World War One and Jeremy Paxton’s existential dread

March 31, 2014


In the projection of his professional persona, Jeremy Paxton conceals and reveals his personal anxieties

Jeremy Paxton is one of England’s best-known media celebrities. He has became the inquisitorial voice of the BBC’s Newsnight programme [1989- present] and with little shift of style, the inquisitional voice of University Challenge. Building on these achievements, he has produced literary works often with grand themes of British achievements. He is currently fronting one of the BBC’s series to mark the events of The Great War of 1914-1918.

The other Jeremy

His style is combative and ironic. Some years ago, in 2009, listening to a radio interview,I mistook him for another celebrity Jeremy. Only at the end of the interview did I discover I had been listening to the equally combative and ironic Jeremy Clarkson of Top Gear. Clarkson is arguably the greater financial asset to the BBC, and equally assiduous in cultivating a controversial and discomforting personal style. In the earlier post, I made tentative analyses of the behavioural styles of each.

I return to this topic as Newsnight Jeremy is making an acclaimed contribution to the Nation’s commemorations of WW1.

The mask of control and the mask of command

Leadership studies sometimes refer to the mask of command. Both Paxton and Clarkson show the mask of control, beneath which lurks the existential fear of losing control. The leader inspires confidence by concealing the natural human feelings of despair and weakness. For Paxton, the TV interview, and the quiz with answers to all the questions provided to the interrogative quiz master provide ideal situations to act out his concealed anxieties.

On the dark side

I make no claims for the validity of these observations. They may be rooted in my mistaken reading of Jungian psychology. They just make sense to me. They confirm my belief in the nature of the concealed dark side of the persona of some of the leaders and celebrities who gain cultural acceptance.


Did Hyman Minsky anticipate creative capitalism?

March 25, 2014

Bill Gates has called for a more creative form of Capitalism. The work of Hyman Minsky is being reappraised as relevant after the 2008 financial crisis

Minsky’s ideas were taken up by Paul Krugman, and later by other influential figures such as Janet Yellen, now head of the US Federal Reserve bank. They offer an explanation for the irrationalities of economic boom and bust, though inherent instabilities rather than temporary distortions. As such it relates to the Animal Spirits of John Maynard Keynes.

What is creative capitalism

Some posts ago I asked what is the nature of creative capitalism. The question arose after Bill Gates called for it, without exactly joining up the dots. My best shot was a suggestion that thinkers about capitalism were rewriting the map to deal with the uncertainties of the global economic climate. Under such uncertainties, creativity in thought and action becomes important. Mr Gates suggested that Capitalism needs to refocus its energy on social issues including the environment. Minsky suggests how this might come about.

Minsky’s destabilization hypothesis

An interesting article on the BBC website [March 2014] and a subsequent Radio Four broadcast outline why Minsky’s ideas might be relevant.

It seems that the relatively unknown Minsky has attracted attention recently for his theory of inherent instabilities of financial markets. Stock Market bubbles are inevitable as turbulent flow of water from a high pressure hose or water boiling in a saucepan on a hob through induction heating.

Minsky’s three stages

Minsky describes three stages within the process. The hedge is the stage in which the innate caution of professional investors dominates. The hedge offers possibilities for more risky gains, and the famous animal spirits kick in. In Wall Street jargon, the animal spirits move from those of cautious bears to those of Raging Bulls.

The ghost of Ponzi

Conventional wisdom is that bears and bulls eventually damp down irrational blips in the market. Minsky argues that after the speculative stage comes a fraudulent stage he termed the Ponzi stage. This honours or maybe I should say dishonours the schemes of Charles Ponzi, [1882-1949] the infamous modern inventor of a huge pyramid-selling scam.

To be continued

Regular subscribers should check for updates, which may not be notified by email


Questions for project team leaders

March 21, 2014

A list of questions have been collected from students attending assorted courses on leadership and project management. Each question offers possibilities for personal reflection or team discussion. There are no simple answers, and different views in a discussion represent different experiences and beliefs.

The students who produced the questions were encouraged to study Chapter three of their text book Dilemmas of Leadership, and to support their answers with reference to dilemmas inherent in their study of project management, and through drawing on personal experiences.

