Shame denied

Landschlacht, Switzerland, 16 June 2016

“You can judge a nation by the way it treats its most vulnerable members.” (Aristotle)

“…the best test of a nation´s righteousness is how it treats the poorest and most vulnerable in its midst.” (Jim Wallis)

In St. Gallen stands a man, a beggar named Bruno, who hangs around outside the McDonald´s near the main train station.

No one is certain why he is there, day after day, regardless of the season or the weather.

Some say that he came from money and chose to be homeless, but it is easier to blame the poor for their poverty, then holding the rich accountable for a society´s inequality and unfairness in wealth distribution.

24, 000 people die every day from hunger.

3/4 of the deaths are children under the age of 5.

Is it somehow the children´s fault that they are poor?

Over one billion people have to survive on less than $1.00 US a day.

842, 000, 000 people across the world will go to bed hungry tonight.

Is this somehow their fault for their condition?

If so, then being poor is a choice?

If a choice, then shouldn´t it be outlawed?

Some communities seem to think so…

“Sussex Police has been accused of needlessly criminalising rough sleepers by using plain clothes officers to catch people begging on the streets.

They have arrested more than 60 people in Brighton for begging last year.

Critis argue that fines routinely imposed for begging offences simply increase the financial burden on rough sleepers, many of whom may have drug or alcohol abuse isses.

“People are effectively being victimized for sleeping rough.  We have a ridiculous situation where homeless people are being arrested for asking for a few pennies, fined by the courts and then put back out on the street.  These are vulnerable individuals being criminalised…” (Jason Knight, Brighton social worker / businessman)

“It is difficult to see why it is in the public interest to pursue these cases.  I am not talking about aggressive begging or harassment but situations where people have asked for a few pence.” (Ray Pape, defence lawyer)”

(The Independent, 9 February 2016)

“According to the Economic Innovation Group, a nonprofit research and advocacacy organisation, the gap between the richest and poorest American communities has widened since the Great Recession ended and distressed areas are faring worse just as the recovery is gaining traction across much of the country.

From 2010 to 2013, employment in the most prosperous neighbourhoods in the US increased by more than 20%, but in bottom-ranked neighbourhoods, the number of jobs fell sharply.  One in ten businesses closed down.

“The most prosperous areas have enjoyed rocket ship growth.  There you are very unlikely to run into someone without a high school diploma, a person living below the poverty line or a vacant house.  That is just not part of your experience.” (John Lettieri, Senior Director for Policy and Strategy, Economic Innovation Group)

By contrast, in places where the recovery has passed by, things look very different.

In America´s most distressed communities, the average house dates to 1959, population growth is flat or falling, more than 1/2 of adults don´t have a job and nearly a 1/4 lack a high school diploma.”

(New York Times, 24 February 2016)

So, for those in the ghettoes of America, is this poverty, this unemployment, this lack of education, really a choice that they made?

Here in Switzerland, in St. Gallen where much of my work occurs, Bruno is a quiet beggar who doesn´t say much, but, much like a street performing mime, he will suddenly explode into expression for what little charity he receives.

I am no Bruno.

I have a comfortable apartment, plenty of food in my kitchen, a warm, dry comfortable bed to sleep in, clean and undamaged clothing, access to regular hot showers and I can afford to amass collections of books, music and films which crowd our walls and floors much to my wife´s ever-growing dismay.

Unlike Bruno, I can afford to take the train and bus to the various places where I teach and I can afford to fly away somewhere for my vacations.

By comparison to Bruno, I am rich.

By comparison to poverty in the Third World, Bruno is rich.

Yet I probably don´t appreciate what I do have and could probably give Bruno far more than I do.

I see Bruno and I feel ashamed.

Not of Bruno, but of a community that is unable or unwilling to offer him a better life.

Not of Bruno, but of myself for the discomfort I feel when I interact with him.

Bruno is a man who, but for the grace of God, I could easily have become.

Heaven only knows how Bruno got here.

I can only guess that there is a world of experience and pain behind the rags and beard and unpleasant body odour.

It is easier to ignore Bruno and pretend he just isn´t there than to acknowledge why he is there.

I curse my inability to understand what he says to me, for though I have a working knowledge of High German, Swiss German is often as incomprehensible to me as Cantonese or Greek.

