What is Krishnamurti saying?

David Skitt introduces the first of his four columns on the subject of Krishnamurti and his teaching

If all of Krishnamurti’s talks and discussions were published they would require 400 average-sized books [some 70 volumes have been published]. This does not make his oeuvre easy to summarise, since it can be said to embody his view that human consciousness, when working well, is constantly unfolding, in a process of endless learning, never arriving at an end result, at any set of final conclusions. But to say what he thought of faith is a useful way into his account of consciousness. He sees both faith and belief as holding something to be true which is unsupported by fact, as lulling the mind into a false sense of security. We cling to such states from fear and from failure to understand and deal with what he called what is, to facts such as conflict and violence, whether personal or international. And once we have differing faiths and beliefs they themselves are an inevitable source of conflict.

Conflict and violence Krishnamurti sees as issues of basic concern to any serious human being. But in his view history shows there has been a repeated failure of education, science, politics and organised religion to end them. What is needed in our time therefore is to own up to that failure, to make a clean sweep of all these past, defective endeavours, and to adopt an entirely new approach. It is quite hard to imagine taking a more radical position than this. Put aside everything you have ever learned from others, ever read, and start your own inquiry into what life is about, what really matters. Stand on your own feet. Stop being a second-hand human being.

He proposes that this means looking at what is actually happening in life and in our consciousness—‘what is, not what should be’—without condemning or justifying, without resisting or wanting to change it, holding it instead ‘like a precious jewel.’ In so doing, he says, we are looking at human consciousness not just our own. This non-judgemental watching, free from all past-based thought and projection, is for him ‘pure observation’. If accompanied by a passion to find out, there will then be fresh understanding, he says, a ‘going beyond’ one’s previous state of consciousness.

A constant source of human confusion in Krishnamurti’s view is our rooted tendency to make images of ourselves, others, and of life and death that are put together by thought based on memory, on past experience or hearsay. Instead of looking afresh at what is new in the now, being open to the unknown and unpredictable, we ‘translate the present into the past.’ He sees such images are inevitably conflictual because they are time-bound and therefore partial and inadequate. Yet we frequently act as though we are programmed by them.

Krishnamurti maintains that we fail to make the most of our mind and of our life while subject to latent or manifest anger and fear. Also, our sense of self is usually experienced as inherently apart from another’s, whereas all human beings share far more psychologically than separates them. Not to see that is a huge error of perception, because our sense of shared humanity is lost. This feeling of psychological apartness breeds a fear of isolation that leads, among other things, to a spurious sense of safety in numbers, which is then, unfortunately and divisively, carried to excess in nationalism, political ideology, and religious faith. These provide a false cohesion held together by fear that there are those ‘outside’ who threaten us and are in some way not as fully human as we are.

Seeing the problems in our personal life and in the world with a mind free from the dictates of the past, from faith, belief, stereotyping, and fantasy, is to see that what goes wrong in the world outside reflects what goes wrong in one’s own mind. When there is insight into that, Krishnamurti says, there is a wholly different way of living, in which an awakened awareness of what causes human suffering also brings with it greater sensitivity to the beauty and immensity of life.

He cautions his audience, ‘You don’t have to believe all this—I am not an authority. But take a little time to look at this. Test it out.’

David Skitt was educated at Cambridge. From 1955 to 1985 he worked as a translation revisereditor for the OECD and the European Space Agency in Paris. He is a trustee of the Krishnamurti Foundation at Brockwood Park, Hampshire.
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Is Google Maps discriminating against people with disabilities?

Its walking routes are not access-friendly.

“I ended up having to be pushed through a main road in London, which was really scary.” Three weeks ago, Mary Bradley went to London to visit her daughter Belinda, who is just finishing her first year at university there. Her other daughter joined them on the trip.

But what was supposed to be an enjoyable weekend with her two children turned into a frustrating ordeal. The apps they were using to find their way around kept sending them on routes that are not wheelchair-friendly, leading to time-consuming and sometimes frightening consequences.

