Egyptian Sun God-RA

RaRa, the Sun God symbolized the creation of every living soul. It was widely believed that Ra was the first being and all the other beings were born later or were his progeny. He is depicted as a man’s body with the head of a hawk with an ankh and a scepter in his hands. He was largely worshiped in Heliopolis (Greek for city of the sun) which was the cult place in ancient Egypt.

The Egyptians thought of him as the conqueror of evil and lies by bringing light to this world and also as a symbol of good and truth. The hawk head represents the sun’s ‘flight’ across the horizon. Ra is also shown in a boat called the ‘Barque of Ages’, sailing across the sky. At the end of the day, he was believed to be traveling in another boat through the Underworld. The sun disk on the head of this Sun God had a cobra around it. Ra was also known by different names representing the various positions of the sun in the sky.

Khepri or Khepera (The Rising Sun)
The rising sun was a symbol of birth and creation. Egyptians believed that the dead were reborn again in the after-life each day with the rising sun. This version or alter-ego was named as Khepri.

Atum (The Setting Sun)
The setting sun was a symbol of the passage of the humans from birth up to death.

Ra (The Noon Sun)
This name was used only for the noon sun, when it was at the zenith. Some pharaohs proclaimed him as ‘Amun-Re’, the king of all gods and pharaohs and the leader of the military. His appearance as the head of a hawk and the body of a man was his form for greeting the mortals.

A legend goes that the Sun God Ra divided his body into a number of parts which created the other Egyptian gods. The first creation of his body or his divine children were ‘Shu’ the god of air or wind, and his wife, Tefnut, the ‘spitter’ or goddess of rain. He was the grandfather of Geb, the god of the Earth and his wife Nut, the goddess of the sky.

The pharaohs were thought of as Gods, not kings, so that after death they would be united with Ra. Humans were believed to have evolved from the tears of Ra. The temples or complexes built for sun worship were always without a roof, so that the sun could shine through the structure. The pharaoh Amenhotep who reigned during the 14th century BC, promoted the worship of the sun-disk over the other deities. He prohibited the worship of other Gods against the beliefs of Egyptians. This tradition was subsequently curbed by future rulers because it contradicted the Egyptian belief in multiple Gods, a very popular concept religiously followed those days

Another popular belief states that Ra traveled the sky through twelve provinces, representing the twelve hours of daylight. At the end of the journey or the dusk, Ra was believed to have been dead and hence embarked on his night voyage. This dead form was referred to as ‘Auf’ meaning corpse. The day journey was in the Manjet-boat or ‘The Barque of Million Years’ and the night in the Mesektet boat or night-bark. During the course of his journey, he was believed to have fought many battles with a snake named Apep. The stormy days or an eclipse period was when Ra was defeated by the snake. In the Underworld or the night journey, Auf brought light to the dead souls as he passed through.

In the later Egyptian cultures, the belief was that Ra combined with another Egyptian God Amon and became Amon-Re. He also combined with Horus to become Re-Harakhte. The association of Ra with the Egyptian civilization has existed for a long period of time. Hence, there are a large number of Egyptian myths, legends or stories where there is mention of Ra in different contexts.

However, the fact remains that the Sun God had a prominent place in the ancient Egyptian culture, throughout its history.

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Osiris – The Ancient Egyptian God

PyramidsOsiris is often considered to be the first ancient Egyptian god to be officially recorded in written scripts of ancient Egypt. Since Osiris is the god of afterlife, many of his carvings and inscriptions have been found in tombs and pyramids throughout Egypt. The oldest carving or attestation of Osiris, found on a Palermo stone, dates back to the year 2500 B.C. Records show that Osiris was widely worshiped in ancient Egypt, until the Christian rulers abolished all pagan and Egyptian religions, customs and traditions.

In Egyptian mythology, Osiris is believed to the the eldest offspring of Geb (Egyptian god of Earth) and Nut (Egyptian sky goddess). He was the husband of Isis, who is the Egyptian goddess of fertility and motherhood and was worshiped as the ideal mother by ancient Egyptians. Osiris was also the father of Horus.

Osiris – The Ancient Egyptian God

Osiris was one of the most important deities of ancient Egypt. The people of ancient Egypt believed in the concept of life after death. Hence, Osiris was the presiding god of all the ceremonies and rituals like mummification and burial. Osiris is also considered to be the god of resurrection and eternal life. He is also the protector of the dead, and is also considered as the judge of the deceased.