But some ideas filter through Bruno´s babble…

I know he sleeps rough, camping just outside the city limits, and trudges back into town every morning to visit soup kitchens and return to his post outside the Bahnhof McDonald´s.

I can only imagine what it must be like to be him.

For the educated, there are books written by brave souls who tried for themselves living homeless in lands of milk and honey.

Jack London, better known for his best seller The Call of the Wild and other adventure stories, was also a skilled political writer and social critic.

Posing as an American sailor stranded in the East End of London in 1902, he slept in charity houses and lived with the destitute and starving.

While other writers were celebrating the glories of the British Empire at its peak, Jack asked why such misery was to be found in the heart of a capital city of immense wealth and reported on his experiences in The People of the Abyss.

Eric Blair, better known by his pen name George Orwell, spent time in the 1930s amongst the desperately poor and destitute in London and Paris, documenting a world of unrelenting drudgery and squalor, sleeping in bug-infested hostels and flophouses, working in a vile Parisian hotel, surviving on scraps and cigarette butts, and wrote the powerful memoir Down and Out in Paris and London.

I am no Orwell nor Jack London, though I have seen some of this underworld for myself.

I have been homeless in the past as well as a drifter.

I have slept in charity houses in various cities in Canada and the States, in Britain and in France.

I have stood in line at soup kitchens and visited food banks.

I have never begged on street corners but never refused charity if offered an opportunity by kind drivers who gave me lifts in my hitchhiking travels in the States.

I have slept in places one would never imagine sleeping in or on: ditches, forests, fields, river banks and mountain tops, under stairwells and bridges, in tents and hostels, barns and stables, in prison cells and churches, on rooftops and in gutters, in shipholds and under parked vehicles, wherever sleep demanded.

But for me it was more adventure than adversity.

I hungered to see the world, but I knew I could never afford to do so, unless I simply set out without money and trusted fickle Fate to sustain me.

My story was more Jack Kerouac´s On the Road or Patrick Fermor´s A Time of Gifts than it was Orwellian Down and Out.

And somehow my overworked guardian angel protected me.

(I sometimes wonder had I not been white, would my story have been different?)

Of course, I have my tales to tell, but the despair, the anger, the hopelessness I have encountered in “places only ragged people know” (Simon and Garfunkel, “The Boxer”) remained somehow separate from my experience, much like living as a foreignor in a foreign land as I do now.

And in my travels outside North America and Europe, both literal and literary, poverty was encountered in more horrific ways than anything witnessed in the rich West.

Legless beggars wheel themselves on makeshift skateboards in the streets of Seoul and Delhi.

Flies gather round starving children in Africa whose mothers lacking nourishment for themselves cannot produce milk to sustain their babies nor even the energy to brush away the flies from eyes and mouths.

Africa

Nightfall finds street gangs gather and fight at knifepoint round the garbage dump outside Manila finding treasure in wealthy men´s trash.

(And these are the ravages of poverty…

I have never been to war nor spent time in a war zone so the horror and fear and terror and sorrow felt by soldier and civilian enmeshed in this nightmare scenario has been alien to my experience.

Though I have felt fear and anger in potentially violent scenarios encountered in my travels, my experience pales in comparison to what many folks experience daily worldwide.)

So when I see Bruno I feel both compassion and shame.

Yet somehow Bruno lives, and though his presence remains invisible to most of St. Gallen´s urbane citizens scurrying to and fro, I see him both as a reminder of what was and what could have been.

I count my blessings as Bruno blesses me for the change he counts as blessings.

Folks more fortunate look at Bruno, if they see him at all, seem him as a blight on the urban landscape.

“Why doesn´t he work?”, they ask.

But would they hire him?

And if they did, what would they have him do?

What could he do?

And would he want to do it?

For the working man´s lot, as much as we tell ourselves is better than Bruno´s condition, is for many not a pleasureable means to avert poverty.

For what dignity is preserved preventing us from begging, much pride is swallowed in dealing with those empowered to tell us what to do.

As profits fill the coffers of the wealthy, earned by the sweat and blood and toil and tears of others, few workers are shown the respect for their labour they are due.

The working man must seek his solace in wages begrudingly given.

