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We’ve produced our new introduction clip! Watch this to know more about the philosophy and questions that drive us at Panahpur.
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Andy Matheson, Panahpur Chairman, has a surprising reflection after visiting the refugee camps in Calais & Dunkirk earlier this month
It is often in the midst of suffering that we discover the strength of the human spirit. I have seen that with my own eyes on many occasions as those in situations that appear hopeless find the inner resources to do something that will make a difference to themselves and others. Most recently I saw that in Calais as migrants who had come from all over the world were camped out in tents, shacks and caravans all with the minutest chance of ever making it across the Channel. The human spirit was evident there in the number of enterprises launched in the midst of that transient community. People making a little money from cooking and serving food to the supply of hot water for showers and even some programmes of entertainment. The circumstances were basic but you can’t stop people having ideas or using their initiative when given the opportunity. In fact, the contrast from the Calais camp to the newly built government facility at Dunkirk could not have been starker. In Dunkirk everything was ordered and similar, from the small wooden houses to the queues for getting your food. In that camp everyone had what they needed in terms of food, clothing and shelter and the place was clean and tidy but there was also a sense in which people were being robed of their dignity. Here were people with nothing to do being served hot meals prepared and served by western volunteers. Yet, I bet you that in the queue for food were some outstanding cooks who would have loved the chance to prepare a meal for themselves and their fellow refugees.
When we give people the basics of life but not the opportunity to use their gifts and abilities or to think and plan and design we rob them of their humanity for we are all programmed to be creative – it’s a part of our nature. This is such a tension for those working in relief and development because the line between them can be so thin. Relief is the provision of the basics to enable people to live and not die but as soon as people have the basics required they soon become restless for the deeper more meaningful parts of their existence and then we are in a ‘development’ scenario. Good ‘relief’ work is about supplying what people need, good ‘development’ on the other hand is about never doing for someone what they can do for themselves. John McKnight in ‘The Careless Society’ talks about how in inner city America people are emasculated because a relief approach is in the on-going DNA of the government’s response to what is a ‘development’ scenario. As I left the Dunkirk camp those I travelled with asked me for my reflections on what I had seen. Now, my experience is in the Global South so I have no pretension to be an expert on Europe or the needs of refugees. My response was simply that having a large group of young men in a situation where everything they require to live is provided but where they have no opportunity to make a contribution is a ticking time bomb. Something will erupt at some point. Even those who have been through incredible trauma just to make it to France will, at some point, need the opportunity to create and contribute. That is why business and job creation and entrepreneurship is so important in building a better world.
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In October 1854, Lord Cardigan’s Light Brigade charged the Russian artillery at Balaclava, on the Crimean Peninsula. They were composed of Light Dragoons, Lancers and Hussars.
“Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred”.
Over the summer, the Labour Party establishment has charged into pretty much the same place. Tony Blair et al can look blinking around them through the smoke and bullets, and exclaim that this valley of Death is ‘Alice in Wonderland politics’. But it is they who so gravely misunderstand the ground on which they now stand.
“Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die”:
Equally striking, behind the Labour Lancers are the Conservative Hussars, yet to start their charge. They gleefully look on as their old rivals are obliterated right under their noses. It seems not to have occurred to them that they will be next. They are, after all, to all intents and purposes the same.
“Not tho’ the soldier knew
Someone had blunder’d”:
It is certainly New Labour that is being crushed. But it is more than that. It is what they represent: Insiders operating a state apparatus. Political oligarchy in thrall to debt (and hence bankers). The Establishment. Stasis. Hand of narcissism in glove of neo-liberalism. The polling shows that it is not just New Labour whose core vote is splintering. The General Election this year bucked this trend, because the Labour Party contrived to offer the worst of both worlds. But things have changed irrevocably. And the British public see the Conservative Party in much the same way as they see New Labour. Right now they are savouring the spectacle of New Labour squealing like the stuck pig that it is. Doing the same thing to the Tories will be just as sweet.
Fundamental changes are underway in the world and of course this changes how people see politics: The death of a 25 year neo-liberal economic consensus; deep questions being raised about how we might collaborate, and so change an institutional structure designed for competition and antagonism; a social contract – and a union – so clearly under strain; the early years of a Technology Revolution which will prove every bit as profound as the Industrial Revolution; Globalisation; Sustainability challenges; Migration. What is our Purpose?
The failure of the political establishment to engage with and respond to these things is not restricted to New Labour. It is a peculiar spectacle, to watch the equally lightweight Conservative Hussars peering through the smoke, laughing at the misfortune of their ancient rival, failing to even realise that they in the same place.
Our society desperately needs our politicians to tool up with some serious intellectual, moral and philosophical hardware if they are to stand a chance of getting out of this place intact. If they don’t, they will increasingly be shot to bits by forces they can barely see, let alone understand. “Ce n’est pas la guerre: c’est de la folie”