The Legend of Osiris

According to the Egyptian mythology, the Sun god Ra, was the first ruler of land (also referred to as Skondia in Egyptian culture). His wisdom and predictions told him that the child of goddess Nut would be his successor. Feeling insecure, Ra cursed Nut saying that she would not be able to give birth to a child on any day of the year. A heartbroken Nut went to Thoth (the god of wisdom who is considered to have thrice-great wisdom) for help. Thoth assured her not to worry and in turn challenged Khensu, the moon god, and challenged him for draught games. Khensu accepted the challenge and the two began to gamble. Thoth kept on winning the games and the stakes started climbing higher and higher. In the game, Khensu lost a lot of his ‘light’ to Thoth. Thoth, made up five days between the beginning and end of the year, from the light that he had won. Nut gave birth to Osiris in the first of the five days. According to the tradition of pharaohs and gods, Osiris married his sister Isis.

Contribution of Osiris to Ancient Egypt

According to the tales of ancient Egypt, Ra became very old and left Earth to rule the heavens. According to Ra’s prediction, Osiris indeed succeeded him. During the initial stages of Osiris’ rule, the people displayed savage behavior. They constantly engaged in fights, showed signs of cannibalism, which greatly disturbed Osiris. He decided to make his people civilized. He started by teaching his people the activity of farming. He taught his people to plant, tend and harvest wheat and barley crops. He taught his people to grind the wheat grain into flour and make bread. It is said that Osiris, also developed the technique of wine making. He taught them the basic laws of civilization, and also introduced the arts of poetry and music.

The popularity of Osiris, made his brother Set jealous. Set was coincidentally the lord of evil. After Osiris had managed to civilize his people, he left on a journey to spread wisdom all over the world. Upon his return, he was killed by Set, who put his dead body in a chest. A heartbroken Isis started searching for the chest, in which the body of her husband was imprisoned. She left Horus (son of Isis and Osiris), in the care of goddess Buto (represented as a cobra). Isis recovered the chest and was retuning to the abode of Buto, when Set spotted the case. He made 14 pieces of the body and scattered them all over the kingdom of Osiris. Isis gathered up the pieces and created the first mummy. It was believed that the spirit of Osiris would come back to his body and he would rise again.

Indeed, the spirit of Osiris is said to have returned; however, not to his body, but as his son. The spirit of Osiris made his son Horus, a proficient leader and warrior by teaching him the arts of statesmanship and military leadership. Horus eventually avenged his father’s death and killed Set. According to some stories, he banished Set into the great western desert.

The Egyptians believed that the spirit of Osiris would come back to its body and would once again rise from its grave (located on the island of Philae) and with him, he would bring to life all those who had worshiped him and had been his followers. This is why, the Egyptians took up the rituals of mummification.

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Hope and despair

She looked as gorgeous as a mermaid today,
I couldn’t even speak what I wanted to say.
I wish I could tell her about what I was dreaming,
And I hope she discerned what my silence was screaming.
She deserves bounty love, pampering and care,
But my heart just keeps running between hope and despair.

The dilemma, the confusion is so tormenting.
Moments of separation are so depressing.
Is she is such a state of mind too?
Does she experience feelings of this kind too?
I wish I could ask her but I can’t even dare.
Any my heart just keeps running between hope and despair.

Why do I feel mesmerised,
When your twinkling eyes meet mine?
Why do I feel ecstatic,
When I see your sparkling smile?
Will “you” and “I” ever make a good pair?
My heart just keeps running between hope and despair.

Divine Inspiration is Nowhere

Sky couldnt tear
Stars couldnt shatter
Birds couldnt b chatter
Its all against nature
But human soul is now ruptured
Enmity,Malice,Hunger rear
Insight has lost sumwhere
Tearng emotions of others
Shatterng trust of poors
Chatterng to an extent one hears
Lackng foresight for one bears
Divine inspiration is no where
One showing absolute powers
Other fellow just has to suffer
Thirsty,eager,lured,unbreached
Unknown of what labour preach
But labourer will atlast b free
Of all cares,worries n Cheifs
He’ll b raised in heavens
Unafraid ov all evil demmons
Where no one can hurt one’s heart
All souls are free,free apart
Happiness,charms captivating arts
Thier minds will enjoy that all…….