And the harder the labour, the lower the wage and the compliments rarer.

Might some folks be wary of these conditions?

Bruno prefers to sleep in the woods covered by a tarpaulin rather than in a men´s shelter, for though he is exposed to the elements of unforgiving nature, and though his unwashed unshaven condition brings fear and disgust to some and makes him more celibate than a hermetic monk, at least in the woods there is freedom of thought and action.

In the woods there are no registration forms, no lectures and endless questions regarding the “purposelessness” of his life, no religious zealots to convince him to find Jesus, no litany of rules, no curfews, no rooms filled with snoring, wheezing, sneezing, burping, farting men, no dealing with self-important helpers who feel that giving charity makes them superior to those receiving charity and who wonder why the poor are not more grateful for their efforts.

Bruno is a man apart, alone by both circumstance and choice.

He may no longer believe that he can rise above his station in life, but it is a life that is his own.

He has denied shame and those that would wish to shame him.

His penury has made him both slave and free man.

And I don´t take his presence for granted, for I know should someone famous or something important show up in St. Gallen, Bruno will be strongly compelled by the powers that rule this city to move onwards.

Rio tries to hide its poverty just as Atlanta and Vancouver did before them.

But the poor return to the only lives they know and understand.

Let us not judge a man until we have walked many a moon in his mocassins.

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope for the Hopeless: Electronic Charisma

This particular post is one of the hardest for me to write as it runs counter to many deep set feelings I have towards the modern tendency of increased computerization in so much of our lives.

So often I feel that folks focus so much on what is gained by technology without the remotest consideration as to the costs of this technology to society and morality.

That having been said, it is, with extreme reluctance, I acknowledge the wisdom of partial co-operation and capitulation to modern communications in regards to the employment search.

Three visits to Geneva searching for employment at over a dozen schools personally visited has resulted in only a few token responses.

“I know what you are thinking.

“I’m out of work.

I’ve got to go job-huntin’.

So the first thing I have to do is put together my resume.”

Yeah, that used to be true.

In “the old days.”

Before the Internet came on the scene.

Back then, the only way an interviewer could learn much about you was a piece of paper that you yourself wrote – with maybe a little help from your friends – called your resume or CV.

On that paper was a summary of where you had been and all you had done in the past.

From that piece of paper, the employer was supposed to guess what kind of person you are in the present and what kind of employee you would be in the future.

The good thing about this – from your point of view – was that you had absolute control over what went into that piece of paper.

You could omit anything you didn’t want the employer to see, anything that was embarrassing, or anything from your past that you have long since regretted.

Short of their hiring a private detective, or talking to your previous, a prospective employer couldn’t find out much else about you.

That was nice.

But…

Those days are gone forever.

All any prospective employer has to do now is to Google your name and there’s your new resume.

If you have been anywhere near the Internet – and as of 2014 over 87% of adults have – and if you have posted anything on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or YouTube, or if you have your own website or webcasts or photo album or blog, or if you’ve been on anyone else’s Facebook page, every aspect of you may be revealed.

Bye, bye, control.

91% of US employers have visited a job-hunter’s profile on social networks.

69% of employers have rejected some applicants on the basis of what they found.

But…

What is sometimes forgotten is that this works both ways.

68% of the time an employer will offer someone a job because they liked what Google turned up about them.”
Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

So I need to follow my own electronic footprints and make certain that charisma rather than infamy are the signposts employers will see.

Time to go a-Google-ing…

May our ghosts in the machine be friendly ones…

Hope for the Hopeless: Fighting the Feelings

In one of the last posts I recently wrote I began to discuss job-hunting and quoted extensively from one of my favourite books: Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute?.

(See Hope for the Hopeless: Brave New World of this blog.)

I have begun doing this in the hope that what I am experiencing in my own employment search, as well as tips Mr. Bolles and others have to offer, may assist others in their present or future struggles with one of the most stressful periods of our adult lives.

Now, for those folks easily impressed by qualifications and letters behind a name or titles in front of a name, let me save you some time and tell you that I won’t be the person to impress you in this manner.

All I will say in my defence is I will write about what I am experiencing and will share ideas that have struck a chord with me in the hopes that you will see some wisdom in them for you.

Fair enough?

