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BARBICAN LIFE


starting a dynamic paradigm shift from selfish gain to lasting good. The coming generation will be looking to us to see if we accomplish that of which we speak." There is a prophetic quality about how she writes. I hope we succeed, Kathy. Here is a lady whose comfort zone accommodates dynamic change at least in the imagination.


Annoyance came with the


‘intellectuals’ – who are still answering examination questions long after they have left their examining institution - Half of such a contribution was: “Here are some values : freedom v structure, aesthetics v function, helping others v Darwinism, intellectualism v non- intellectualism, work ethic v toiling for money,” Work ethic, my child, is about toiling to the best of your ability, and not counting the money - and please could you re-visit Darwin? Then I reminded myself that my responsibility lay in bringing up a child who shares my husband’s surname…. This one is someone else’s concern.


Tom Peters


Inside a rural Indian call centre


Courtesy silicon.com


I turned my mind to my own child’s life and before long, inevitably found myself thinking about the mundane – shirts and socks. Behind the bed, perhaps? A poster of a ‘monster’ with a cute smile had fallen down behind my son’s bed: ‘come over to the dark side’ it invited me ‘we have cookies’. Half wondering where the other grey sock had gone, I could see that there are many dark sides. The darkest, I told myself, is the mind which allows itself to be limited to dusting, and cooking, whilst the earth turns and changes. What have I been doing since my son started prep school five years ago? Homework supervision, cooking moussaka and dressing salad, I told myself severely. I should look at the world, properly – not in this dilettante way, of following an idle internet discussion (where neither ‘integrity’ nor ‘values’ is defined – it took a month for someone to notice), but looking at hard facts. ‘Look at the bigger picture, from the other side of the table.’ I could hear my husband, not to mention my father-in-law. I did better : I was no longer a Barbican mother, but an eagle soaring above the clouds, a wise, observant bird with an appetite for accuracy (oh, were this really so !) The most obvious of these hard facts is that if you are employed in industrialised Europe and the US you are well off – we have all been protected


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from hardship by minimum wages, restricted working hours, and a strongly regulated work environment, which created for us a system of relative stability, and modest growth up to 2007. It has in real terms, allowed for a very good living. Pawnbrokers were not doing good business, say, 10 years ago. Today they thrive, at least in London. So what has changed ?


What changed was the level and flow of information : email and internet. Disparity with the rest of the world became obvious, and made ours an unsustainable position. In the five years leading up to 2007, whilst I was helping my son finish potty training, write his ‘p’ the right way around, and put a full stop after sentences, work has been shifting to the unregulated developing world. The collective human condition is more visible – the statistics we were used to hearing, started making sense in real time pictures, moving and profound. From my eagle’s eye view, the world’s 12 billion people looked manageable. How are we in the West different ? We in the richer countries have on average, two children per woman, and the women in developing countries have six, because they expect at least two or three to die in childhood. A cousin who is a photographer, once showed me a picture of a woman’s face just after she had lit the funeral pyre of her eldest boy : Desolation, distance, mingled with resignation. My grandmother said: may you never be in her place – it is a blessing whose enormity I now understand. We expect the state to give us a pension in our old age – their insurance policy is the goodwill of their remaining children. In the last decade, more work has been arriving for them – and more of them are able to finish school and go into the workplace. Their children have better


chances. Slowly, the balance is shifting. So the work started shifting East around the turn of this century - what has happened since 2007? My son got into a London school and we returned to our flat in the Barbican – that is what happened…. And whilst I have been moving house, cleaning, and dealing with moth infested carpets, something much more startling has been happening out there. Martin Wolf, (FT columnist) speaking at the LSE told us that in the last 5 years, China grew by over 60% and India by more than 140% - by comparison, the developed world collectively did not grow at all ! What does that really mean ? It means that we work less hard, and produce things which fewer people in the rest of the world want to pay for, and there are inevitable consequences of not having so many children – we have fewer people to work in the real economy, as we retire, in our droves. The woman who has more children will indeed be better protected in her old age. No wonder we have a pensions crisis.


Eagle like, I continued to soar, back in time, to an old textbook hero - but not before finding that other sock, and consigning it to the linen basket. Tom Peters (US based international business guru, now greying) says it with statistics : One USA postwar ‘baby boomer’ is turning 65 every 8 seconds—that rate will continue for the next 20 years. Net wealth of households headed by 65+ is 47 times greater than the net wealth of households headed by someone younger than 35; 20 years ago the ratio was 10:1. You had better take the greying market seriously, and start selling us things we want – because now, we have the


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