Posts Tagged ‘society’

Trust Me

Saturday, November 19th, 2016 | Religion & Politics


In a recent episode of Freakonomics Radio, entitled “Trust Me“, Stephen Dubner looked at the decline in trust that many countries were experiencing. This was specifically measured by asking people “do you think most people can be trusted?”

Building this up is important because the most trust you can build, the more social capital people have. This is important because countries where people have higher social capital do better, and also on a personal level as people who have more social capital live significantly longer. As Susan Pinker teaches us it is one of the biggest factors in life expectancy.

Some countries have very high trust levels. Sweden for example. Some of this is explained by the welfare state, but perhaps the biggest factor is the homogeneity of Swedish society. That is to say, everyone looks the same. People trust people who look similar to them. Conversely, when researchers looked at what makes people cheat, cheating across racial lines was a major factor.

One option then would be to resist the diversification of society, join the BNP and insist Britain is just for white people. But aside from the fact that many of us would detest such an attitude, it also ends badly: countries with a lack of diversity are less creative.

Therefore, we need to find a way that we can continue to build trust and social capital in a world that is becoming increasingly more diverse.

How do we do this? By finding ways to connect people across different communities: military service, university, sports teams, etc. University is a great example. You are thrown into a hall of residence where you meet a diverse group of people and build relationships with them. You then internalise the skill of trusting and it stays with you for the rest of your life. This is reflected in the fact that graduates have more social capital than non-graduates.

University is not the only place you can build such trust of course. If you are in the UK, you may have seen adverts for the National Citizen Service. The NCS was introduced in 2011 as a way to get young people to build these skills.

It is also worth noting that these barriers break down over time. There was a time when an Italian person and an Irish person was a “mixed marriage”. Then a black person and a white person was a “mixed marriage”. Now it is just a marriage. Where possible, it makes sense to speed this process up.

Scott Galloway speech

Monday, May 9th, 2016 | Tech, Video

This is a super-interesting speech if you are interested in technology, business, and the short-term future of our society. In it, Galloway discusses how the “big four”: Google, Amazon, Apple and Facebook, are basically claiming all of the growth and all of the talent that the world is producing; redefining industries while at the same time concentrating wealth into even smaller pools.

The Super-Rich and Us

Friday, February 13th, 2015 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

I recently watched the BBC documentary, The Super-Rich and Us.

I am getting more left wing as I get older, and I think I am now of the opinion that we should take a cap, saying £10 million, and anyone worth more than that should be lined up and shot.

Well, maybe not that. At least without legislation that allows us to take take control of their wealth. However, if someone did murder a tax-avoiding billionaire, I am not sure I would be able to judge their actions as immoral.

The Super-Rich and Us

It is also worth watching the TED talk by Nick Hanauer on why plutocrats such as him need to be stoped.

The slow progress of peace

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013 | Thoughts

Earlier today, new figures for the UK Peace Index showed that murder and violent crime rates have fallen significantly over the last decade.

The figures, reported on BBC News, show that the murder rate has almost halved since 2003, and violent crimes have fallen by a quarter too.

Obviously this is good news. It’s easy to become demoralised about the state of society because an ever increasing global news coverage can sometimes bring out the worst. But the reality is that every year progress is made, the world gets better and people live longer and happier lives.

Helping hands

Monday, April 1st, 2013 | Foundation, Humanism

Having recently read and very much enjoyed The Grapes of Graph (perhaps I should say “was moved by” rather than “enjoyed”), it is isn’t interesting to see the parallels between the harsh times experienced in the Great Depression and the not as bad but still regrettable plight of many of our own members of society.

In the book, Ma Joad says something along the lines of “the thing I’m learning more. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need—go to poor people. They’re the only ones that’ll help —the only ones.”

This is a phenomenon that can be often seen throughout society. For example, my father, who is a gas engineer, once told me that poor people are far more likely to tip than wealthy people are – perhaps because they are more aware of financial pressures and the had work people do.

This can also be seen in the homeless world as well. Last night we met three people with dogs and all of them told us the same thing – the dog eats before I do. You can tell – all of the dogs looked well fed, their fur was in good condition and most of them were wrapped up in nice coats, one was even in a hoodie.

To matter how down on their luck people get, most never stop caring about others. Indeed, it may even be a prerequisite.

The housing problem

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012 | Religion & Politics, Thoughts

Following on from my rather angry post yesterday, I thought I would elaborate on a possible solution to the housing problem.

By the housing problem, I refer to the fact that house prices continue to climb above inflation and therefore become more and more unaffordable. A contributing factor to this is the inability to match housing supply to demand – that is to say, we simply don’t have enough houses.

But actually, we do. Go for a walk around Clarence Dock or City Island and you’ll find them a ghost town. Nobody lives there.

A significant contributing factor to this is that a lot of people bought second homes to rent out and then the property market collapsed and so all of these people were left with properties they couldn’t rent out nor could they sell and nor did they really want. But of course people refuse to sell them at a loss, so house prices don’t go down to an affordable level, and so they continue to be unaffordable.

One way to resolve this problem is to ban the practice of buying a second home to let. Just make it illegal. This might sound crazy at first but it’s actually more common than you would think – in Japan, for example, you can only rent out a property that you own in its entirety (without a mortgage).

Because, when you really think about it, buying second homes for rent is really just taking advantage of the younger generation, or poorer strata of society. If you weren’t allowed to do this, housing companies would be forced to sell to people who actually want to live in the house and so they would have to be affordable for people – no more fat landlords buying all the properties and forcing people to pay rent to pay off someone else’s mortgage.

Meeting Matt

Friday, July 1st, 2011 | Foundation, Humanism

Often, volunteering with the Humanist Action Group is a very rewarding experience. We always receive positive feedback on the homeless outreach work we do. However, sometimes, it’s heartbreaking.

Last week, myself and Katie were out out on the usual run, when we encountered a man sat at the bottom of Briggate. He was very memorable because of the amount of blood covering his eye and nose.

Having sat down to talk to him, we soon discovered that only about fifteen minutes before we arrived, he had been badly assaulted by a group of young men.

After finding an eye witness and taking his details should the police be able to do anything, we walked Matt up to Leeds General Infirmary to get him checked out. Despite having a headache he thankfully seemed still coherent, but you can’t be too careful with blows to the head.

My point is though, who does that?

Who just goes up to someone and starts kicking them in the head? Or tramp whacking was Matt described it.

I’ll be honest, normally I would be a little dubious of such a story, but having had it entirely collaborated by an eye witness you have to wonder to yourself what kind of sick bastard would do such a thing. It degrades your faith in humanity.

Matt was clearly an intelligent guy who had been down on his luck; on the way to the hospital he discussed various programming languages with me, and the various flavours of physics with Katie. If it can happen to Matt, it can happen to anyone.

Yet somehow, some individuals, luckily a very, very small minority of our society, think it is OK to abuse people like Matt.

Luckily, there is something we can do. Getting out there and making a difference not only provides a valuable service but also has an incredibly powerful psychological impact, showing that people do care.

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to says thank you to everyone who has been involved with HAG work over the years. It is times like this that really remind you why it is important.

Society & Community

Sunday, November 1st, 2009 | Events, Humanism

Rich led this Friday’s session of One Life which was one Society & Community. The discussions got rather heated at some points but as ever it was a good evening of discussion and reasonably well attended too.

One Life Society and community Leeds Atheist Society