In my own limited experience, I have found that the hardest part of being unemployed or underemployed or inappropriately employed is dealing with feelings.

This situation takes a terrible toll upon the human spirit.

(As for my particular spirit at times, see Taming the Black Dog of this blog.)

“In a recent study of over 6,000 job hunters, interviewed every week for up to 24 weeks, it was discovered that many workers become discouraged the longer they are unemployed.

In particular, the unemployed express feeling more sad the longer they are unemployed.

Sadness rises more quickly with unemployment duration during episodes of the job search.

In addition, reported life satisfaction is lower for the same individual following days in which comparatively more time was devoted to the job search.

These findings suggest that the psychological cost of the job search rises the longer someone is unemployed.”
Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

Granted, these findings probably surprise no one.

Part of the problem is that we spend so much of our adult lives working (80%, in fact) that many of us identify ourselves (and others) by the jobs we do.

It is reflected in the very words we choose when we talk about how we earn our living.

Most engineers, as an example, would respond to the question “What is your job?” with the answer: “I am an engineer.” rather than with “I work as an engineer.”

In the first sentence, the job is the person.

In the second, the person does a job.

A small difference maybe, but I think an important distinction, for it shows that many of us believe that our value as people is determined by our job performance, rather than our job performance determined by our value as people.

“I know the truth of this (the toll upon the human spirit) from my own experience.

I have been fired in my life.

I remember how it felt each time I got the lousy news.

I walked out of the building dazed, as though I had jus emerged from a really bad train wreck.

The sun was shining brightly, not a cloud in the sky.

The streets were filled with laughing happy people, who apparently had not a care in the world.

I remember thinking, “The world has just caved – my world at least.

How can all these people act as though nothing has happened?”

And I remember the feelings.

The overwhelming feelings that only intensified in the weeks after that.

Describe my state however you want –

Feeling sad, being in a funk, feeling despair, feeling hopeless, feeling like things “will always be this way”, feeling depressed –

It doesn’t matter.

I was terribly unhappy.

Unemployment was rocking my soul to its foundations.

I needed to know what to do about my feelings.

I have since learned that my experience was not the least unusual.

Most of us when we are out of work for a long time feel weary and depressed.

Our greatest desire is to get rid of these feelings.”
Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

I have been an ESL teacher for many years, unofficially since 1984, officially since 1999.

But Switzerland and the Great Recession have not been kind to my career these past few years.

I believe that I can occasionally string words together and have begun baby steps through this blog.

Maybe, just maybe, I might learn how to actually make an income from this impulse of word-smithing.

To prove to myself that I can do more than teach, I have worked as a Starbucks barista for the past year, with a little teaching on the side.

My wife’s decision to accept a training post in Zürich, absenting herself and living apart much of the week away from home, gave me the resolve to change my situation, rather than wait for my situation to change.

I have grown tired of being reactive and have resolved to be proactive.

But, God help me, resolve fails me from time to time, and I know that without the loving support of my wife and my friends I would be less able to “dust myself off, pick myself up and start all over again.”

As Canadian Thanksgiving approaches, they are what / who I am most humbly grateful for.

So, how to fight the feelings?

Let’s see what Richard has to say:

“Things We Can Do to Deal with Our Feelings When We Are Unemployed

1. Catch up on our sleep.

We tend to feel depressed if we are short on our sleep or our body is otherwise rundown.

2. Keep more physically fit while unemployed.

Get regular exercise, involving a daily walk.
Drink plenty of water each day.
Eliminate sugar as much as possible from the diet.
Take supplementary vitamins daily.
Eat balanced meals (not just pig out on junk food in front of the telly)

(Blogger: guilty as charged!)

3. Do something about the physical space around us.

Our surroundings often mirror how we feel about ourselves.
If our physical environment looks like a disaster area…

(Blogger: guilty as charged!)

…that in itself cam make us depressed.

(When) neatness will start to appear in our physical environment, this can help lift our spirits immensely, as our physical space mirrors an upbeat life.

4. Get outdoors daily and take a good walk.

Hiding in our cave…

(Blogger: guilty as charged!)

…will only make us feel more down.

Seeing trees, sunlight, mountains, flowers, people, will do your heart good, each day.

