The Lancet talks about how infants in the UK are almost immoile today - the habit of sloth starts early.
In the study, the children were spending between nine and 10 hours of their waking day hardly moving at all.
"They may well have been doing a bit of fidgeting, they may have been speaking to their parents or among themselves, but they were just not moving enough to put up the number of calories burned beyond what it would be if they were just resting or sleeping," Reilly said.
The children spent 20 minutes a day in moderate to vigorous activity — the type of activity that would get them feeling slightly warm and slightly out of breath, such as running around, walking to keep up with an adult and most types of outdoor play.
All-day television and recorded videos are a major culprit, Reilly said. Outside the home, children are also much less active than they used to be.
"Many more journeys are made by car and among the 3-year-olds, a fair number of them are being taken around in strollers when they could arguably have been walking," Reilly said.
Another element is recent concerns over safety. Some local authorities in Britain have banned children from bringing balls into playgrounds while others prohibit tree-climbing.
"There needs to be a balance. Perhaps we've taken the health and safety agenda a bit far," Reilly said.
The dangers of a sedentary childhood go beyond obesity, experts said. More active children tend to be better behaved and scientists suspect that more active children learn more effectively, perhaps because physical activity is a stimulus to brain development.
"The increasingly sedentary nature of U.K. children is not unique and is being seen in most countries around the world," said James Hill of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado.
Small changes in behavior are all that is needed, said Hill, who was not connected with the study.
In the days before videos and TV, young children didn't sit for hours staring at the wall, Reilly said. "They were perfectly capable of finding other ways to amuse themselves. They had imaginations. They still have imaginations," he said.
My regular readers know that I teach online at UPEI. This term we are looking at the the Cultural and Customer revolution that is emerging.
Pperiodically I will post work from my students that I think is of the highest quality. Here is a survey paper by Shannon Courtney on what is the essence of the revolution that is sweeping the world.
Adaptation and Evolution: The Keys to Business Success
in the 21st Century
The unrelenting progress and profound changes that took
place in the world of business during the twentieth
century seem almost muted in light of the shifts that
are beginning to take hold now. The widely accepted
business model for the last century measured success by
output and organizational structure, where more was
always better. More productivity, more production, more
advertising, more internal/external controls and more
layers of managerial expertise were supposed to result
in more profits and growth. While most companies have
embraced the concept that production and leadership from
the top are the key determinants of success or failure,
over the past thirty years a growing number of
entrepreneurs have rejected the classic model. Instead
of relying on prescribed processes and products, these
new business leaders are embracing a model that depends
on people and genuine relationships. The success of
new-model followers such as WalMart, Dell, Amazon.com,
eBay.com and Southwest Airlines is disconcerting to say
the least for companies still chained to the old model.
The demise of the old model and corresponding rise of
the new model can be attributed to the pivotal roles
that interaction and adaptation play in the world of
commerce. The old machine model created a one-way system
of interaction, demanding that customers and staff adapt
to changes in products, policies and organisational
design that were deemed necessary/profitable from
authorities at the top of the organisational hierarchy.
Interactions with the customer were transactional,
merely viewed as a means to an end. The new model takes
a fundamentally different approach. Company founders
such as Sam Walton, Michael Dell and Pierre Omidyar
recognise that the business world, like the natural
world, is an ecosystem, where interdependence and
evolution are cornerstones to survival, and interaction
and adaptation between all parts is necessary. As such,
these founders and many more with similar visions and
ideals, have focused their energy and ingenuity on
creating organisational cultures that accept the role of
interdependence and are receptive to changes, wherever
they may originate. As a result of their efforts, these
leaders have effectively created organisations that rely
on grassroots involvement - customers and staff aren't
just a means to an end, they are an integral part of a
living, changing system.
