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Keith E Rice's Integrated SocioPsychology Blog & Pages

Aligning, integrating and applying the behavioural sciences

‘vMEMES’

The Danger for British Gas

The news that British Gas is declaring annual profits of £571m for its residential business – a jump of around 500% on its 2006 figures – with an anticipated increase of 17% in dividend payouts, only a month after announcing a 15% increase in its charges for supply of gas and electricity, is astoundingly bad PR (public relations) management. Especially when the profits reflect cost-cutting exercises that cost 2,000 employees their jobs, with another 1,000 redundancies planned for the coming year. The critical furore right across the news media, the vicious attacks from consumer interest groups and the welcome for the investigation by the energy regulator, Ofgem, could easily have been foreseen – and should have been! Ostensibly British Gas looks like a company in ‘Aristocracy’ on the Organisation LifeCycle – arrogant, flaunting its wealth, insensitive to public perception of its actions, with a determined focus on shareholder interests and profit maximisation, rather than customer (consumer) needs As the newspapers dig deeper, in a bid to see who can splash British Gas with the most mud, we see figures bandied about like Centrica, the owner of British Gas, declaring profits of £2bn this year while the average household energy bill has… Read More

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Tariq Ali gets Benazir Bhutto wrong!

So that old agent provacateur extraordinare, Tariq Ali, has attacked the naming in Benazir Bhutto’s will of 19-year-old son Bilawal as her successor as leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, describing it as “a digusting medieval charade” (His article was the front page lead story in the New Year’s Eve edition of The Independent – and he appeared on that morning’s editon of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, reiterating his position.) In describing the succession of Bilawal as “medieval”, Tariq was spot on! Moreover, his description of Asif Zardari, Bhutto’s widower (and Bilawal’s father), as a “feudal potentate” – a Lord Chancellor or Grand Vizier? – who will run the party until his son is old enough, is also pretty close to the mark. Where Tariq misses the point is to call it “disgusting” and a “charade”. He goes on to say: “How can Western-backed politicians be taken seriously if they treat their party as a fiefdom and their supporters as serfs, while their courtiers abroad mouth sycophantic niceties concerning the young prince and his future?” The point is: this is very much how the politcians in Pakistan must act if they wish to design an alternative government to the military dictatorship… Read More

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De Menezes: was it Policy pulled the Trigger?

It beggars belief. It really does. On 22 July 2005 one policeman holds an innocent man down while two others execute him. A total of 11 shots are fired – 7 into his head. The bullets used are ‘dum-dums’– illegal in warfare under the Geneva Conventions – with flattened noses so they cause maximum damage. The man’s head is effectively blown apart. The execution takes place in full view of the passengers of a tube train. No one is tried for this MURDER – because that’s what it was. In this country: England, the ‘mother of democracy’, with one of the most respected justice systems in the world…? For all the subsequent revelations about his drug use and migrant status, in this context Jean Charles de Menezes was innocent; he was not doing anything to indicate he was about to commit an offence of any description. The police officers had decided he was a suspected suicide bomber and respresented an immediate threat to the public.  So they deliberately killed him without warning. Whatever happened to that centuries-old axiom of English law that a man (or woman) is innocent until proven guilty? Last week’s Old Bailey ruling that the Metropolitan Police were… Read More

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A Message for Tony Blair?

Well, Gordon Brown certainly had an ‘interesting’ introduction to his new life as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 3 British troops killed in Iraq on Thursday 28 June (the day after his assumption of power), 2 car bomb plots somewhat miraculously foiled in London in the early hours of Friday 29th and the dramatic Cherokee Jeep bomb attack on Glasgow Airport Saturday afternoon (30th). British troops are being killed or injured in Iraq now on a fairly regular basis; so there may or may not be any significance in the timing of the Basra roadside bombing. But there is much speculation about the supposedly-linked London and Glasgow attacks and what their meaning might be. A number of commentators are of the view that the car bombs are some kind of message from al-Qaeda to Gordon Brown. Quite what that ‘mesage’ might be is harder to fathom – especially since there has yet to be any kind of statement from a recognised agent of the terrorist network. Nor has there been any indication so far that the police have relevant information on either motive or instigating source from the suspects they are interrogating. Certainly Brown has signalled that ‘change’ is going to be his motif… Read More

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For Sian and Gillian Baverstock

Isn’t it strange how the death of someone you have fond memories of can affect you? This morning I learned of the death of Gillian Baverstock this Sunday past  (24 June) at the age of 76. From pursuing the obit columns, I realised that Gillian’s daughter, Sian, had died last year from a heart attack at the age of 44. Who were Gillian and Sian Baverstock? Well, for starters, they were respectively the daughter and granddaughter of Enid Blyton and wife and daughter respectively of Donald Baverstock, one of the early controllers of BBC 1 who was later involved in the setting up of Yorkshire Television. (It was Baverstock who commissioned the first series of ‘Doctor Who’ – and it was from the forum of the Doctor Who fansite Outpost Gallifrey that I learned of Gillian’s death.) In 1988 I enjoyed a 6-7 months romantic relationship with Sian, during which I met Gillian several times. She was every bit the charming, elegant and articulate woman described in the obits though she kept a polite distance emotionally from much of what was going on around her. She was as reserved as she was welcoming. The Baverstocks were a troubled family, though, for… Read More

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Is Marriage PURPLE?

