Archive for the ‘ Events ’ Category

Freedom of religious practice….respecting the rights of others

Wednesday, June 27th, 2018

I once gave a talk on ‘the permissive society’ at a Day Centre for the elderly, having completed my unusually erudite and intermittently witty spiel,  I was at a total loss to respond to a woman who – without a hint of irony – complained about permissiveness on television: ‘I think it’s terrible,’ she said ‘the way young girls have sex stuffed down their throats!’

With the polarisation of society, it might have been more apt if she’d expressed concern about religion being stuffed down throats. Of course, that was not the topic, but it might have been – and there is a connection to permissiveness – or more properly, greater openness and tolerance in society. There has been a backlash from some with strong religious views – and others who have suddenly developed such views.

Whether this entails wearing a burka or niquab, a sheitel or headscarf, there has been greater polarisation between those with strong religious beliefs – and those without. Sometimes, I feel religion is used as a crutch to seduce the vulnerable and those at a low ebb; in the 1970’s in the USA I saw young people befriended on the streets of New York by followers of Sun Myung Moon and Scientologists, later, at a ‘Christ is the Answer’ presentation in a huge marquee in Washington DC, we were emotionally blackmailed by adherents, who asked us to stand up and give ourselves to Christ, whilst dramatic music was played over loudspeakers, anyone not standing at the end was made to feel like the devil incarnate.

Recent problems in the UK relate to Ofsted inspections of Muslim and Orthodox Jewish schools, where inspectors complained of historical texts being redacted and a failure to include in lessons details of gay and transsexual lives. Concerns were also expressed about safeguarding issues. Secular inspectors versus religious schools, an inevitable recipe for conflict. As with all things, common sense should prevail, schools should be allowed to follow their religious beliefs whilst ensuring pupils are safe and receive an excellent general education, with sensitive issues taught in a sensitive way.

A clearer example of religious intolerance arose recently, an El Al plane was delayed for an hour when two Orthodox Jewish men refused to sit next to women. Maybe they needed a lesson in the overriding requirement for mutual respect and good manners.

Many religious communities and groupings reject the liberal values of the West; yet they enjoy the lifestyle, healthcare, ability to travel and comforts of 21st Century living.

We must protect religious freedom and the right to worship – but we also have a duty to regulate society in order for all groups and individuals to live freely, as long as they obey the law and respect the rights of others. Freedom of religious practice should not be at the expense of others, it should be a role model for a pious, respectful life, not a recipe for conflict with non-believers.

The great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob made a unique contribution to civilisation – the 10 Commandments, received by Moses – still form the backbone of the Judeo-Christian hegemony of Western society. But, let’s be honest, if any of those great prophets were able to return and see our world, they would have a great deal more to learn from us, than we, from them. That’s not to denigrate the vast contribution made by them – just imagine the very first thing that Moses would google: The Exodus? A hundred tasty recipes for manner from Heaven? Maybe, he would get hooked on Facebook or other social media, one of the things that binds us with our forebears is communication.

Religion is a roadmap that can point us in the direction of happiness and fulfilment, but reaching the destination is the objective, not obsessing with the way to get there.

Those unduly concerned with the minutiae of religious dogma, may smell the sweet aroma of what’s cooking, but are unlikely to actually get to taste it.

Michael Desmond

Thursday, June 14th, 2018

This is the verbal equivalent of a quick selfie; in a society where fame feeds on itself – and not necessarily talent – it’s sometimes useful to be anonymous. But we need to stand up to be counted, where necessary, which, quite frankly, is most of the time.

I live in Clapton, North East London, represent Hackney Downs on Hackney Council and was Labour candidate for Faversham and Mid Kent in 2015 and 2017.

I’m not a fan of Brexit and put together Society Syndrome’s little anti-Brexit ditty ‘Little Englanders’, which can be found on You Tube. My general views are left of centre, but fairly moderate – apart from when it comes to Arsenal supporters – but we won’t go into that, we can be a little tribal in North London. I believe in the greatest good for the greatest many, as long as it is not at the expense of the few.

In any pluralistic democracy, everyone should seek to play a part, each grain of sand, together, comprises a beach.

Feel free to join us in building a useful sandcastle, seeking to protect the vulnerable and creating a more peaceful, tolerant society. Each year, we arrange a Have Your Say event for 16-19 year olds, whatever your age, if you want to help us achieve our goals, please contact me.

Donald Trump need not apply.


Have Your Say!

Monday, October 17th, 2016

On Thursday, 20th October 2016 we are holding another HAVE YOUR SAY event in the Lecture Theatre of BSix College, Kenninghall Road, Clapton, E5 8BP: 12.30pm – 1.30pm.

Amongst those on the panel will be Hackney Council’s Speaker (civic Mayor), Ken Warman, Principal of the College, Lee Sterry, an Environmental Health Officer and a senior police representative.

A lot has been happening recently: Brexit, Donald Trump (sic), England’s football team defeated by Iceland, the Marmite shortage….there are lots of serious (and not so serious) things to talk about. We’ll also be launching our Song for London competition.  Come along and make your voice heard.