Ebay.com epitomizes everything the new model offers its
adopters. This on-line auction site has grown from a
backwater place on the Internet where geeks traded with
geeks to, perhaps, the most successful Internet company
on the planet. It has changed the face of retailing and
re-introduced the concept of 'community' to a commercial
landscape void of real relationships, all the while
being hugely profitable as it continues to establish new
boundaries for doing business. The triumphs of this
company are generally credited to its creator, Pierre
Omidyar, who envisioned a fair marketplace, where all
buyers and sellers would be on a level playing field,
with equal access to information and unlimited access to
the products they wanted. While Omidyar's ethos and
idealisms translated into a new and revolutionary
platform for doing business, they also shaped a culture
at eBay that proved vital to the business' evolution and
survival. Core to eBay's unique culture were the
exchanges that took place between the staff and eBay
users, as well as the interactions between users. Since
its beginnings, eBay was about more than buying and
selling, with users just as eager (if not more) to use
the site's message boards - chatting with other users,
asking questions and raising concerns. The community
that formed within the virtual space of eBay.com was
crucial in many regards. For the customers/users it
provided a sense of belonging and social connection that
is rare in today's world of anonymity. For eBay it
operated as a barometer - when the community was upset
about something they weren't shy to voice their opinion
on the board, and eBay staff were careful to take their
opinions into consideration, often consulting the
community before they even attempted to introduce a new
idea or feature to the website. It also proved to be a
vital safety net of loyalty when competitors tried to
enter the on-line auction business. The culture within
eBay's own offices also speak volumes. 'Ebayism' as
staff affectionately refer to it, is the catch-all word
for the organisation's culture, which reflects the
idealism, entrepreneurial spirit and trusting nature of
its founder, Omidyar. EBay has adopted the new model of
doing business with fervor, recognizing that the
interdependency amongst the buyers, sellers and eBay
itself are the drivers of revenue and growth. Only by
cultivating relationships amongst these parties (user to
user and user to eBay) is it possible to maintain this
interdependency. Upon reflection, it seems eBay is a
perfect guinea pig for the new model. The company
carries no inventory, it has no bricks-and-mortar stores
and very little capital investment, hence it is
difficult for eBay to ignore the fact that the value of
their on-line auction site resides in each of its users
who, collectively, hold the power to bring eBay down or
further its meteoric rise.
While the new 'customer and culture' model seems to fit
comfortably in the arms of cyberspace, it has found as
much success in the traditional 'bricks-and-mortar'
businesses that have huge amounts of inventory, large
capital investments and are geographically dispersed.
WalMart and SouthWest Airlines have both been hugely
successful in the discounting business, but upon first
glance they hardly seem prime examples of businesses
that are adept at adapting and evolving. WalMart's
cookie cutter outlets offer customers aisles upon aisles
of merchandise that could just as easily be found at the
Zellers or Target store down the street, and SouthWest
offers the same flights as other carriers throughout the
United States - minus the meals, seating reservations,
connections and other comforts that cost extra. To
really see WalMart or SouthWest Airlines as avant-garde
organisations, one would have to look beyond the
exterior that is presented, perhaps by being an
employee. The success of these two companies is not in
getting discounting down to an art, but in moulding
organisational cultures that recognise the value of
It was Sam Walton's belief that 'if you wanted the
people in the stores to take care of the customers, you
had to make sure that you were taking care of the people
in the stores.' To that end, WalMart's culture
encourages employees to take on more responsibility, and
rewards them in turn. Store information is shared with
all staff, ideas are discussed openly, profit-sharing
plans are offered to employees, a suggestion program
encourages staff to find better ways of performing their
jobs and, along with numerous other human resource
initiatives, the resulting culture has proved highly
valuable. Ideas and improvements that are successfully
born by an outlet's management and employees are
filtered throughout the organisation, providing value to
the organisation as a whole. And, while it may not be
as apparent as at eBay.com, the customer does benefit
from this 'bottom up' approach and culture of 'people
power'. Ideas for improvement and merchandising
decisions made by the individual outlets are often the
result of observing customer purchasing behaviours, or
responding to customer complaints. While staff benefit
from a sense of belonging and the challenge of being
better, customers are rewarded with product choice
tailored to local demands and store improvements. In an
attempt to communicate the customer-oriented culture at
the outlets, Wal-Mart has greeters at its front doors, a
friendly face welcoming you to the store and wishing you
well when you leave.