Bradley has been using a wheelchair – when having to go longer distances without a vehicle – for over a year, due to a 45-degree curve in her spine, severe joint facet deterioration in her back, and other conditions.

She lives in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, and has made the trip up to London to visit her daughter a handful of times. Each visit, they use Google Maps and the transport app Citymapper to find their way around, as neither of them know London particularly well.


Belinda and Mary Bradley. Photo: Belinda Bradley

“It was just horrible,” says Bradley of her most recent trip to the capital. “We’re following the maps, and we go along, then find we are faced with a footbridge, and realise there was no way I was going to get over it, so we had to go back the way we’d come. At one point, we were faced with a strip of narrow pavement the wheelchair couldn’t go down. That was something we found all weekend.”

While Google Maps did highlight accessible Tube stations, they found that once they had alighted to do the rest of the journey to their destination on foot, “it took us three times as long, because the route that it takes us just wasn’t passable”.

They ended up having to try different routes “having no real idea of where were going”.

“It meant that it took so much longer, the girls ended up having to push me for longer, I got more and more embarrassed and frustrated and upset about the whole thing,” Bradley tells me.

At one point, her daughters had to take her down a main road. “Being pushed on a road, especially in London, is scary,” she says. “It was scary for me, it was scary for the girls.”

When they returned home, Belinda, who is a 19-year-old Writing and Theatre student at the University of Roehampton, was so furious at the situation that she started a petition for Google Maps to include wheelchair-friendly routes. It hit over 100,000 signatures in a fortnight. At the time of writing, it has 110,601 petitioners.


Belinda's petition.

Belinda was surprised that Google Maps didn’t have accessible routes. “I know Google Maps so well, [Google]’s such a big company, it has the satellite pictures and everything,” she says. “So I was really surprised because there’s loads of disabled people who must have such an issue.”

The aim of her petition is for Google Maps to generate routes that people using wheelchairs, crutches, walking sticks, or pushing prams will be able to use. “It just says that they’re a little bit ignorant,” is Belinda’s view of the service’s omission. “To me, just to ignore any issues that big needs to be solved; it needs to be addressed almost immediately.”

But she also wants to raise awareness to “make life better in general” for people with disabilities using navigation apps.

Belinda has not received a response from Google or Citymapper, but I understand that Google is aware of the petition and the issue it raises. Google declined to comment and I have contacted Citymapper but have not received a response.

Google Maps does provide information about how accessible its locations are, and also allows users to fill in accessibility features themselves via an amenities checklist for places that are missing that information. But it doesn’t provide accessible walking routes.

“There’s no reason that they couldn’t take it that bit further and include wheelchair accessible routes,” says Matt McCann, the founder of Access Earth, an online service and app that aims to be the Google Maps for people with disabilities. “When I first started Access Earth, I always thought this is something Google should be doing, and I was always surprised they haven’t done it. And that’s the next logical step.”

McCann began crowdsourcing information for Access Earth in 2013, when he booked a hotel in London that was supposed to be wheelchair-friendly – but turned out not to be accessible for his rollator, which he uses due to having cerebral palsy.

Based in Dublin, McCann says Google Maps has often sent him on pedestrian routes down cobbled streets, which are unsuitable for his rollator. “That’s another level of detail; to know whether the footpaths are pedestrian-friendly, but also if they’re wheelchair-friendly as well in terms of the surface,” he notes. “And that was the main problem that I had in my experience [of using walking routes].”

Access Earth, which includes bespoke accessibility information for locations around the world, aims to introduce accessible routes once the project has received enough funding. “The goal is to encompass all aspects of a route and trip,” he says. Other services such as Wheelmap and Euan's Guide also crowdsource information to provide access-friendly maps.

So how long will it take for more established tech companies like Google to clear the obstacles stopping Mary Bradley and millions like her using everyday services to get around?

“You can use them for public transport, to drive, you can use them if you’re an able-bodied person on foot,” she says. “But there are loads of us who are completely excluded now.”

Sign Belinda Bradley’s “Create Wheelchair Friendly Routes on Google Maps" here.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.