5. Focus on other people and their problems – not just your own.

If we determine to help someone else in need, we won’t feel so discarded by society.

6. Renew your acquaintance with old friends.

Explore the friendships you already have, not because they are useful in your job hunt, but just because they are valuable human beings.”
Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

“There are two kinds of exploration:

One involves going out to explore new country.

The other involves digging down more deeply into the country we already occupy.” (Phillip Brooks)

“7. Go on fun mini-adventures.

Often there are portions of our surroundings that we have never explored, but a tourist would.
Set out to visit places you have never seen.
Stop obsessing about how much you lost from your past.
Turn your face toward the future.
There are new worlds to conquer.

8. Deal with your feelings by expanding your mental horizons and learn something new.

Read up on subjects that have always interested you…

(See Underdog University of this blog.)

…but you never took the time to explore before.

There are a million FREE videos online where you can learn just about anything.
There are videocasts, podcasts and every other kinds of -cast.

(Blogger: including Broadway casts!)

There are also, of course, books.

9. Talk with your loved ones about the feelings you have.

(Blogger: As many of my women friends will attest…)

It’s amazing how giving voice to thoughts and feelings, particularly when we don’t much care for those thoughts and those feelings, causes them to lose their power over us.

We should do this, because otherwise stuff bottled up inside us tends to fester and grow.

10. Pound a punching bag or some pillows to get some of the angry energy out of us.

(Blogger: better than wife beating or kicking the cat!)

11. Make a list each day of the things that make us grateful / glad / happy day by day.

There is a habit of mind that is deadly while we’re out of work and that is spending too much of our day, every day, brooding about what is wrong in our lives.

By listing the things we are thankful for, we teach ourselves to focus on what precious gifts we are thankful for, we teach ourselves to focus on what precious gifts we still have.”
Richard N. Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

I am thankful for this blog.

I am thankful for your attention.

Hope for the hopeless: Brave new world

It has been suggested that when one writes a blog and hopes to attract attention to it, one should show how reading that blog will benefit the reader and not just the writer.

I have, for one person without a fortune, a fairly large library, that has expanded from what I could carry on my back, to the closet of my cousin, to three rooms of our apartment.

It has spread around the flat like a benevolent cancer to encompass walls and floors.

Those who have seen it, or who have known of it, have suggested to me that I start a blog wherein I mention the books that have moved or inspired me.

One place to start talking about much-loved treasured tomes is to imagine a fire striking the apartment.

Everyone is outside and safe from harm, but there is a reasonable safety margin to go back inside and remove from the threatening flames ten books you would hate to lose forever.

I mentioned in a previous post, Underdog University, one of these top ten: Ronald Gross’ The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, a great book that shows you how to discover what you are passionate about and how to become a recognized expert in that passion.

(From a teacher’s point of view, I have always felt that unless both the teacher and the student are passionate about what is being taught then little progress can be made or little learning achieved.)

A book I would like to share with others, and I wish I had unlimited resources to ensure everyone who wanted to work had a copy of this book, is Richard N. Bolles’ What Color Is Your Parachute?.

Revised and updated annually, with more than 10 million copies sold, Parachute is a practical manual for job-hunters and career changers, the best-selling job-hunting book in the world, and has been described by Time magazine as “one of the all-time 100 best nonfiction books”.

I share parts of this book with you, my readers, for both your enrichment as well as my own self-motivation, as those who know me are aware that I myself am in a “transitional phase” and hope to find work that both finances my life as well as nourishes my spirits.

“The rules of the game have changed.

Without notice.

Without warning.

Especially for the job-hunt or for those trying to make a career change.

What used to work, doesn’t work anymore.

What used to be easy, is now difficult or seemingly impossible.

Our lament:

“Out of work.

Made up a resume.

Sent it to all the places I’m supposed to.

Went to all the job boards and looked for vacancies in my field.

Day after day.

Week after week.

Month after month.

All of this worked the last time I went job hunting.

But now?

Strike out!

Nothing!”

The job hunt behaves differently now than it used to.

Things have changed.

Dramatically.

The magic year was 2008.

We all know what happened then:

The Great Recession, the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression in 1929.

So, what changed about the job hunt since 2008?