SouthWest's customer service ratings within the
airline industry speak for themselves. In May 1988, it
was the first airline to win the Triple Crown for a
month (Best On-time Record, Best Baggage Handling, and
Fewest Customer Complaints) and since then the airline
has won it more than thirty times, as well as five
annual Triple Crowns for 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, and
1996. It is, in a word, the people that set SouthWest
apart from the crowd. Like Wal-Mart, the organisational
culture is decidedly different at this Texas-based air
carrier. Through a number of initiatives, SouthWest's
founders Rollin King and Herb Kelleher, have
successfully created a culture of ownership, where
employees have a financial and entrepreneurial interest
in seeing that the airline succeeds. Employees are
expected and encouraged to make decisions autonomously
and search for better ways of carrying out business. A
profit-sharing and stock option plan provide tangible
rewards to employees, motivating them to take on an
entrepreneurial role within the company. Job security
(the airline has never laid-off any of its employees) in
an industry laden with lay-offs ensure management and
staff relations remain friendly and trusting. Again, the
customer is rewarded by an internal culture that
encourages staff to interact with customers and react to
changes as they see fit. Without protocol from the
top,staff are able to respond to customer complaints and
make special provisions without going through any
red-tape. As the SouthWest folk like to say 'we are in
the Customer Service business-we just happen to provide
The development of a loyal customer base is at the
core of Dell and Amazon.com's forward thinking business
models, which recognise the buying experience for
customers should be interactive. Dell does this by
selling computers directly to its customers, eliminating
the middleman and customizing orders to individual
requests. To further ensure that its employees are able
to accommodate the unique needs of its varied customers,
Michael Dell realised the company needed to be broken
down into small units, with each one focusing on a
specific buyer group (e.g. large business, educational
institutions, personal users). Customisation and
customer service set Dell apart from other computer
manufacturers that sell pre-fab computers through
retailing chains and catalogues. Amazon.com, on-line
seller of books/DVDs/music offers potential buyers a
chance to read reviews from other users and chat with
other buyers on the site's message boards. While
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos realised he couldn't
customise the products for sale on the website, he
endeavoured to provide an interactive purchasing
experience. On-line bookselling seems rather cold and
unwelcoming compared to the coffee shops and comfy
couches at bricks & mortar bookstores, but with its
message boards and customer reviews, Amazon.com has the
appeal of a local monthly book club meeting. Both Dell
and Bezos have been successful in creating a two-way
transactional experience, where a customer is able to
ask for and receive exactly what he or she wants,
whether it's a laptop with a 19inch screen and 120 gig
drive, or a hardcover book that other readers are raving
about. In a world where customers can, with the click
of a mouse, find another place to shop, loyalty and
trust are highly valuable.
These exemplary companies recognise that the
essence of survival and success is dependent upon the
ability to adapt and interact, to change according to
customer demands and to create genuine two-way
relationships with staff and customers. Each has been
successful in creating a culture and processes that
provide for adaptation and evolution. A grassroots
approach to change and improvement, staff autonomy and
satisfaction, as well as product customisation have
proved key to creating agile systems that respond
quickly and effectively to the ever-changing ecosystem
that they are a part of. Customer forums, a community of
users and personal attention from staff have resulted in
the development of real relationships between the
customer and the organisation, relationships that will
carry the company forward so long as trust and respect
remain intact. Companies that follow the new 'power to
the people' model will pass the test of time, they are
inherently designed to do so by adapting to customer
needs and wants. As long as the leaders of these
organisations continue to regard the business world as
an ecosystem, where interdependency, evolution and
continuous change are backbones to the survival of all
parts, they will continue to dominate a business world
of 'machine and cog' thinkers.
So, how did they do it? How did these ordinary men
build extraordinary businesses? Perhaps it is that they
know just how valuable relationships are. After all,
they all come from small towns and backgrounds where
relationships are an integral part of every day life.
And perhaps they, like so many of us, were dissatisfied
with the status quo. They just decided to do something
about it. Whatever the case may be, one thing is
certain: they have set a new standard for the business
Chris refers to Schell's book the Unconquerable World. Here is an Amazon review
Restores Faith, Non-Violent Restoration of People Power, September 13, 2003 Reviewer: Robert D. Steele (see more about me) from Oakton, VA United States
This book, together with William Geider's "The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy", and Mark Hertsgaard's "Why America Fascinates and Infuriates the World: The Eagle's Shadow", in one of three that I believe every American needs to read between now and November 2004.
Across 13 chapters in four parts, the author provides a balanced overview of historical philosophy and practice at both the national level "relations among nations" and the local level ("relations among beings"). His bottom line: that the separation of church and state, and the divorce of social responsibility from both state and corporate actions, have so corrupted the political and economic governance architectures as to make them pathologically dangerous.
His entire book discusses how people can come together, non-violently, to restore both their power over capital and over circumstances, and the social meaning and values that have been abandoned by "objective" corporations and governments.
The book has applicability to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places where the US is foolishly confusing military power with political power. As he says early on, it is the public *will* that must be gained, the public *consent* to a new order--in the absence of this, which certainly does not exist in either Iraq or Afghanistan, no amount of military power will be effective (to which I would add: and the cumulative effect of the financial and social cost of these military interventions without end will have a reverse political, economic, and social cost on the invader that may make the military action a self-inflicted wound of great proportions).