Naturalism

Naturalism is an approach to philosophical problems that interprets them as tractable through the methods of the empirical sciences or at least, without a distinctively a priori project of theorizing. For much of the history of philosophy it has been widely held that philosophy involved a distinctive method, and could achieve knowledge distinct from that attained by the special sciences. Thus, metaphysics and epistemology have often jointly occupied a position of “first philosophy,” laying the necessary grounds for the understanding of reality and the justification of knowledge claims. Naturalism rejects philosophy’s claim to that special status. Whether in epistemology, ethics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, or other areas, naturalism seeks to show that philosophical problems as traditionally conceived are ill-formulated and can be solved or displaced by appropriately naturalistic methods. Naturalism often assigns a key role to the methods and results of the empirical sciences, and sometimes aspires to reductionism and physicalism. However, there are many versions of naturalism and some are explicitly non-scientistic. What they share is a repudiation of the view of philosophy as exclusively a priori theorizing concerned with a distinctively philosophical set of questions. Naturalistic thinking has a long history, but it has been especially prominent in recent decades, and its influence is felt all across philosophy.

About allergies

What is an allergy?
An allergy is an adverse reaction to a protein in our environment, such as those found on pets, and in pollen or nuts. These proteins are called allergens and are normally harmless.
In people with an allergy, the body reacts to a specific allergen by releasing histamine from mast cells in the skin, lungs, nose or intestine. This causes inflammation and swelling.
Symptoms can include itchy skin, tissue swelling and wheezing. In severe cases it can lead to full-blown anaphylaxis or even death.
Common allergic diseases include hay fever, asthma, eczema and urticaria.
Some people get allergic conjunctivitis, while others react adversely to medication, insect stings or latex.
Food allergy and intolerance to food additives are relatively uncommon causes of allergic reactions.

Allergens to be aware of:

  • Grass and tree pollens
  • Dust mites (living in and feeding on house dust)
  • Food (cow’s milk, hen eggs, wheat, soya, seafood, fruit and nuts)
  • Fungal or mould spores (in the bathroom and other damp areas)
  • Medication (penicillin, aspirin, anaesthetics)
  • Nickel, rubber, preservatives and hair dyes (skin contact allergens)
  • Pet skin flakes or dander (cat, dog, horse or hamster)
  • Wasp and bee stings

What causes allergies?
Some families have a predisposition to allergies, known as atopy. This has shown an epidemic rise over the past four decades.
The reasons why are poorly understood. We know some families are genetically programmed to develop allergies, but this can’t be the full story. Things that promote allergies must have been added to our environment, while others that previously protected us against allergies must have been removed.
There’s growing evidence our fight against infectious diseases and increased personal cleanliness may have interfered with the workings of our immune system.
Global warming has also had an impact, with changing patterns of natural vegetation and more profuse pollen production.

How allergies develop
At birth, the immune system switches to be either allergy prone (TH2) or non-allergy prone (TH1), depending on genetics and environment.
TH stands for T helper type white blood cells. TH1 immunity is good for fighting bacteria and viruses, and protecting against allergies. TH2 immunity is good at fighting parasite infections, but makes us more vulnerable to develop allergies.
If there’s a family history of allergies, a child is much more likely to switch on TH2 immunity.
This promotes the manufacture of excessive amounts of allergy-related immunoglobulin E (IgE) in the bloodstream.
This IgE latches on to harmless allergens and triggers allergic reactions.
If an inhaled pollen micro-particle gets attached to IgE in the nasal membranes, for example, this combined IgE/pollen complex causes mast cells to release naturally occurring defence chemicals called histamine.
This leads to profuse nasal itching, tickling, sneezing and a watery mucus discharge.