1. Employers changed. Job hunters didn’t.

During tough times, employers find it much easier to fill a vacancy, so they have stopped reading our resumes and have stopped posting their vacancies.

2. Many employers are holding out for the dream employee.

Since 2008, the average number of people applying for any given job has been 118.

Knowing that there is such a large pool of applicants, many employers are now over-screening, tightening the parameters around who they will even consider.

“Must be currently employed” is the biggest change since 2008.

“Must have direct hands-on experience” is another.

Thus, in one way or another many employers now reject candidates they would have cheerfully hired eight years ago.

Reason: With the recovery still unsteady and slow, employers are more averse than ever to taking risks, so they keep thinking that now with all those unemployed out there, maybe someone better will come along next week.

Of course, this ideal employee some employers are looking for may not even exist, but even as a myth, this idea of “a better employee than the one I’m currently interviewing” definitely affects hiring plans.

Not all employers think this way, but way too many do.

3. The length of the average job-hunt has increased dramatically.

From 1994 through 2008, roughly half of all unemployed job-seekers found jobs within five weeks.

After 2008, a far greater proportion spend more than a year looking for work.

4. The length of time the average job lasts has decreased dramatically.

There has been a great increase in the number of temp or part-time workers since 2008.

The reason for this rise in temporary hiring is the employers’ desire to keep their costs down.

Hiring only when they need help and letting the employee go as soon as they don’t need that help has become a budget-friendly strategy for many employers.

As well, employers don’t have to pay any benefits or grant paid vacation time.

5. Job-hunting is increasingly becoming a repetitive activity in the lives of many of us.

Because the length of time a job typically lasts has dramatically decreased since 2008, so, even when we find a job now, we may be job-hunting again, sooner than we think.

Our typical work history now is going to be three careers over our lifetime and at least eight jobs.

6. Job-hunting has moved more and more online since 2008.

As social media and other sites have become more popular, job-hunters and employers alike have figured out how to use them in the job hunt.

7. Increasingly job hunters and employers speak two different languages.

When we approach the world of business, we should think of it as going to visit a foreign country.

We are going to have to learn a whole new language, culture and customs.

We must now start to think like an employer, learn how employers prefer to look for employees and figure out how to change our own job-hunting strategies so as to conform to theirs.

Adapt to the employer’s preferences.

We want the job market to be a hiring game, but the employer regards it as an elimination game until the very last phase.

We want the employer to be taking lots of initiative towards finding you, but generally speaking, the employer prefers it be us who takes the initiative toward finding them.

We want our solid past performance to be all that gets weighed, but the employer weighs our whole behaviour as they glimpse it from their first interaction with us.

We want the employer to acknowledge receipt of our resumes, but a majority of employers generally feel too swamped with other things to do that, so they do not.

We want employers to save our job hunt by incresing their hiring, but employers tend to wait to hire until they see an increased demand for their products or services.

We value wide coverage of as much of the job market as possible, while the employer wants to hire with the lowest risk possible.

It’s not that there are no jobs.

There are over eight million vacancies available each month.

It’s just that the old way we used to job hunt doesn’t work very well, anymore.

We must learn new advanced job-hunting skills if we are to survive.

He who gets hired is not necessarily the one who can do that job best, but the one who knows the most about how to get hired.”
Richard Bolles, What Color Is Your Parachute?

As I search for work in my fields of writing and teaching,

(I will keep working as a week-end barista until that is no longer practical.),

I will share both my experiences, as well as continued excerpts from Bolles’ masterpiece, in the hope that my blog will help both those who read these words, as well as maintain our spirits throughout one of the most challenging periods of our lives.

May this blog help you as much as myself.

Let me end this post with one final thought…

You have something unique to offer this world.

Together, let’s figure out how to make this world a better place.

Let us learn how to show the world what we have to offer.

Never underestimate the power of one to make a difference.

Old dog, new tricks

I have, of recent days, acquired two new gurus: Blogging 101, a site that is helping me “grow” my blog to its ultimate potential, and Patrick Castaglia, my co-worker Nathalie’s brother who earns his “bread and butter” bringing buyers and sellers, people and products, ideas and innovation together.

Both have been invaluable.

Both have suggested that I need to have a clearer message as to whom I am, to whom my writing is for and most importantly show the reader why they should spend their valuable time bothering to read what I write.

