As I begin to write the news comes of two clothes’ chains (Peacocks and Jaegar) going into administration, with the fear of over 4,000 job losses, and Eon laying off over 700 workers. Poor people. All of us who have know unemployment in our families know the worry, the strains of looking for new work and training, the worry of covering living costs, the possibility of losing our homes.
I remember the collapse of the markets in the late 1980’s and a man handing over the keys to his mortgage provider as his house had gone into negative equity. He had nothing left but family love and was desperate for them. I shared his desperation and nothing I could do.
How dependant on each other we all are. Few of us can risk setting up our own businesses, all of us know that competition rules and that we have to learn to survive – but to be in thrall to big money which has to protect itself in order to survive, we understand that, is to know that we’ll always need the skills, organisation and investments of others.
I saw, in studying and teaching economics, how blessed we are when we have people generous in investing, risk-taking, seeing the common good, being good employers – but how dependant, also. Profit is necessary to continue in business, but kindness and care matter so much to those who work. Be good, be just, treat us fairly is the plea of the poor, and blessed are those who hear that. But always the unspoken fears of losing our work, employment, house, the family suffering, trying to cope. What love, and trials of love, are within our seeking to work.
“Small is Beautiful” is the title of one of the best books I have read. It is about small-scale economics, everyone having a respected place, no matter how apparently unimportant.
Everyone. I came to the book from the horrors of mining and heavy industry, the numbers of serious accidents and deaths, an awareness of Welsh determination that education would be the escape for the children from what the parents had to go through.
I was horrified by cruel working conditions in our mines and docks, low wages, huge profits, exhausted workers. There had to be better, I knew, but the Industrial Revolution had put investment and profit before workers and families. It worked to the benefit of the rich who became richer but at the cost of the happiness and security of the people.
Schumacher saw the possibility of a better world of work. Small is beautiful does not deny that big investments bring great benefits but it measures them by the lives of people, not by the bottom line in the black. It means people unafraid of going into the red if such move will bring relief and blessing – but aware the costs will have to be covered and trust its judgement that they will be.
“Give us jobs”, pleaded the unemployed as our country’s strong recovery from World War II began to weaken in a changing and developing world in the 1970’s and 80’s. We hear those cries around the world now, more aware of every country as communications are open in ways we never previously knew.
Today’s headlines – Australian regrets at war crimes in Afghanistan, rebellion being squashed in Ethiopia, civil unrest in Thailand and Hong Kong, divisions in Cameroon and Nigeria, President Trump finding new toys to throw out of his pram – remind us that the world is wonderfully and sadly open for all of us to know, and to recognise how threatening the silences may be in certain parts of the world.
We can know about each other in ways never open previously. We marvel at the mobile phones all around the world, keeping us aware of each other in ways few governments can control. We are united nations in human ideals, even if not in political terms of power and rebellion, peace-keeping, trade and sanctions. We are invited to share in ways not previously possible nor even necessary
Covid-19 has been a common concern, worse than death. Death we know and understand. “Tell me happiness” said the seeker to the guru, and the answer came “Grandparents die, parents die, children die.” Startled, the seeker cried “I asked you for happiness and you give me death!” Yes, was the guru’s reply: “Children die, parents die, grandparents die” is unhappiness, lives cut short.
Hurtful wisdom, but the guru knew. In this time of pandemic we need love and
understanding to bear one another’s burdens, the kind and caring to look after the weak
and helpless, the grace to know we belong to each other – and the spiritual wisdom to
recognise that love is greater than life. All those willing to die for loved ones know that
truth and are ready for the sacrifice. We look at those who serve for love and we are
inspired. Covid-19 is terrifying but has inspired ordinary people to be wonderful. They
were, but we didn’t know it and they didn’t – but we do now.
A new world? Too dramatic. The same world but seen in a different way is our hope,
God to bless us to see with Jesus: to live is to love and die loving, then to live eternally.
That should be the message of religions – all the rest is hot air, warming some,
overheating others, waste of breath to many. Religion? Tell us what good organised
religion does, people ask. Unless religions lead to a loving and merciful God they are
power-blocs, self-serving, self-regarding, exclusive and excluding, condemning rather
than encouraging. Religion must speak truth and love and reflect God who is love.
Religion with its wars, crusades, condemnations, is no witness. We want true religion,
preaching love and goodness, truth with God, loving service reflecting true authority.
God bless us to be true to one another,
(22nd November 2020)