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Today I learned something new and encouraging from an article in The Guardian (in contrast to the distress it caused me yesterday).  On Wednesdays the paper has a Society section which basically looks at social issues, tending to relate to the public and voluntary sectors.  I usually only manage to read through it briefly, but starting from today I no longer work on Wednesdays so I have the prospect of possibly getting to read a whole newspaper on the day it came out.  So today, while my poorly daughter is watching ‘Madagascar’ I found time to read the main story in this section, which had caught my eye because it relates to social enterprise.

The story covers social enterprises and cooperatives in Spain, looking particularly at an exciting new development in the Basque region of Spain for the world’s first ‘social Silicon Valley’, a business park for social enterprise.  The most encouraging part of the article for me was the idea that “out of the ashes of this economic collapse will come more equitable ways of doing business”.  Fernandez Isiord, one of the innovators behind the project, is quoted as saying that

First, we have to democratise companies, then we have to build the organisation on principles and values so they become part of the community and part of the solution to tackling social problems.

The bit that I love the most comes right at the end though.  He goes on to say that if you trace the root of the word “companies” to it’s Latin root you find that it derives from a phrase meaning “to share the bread”.  How cool is that as a business model?!

If you’re interested in social enterprise, SocietyGuardian has more here.

On my way to work this morning I made my usual brief stop at a garage to buy The Guardian, which I like to read in my lunchbreak.  As I made my way to the till to pay, glancing over the front page as I walked, I was literally stopped in my tracks by the image on the front page.

You can read the paper’s online version of the latest news about the war Israel is waging to bring down Hamas.  It was the accompanying image that halted me in my steps though, which online is a video version (I couldn’t bring myself to watch it, the still was enough).  It looks like the children are sleeping, but I can’t get out of my head how terrifying it must have been for them in the days and then the final moments leading up to their death.

I paid for my paper, with the photo now carefully folded inside so I couldn’t see it.  A picture of a dead child is too raw, I just see my own child and recoil at the horror of that terrible thought.  Once sat in the car I sat muttering to God, and then felt I just had to look again, to face this image and story that represents the awful reality of life today for those people in Gaza City.  My hands were shaking as I unfolded the paper once again.  I looked for a few careful moments and then found it unbearable.  One picture that says just too much.

I began to drive to work again, and this time my mutterings to God had become “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry…”.  Perhaps they were also directed at the dead children too, at their families who are grieving and living in the midst of a terrible nightmare (I’m aware that I’m writing in awful cliches but can’t find better words).

I have a very tenuous grasp of what’s going on with Israel and Hamas.  And pictures like this just beg the question, can it really be worth it?  I’d love someone to tell me.

It was with bitter reflection that I saw the emptiness of my own worrying about the economy this coming year, about job security for those I know and love.  These things can be important, but 3 dead children amongst the bodies of so many others challenge that narrative as being the overriding one in 2009.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

About ten days or so ago I was listening to the radio on my way to work.  A reporter was talking about the latest financial crisis the economy is facing and discussing with a commentator how this is affecting families.  The commentator observed that, although the chancellor is encouraging us to spend (and I guess the cut in VAT was intended to encourage us in this), evidence was showing that in fact most people seemed to be reducing their spending and were thinking much much more carefully about what they needed, as opposed to what they wanted.

On a personal level I also have noticed this to be true. People are deciding not to book that holiday, not to spend beyond what is necessary this Christmas, to choose more thoughtful gifts rather than relying on a proliferation of gifts.

So this got me to thinking.  I don’t know that much about economics (can you tell?!) yet even to a casual observer it is clear that if our current economic system is struggling or even collapsing because people cannot afford to spend or choose not to spend, in other words if capitalism is failing, what then?  A system based on consumption and spending (based on universal debt perhaps?) cannot succeed when people lack the inclination or the means to spend, and have cottoned on to the futility and vacuousness of buying stuff for the sake of having stuff, no matter what the stuff actually is to them.

So then, what is the economy of God?  I have heard this phrase used in sermons, where it is used with the implication that God’s economy is based on love and justice rather than money.  But how does God want our world to be constructed?  How should we spend our money, and more importantly perhaps, what systems or structures should we sit under to encourage and reflect an economy that really is of God? 

It depresses me that I have over the years of my life spent money on tat, because it was there, or on buying a newer, shinier version of the thing that I already have (newer shoes, a more up to date coat, all the usual..).  And I’m not even a particularly materialistic person.

So this Christmas we, like so many others, have tried to think more carefully about what we give and who to.  We have made some gifts too.  We have asked for things we need or would really value.  However, I suspect that in the economy of God there would be little room for where a season where giving is so inequitable, where Christmas is both celebrated and dreaded, for a season of spending and not reflecting. 

Perhaps this Christmas is going to be the first of many where people find themselves contemplating what Christmas actually is about, if it’s not about seasonal over-consumption and over-spending.   And this, more than anything I will ever hear on the news, gives us all hope for 2009.

Peace this Christmas to you all.

December 2017
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Go to the Barnardo's Believe campaign website.