My wife, aka my own personal She Who Must Be Obeyed, often complains that she is dragging me kicking and screaming into the 11th century, as in:

I stubbornly remain a millennium behind everyone else!

She despairs that an old dog can ever learn new tricks.

She is partially justified in this thinking.

I am, after all, only a man!

I am, after all, half a century old.

But she forgets that she married into the Clan Kerr.

Our motto: Sero Sed Serio. (Late but in earnest!)

So, gentle patient readers, expect some changes in the wind.

As of this day, Monday 13 July 2015, one blog becomes four.

As you may have already noticed I have changed the tagline of THIS blog from “Boldly writing what was not written before!” to “Thoughts and observations about life and love in Switzerland and everywhere, yesterday, today and tomorrow.”

I think this tagline is, although perhaps still a wee bit vague, an improvement on the former one.

To those brave souls who have faithfully followed this blog since its genesis on 18 May 2015, and have loyally read all 73 posts that came before, you will have noticed that I have tended to write in three directions:

– Opinion about world events and current affairs
– History (why things are and how they got that way)
– Personal thoughts about events and encounters in my daily life

For the Chronicles of Canada Slim, I will continue to do so, hoping that former readers as well as new followers will get the same pleasure and thoughtfulness in reading them as I put into writing them.

Look for my newest blogs soon:

The Forest of Shadows: “Sometimes evil doesn’t die” (My novel released in serial form)(Feedback and criticism most welcome)

The Anglo Guide to Switzerland: “Life, work and play in the Land of the Edelweiss” (Complimentary, not competitive with others’ existing blogs)

Making It Work: “English for Employment” (mit deutsch Wortschatz)(Perhaps later “avec vocabulaire francais”)

As soon as I figure out how…

Expect my mentioning them at the end of each post.

Let the games begin.

Mind the E-Gap

Future shock is too much change in too short a period of time.

Modern man feels shock from rapid changes.

We have become cities without a history.

Urban populations double every 11 years.

The overall production of goods and services doubles each 50 years in developed countries.

Society experiences an increasing number of changes with an increasing rapidity, while people are losing the familiarity that old institutions of religion, family, national identity and profession once provided.

There is a yawning gap between those who have ready access to information and communication technology and the skills to make use of those technology, and those who do not have the access or skills to use those same technologies within a geographic area, society or community.

It is an economic and social inequality between groups of persons, an electronic divide, a digital gap.

Many of us are “connected”: individuals, organizations, enterprises, schools, hospitals, countries, etc. by means of mobile or smart phones, the Internet or telephony, digital TV, SMS, social networks, etc.

The more intense the connection, the more sophisticated the usage.

We can access what we could not easily access before, retrieve that what was thought lost, interact with the world and make innovative contributions at the click of a mouse or press of a key.

So why are there still so many not connected?

People need access to computers, landlines and networks to connect to the Internet.

People need money to afford these computers, landlines and networks.

People need education to use these tools intelligently.

People need exposure to these tools which may explain why the younger generations are far superior in this regard to their older counterparts.

Too much information makes it difficult to discern what information is valuable as opposed to disposable information.

The ring of truth is lost in the cacaphony of noisy networks of non-stop data flow.

Since the 60s, and especially since the 80s, we use technology we do not understand fully.

We rush to embrace the latest technology regardless of its ultimate cost to us culturally or economically.

Who needs God?

He doesn´t have an email account, Facebook profile, hashtag or Twitter presence.

Who needs family when you have so many friends online?

Who needs nations if we have become a global community sharing the same information?

Who needs a profession when we have become a society that values the cult of personality more than the contribution of character?

Who needs history when it can be neatly capsulized into 120 characters whose memory fades long before today´s newspaper reaches the rubbish bin?

Is an efficient society necessarily by extension an effective society or a desireable one?

Gone it seems are the days when a man could just simply walk off the street and present himself and his credentials without first setting up previous electronic correspondence and arranging an appointment in the virtual world of the gigabyte.

A man is judged now by the size of his electronic footprint not his physical presence.

One need not ask who is the ghost in the machine.

One need only realise that the light at the end of the tunnel is a computer screen and we are the ghost reflected in its glow.