Thursday, July 3, 2008

Being wrong.

First, I need to rebut a charge that has recently made against me, that I am abusing the resources of the Buddhist Hospice Trust in maintaining a "Chairman's" blog as I do. By its nature a blog is a personal record, or a record written from a personal perspective. The blog I write has been given the assent of the Trustees, and so far no Trustee has raised objections to what I write, nor suggested that I desist. They may do so, however, if they conclude that the blog is bringing the work of the Trust into disrepute, or otherwise damaging its cause.

For the record, the blog is a free amenity, and costs the Trust nothing. I write it as an entirely voluntary activity and claim no expenses in relation to its appearance. In that sense there is no justification for anyone to claim that I am abusing Trust resources, and I refute any such claim vigorously.

It is worth saying that one reason why I write the blog is to increase the profile of the Trust and invite people to get involved, perhaps to donate. The website itself is static: it is informative and yields a fair amount of basic information. But to stay 'salient', to maintain a position in the Google ratings in a competitive and rapidly Internet scene, to hold our own in the technological traffic, we have to maintain our 'hit rate', the number of people who visit our site. The interactive and regularly updated nature of a blog permits this; indeed the rate at which people all over the globe visit our site has increased by almost 1000% over the last year. This greater visibility is (I believe) in the interest of the Trust, and thus in the interest of the people whose interests it serves. It has certainly led to a higher level of engagement with issues at the core of Hospice in the Heart, and engagement at a higher level of partnership with other agencies, both Buddhist, interfaith, and professional too. That is what I believe, anyway, and I also act on advice given me by people who have expertise in this area, and in the charitable field.

Of course some people will be 'turned off' by personal disclosures such as from time to time feature in my posts, but which are also balanced by other material generated by the work we do, and our 'contemporary' non-sectarian Buddhist philosophy. On the other hand some people find them helpful, and they attract a fair amount of comment and discussion, some of it private, some of it posted on the blog itself. Blogs are intended to generate comment, or at least debate. This debate doesn't have to be public, sometimes it is internal.

Some Buddhists believe that personal disclosure, 'hanging out dirty washing' (a particularly European turn of phrase and turn of mind, if I may say so), or exteriorising the inner perturbations of egoic mind, is not good practice. Dwelling on one's faults or failures tends to establish them more firmly, and make them more likely to be repeated. On the other hand, some Buddhists reckon that bringing one's thoughts and patterns of feeling and emotion into full awareness also has the effect of dissolving them. At least, if they are put "out there" for everyone to see, they are not submerged and hidden; and, like icebergs, they are less likely to cause disastrous damage to those who blunder into them unawares. Self-disclosure is also reckoned to be one of the crucial criteria for establishing and maintaining interpersonal solidarity, trust and friendship. Friendship is at the heart of our mission. A lot depends, of course, on one's motives for doing so. I can never be sure of my own motives for anything, but I do my best at self examination, and - of course - I take heed of the counsel of my trusted friends, and - of course, and more-so - of my perceived enemies.

This rebuttal is not intended to forestall further criticism, and I am open to whatever comments are likely to be made, and will publish them willingly here, in the interests of transparency, and in the interests of natural justice. I should also add: so as to indemnify myself, at least in part, against charges of abusing the minor office I hold, for the discharge of which I must be held publicly to account by the Charity Commissioners. If it was the intention of my critic to "whistle-blow" on my abuse of office, I am happy to expedite the process of bringing me to judgement. I hereby 'turn myself in'.

Lastly, I have to respond to charges that I am betraying the values and subverting the noble enterprise of the co-founder of the Trust, Ray Wills. This is ultimately for others to judge if they want to do so, but times are changing and the Trust will change with the times, and I make no apologies for my part in facilitating that. I am confident that Ray Wills identified me as a collaborator who recognised the need for change, and who had the capabilities to work for and with necessary and inevitable change; moreover, recognising my many flaws and failings as he did, he had confidence in me. If I am wrong about that, I am wrong about him, and wrong about everything else. My critics are clearly confident that I am indeed as wholly wrong as that. I am much less certain that I am right, and my uncertainty is, perhaps, part of Ray Wills's legacy.

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