Wednesday, 9 May 2018

UK Retirement Standards

It's said that when you get to your wit's end, you'll find God lives there. I'm starting out with a joke, because what follows may bring tears to your eyes in you're British. And, if you're at your wit's end about money, maybe take this as a GREAT INCENTIVE to SAVE REGULARLY from an early age... to protect yourself in retirement.

I'm going to to give you a few worldwide stats about pensions and retirement - always a tricky issue. But it's SO good to think the UK's not a Third World country when it comes to things like this, isn't it? Or is it?

I've got some shocking facts for you, of which younger folks should take note. Believe it or not, there are some countries where pensions actually EXCEED earnings! ... Yes! The Netherlands, for example, typically get 101% of earnings. I'm here to give you the shocking fact that in a table of 45 countries before me, we come NEXT TO BOTTOM at 29%. ONLY South Africa, is worse, at 17%. Can you BELIEVE it? Turkey gets 102%, and Croatia - the HIGHEST - gets - wait for it - 129%! So they get more in Croatia by retiring than working. Here are a few more figures: Poland 39%, Ireland 42%, Switzerland 45%, US 49%, Germany 51%, Estonia and Slovenia 57%, Lithuania 71%, Brazil 76%, Cyprus& China 83%, Bulgaria 89%, Italy 93%, and India 99%. BELIEVE it or NOT!

So, still think we're NOT a Third World economy? THIS, a country in which many in their late sixties and seventies, find the need to work on. So what is going on? And, you know what? It gets worse. Those countries with the highest pensions also have the highest percentage of home ownership. Here are some examples: Romania, 96%, Croatia and China 90%, India 87%, Poland 84%, running down to US and UK both at 64%.

So, I repeat. What is going on? How do we improve our world sensibility rankings? I'm guessing that the people in countries with higher pensions and home ownership focus more on acquiring what they can actually afford to BUY, as opposed what they can afford to RENT. Prior to the financial crash, the banks were inviting us weekly to borrow more and live for the day.The result is repenting in the morrow.

Do you remember a radio show where the farmer's phrase "I think the answer lies in the soil," was famous? Somehow, I don't think that's the answer to this problem. I think the answer lies in avoidance of debt, rather than collective heads in the sand. And, maybe, no longer thinking our country is responsible for policing the rest of the world. Those top rankers only focus on their OWN country. Time to think about our FUTURE standard of living, I think, rather than just our PRESENT one.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Go[o]d v. Evil

This post is about good and evil... and God and evil.

How can God allow evil people and organisations achieve such powers of destruction? Whether we're talking Hitler or ISIL, it is hard for people to contemplate the juxtaposition of such things and a loving God. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury recently admitted to struggling with his faith over such matters. (Not sure that helps a lot, Justin.)

Things like this are responsible for many people NOT believing in a loving God - or any God, for that matter. Take the tragic death of a spouse or relative. The murder of a child. Bad things done by members of the Church. How can God allow such things?

Well here's my view on the matter, in case it helps anyone. The world is as we see it. That's pretty much the way scientists see it - except in matters of fine detail where their 'beliefs' tend to change with time. And that word 'belief' is an important one. Science, you see, 'believes' what it has theorised or thinks it has proven so far, but frequently new theories come along and those beliefs have to change. Given this, a scientist should look more kindly on those whose less complex belief is in God. A scientist can prove little of what he believes, and he cannot disprove what a Christian believes - except perhaps a few of the fine details like the method of creation.

The world is as it is. As we see it. And that is the way God created it. In a masterpiece of creativity, his thought became our universe, our realm of creation, and that is where we exist. Clever stuff? Yes, but hang on. You create worlds which seem just as real to your perceptions on a regular basis: in dreams!

Yes, evolution has played an enormous part in our physical selves, and that was all part of the natural development of the world God created. There are different levels of 'good' within it, no matter how we define the term, and another term used to describe the negative extreme of good is 'evil'. Through the graduations of behaviour we label as good or evil, it is inevitable there will be evil. That is all part of the free-flowing nature of creation.