Across the book, the author examines three prevailing models for global relations: the universal empire model, the balance of power model, and the collective security model. He comes down overwhelmingly on the side of the latter as the only viable approach to current and future global stability and prosperity.
A quote from the middle of the book captures its thesis perfectly: "Violence is a method by which the ruthless few can subdue the passive many. Nonviolence is a means by which the active many can overcome the ruthless few."
Taking off from the above, the author elaborates on three sub-themes:
First, that cooperative power is much greater, less expensive, and more lasting that coercive power.
Second, that capitalism today is a scourge on humanity, inflicting far greater damage--deaths, disease, poverty, etcetera--that military power, even the "shock and awe" power unleashed against Afghanistan and Iraq without public debate.
Third, and he draws heavily on Hannah Arendt, here a quote that should shame the current US Administration because it is so contradictory to their belief in "noble lies"--lies that Hitler and Goering would have admired. She says, "Power is actualized only where word and deed have not parted company, where words are not empty and deeds not brutal, where words are not used to veil intentions but to disclose realities, and deeds are not used to violate and destroy but to establish relations and create new realities."
Toward the end of the book the author addresses the dysfunctionality of the current "absolute sovereignty" model and concludes that in an era of globalization, not only must the US respect regional and international sovereignty as an over-lapping authority, but that we must (as Richard Falk recommended in the 1970's) begin to recognize people's or nations as distinct entities with culturally-sovereign rights that over-lap the states within which the people's reside--this would certainly apply to the Kurds, spread across several states, and it should also apply to the Jews and to the Palestinians, among many others.
On the last page, he says that we have a choice between survival and annihilation. We can carry on with unilateral violence, or we the people can take back the power, change direction, and elect a government that believes in cooperative non-violence, the only path to survival that appears to the author, and to this reviewer, as viable.
This is a *very* important book, and it merits careful reading by every adult who wishes to leave their children a world of peace and prosperity. We can do better. What we are doing now is destructive in every sense of the word.
Chris Corrigan at Parking Lot is posting amazing material. Please have a look. Here is a snip
"Havel, who wrote passionately about a politics he called "living in truth" (which is perhaps the best way to translate Gandhi's satyagraha, by the way) crafted a politics along with other thinkers in Eastern Europe that made democracy emerge, but not before it issued a challenge to every single person.
By living within the lie - that is, conforming to the system's demands - Havel says, "individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system." A "line of conflict" is then drawn through each person who is invited in the countless decisions of daily life to choose between living in truth and living in the lie. Living in truth - directly doing in your immediate surroundings, what you think needs doing, saying what you think is true and needs saying , acting the way you think people should act - is a form of protest, Havel admits, against living in the lie, and so those who try to live in truth are indeed an opposition. But that is neither all they are or the main thing they are. Before living in truth is a protest, it is an affirmation.
-- Schell, p.196 (Col John Boyd called this choice The Fork in the Road - This link will take you to his perspective)
If that doesn't blow your socks off, check your pulse.
This is the first answer to being engaged: discerning that "line of conflict" within you that delineates the truth from everything else. It is inner work, and you have to use your gut to get it right. And then the next thing to do is to act. Not to act in large ways, but in small simple ways. Adam Michnik in Poland and Vaclav Arendt held that power is created not when some people coerce others, but when they willingly take action together in support of common purposes. "Power" she wrote, "corresponds to the human ability not just to act, but to act in concert."...Tocqueville said much the same thing in his analysis of the vibrant civil society he witnessed in the United States in the 1830s. "There is no end which the human will despairs of attaining," he asserted, "through the combined power of individuals united in a society." Referring to the "power of meeting" he remarked, "Democracy does not confer the most skillful kind of government upon the people, but it produces that which the most skillful governments are frequently unable to awaken, namely an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is inseparable from it, and which may, under favorable circumstances, beget the most amazing benefits
Havel and Georgy Konrad in Hungary didn't set their sites on toppliing the Soviet power structure. They focussed instead on living in truth.
I have written a lot more about the imperative to do this inner work towards engagement in a paper called "Free to do our work."
The second answer about what to do comes from Schell also, looking at the notion of cooperative power:
-- Schell p. 218-19
Waiting for democracy to emerge is not only boring, as the Tutor says, but also fruitless. Democracy emerges out of action, not the other way around. Yet once it comes into play it can sustain the spirit needed to keep freedom and power running. With one caveat from Arendt: "Where power is not actualized, it passes away, and history is full of examples that the greatest material riches cannot compensate for this loss." (Schell p.220).
