Sunday, September 11, 2005

Scientology - Letter to Mmegi 11/09/2005

Mesh Moeti
The Editor

11th September 2005

Dear Mr Moeti

Yet again I was delighted to read a letter from Paul Sondergaard in Mmegi on 1st September in response to my letters regarding the deeply strange so-called Church of Scientology.

One of the observations people have made to me is that in all their responses the PR people from the Scientologists never actually deny any of the things I report about them. They don’t deny that at a certain point in a person’s passage through Scientology they are taught that their founder discovered that our brains are haunted by the ghosts of dead aliens, murdered with H-bombs in Hawaii 75 million years ago by Xemu, Head of the Galactic Empire.

They don’t deny the research findings I reported that show that their drug treatment program Narconon has a success rate lower than not doing anything at all. They don’t deny the various quotes I’ve given from their founder, the renowned drug abuser, liar, and convicted criminal L Ron Hubbard. I have copies of the original court documents to prove it – they know it and that’s why they don’t deny it. They don’t deny these things because they are all true!

To his credit Mr Sondergaard does concede that “in the 60s, some actions were taken that Church policy was against. Certain people were punished by law for those illegal actions”. Actually it was in the 80s this happened and it was Hubbard’s wife and 10 other senior Scientologists that went to prison for burgling and phone-tapping over 100 US private and government agencies who were investigating the Scientologists. Vicki Aznaran, who was a key leader within the Scientologists said, after leaving them in 1987, "This is a criminal organization, day in and day out”.

Instead they make extremely vague suggestions that I am “spreading false information”, that I’m libelling them and Hubbard (which I’m not sure is legally possible as he’s stone cold dead) and that I have some grudge against the Scientologists. Will you PLEASE tell me and everyone else what it is that’s false in what I’ve written? Where is the libel? Where is my grudge?

My biggest complaint though is the issue of secret scriptures. In his letter Mr Sondergaard says “Yes, we have confidential scriptures” and later “Same with Christianity, Islam, the Jewish faith, Shinto, and so on.”

No they don’t. They don’t. They simply do NOT have confidential scriptures. Yes, as he says they have esoteric scriptures, yes they have arcane literature, yes they have fringe groups with slightly off-the-wall teachings, but real religions don’t have secret scriptures. Real religions don’t hide their core beliefs. Real religions don’t make their flock pay vast sums of money to read these scriptures. Real religions don’t threaten to sue people for breach of copyright when they disclose them to the public. Real religions don’t say that those who disclose the contents of these scriptures, having read them in court documents, have lied, libelled them and are spreading false information.

Finally, he makes me a very generous offer. He suggests that I visit their Church in Johannesburg and see for myself what they do.

Paul, what makes you think I haven’t already been?

With best regards

Richard Harriman

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Technology is not the answer

In the month we hosted the WITFOR conference and had visitors from around the world discussing how to use Information and Communications Technology to help solve the world’s problems it may seem strange to write an article suggesting that technology is not the answer.

However I believe it’s true. Technology itself doesn’t solve problems. Technology has the capacity to mask what the real problems are. Technology can just as easily compound problems as well as help solve them.

So you want me to justify what I’m saying? Let me give a few examples.

Recently I was at a conference when we were told about a new invention that, it was suggested, will revolutionise health care in hospitals. This is a digital pen that will automatically remember whatever a nurse writes on a patient’s notes. When the digital pen is later “docked” at the nurse’s desk whatever has been written will be transferred electronically to the patient’s central medical file. So far so good, but what came next wasn’t good. Apparently the benefit from this is that the doctors won’t then have to waste so much time going to see the patient for themselves and can review the case from the comfort of their desk.

Doctors spending even more time at their desks? Doctors not having to go and see patients for themselves? Seeing even less of the doctor next time I’m ill in a hospital bed? No thanks!

A few years ago the IT industry in the US and Europe was obsessed with the opportunities that IT made available to shoppers. From what they said it seemed that soon we’d all be buying books, groceries and shares on the Internet. Well, what actually happened? A lot of people lost a huge amount of money having invested in these so-called “dot-com” schemes. Why? Because there wasn’t a need for it.

Yes, people are still buying books from Amazon, myself included. However, I do that only when the book I want is difficult to find. I, and millions of others, would MUCH rather go to a decent book shop to browse and chose what I want to read. My mother, who lives in the UK and who has access to the Internet at home, absolutely hates going shopping. Does she buy her groceries using her PC? No, despite hating the experience she would rather go shopping herself and make choices in a natural setting, not stuck in a small room with a glowing screen.

My particular hate is entirely automated switchboards. You know the type. You call in and it says “Press 1 for Customer Service, press 2 for Accounts…..”. How many actually have an option which says “press 9 to speak to a human being”? You can imagine what the salesman said to the CEO a few months beforehand. Something about firing the switchboard operator, saving loads of money and controlling access by customers to information.

Well, there are times when I call and I want to do several things at once. There are times when I call to complain and all I get is that irritating recorded voice that simply will not let me get through to a human being I can complain to. The result? I get even more irritated than when I began the call.

All they’ve managed to do is erect a barrier between me and them.

Before you think I’m some sort of anti-technology fanatic, let me make my position clear. I love technology! Anyone who knows me will tell you that I’m surrounded by gadgets. I consider my Apple iPod to be one of my children! I am no enemy to technology, just so long as it’s there for a reason. The iPod allows you to go shopping or wander round the house or the airport with a vast archive of portable, high-quality music. The critical thing is that it actually addresses a real need. Well, that’s what I tell my wife anyway.

I think that all technology should be seen as being like the iPod, particularly in the business world. The latest technology is NEVER the answer to the problems your business faces. What matters most to your business is how well you treat your customers. What matters are the processes that operate in your company. What matters is not how new your computer is, it’s how well you use it.

My advice to businesses regarding technology? Don’t spend a single thebe on technology until you have identified a genuine need for it. So many times companies and individuals are convinced by smart salespeople that an item of technology is the solution to a problem that has yet to be defined. And I’m not just talking about equipment. I mean the hugely expensive business systems that sales teams will say will revolutionise the way you operate.

Oh no they won’t, not unless you first take a hard look at the way you do business. If when you’ve done that you find that a piece of technology will help then that’s great.

Just make sure you really need it!