Who’s affected?
Atopy in parents or siblings is a strong indicator of allergy risk. Allergies are likely to occur in atopic families where there’s early childhood exposure to certain allergens.
Men are more likely to become allergic and an allergic mother who smokes puts a child at even greater risk.
Statistically:

  • Children from non-allergic families have a 12 per cent risk of developing an allergy
  • If one parent has allergies, this risk increases to 20 per cent
  • If both parents have allergies, the risk is more than 40 per cent
  • If both parents have the same allergy (such as asthma, hay fever or eczema) the child has a 70 per cent risk of having the same allergy

Other factors that may promote allergies include:

  • Birth by caesarian section
  • Frequent courses of antibiotics
  • Coming from a smaller family, with just one or two children
  • Passive cigarette smoke inhalation
  • Being overweight – obese children are more prone to asthma

A baby’s environment during the first year is important. Early low-dose exposure to dust mites, pollens, pets and certain foods increases the likelihood of becoming allergic.
On top of that, our relatively affluent lifestyles – centrally heated homes, regular use of antibiotics and processed or exotic foods in our diet – seem to encourage allergy.

Can it be avoided?
A number of factors reduce your risk of developing allergies:

  • Being born into a family with no history of allergies
  • Being breastfed exclusively for the first four months of life, with a mother who avoids egg, nuts and cow’s milk while breastfeeding
  • Early exposure to good probiotic bacteria in the infant diet
  • Plenty of vitamins C and E, and omega-3 polyunsaturated oils
  • Having two or more older brothers and sisters
  • Living on a livestock farm and getting grubby playing in the farmyard

Although breastfeeding hasn’t been convincingly shown to reduce inhalant allergies or asthma, it transfers protective IgA antibodies to the baby and delays the potential onset of cow’s milk allergy by deferring the introduction of cow’s milk formula.

Allergic march
The term ‘allergic march’ is used to describe the progression from one manifestation of allergy to the next over a period of time.
For example, many children under age three have eczema and food allergy. As this improves, they develop asthma. Then, as their asthma begins to settle down, they start to be troubled by allergic rhinitis and hay fever in their teenage years.

Multiple allergies
A small group of highly atopic individuals develop severe allergies from an early age. They may have infantile food allergies (commonly cow’s milk, egg and nuts) usually associated with extensive eczema.
Many have cross-reactions to other foods – latex allergy may react with avocado, banana, kiwi and chestnuts, for example. They then develop childhood allergic asthma, allergic rhinitis and remain highly allergic to numerous foods and environmental allergens.
They need ongoing supervision at a combined allergy care clinic under the care of a consultant immunologist, dermatologist, dietician, chest physician, paediatrician and ear, nose and throat specialist.
The vast majority of people with allergies have only a few allergies, which are well controlled by specific allergen avoidance and regular long-term allergy preventer medication.
There’s another group of people who apparently react to traces of everyday household and industrial chemicals, but their symptoms aren’t typical of allergies.
Often non-medically qualified practitioners will confirm these ‘sensitivities’ using unproven testing methods.
People can become so incapacitated by fear of a reaction they’re no longer able to work or leave their homes. In many instances, there’s some past psychological trauma and what they’re experiencing isn’t an allergy.

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Rolling towards Health / Happiness:

The goal is to accomplish balance in your life. Think of it as 12 spokes on a wheel. If all aspects of your life are in balance, the wheel rolls smoothly. Get too many spokes out of whack, and the wheel becomes a square!

The “Left Brain” (logical) Spokes are: Work, Exercise, Nutrition, Chores, Learning, Planning

The “Right Brain” (emotional) Spokes are: Family/Friends, Relaxation, Intuition, Creation, Romance, Dreams

Notice how the categories differ. The type A personality spends most of their time using only their left brains. Where is the fun in that?! It seems that most of the enjoyable things in life are right brain dominant.

The key is to learn how to use our “two” brains together. We obviously need both sides in order to survive, but once again the critical word is balance! Looked at another way, if we only used our left brain (as a nation) then war and fighting would be dominant. If we only used our right brain then we would not have the ability to support and protect ourselves. Only by utilizing the two halves together can we become whole.

Values and Beliefs

When someone asks you to describe yourself, how do you reply? Most likely, you describe your physical self such as your age, height, hair color and birthplace. Is this who we are? Aren’t we really defined by what’s inside us, what we believe in, and not what we look like? The problem is that most of us have not been taught to think this way. Just try describing yourself withoutphysical descriptions. Suddenly we may be at a loss for words. How do you describe your beliefs, values, virtues and emotions? If we don’t know what we stand for, we probably don’t have a clear definition of who we really are.