1 Dealing with a crisis
We are in deep trouble as a project team. What do we do if the team believes there is no way to reach its project objectives?

2 Dealing with personal problems
What to do when the group becomes overwhelmed by internal disputes and conflicts? what basic assumptions mat be contributing to the team’s problems?

3 Using Psychological profiles sensibly
How might we use knowledge of psychological profiles to support team effectiveness?

4 Search widely, choose wisely
How can we go beyond the obvious and first ideas in our team discussions?

5 Working to a difficult brief
What can you do if you are given a difficult or unreasonable project brief?

6 Multi-tasking (independent versus inter-dependence)
How can you divide up the work among team members?

7 Conflict resolution
Are you dealing with conflict in the project as effectively as you could?

8 On team leadership
What sort of leader (or leaders) should your team have?

9 What can be done if your team members are poor at listening to each other?


George Osborne killed my nanny

March 20, 2014

Nanny StateThe Chancellor dealt a mortal blow to the nanny state in his budget. Or did he?

In the UK, there are two evil monsters in the popular bestiary, the nanny state, and the crazed demon known as political correctness. In his budget yesterday [March 19th, 2014] George Osborne appeared to have struck hard at the nanny state monster and her grip over the pensions of hard-saving workers.

At a stroke he handed control of pension funds back to their rightful owners. And with awareness of confusions caused by that sudden liberation, the grateful pensioners will be able to receive advice from ‘independent advisors’.

Irresponsible pensioners?

Might some liberated pensioners go on a spending spree, and then end as a burden on the state? Not at all, Danny Alexander assured us, and he should know as a coalition partner of Mr Osborne. Savers are responsible people not feckless losers about to splurge their liberated cash.

Getting away from nanny

Anyway, he implied, there may be a few old reprobates who head off to Ibiza and limp home penniless (or Euroless). That is a small price to pay for shocking the country out of the domineering control of the nanny state.

And we all lived happily ever after

Or did we? Mythical monsters are not as easy to kill off as natural species like tigers or rhinos. The nanny state may retreat, wounded but not destroyed. There may be stories coming up about unscrupulous advisers charging for dodgy financial advice over dodgy financial products. I know that’s hard to believe.

The cynical BBC analyst Nick Robinson went so far as to suggest that the pension changes were targeted ‘with laser precision’ at older voters who might be tempted away from the conservatives by the seductive offers from Nigel Farage and his Ukipian vision.

Next stop political correctness gone mad

As George Osborne rests from his labours, the country awaits a champion to liberate us from the dominance of that other monster, political correctness gone mad. I am thinking of starting the anti political correctness party [APCP]. If willing, Boris Johnson would become its leader, or maybe post-Ukip, Nigel Farage.

Credit for nanny state image

Image is from the venitism blogspot


Bolivia’s cholitas take an elegant step forward against discrimination

March 19, 2014

Cholitas of BoliviaBolivia’s indigenous cholitas are overcoming the worse excesses of discrimination

Indigenous people are victims of deliberate discrimination around the world. Some respite is earned as a modicum of economic wealth and cultural change occurs.

One such story from Bolivia is recounted in a BBC documentary [february 2014].

With their high bowler hats, puffed skirts and coquettish demeanour, they may look like they have stepped out of an early 20th century television costume drama, but cholas – or as they are affectionately known, cholitas – are very much a driving force in modern Bolivia.

Until recent decades, these indigenous Aymara and Quechua women – who can be easily identified by their distinctive, elegant outfits – could be refused entry to certain restaurants, taxis and even some public buses.
For generations, they were not permitted to walk freely in the capital La Paz’s central square, Plaza Murillo – home to the presidential palace – nor in wealthy suburbs like the city’s Zona Sur. Predominantly rural peasants who had migrated to the cities, they were seen as a lower strata who stayed in the home, or worked as servants or hawkers.

“They used to say, ‘chola, no no!” when we tried to go to those places,” says Carmen Mamani de Espejo, who sells flowers every Saturday at La Paz’s Rodriguez Market. “Now it’s much better for cholitas. We have more confidence now, we can walk where we like.”