God created a system which appears to follow rules or theories. But almost anything can appear to have rules if you go to extremes of modelling it (like weather forecasting). The fact we have weather forecasting models that boil down to rules does not mean the weather actually follows any rules. God does not chose to interfere with this realm of existence, although he has given us guidelines, which religions document: as guidelines or 'rules'. God is, no doubt, entertained by the evolving nature of this creation but, like a human father, he prefers to let his children - us - make our own way in the world. Why would he want to control everything? What would be the value of a creation where he had to control the movement of every grain of sand, the path of every falling leaf... or the actions of ever-interacting human beings? He prefers to give us freedom and to delight in those individuals who follow paths of good. Good will ultimately prevail, for evil would be self-destructive, and what creator wants to destruct his creation? So evil people and organisations can exist. It is up to the powers of good in the world to destroy them. How do we know what is good and what is evil? That is where true and trusted religions come in: such as Christianity; in their case they have the Holy Bible - which the believe to have been 'God-inspired'. (But since human beings wrote it, and had a cap on their levels of understanding, there is scope for some misinterpretation and human error here and there. (Not to mention the fact that powers have changed its wording through the centuries.)

If you believe there is a devil as the ultimate essence of evil then such an entity would most delight in fooling people who start out believing in God and then turn their behaviour into the opposite of what should be their true aims. What a laugh for the devil - and what an achievement. ISIL is an example of this: religion gone wrong to the extreme. And nations all over the world can see it is wrong.

There are different ways to accept a God, and it it wrong for a particular religion to disparage another if it also believes in one God.

Christians believe there is an afterlife - Heaven - and that, of course, is another realm of existence. Jesus told a repenting criminal on an adjacent cross to him at his crucifixion that he would be together with him in Heaven that very day. And if there is an alternative existence for believers who die, one we are led to believe is a better one than the physical world, that puts a whole new complexion on people dying; they can move on to a better world. Our point of view is restricted to this life, but God's is not. He can see his other creations. He can see the better lives that exist for those souls who had a bad deal in this world. And so must you. Think about the wider picture, think about the freedom God gives us in this creation, think about the promises he makes about a better life after death if we believe in him, and just understand this world is a world of freedom. It is up to use to identify and eliminate evil using the uncorrupted word of God. And that is where things go wrong: when activists believe in a corrupted idea about the word of God. And that is why God and evil coexist. 

It is up to each and everyone of us to determine the right path. Deep within our selves God provides the means for us to judge between right and wrong.

When you 'get it' and add 'oh' to your understanding of God... you will see the Good.

Allergies - Modern Living and Me

I watched the BBC Horizon programme called Allergies - Modern Living and Me. Its interesting conclusion was that in order for a human being to be healthy it needs to be subject to to the right bacteria from birth in order that it can educate our bodies. We need the right amount - and diversity - of good bacteria if we are to be healthy. Amazingly, normal birth through the vagina envelops a baby in important bacteria right from the start. So those born by Caesarean
section immediately get off to a bad start - especially since they are often then exposed to a less beneficial bacteria in intensive care wards. And if infants - especially those younger than 1-year old - are given antibiotic courses, while these might be necessary to kill off bad bacteria, the collateral damage they do of also killing off good bacteria can lead to life-long allergies.  It also explains why we should try to avoid antibiotics at any time, if we can. We need those health-giving mini-beasties, and antibiotics work like a sledge-hammer to squash them all.

It appears that modern living in sanitised surroundings, often far removed from the bacteria of the great outdoors, is also a factor, especially for growing children. So getting them out there in the open air and that outdoor bacteria that our ancestors knew and loved will help to programme their bodies to live a happier and healthier life. This lack of engagement with the great outdoors is almost certainly responsible for less healthy individuals, so if you love your children, get them outdoors poking around for beasties. Horizon showed that this outdoor bacteria is easily brought inside, and then spread around, and that the family dog is a great ambassador in doing just that. So get out to the park, in the garden, follow the lead of that dog!

This is all particularly interesting to me because it helps prove just how intimately we interact with the rest of creation. The billions of bacteria we have on us - and especially within our gut - are not just beneficial for our health: they are actually essential to life. And, apparently, what is most important in all this is diversity. One good bacterium is not enough; we need a variety. So while a  given probiotic might be great, a diversity of them is 'greater'. And fruit - a 'pre-biotic' - can help us to acquire them. It all begins to add up, doesn't it, including that call for 'five a day'?

So how diverse is your life?