Have you ever thought about what your values and beliefs are? Have you ever written them down? How did you develop them? Do others share the same values as you? Values are an internal set of guidelines that we live by yet few of us ever stop and give them serious consideration. Values help define who we are so we need positive values in order to develop healthy, vibrant identities. If you establish a positive set of values, then it is likely your actions will reflect this positivity. Values can be the “constant” in an ever-changing world that guides us from wrong to right.

To create a “Who Am I” list, start by writing down your current values and beliefs. After listing them, review them and see how many of them you actually follow through with. You only cheat yourself by not being honest on this part. Next, use the goal setting categories above to create a more complete list of values. Now that you have your current values listed, it’s time to add some new ones and perhaps modify old ones. Are your values positive and constructive? Do they fit well with the goals and values of your significant other? Are there any major values missing? Now that you have a better idea who you are and where you are going, it’s time to help your friends, children and loved ones discover more about who they are. Ask them to describe themselves and see what they say.

The Soul of Humanity

SoulI believe in angels. The word angel means messenger. Everything that exists is a manifestation of one being, and it manifests through messengers. Messengers deliver the will of the one being, and the supreme messenger is light.

Light is alive, and it carries the message of life all around the universe. Light, the divine messenger, has billions of different frequencies. Though it is only one being, it divides itself for the creation of life into our beautiful Mother, the planet Earth. Every vibration of light has a specific message for every kind of life that exists in this beautiful world. There is a specific frequency of light that carries information for the creation of humans. That ray of light manifests as DNA and only creates humans — you and me. We are beings of light because we are beings of energy. The force of life that manifests as humans recognizes its own kind. It is the soul of humanity, and it is a major angel. The soul of humanity is a messenger; you are a messenger, and your message is your life.

In your heart is the real message that humans have been trying to deliver. For so many years we have delivered the wrong message: a message of fear, a message of selfishness, a message of anger, violence, and injustice. This message is not ours. Humans were made for love; our function is to love. Sharing love is human nature because we come from love, we come from light, we come from our Creator. Our nature is to love and to play, to enjoy life, and to be happy.

We have a message to deliver — first to ourselves and then to one another. That message is to remember what we really are, to remember our real nature, and to become what we really are. It doesn’t matter where we are born; it doesn’t matter what language we speak. We are only one being; we come from the same ray of light, and we have the same message. Our message is love and joy.

You can recover the integrity that you lost as a child. You can recover the message that you haven’t delivered for so long, and start delivering it again. The voice of integrity, the voice of your spirit, is always speaking to you even if you don’t want to listen. And that voice is saying, “I love you.” In every activity of your life, you can express the real message of your heart, the message you are feeling right now. When you express what you really are in life, only beauty can come out of you, only joy and respect and happiness.

Today, imagine all the love flowing from your heart to all the people who need your love. Join your heart with my heart, and together let’s offer our love to the world. By putting our hearts together and sending our love to all of humanity, the moment will come when their hearts will react to that love. They will express their love also, the same way that we are expressing our love.

The Tyranny of Trends

Humanity has always adorned and embellished. From earliest times we have painted ourselves and distinguished one tribe from another by our clothes, jewellery and hair – it is an innate part of us. The artistry and celebration attached to adornment and embellishment are natural and confirm the creative capacity of humankind.

Yet as we move further into the 21st century it is clear that the entire planet is out of balance, and nowhere is this demonstrated more comprehensively than in the fashion industry. Whilst some issues are beginning to be addressed, social injustices such as sweatshops and child labour remain unresolved. But what we are only now beginning to register is the acute and profound social, spiritual and psychic damage we humans are suffering from after half a century of unrestrained greed, a daily diet of advertising, and rampant over-consumption.

Our lust for shopping and our sophistry for style have taken us into a critical new arena. Human identity is now defined by what one owns rather than who one is. Our looks have never been so important – celebrity-obsession and self-obsession reveal a new cultural neurosis. The vast majority of the world now spends its leisure time shopping for fashion and considers it an important part of life. But at what cost?

As a fashion editor of twenty years’ standing I have found it extremely uncomfortable to admit that the seemingly harmless fashion industry is actually driving our demise. It is at the heart of all that ails us; pull at any social or environmental thread, and it will lead you back to the fashion industry.