Just got back from the marriage of my friend and occasional business partner, David Burnby, and Jean MacEwan, manager of Hull’s Centre 88 (where I have staged a number of  ISP courses,) It was truly heart-warming to see two such dear friends ‘tying the knot’; while the dance/party in the evening was certainly something! David, ever the showman, danced vigorously in a Bogart-style white tux and black bow tie almost continuously. And he got up on stage at one point in the band’s set to replace the drummer for their version of The Undertones’ ‘Teenage Kicks’. Jean positively glowed as she circulated enthusiastically – the near-perfect hostess! A spendid night! Peter Fryer of trojan mice is a mutual friend of David and I and someone I very much respect. (Peter wrote the Thriving Organisation Article for this site.) Just before the ceremony he asked me (as the Gravesian ‘expert’ there): “Is marriage PURPLE?” Considering Peter is fairly knowledgeable about the work of Clare W Graves and Spiral Dynamics himself, I was slightly taken aback by the question. Of course, the binding together of 2 people in a bonding arrangement should aim to fulfill PURPLE’s need for attachment. And since I have a degree of attachment to… Read More

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Inside the Mind of a Suicide Bomber…?

“Their cause is not founded on injustice. It is founded on belief, one whose fanaticism is such that it can’t be moderated. It can’t be remedied. It has to be stood up to.” – Tony Blair, London, Saturday 16 July 2005. In every point in that statement, other than the first one, Tony Blair is correct. In saying it is not founded on injustice, he makes a fundamental error. Injustice, in fact, feeds their cause. Back in the Autumn of 2001, I was seriously impressed with the way Blair went around the capitols of the Middle East and Asia, persuading the kings and the sheiks and the generals and the dictators that, if they would not openly support the imminent American onslaught on Afghanistan, then at least not to publicly oppose it. He learned passages from the Qur’an to support his case with Muslim leaders. For a time I actually wondered if Blair could do 2nd Tier thinking. What he did was certainly way beyond the red/BLUE simplistic black & white thinking of George W Bush. However, Blair’s support for Bush’s 2003 war on Iraq showed a distinct dearth of global or strategic thinking. Defeating the military of Saddam Hussein, seriously degraded… Read More

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Africa: the KEY Question (Debt Relief, Development & Values)

by Alan Tonkin With the impetus of the ‘Make Poverty History’  campaign growing stronger and stronger day by day as we approach the Gleneagles summit, I’m delighted Alan Tonkin has allowed me to reproduce this new feature from his Global Values Network web site. (GVN is one of the most advanced in the world at using Spiral Dynamics to monitor shifts in societies and assess impacts at both national, international and even global levels.)  Alan’s piece is a thoughtful but impassioned piece for the G8 leaders to adopt a multi-vMEME approach to the many different problems facing Africa.   In considering the current debate around the forthcoming G8 Meeting to be held at Gleneagles in the UK and the position of a number of the G8 countries on debt relief, there is little doubt that there are high expectations that the developed nations will go some way to resolving the debt burdens of the poorer countries, particularly in Africa. Africa is the only continent where living standards have declined over the last 20 years. To some extent this is due to the debt burden many countries carry and their repayment commitments but in many cases this is also the result of dictatorships, poor governance and… Read More

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Are the Tories sitting on an Election Winner?

The received wisdom of the political pundits is that 2005 will be an election year. It doesn’t need to be, of course. Constitutionally Tony Blair can go on to May 2006; but prime ministers often like to put themselves to the vote after 4 years – especially if they think they are ahead of the Opposition and/or they think things are likely to get worse. The Labour Government looks tired and no longer so sure of itself – particularly in terms of  policies. (For example, House of Lords reform is bogged down and the fox hunting ban is a mess.) Blair is unpopular with much of his own party and much of the country – tainted by his unremitting support for the American war on/in Iraq. The media continue to speculate on just how sour relations are between Blair and Chancellor Gordon Brown. And the Prime Minister’s unequivocal public support for Home Secretary David Blunkett right upto the morning of his forced resignation has once again brought into question his judgement. With the Government seeming to stumble from one poor/unpopular decision to another, you would think Blair would want to hang on as long as possible in the hope of things somehow improving. That to go to the… Read More

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Credit Card Suicides??

For an hour or so on the morning of Thursday 11 March it was one of the lead stories on the news broadcasts. Then, understandably, the unfolding horror of the Madrid train explosions wiped it off the news as surely as the bombers wiped out some 200 commuters. Yet the story of Stephen Lewis stayed with me. A 37-year-old family man, with a reasonable job and a salary of £22,000 (not unreasonable; around the national average), had killed himself in July 2003 after running up over £65,000 in credit card debt. With his window, Susan, still being harrassed by the credit card companies seeking to recover their money, she and MP John Mann were working the broadcast studios and newspaper offices that fateful morning of 11 March to draw attention to the human cost of Britain’s credit card boom. Stephen Lewis, it appears, in his desperation, had been running up debts on some of his credit cards to effect demanded minimum payments on others. As a short-term strategy, that was sustainable as long as Lewis could support it by taking on new credit cards. At the time of his death he had a staggering 19 cards! Yet obviously the overall debt… Read More

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