in the mind.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, etc

At the end of January my doctor told me that I am diabetic -- among other things. I have type two diabetes which is being controlled by a combination of diet and medication. I count myself fortunate that the NHS surgery where I am a patient. They have modern facilities and a staff committed to preventive medicine. It was because the surgery initiated contact with me suggesting that I should have a routine blood test that my diabetes was diagnosed. I am also exempt from having to pay for my prescriptions. (Eat your heart out America!)

But now here is the rub. After discussions about the diet I should follow and how to read sugar levels on packets of food, etc. I have discovered the shocking levels of sugar in the food that we buy in the UK. And especially breakfast cereals. Two cold cereals in particular amazed me with their high sugar content -- higher than what a diabetic should eat -- mixed grain Cheerios and Kellogg's Special K. In the U.S. these cereals have no sugar, but here they are sugar coated. In fact, it is very difficult indeed to find sugarless cereals in this country.

It seems to me that it would behoove the makers/distributors of these cereals to make the sugarless -- or nearly sugarless -- versions available to a population that needs to have this choice. More and more of us are going to be diagnosed with diabetes as the population ages and already the studies of obesity in the population at large indicate that we need to be ingesting a lot less of the stuff.

How about it, Nestles? How about it, Kellogs?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

UK Election: Aftermath

This is the first election I've experienced where one could almost say there are no winners. What is so interesting is that this is precisely the result most people in Britain wanted! And it's peculiar that the lib dems and the Tories have managed to relish the euphoria of victory despite defeat!

On the other hand, labour's behaviour is defeatist and bitter. None of the exultant behaviour of the Bush administration claiming to be vindicated in their decision-making and claiming a 'mandate' from the people. The press claims Tony Blair has been chastened and shocked at the outpouring of rage he had to endure. That he felt chastened is to his credit -- perhaps he will keep his feet in the real world for a while longer.

What began as a lacklustre campaign is now a fascinating political drama as the British Prime Minister tries to wend his way through the maelstrom of party shennanigans and seething ambition. Will he won't he be able to soldier on; can he can't he forge the necessary alliances to end his premiership with authority, dignity, and successfully deliver his would-be agenda?

Will the labour party be able to work together to assure its present leader the support he will need to pursue his goals and thus provide a stable base for the succession of Gordon Brown?

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Election UK: Dialogue and Challenge

It's election time in Britain. Always an interesting experience for this American. Serious electioneering that lasts only a month! What bliss. The television set has not been taken over by party political advertising either.

And guess what!!! The protagonists, excuse me, those running for office, actually face tough questioning and it can be probing and sometimes overtly hostile. It was fascinating for me to watch Question Time a few nights ago. Since Mr. Blair was not willing to participate in a debate with the other main candidates, each candidate faced the audience alone -- and if this audience was partial, I wasn't able to figure to whom. And if the candidate tried to evade the question, the way politicians are want to do, Mr. Dimbleby was there to follow-up and reign in the prevaricating fellow. Not only that, but from time to time it was permitted for the questioner to follow-up and comment on what that answer might be.

In all my years of watching political debates in the United States, I have never seen candidates face the kind of confrontation with the general public that I have witnessed in every general election in Great Britain. The fact is there are few American politicians able to suffer that kind of dialogue.
That is not to say that there are no set political answers -- but the edge is taken off these answers by a public that is allowed to follow-up and challenge the rhetoric.

Within a few moments of facing the audience, Tony Blair had broken into a sweat. And so it should be. The public hired him, the public can fire him and he's not for leaving -- yet!