Thursday, 21 October 2010

cutting the Kingdom to shreds

I'm feeling sick at heart over the UK budget cuts.

These are going to hit the poorest hardest. The big corporations that have evaded tax won't be touched; neither will the banks that got such a huge bail-out of taxpayer money.

People are angry, and hurt, and confused. More than that, I think, a lot of people are frightened. Money is power in this society, and it just got more powerful. Of course we're frightened; we're terrified that might will prevail. It all seems so incredibly stupid.

What I'm struggling with is trying to get a mental picture of how much of the wealth I enjoy has really been "borrowed" from my future, or from people who have less economic clout than I have. I've been saying for a while that we live too well for it to last, but completely turning away from a broken economic system isn't something I've had the guts to do.

I think I do practise right livelihood, mostly: my actual work as a teacher and musician doesn't exploit others much. If anything I need to charge a little more, be a little less principled, because right now I still don't earn enough to break even and that means I am reliant on my partner for some of my living expenses. His work is perhaps less salutary. But then, so is the work of the parents of many of the students I teach; even without doing work that is damaging, I collude in a damaging system.

I also try to spend reasonably responsibly, and here I am less successful... my best intentions will not do the paperwork to change banks, or get me to the point where I do sew my own clothes rather than buying ready-made ones (Fairly Traded clothing that fits me and is appropriate for some of my work is almost impossible to find). I waste huge amounts of resources every winter because the house where I live doesn't have adequate insulation; as I can't afford to buy a house or flat and my landlord has no incentive to change anything, my options are to put up with what I can rent or to give up having a roof over my head. I don't think the latter would be constructive.

By removing myself from the monetary economy I would essentially remove myself from the information stream. If the number of people turning away from what's broken is small, they won't be missed. I recognise that there is a case for hermits, for prophets, for people who turn drastically away from broken societal structures to show that a different life is possible. They are necessary and I am glad they exist. But if the choice is black and white -- either sticking with the current structures or rejecting them completely -- most people will find the choice too hard, the current structures will continue, those who leave will be considered insane and nothing is achieved.

Rather, I think that it is important for me to continue to engage with the current structures, and contribute, if I can, to creative solutions to problems. I can't live perfectly, but I can take the money I'm paid and spend it on FairTrade rather than non-FT products. I can act with kindness toward people even if there is no obvious gain to me for doing so. I can try to improve my balance, living more independently of the broken system in some places, colluding where I have no other choice, and -- and this is important -- staying in contact, encouraging others to find out for themselves that life can be done differently, that win-win situations do happen. I can work with others to find creative solutions for the problems of injustice and poverty.

The UK government may have just made all that a bit harder, but all that means is that it's even more important that I do what I can.

Oddly, this is pretty much my stance on church participation, too. The C of E General Synod is pasted all over the Anglican blogosphere at the moment, so that even someone like me with hardly any time to read can't help but notice that there's an awful lot of dirty politics flying around. My fear is that the women bishops stuff will eclipse the Anglican Covenant stuff and we'll end up with no women bishops AND a stupid governing document that we don't need. But I don't think I can leave over this... because the reason I've become tangled up in the Church Hesitant of England in the first place is because people have shown me that there is another way. If General Synod doesn't have the outcomes I think would be best, that's just a stronger argument for me to stay, get involved, keep showing people that there is another way -- even if it means that what goes on at parish level and what goes on at institutional level get even further apart.

The thing is, the changes in information tech make both of these things more easily possible. Seriously, the potential for functional "shadow" economies is HUGE with tools like Twitter, and the stronger those get the more irrelevant government provision will seem. Look at things like Kickstarter and FundBreak, which are private start-up funding for projects; look at Kiva which allows private lending, and initiatives like WorldBike (which might seem a bit conventional compared to the other examples, but is actually an example of what is possible with better communication).

Don't get me wrong -- I believe we're an extremely long way from being able to provide a crowdsourced NHS, for example. I know the budget cuts announced yesterday will harm a lot of people before we can get to that point, and I think the danger of reverting to depression is very real. And I know human beings well enough to know that the Church As An Institution is going to be around for a while. These things won't change overnight and we are all going to be wounded.

But this is my hope: to build up what is good rather than tear down what is destructive, to help others where I can, to put my money (what little of it there is) where my mouth is and let every action, every word, every breath point to the values of the Kingdom of God.

Who's coming with me, then?

1 comment:

it's margaret said...

You said, Rather, I think that it is important for me to continue to engage with the current structures, and contribute, if I can, to creative solutions to problems.

Exactly. God bless you.