After Evo

The culture change in Bolivia has accelerated since 2005 with the election of Evo Morales, the country’s first indigenous President. Leading the change are the traditionally dressed women now acquiring the cool status of the fashion designer’s models. Interestingly the culture change seems, according to the BBC, primarily through the women who are more regularly to be seen in the up market area of La Paz where they were once excluded, cruelly barred, on racial grounds.

now they are stepping out making a political as well as cultural statement. Interestingly, the style has not spread to their male consorts who cling to their Western style suits.

the cool dudes from the Congo in a recent Guinness advert. gentlemen-of-bacongo-5[1]

Remember the sapeurs?

A gender reversal, but other ways with echoes of the fashion statement made by the sapeurs.

More images

You can see more images of Cholitas in this Fox News item


Tony Benn, ultimate class warrior [1925-2014 ]

March 14, 2014

Tony Benn was for several generations in the UK the ultimate class warrior

The news of Tony Benn’s death reached me this morning [March 14th, 2014]. I had learned earlier this month of his deteriorating health.

He attracted attention as a class traitor when he renounced his title 2nd Viscount Stansgate to remain as a Member of Parliament.  He became the bogie man of the largely right-wing media, and a charismatic figure of the left.

Possibly too idealistic and too easy to parody,  his earnest style was combined with an evident brilliance of mind and a personal fervor for working class culture into which he inevitably failed to fit.

He was a brilliant television performer and formidable political activist. He was to become a Member of Parliament (MP) for 50 years and a Cabinet Minister under Harold Wilson and James Callaghan.

In office in 1964–1970 he served first as Postmaster General, and later Minister of Technology. In the Labour Government of 1974–1979 he was an energetic  Secretary of State for Industry. Arguably he was the most prominent left-wing figure of his age. The term “Bennite” was to the left what “Thatcherite”  was to become to the right.

Integrity

In his later years he became seen as a man of personal integrity. A recent example [February 12 2014]  is the utterly unexpected outpouring of respect from readers of the Daily Mail following the announcement of his deteriorating health.

A personal anecdote

A little anecdote I recall from the 1980s.  The story took place in the bar of a well-known Business School in England.  A Benn supporter and an equally vehement opponent were exchanging hostilities. “He’s a madman. He’s got mad popping eyes” said the Benn opponent. “You’ve got mad popping eyes” Benn’s supporter shouted back.

Benn was not mad

Benn was not mad. He was a gifted dedicated politician. He never played the political games necessary for him to become leader of the Labour party which has continued its journey to the right much to Tony Benn’s disappointment in his later years.


How should we read a statement by George Soros? Carefully.

March 13, 2014

George Soros If I could outguess George Soros I would be very clever and perhaps very rich. But I can offer a few observations about his history which may help interpret his recent comments about a new financial crisis

When George Soros speaks, the financial world listens. He has been speaking in the UK this week [March 2014] of the next financial crisis that he says will come about in part a consequence of weak financial leadership in Europe, and in particular in Germany.

He is particularly remembered for an enormous financial coup as the pound Sterling crashed at the time of Black Wednesday [16th September, 1992]. His success then was through a daring short-selling operation which can be admired for its daring or condemned for its contribution to a global economic crisis. Since then, his espousing of various social causes has led him to be pronounced ‘a dangerous leftist’ by Human Events’ readers, who in an online poll, recently voted him “the single most destructive leftist demagogue in the country.”

Soros is a big player

George is a capitalist superstar or a dangerous leftist supervillain. He may be speaking as an old man and a noted philanthropist concerned only to warn us that Europe is heading for yet more financial trouble. He may be speaking to avert or reduce such a crisis. He may be speaking with no personal agenda.

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator

Or he may have the motives of a inveterate speculator, the gamester whose actions always designed to “tell” what he wants to reveal.

Or he may be plugging his new book

Or he may be plugging his new book, The Tragedy of the European Union, which was published this week, and which itself aligns with his libertarian political philosophy and his altruistic efforts.

Putting lipstick on a Rottweiler

To rephrase a term expressed by the American politician and folk philosopher Sarah Palin, you kin put lipstick on a Rottweiler but underneath it’s still a goddam Rotweiler .

Note to my students

I am not a supporter of either/or logic in assessing complex socio-economic issues. George Soros needs to be studied as a successful thought leader who shows consistency only in his skills of revealing what he wishes to reveal.


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