Fashion has always served as a cultural barometer, measuring the zeitgeist of any given period. The most obvious example would be the appearance of the mini skirt or the vivid psychedelic prints of the 1960s as clear symbols of liberation and fun. True to its role as society’s mirror, fashion reflects the cultural distortion of our times. Many of the recent catwalk shows echo distorted social trends, as designers showed either tiny, child-sized clothing, or ludicrously bloated, outsize silhouettes. It is important to note that most designers are looking back in time for inspiration, clearly demonstrating a zeitgeist that is terrified of its future. Much of Western society is in the grip of an unprecedented illusion and is deeply entangled within it. Modern icons are no longer poets, statesmen or rock stars – they are models.

THIS DISTORTION DOES not simply apply to clothing. It is reflected in our bodies as well. Eating disorders, self-harm and body dysmorphia are endemic modern symptoms. And as the effects of the credit crunch begin to take hold, psychologists have coined a term for heavily addicted shoppers who eschew food in order to afford the clothing they crave: ‘fashionrexic’.

We are obsessed with our appearance. Due to sophisticated technological advancement it is now very hard to tell whether teeth, breasts, lips and hair are our own; whether the suit I am wearing is Prada or Primark; and, in a good light, whether I am twenty-four or forty. What marks this phase in humanity now is our dedication to self.

We can, and do, with relative ease, improve our looks with Photoshop and airbrush ourselves into a new reality. No matter whether we actually like the style or not: we are very powerfully persuaded to conform and go with the trend in order to appear fashionable. The consumer is now tyrannised by trends. The market is saturated and people are beguiled, bedazzled and bewildered by ‘choice’. The irony of the situation is that in reality we have very little consumer choice at all. But for a tiny design flourish here or colour option there, most fashionable shops, cafés, coats, dresses, cars and magazines all look the same: the consumer equivalent of a monoculture.

I believe that we are in one of the most conventional historical periods of all time. A glance down any high street in any country in the world will show how conformist and similar we now look. The combination of globalisation, the rise of the internet and the domination of fast fashion means that, with a few rare exceptions, we really do all look the same.

FAST FASHION IS a relatively new phenomenon: it was not until the 1990s that we saw the rise of Primark, Zara and their ilk, with women’s magazines urging weekly wardrobe revisions, supported by just-in-time production and overnight global distribution. Fast fashion found its feet, and the industry congratulated itself on ‘democratising’ fashion, making it affordable for all.

Mass production and sweatshops have existed since long before the 1960s, but the new demands of ever-increasing output and more sophisticated design have pushed garment-makers into a new pressure zone. That the makers of these clothes are highly skilled, producing complex cutting and highly accomplished hand finishing – the quality of which has never been seen on the high street before – often goes unnoticed. What had previously taken at least a day to make is now expected to be made, perfectly, in an hour.

As sales rose, fast-fashion brands and factory owners colluded to push garment workers harder and harder. More and more workers were hired, whilst working conditions and wages deteriorated, simple human rights such as rest times, toilet breaks and food were, and continue to be, restricted, and child labour became an effective tool in quenching consumers’ desire for more and more stuff. As the money rolled in, nobody liked to question the ethics of such practice.

Marks & Spencer, Gap and Primark have all been exposed for bad practice and appalling treatment of out-workers. They all now claim to have rectified this, but the process remains less than transparent and there is currently no way the consumer can guarantee that clothing has been made without misery. British billionaire Philip Green, who owns some of the United Kingdom’s largest retail chains, is a controversial figure at the centre of this debate. As one of the most powerful players in fast fashion, Green could at a single stroke reverse fashion malpractice and pioneer real change for the better. He continues to resist and has made almost no effort to make or demonstrate progress on fair pay and fair conditions for workers, either overseas or in the UK. Garment workers for his Arcadia group continue to exist on a derisory wage and are not given basic worker rights. Anti-sweat-shop groups such as Labour Behind the Label, No Sweat and the student activist network People & Planet have condemned Arcadia group and Green for these practices.

It is interesting to note the relatively recent high-profile exit of the managing director of Topshop, Jane Shepherdson – regarded as the creative force behind Topshop’s phenomenal financial upturn – who now works for Whistles and Oxfam. Shepherdson produced a brand for Oxfam aimed at ethically conscious shoppers. She receives no pay for this and has hit out at “cheap clothes that exploit workers in developing countries”. In response, Topshop has just launched an ‘Eco’ range of clothing, but it seems little more than an experiment in green-wash.