Aspiration and Cynicism post-Brexit. How do Londoners compare with those who voted Out in Sunderland?

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

We’re carrying out a Post-Brexit survey on Alienation, Cynicism and Idealism to see how views of Londoners – who voted In – compare with those from Sunderland, most of whom, voted Out.

In our (humble), aspirational opinion, you should want to make the world a better place to live in; do people?

Question to be asked: Do you want to make the world a better place to live in?

We also want to know if people think they can make the world a better place?  Question: Do you think you can make the world a better place?

Finally, do people think they have made the world a better place? Question: Do you think you’ve made the world a better place to live in, in any way, large or small?

Asking similar questions to young people in Kiev before the Maidan Square revolution, there was such cynicism about corruption, dishonest politicians and the all-pervasive untrustworthiness, it’s a miracle anyone got out of bed in the morning! It should be very different here.

Shouldn’t it?

We’ll see.

Have Your Say Day

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

An extraordinary event took place at Hackney Town Hall on Wednesday, 27th June 2012, the UK’s first “Have Your Say Day” for young people was held in the Council Chamber. The event was introduced by Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington and Shadow Public Health Minister. She explained the importance of Freedom of Speech but said what was being espoused had to be listened to and heard. “Young people have less opportunities to get their views and opinions across,” she said, “Have Your Say Day gives these young individuals a chance to express themselves on some of the different issues important to them.”

The event was chaired by Cllr Michael Desmond, who also chairs Society Syndrome, he said he had been on the original Planning Committee for the Olympic Games and did not want them disrupted by campaigns or protesters, it was far better for people to have their say today – exactly a month (more…)

Have Your Say Day – 27th June 2012

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

We are very pleased to announce the details of Britain’s first ‘Have Your Say Day’!

Have Your Say Day will be on Wednesday, 27th June 2012

– exactly a month before the start of the Olympic Games
– from 10.00am to 11.30 am in the Council Chamber, Town Hall, Mare Street, Hackney,E8 1EA
– Opened by Diane Abbott, MP, Shadow Public Health Minister
– An opportunity for young people 15-19 to say what they think on issues of the day
– Time for people of any age to Have their Say after
– No need to disrupt the Boat Race or Leveson Inquiry. You can Have Your Say on any non-racist topic.

We look forward to welcoming all who wish to have their say! (more…)

Have Your Say Day

Monday, May 14th, 2012

It happened during the Boat Race, a lone protester dived in, swam between the boats,
almost decapitated by highly-educated oarsmen, a literal
meaning to “making headway,” had he not ducked under the blades
in the nick of time. Not a pretty sight, especially at tea time on tv! He was against
elitism, so am I, but I won’t be copying him; it’s a bit elitist to think you have the right to
disrupt anything and everything.

There is a huge risk that groups or individuals with a bee in their bonnet, a strong
belief, cause or grievance will try to disrupt the London Olympics in some way;
obstructing marathon runners, streaking at the football, abseiling down the stadium,
parachuting into beach volleyball – you name it, they’ll try it! (more…)

First Seminar Success!

Wednesday, October 19th, 2011

The first Society Syndrome panel took place last night at BSix College, Upper Clapton, to discuss the recent riots and social policy, the audience included students from the college, local residents, members of the campaign against criminalising young people in Hackney and political activists.

Chelsea East,19, from Brockley, South London explained how her 16-year-old brother got caught up in the riots and was seen entering a shop on CCTV, although he did not take anything he was sentenced to four months at Feltham. Two other 15 year-old young women talked of problems they had experienced while at school, Crystal was convicted of burglary and Carla pushed a teacher at Stoke Newington school, both are now studying at a referral unit in Bromley, they said they had matured and would not repeat their behaviour.

Ken Warman, Principal of BSix, whose college has achieved remarkable results, complained about government cuts in educational maintenance allowance and explained that education (more…)

First Seminar Line Up

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Finally full details of our launch Seminar. The theme is “The ‘underclass’ and social mobility“. The first seminar panel will be in the lecture theatre of B6 College, Kenninghall Road, Clapton, E5 8PB on Monday 17th October at 7.30pm.

The panel will include Ken Warman, Principal of the College, Daniella Michaels from House the Homeless, Cllr Rick Muir, associate director for public service reform at the Institute of Public Policy Research and a teenager worried about student fees. The sister of a “rioter” from South London, who was sentenced last week to 4 months at Feltham, will tell us what she thinks caused the problems and a single parent who has gained access to a law course, will explain how the poverty trap has affected her.

If you have voice on Social Issues feel free to contribute pieces for our Blog on social policy or respond by commenting to any of our forthcoming pieces.

Society Syndrome First Seminar

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

The Underclass and Social Mobility

We are very pleased to announce our very first Seminar. It will be held at the Lecture Theatre, Bsix College in Hackney, London on Monday 17th October from 7.30pm to 9.30pm. The theme of our first seminar will be “The Underclass and Social Mobility”.

Following the recent riots in London, the need for some thoughtful discussion and consideration is more than overdue.

Press and Media welcome to attend.

Panel: To be advised

College Address: Bsix College, Kenninghall Road, London, E5 8PB

For more information please email us at