Group Leader: Colin Hawkins
Meets: 3rd Monday from 11.00 at Prospect Inn on the Quay
We try to choose subjects of some substance, challenge our existing views and prejudices and have fun too.
February- Are Women Really From Venus And Men From Mars?
March. Is free speech endangered? Colin
January: Mike took on “Are We All Doomed?”
Arguing, and supported by substantial research, that we're gonn’a be all right.
Some of the issues we associate with future crises e.g. war, plague, even famine have diminished over time, others such as overpopulation, economic collapse and environmental disaster remain real concerns. He believed, on the basis of UN projections that World population will stabilise at around 10 billion in due course. Climate change he argued had not been addressed by governments, further, that electorates will be unlikely to vote for the drastic measures required, a question not so far resolved. Most importantly he believed that present trends in politics e.g. nationalism, huge discrepancies in wealth and technological advance like AI which is likely to replace large numbers of jobs, could together lead to a breakdown in social order and chaos. Despite all this he remains an optimist insofar as mankind has shown itself to be able to overcome all obstacles in the past and that our inventiveness will enable our species to continue to exist indefinitely.
Members also had much to say. Some thought that raw materials especially oil would run out others disagreed. Many believed that agricultural land was finite and infinite productivity increase unlikely. A strong argument was made that if the poorest in the World were to achieve the same standard of living as we enjoy in the West then we would need several planets to sustain us. Not addressed earlier is a fundamental issue, namely that Homo Sapiens spread from Africa around 70,000 years ago although it is probable that humanoids recognisable as human existed up to100,000 years before that. Nevertheless this represent a minute fraction of the time that animals have existed on our planet, during that interval different species have come and gone, some were lucky enough to have hung on for longer but all ultimately disappeared, we see this clearly in the fossil record. Is it not presumptuous to assume that we are the exception to the rule.
Margaret took on “What Should Be Done About The Homeless”.
She reviewed the facilities available from Exeter City Council and the many charities concerned with those on the street in the city. She thought that most of those living on our city’s streets were drug users, alcoholics or had mental issues and that they were on the whole provided for, insofar as was possible, including a bed for the night albeit a charitable one.
It was pointed out that the word homeless encompassed a wide variety of other people with an equally wide variety of other issues among which are illiteracy, unemployment, family breakdown, persistent criminality, health and importantly those who are in work but cannot afford to pay today’s high rents. Assistance for such people needed to be tailored to their individual needs. It was noted that councils were under a legal obligation to house families, Exeter’s Council For Social Services (COFAB) which together with the charities did their best to cope with the rest. The fall in government grants to local authorities it was claimed has led to councils being unable to provide the required facilities. The question of would the public pay higher taxes to fund better provision remained unanswered.
Frankly it appeared that there are so many factors which are components of homelessness apart from the above such as ex army personnel being unused to self sufficiency, education and not least immigration from non -European countries consistency running at 27000 pa adding to the more poorly educated workforce in our post industrial society. To make matters worse hard data is hard to come by and some of the available data suspect. Altogether we chose a horribly difficult subject this time.
November- Do The BBC’s Standards Need Raising?
It was Elizabeth’s turn today. She wanted to tell us that the BBC has a strong right wing bias and produced considerable evidence to support this. The trouble with this
proposition was that it could be shown that it has always been the case that political bias has been directed at the BBC whichever government happens to be in power.
We were generally of the opinion that the BBC did much that was good especially when compared with broadcasters in other countries. The institution did come into serious criticism however, news coverage in particular was deemed inadequately resourced and parochial when compared with say Sky, Channel 4 and Algezira. The channel tried to do too much in stretching resources too far in the direction of popularism in an attempt to attract younger audiences who were well catered for elsewhere. Indeed, we felt that being a publicly funded organisation it had no business in chasing ratings which of course are meat and drink to commercial broadcasters with advertisers to satisfy. In the light of which, it was believed unnecessary to pay high salaries to BBC staff who should be regarded in the same way as civil servants and paid proportionately.
The BBC should remember the Reith doctrine that their role should be to Inform, Educate and Entertain in that order.
'Money, How Much Is Too Much'
Many seem to think that the disparity in earnings in Britain today has become disproportionate to say the least. We wondered if this perception was sufficiently widespread to require addressing.
Surprisingly, members were unwilling to define in cash terms how much is too much but they felt strongly that at a certain level one could have all the material goods that one could possibly need, any more was in practice useless. Colin proposed that what drives the very rich to acquire more was actually the same thing that drives everyone else namely the human drive to succeed and to demonstrate that success to his peers. Even so everyone felt that the status quo could not be maintained. Members found it very difficult to propose a solution particularly because the entrenched position of our political parties depended on the vested interest of their supporters. Mike alone proposed a solution namely that the government in power could enact a ruling to the effect that the senior managers and chief executives in all organisation, private or public may receive no more than a defined figure in excess of the lowest paid in their organisations. Clearly there would be an uproar but one wonders if organisations would be no worse off as a result. If the highest earners left for foreign shores some would say good riddance.
Meeting 20th August 2018
Carley presented her much delayed subject of 'The Snowflake Generation’.
Whilst there is deep suspicion among the elder generation that the young today have greater expectations without at the same time taking on responsibilities of previous generations, we avoided the trap of blaming them for all ills which generations throughout time have tended to do.
There is no doubt though that the internet and particularly social media have influenced the lives of the savvy young in ways that the rest of us find incomprehensible. It is nevertheless a matter of concern that this has led to an unhealthy introspection and frequently dissatisfaction by constantly comparing oneself with ones peers and indeed the unattainable perfection of so called celebrities. A second area of concern is that the rejection of printed and broadcast information in favour of on-line information leads to a lopsided view of the World in which one's own interests and prejudices are reinforced.
We felt that of particular concern was the sense of entitlement which has become prevalent in the young and which previous generation felt had to be earned rather than a right. Arising from this has become an attitude which says that ‘I’ have the right to decide what is right and proper and to deny others the right to say or promote alternative perhaps unpopular views. Such an attitude is anathema to the concept of free speech which many of us hold so dear.
NB Please contact Colin before attending.