Modern fashion is made from many seemingly incompatible ingredients, but the cornerstones are built-in obsolescence, fear of humiliation, and sexual attraction. Warmth, comfort and personal style have for the most part taken a back seat. As the ‘trend frenzy’ deepens, we can see that fashion is no longer about style and self-expression: it is primarily about judgement – self-judgement and judgement of others. A toxic media reporting how women ought to look, and celebrity obsession further enforce this strange new

paradigm.

OUR SELF-IMAGE is distorted and it is now an indisputable fact that our collective psyche is in deep pain. Thirty years ago divorce, pornography, underage sex, drug addiction and teenage suicide were rare. Today they are pretty much the norm. The recent Good Childhood report commissioned by The Children’s Society confirms the malaise and observes that today’s children are more “anxious and troubled” and their lives are “more difficult” than in the past. The report concludes that this is due to the quest for material success by adults, who, it suggests, must confront their individualistic culture by focusing on helping others rather than pursuing their own selfish ends. We are not bad parents: we are merely mistakenly gripped by the illusion of glamour. By buying into the illusion, it could be said that we are committing slow suicide. We may look good, but we feel bad.

At the core of much of Western culture’s present malaise is the endless ‘fast-feast’ of consumerism. Twenty-four-hour internet shopping and sophisticated marketing have boosted fashion retail into an international leisure sport. We are none of us immune to the manipulative methods of the advertising industry, and it ignites artificial needs in all of us. This is particularly evident within fashion advertising, which manages to simultaneously intimidate and enthral.

British psychologist Oliver James asserts in his book Affluenza that there is a correlation between the increasing nature of affluence and the resulting increase in material inequality; the more unequal the society, the more unhappy its citizens. We have seen this played out acutely in recent years with the rise of “luxury fever” – where brands like Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace produce ever more astonishingly expensive products. Last year footballer David Beckham gave his wife an £80,000 diamond-encrusted Hermès handbag for Christmas, sparking a rash of high-street look-alike bags at a fraction of the price.

As technology ‘improves’, manufacturers can replicate a designer item in no time. Fast fashion now has a six-week rather than a seasonal cycle, in order to lure customers back into stores more frequently. It is testament to the garment workers’ skill and expertise that we often find it hard to distinguish the real from the counterfeit – these days often the only difference is a small design flourish, the label and the price tag.

THE TRUE ECOLOGICAL and economic impact of fashion is inescapable. Much of the pesticide-ridden cotton now produced by the United States is exported to China and other countries with low labour costs, where it is milled and woven into fabrics, cut and assembled according to fashion industry specifications, then flown around the world. China has emerged as the largest single exporter of fast fashion, accounting for 30% of all world apparel exports, according to the UN Commodity Trade Statistics Database.

In her book The Travels of a T-shirt in the Global Economy, Pietra Rivoli, a professor of Business at Georgetown University, writes that each year Americans purchase approximately a billion garments made in China. Fashion-related pollution in Africa, India and Brazil is now well-documented and continues to cause concern, and new alarms have been raised after reports revealed the Mexican city Tehuacán is facing serious water and land pollution due to the heavy use of the bleaching agent potassium permanganate to ‘distress’ denim.

What is clear is that our obsession with fashion is now quite literally costing us the Earth. The water-hungry processes in the manufacture and dyeing of clothing have a devastating impact. At the 2008 ‘Be The Change’ conference in London, writer and environmental campaigner Maude Barlow confirmed that China has now reached its “water wall” and is facing critical water shortages, having destroyed 80% of its rivers with toxic chemicals and dyes and squandered its own water resources to make cheap clothing for export to the West.

Fast fashion leaves a significant environmental and social footprint: each step of the clothing life cycle creates environmental and occupational hazards. Because of the insidious pressure of trends and built-in obsolescence, the average garment only has a three-month shelf life. UK clothing and textile consumption is high; Dorothy Maxwell’s recent Sustainable Clothing Road Map for Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) confirmed that over 2 million tonnes of clothing are purchased in the UK every year. Most shocking of all is that we throw away over a million tonnes of textiles every year, most of it ending up in landfill. Landfilled textiles, garment dyes and bleaches cause toxic chemical seepage into ground and watercourses, and the build-up of methane gas as materials decompose causes further health hazards.