Put another way, "use it or lose it." And put yet another, more positive way by Tocqueville:
When an association is allowed to establish centers of action at certain important points in the country, its activity is increased and its influence extended. Men have the opportunity of seeing one another; means of execution are combined; and opinions are maintained with a warmth and energy that written language can never attain.
-- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Book 1, Chapter 12
I have just finished two remarkable books by a Waldorf school teacher in Vancouver, Philip Thatcher. They describe the physical and spiritual life of a child, boy, youth, man - Nathan/Solomon/ Raven's Eye. I will write more later about the books.
The point of my post today is to describe the epiphany that they have set in motion for me. I have peripherally known about the Waldorf movement and about its founder Rudolf Steiner. My in laws, Lindsay and Barclay, have always educated their magical children in the Waldorf system. Philip teaches at their school.
My epiphany? There have been moments in my life when I have known that a trivial event was really an opening to life. A phone call from Robin's aunt asking me to dinner where I met Robin. A phone call at CIBC asking me to meet Fraser Mustard. A phone call from Marie MacDonald asking me to come and speak to a group in PEI. All these events have taken my life to a new level. When I was given these two books - I felt the same feeling. Now I have read them I know for sure. Steiner's thinking and the movements that his ideas have motivated I suspect contain key structural ingredients to enable a new society. They contain the power to shift consciousness and hence our sense of reality. In particular they give me hope that I can act in the area of education where so many of our perceptions are set and where the grip of the old world is so strong. My first thought is about what I can do once I have more understanding. My desire would be to set up a Waldorf School.
But the first step is to learn more about Steiner and his view of the world. Here is a starting point from the Steiner webpage.
"Our highest endeavour must be
to develop free human beings,
who are able out of their own initiative
to impart purpose and direction
to their lives." Steiner
In contrast to Marx, Steiner saw that history is shaped essentially by changes in human consciousness changes in which higher spiritual beings actively participate.
We can build a healthy social order only on the basis of insight into the material, soul, and spiritual needs of human beings. Those needs are characterized by a powerful tension between the search for community and the experience of the human I, or true individuality. Community, in the sense of material interdependence, is the essence of our world economy. Like independent thinking and free speech, the human I, or essential self, is the foundation of every creative endeavor and innovation, and crucial to the realization of human spirit in the arts and sciences.
Without spiritual freedom, culture withers and dies. Individuality and community are lifted beyond conflict only when they are recognized as a creative polarity rooted in basic human nature, not as contradictions. Each aspect must find the appropriate social expression. We need forms that ensure freedom for all expressions of spiritual life and promote community in economic life. The health of this polarity, however, depends on a full recognition of the third human need and function — the social relationships that relate to our sense of human rights. Here again, Steiner emphasized the need to develop a distinct realm of social organization to support this sphere — one inspired by the concern for equality that awakens as we recognize the spiritual essence of every human being. This is the meaning and source of our right to freedom of spirit and to material sustenance.
These insights are the basis of Steiner's responses to the needs of today, and have inspired renewal in many areas of modern life. Doctors, therapists, farmers, business people, academics, scientists, theologians, pastors, and teachers all approached him for ways to bring new life to their endeavors. The Waldorf school movement originated with a school for the children of factory employees at the Waldorf-Astoria cigarette factory. Today, Waldorf schools are all over the world. There are homes, schools, and village communities for children and adults with special needs. Biodynamic agriculture began with a course of lectures requested by a group of farmers concerned about the destructive trend of "scientific" farming. Steiner's work with doctors led to a medical movement that includes clinics, hospitals, and various forms of therapeutic work. As an art of movement, eurythmy also serves educational and therapeutic work.
Rudolf Steiner spoke very little of his life in personal terms. In his autobiography, however, he stated that, from his early childhood, he was fully conscious of the invisible reality within our everyday world. He struggled inwardly for the first forty years of his life not to achieve spiritual experience but to unite his spiritual experiences with ordinary reality through the methods of natural science. Steiner saw this scientific era, even in its most materialistic aspects, as an essential phase in the spiritual education of humanity. Only by forgetting the spiritual world for a time and attending to the material world can new and essential faculties be kindled, especially the experience of true individual inner freedom
Maury fixed it!
The last two days have been hell - I now understand how addicted I am and suffered terrible withdrawal.
I did have everything backed up and my trusty flash memory with my email adresses and key docs
Next week my new Apple iBook arrives plus a 160gig back up drive
It can happen to you