Thursday, 18 December 2008

Rowan Williams on Radio 4

I was pleased to hear Rowan Williams on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, offering a considered Christian view on the current economic and world situation. I did understand his stance on the economics - being unprepared to comment on the specific financial measures being taken.

That said, he did argue fairly strongly that spending was not necessarily a good thing, and I am delighted he did. I wonder if he might consider being more direct on this matter? The state of mind of the world seems to me to be that "owning more things makes you happier", and I suspect he agrees with me that this is not the case. For one thing, the world clearly cannot support the demand that this would create were it to be universally adopted. As has been well argued elsewhere, there are two types of 'want' - that for necessities and that for objects that are there to bolster self-esteem. The latter class, of course, are ultimately unsatisfying. When we fall foul of this class of want we cause ourselves spiritual damage, or psychological damage - depending on your viewpoint. You can always try the Affluenza quiz...

The rise of poverty and unemployment, that I fear we shall see in the near future will almost certainly be different to anything that we have seen in history. The word-wide nature of the crash, combined with the limits to growth, will see a minority trying to hold on to their physical wealth. We shall probably also see a new class of impoverished former middle-classed workers. I would hope that a lead from the world's spiritual leaders might help us establish a more sensible future.

I am aware of the risks of recommending 'sensible' solutions.

The needs of all can easily be met, and yet we see people being run into the ground by the solutions preferred by the state. I recently had to break down the door of a friend of mine to find his dead body. John was a good man, who had been crushed and broken by the 'solution' to unemployment in this country. He had been put on invalidity years ago - not because he was incapable of physical work, but because it was deemed politically expedient. It was easier to pay him than to improve his literacy to a point where he was employable in one a modern job. Though I cannot prove it in his case, the statistics demonstrate the shortening of life of those on this kind of benefit.

The movement from an agricultural economy, through industrial to post-industrial has taken a couple of centuries in this country, and has been repeated more quickly elsewhere recently. This happened without being thought through. We can now look at the options and decide our future. The thing that we all need is food. It would surely be sensible to move to a more agrarian society, where our needs for work and fulfillment are directly associated with the fundamental need to eat. This is surely a more sustainable and sound future than manufacturing more cars.

We have arrived where we are through a series of cock-ups, let us now conspire to get out of the situation - by being sensible.

Once again, I'll close with the quote from Farewell to Kings...

When they turn the pages of history
When these days have passed long ago
Will they read of us with sadness
For the seeds that we let grow
We turned our gaze
From the castles in the distance
Eyes cast down
On the path of least resistance

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