The fashion industry’s pollution problems are multi-layered, and the cost is human and environmental; from unsustainable farming practices, uncontrolled pesticide use and toxic dyes to the squandering and contamination of global water reserves and the concerns over textile landfill, the debate gets ever more complex. It has been estimated that it takes 800 litres of water to grow the cotton for just one pair of jeans.

The trend for organic cotton over the past few years, though well-meaning, is not the whole solution, as cotton is a very thirsty crop. While some ethical designers provide good-quality, fairly traded organic cotton garments, this move has been used unscrupulously as a token gesture by the fashion industry to appease concerned consumers whilst other, unsustainable manufacturing processes continue unabated.

To buy organic is not enough, and the ‘luxury’ price affixed to many organic labels makes this choice prohibitive to most. Thankfully many enlightened designers are seeing new opportunities in design and manufacture, working with less thirsty, more sustainable crops such as hemp and bamboo, so we are beginning to see a new wave of fashion design that is beautiful, practical and sustainable.

THE YEAR 2009 must herald a sea change. This is the year we must start cleaning up our mess. The heady

combination of a visionary leader in the shape of President Obama and the world-shaking global impact of the credit crunch has brought all these problems into sharp focus. Fashion’s mirror is now reflecting back with the demise of the ‘bling’ culture – an outward demonstration of a shift in consciousness.

We have lost our appetite for fakery and now collectively crave authenticity. Rising interest and sales in sustainable fashion, charity shopping and vintage clothing express this new mood. As the credit crunch bites we are forced to face our collective insecurities and ‘make do and mend’. Lack of money is already creating a host of creative responses as humans begin to re-

appraise and reassess. We are finally seeing a correction, albeit not voluntary, in many unsustainable practices.

People power is emerging as a new social trend: witness the rise in popularity of internet sites like WiserEarth, Kiva and TED, confirming a global desire to positively connect. The basic human quality of free will can be re-

activated and revitalised as people learn to shop judiciously and consciously. As we activate intelligent, thoughtful choices, we can positively affect our future. Once we dismiss the illusion of glamour and wake up to the power and delight in having less stuff and more time, we can embrace being more human.

All our systems have simultaneously broken; global capitalism has failed every sector. There is only one area that is thriving, and that is the spiritual. Rather than the gloomy and apocalyptic attitude taken by most of the world’s press, many wise thinkers welcome this global meltdown as a great opportunity to reappraise pretty much all aspects of living and being – including trade, design, and lifestyle. We all have to learn to be human again. It is as if humanity had just emerged from a fifty-year binge: shamefaced and hungover, we now have to look in the eye the true spiritual cost of what we have done.

The credit crunch has come just in the nick of time. This critical global condition calls for all our ingenuity and good sense. Although the core of the fashion industry is still very sick, there are many working within its realms who are enlightened and are taking right action to rebalance the system. It is up to those of us who buy clothes to demand that all our clothing be sustainable by its very nature, and to bring fair trade to the forefront of all manufacture.

At last the possibility of fairness for all, good design and the old-fashioned notion of ‘built to last’ are re-emerging as solutions. Many organisations are addressing the problems directly by working alongside women’s co-operatives in India and Africa that support local families and ancient crafts while producing reasonably priced, well-made products.

Slow fashion is now emerging as a new paradigm as fashion labels such as Some Like it Holy, Ciel, Ray Harris and Katherine Hamnett address these complex issues by producing beautiful hand-crafted clothing with a cradle to cradle life span. Internet retailer Adili is at the forefront of slow fashion, selling products that are ‘trans-seasonal’, intended to be worn long-term, and made with materials that are organic, recycled and fairly traded. When it comes to fashion, less really is more.

Our challenge is to find a way to resynthesise the extreme polarities of our time: on the one hand we have globalisation and all its negative financial and ethical ramifications, and on the other we have the new consciousness: a One World view. Globalisation has misunderstood and misused this concept for its own ends. We have misinterpreted our connectivity and as a result are more disconnected than ever. Now we have to learn to express ourselves and reconnect with integrity.

In the end the true antidote is to adopt an attitude of voluntary simplicity. A manner of living and being that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich. A way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct conscious contact with every part of our lives.

(Charty Durrant is a former Fashion Editor of The Sunday Times, The Observer and British Vogue and is a Lecturer in Contemporary Communication at The London College of Fashion.)

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