"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Occupy London at St Pauls and Economic Justice

So the Occupy Wall Street protestors have been evicted from their tent city in Manhattan. I went to London the other day and walked around the Occupy London Stock Exchange tent city outside St Paul's Cathedral. And I met and talked with many very pleasant, very thoughtful and intelligent people who understand very clearly what they are doing and are peacefully calling for economic change. They are fed up with the "fatcats" getting richer, the poor getting poorer, the huge inequalities and injustices in the world, etc etc etc. The site is very well organised, very peaceful, attracting much public support, and the police looked bored stiff! These people are echoing so much that I have written in Healing.... and so I donated a copy of my book to their library as it will be of interest to many of the protestors there. And I thought it appropriate to post some excerpts here over the next week or so, in between postings on Apocalyptic thoughts! (Perhaps there is a link!):

"When the last tree is cut, the last river poisoned, and the last fish dead, we will discover that we can't eat money..."
Greenpeace message on one of their longest banners. (1)

"This notion of spiritless existence can be described as materialism. All is matter; land, forests, food, water, labour, literature and art are commodities to be bought and sold in the marketplace - the world market, the stockmarket, the so-called free market… Business without spirit, trade without compassion, industry without ecology, finance without fairness, economics without equity can only bring the breakdown of society and destruction of the natural world. Only when spirit and business work together can humanity find coherent purpose."
Satish Kumar, “Spiritual Imperative,” Resurgence (2)

In 1976 an economics professor Dr Muhammad Yunus conducted an experiment. He gave the equivalent of $26 to each of 42 workers. From this they all bought materials, spent a day weaving chairs or making pots and were able to sell their wares and repay the loans. Thus was born the concept of microcredit.
Microcredit refers to small loans of less than a few hundred dollars, with no collateral, at nil or no more than commercial interest rates, made to help the poorest of the poor in the third world to start up small enterprises. This enables them to spread their productive capacity and gain some measure of independence and a better standard of living. For Yunus’ subsequent work with Grameen Bank, which was founded to foster this use of microcredit, the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to them both in equal shares, for ‘their efforts to create economic and social development from below’, while improving the lives of millions of people in Yunus’ native Bangladesh.
As a young child I won a ten-bob note. That was a considerable prize in those days. I was so excited. I could buy another nature book to add to my collection! How did I win this? For spotting the deliberate error in an article in our village church magazine, which misquoted the Bible as saying money is the root of all evil. Much to my dismay my mother suggested I should immediately volunteer to return this prize to the church. I still vividly remember having the collecting box held under my nose in the vestry by the priest and putting the note very reluctantly back through the slot under my mother’s watchful gaze.
The lesson I had to learn was a hard one and it obviously made a deep impression! As a Christian I should be generous to those more in need than myself. But the ethics of the situation were lost on an eight year old. I had always been told we could not afford those things that my best schoolmates enjoyed, such as a pony or dancing lessons, perhaps a new bike. I was quite discouraged from entering similar competitions again. And I certainly learnt the meaning of voluntary compulsion!
In fact as with so many Biblical references the saying is taken out of context and is not complete. The full quotation reads: ‘For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs.’ (3)
So I believe the lesson of the ten bob note was more profound than my mother may have realized. I was learning the hard way that I had to avoid any love of money for its own sake: that there is so much more to being human in this world than striving for the accumulation of monetary wealth and possessions.
Real wealth is not about money: it is about spiritual wellbeing. It seems that we have largely lost sight of the spirit that is in all matter. As the human ecologist Alastair McIntosh observes in his inspirational book Soil and Soul, ‘We are materially richer than ever before and yet suffer a spiritual poverty…we live, but suffer spiritual death. Our very accomplishments cut us off further from the soul.’ (4) Real security and happiness that we all seek, consciously or unconsciously, will be found in spiritual wealth, for which we have a great hunger.

1. Greenpeace website.
2. Kumar, Satish, in ‘Spiritual Imperative: Elegant Simplicity is the way to Discover Spirituality,’ Resurgence (March/April 2005) issue 229 at http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article653-SPIRITUAL-IMPERATIVE.html
3. Holy Bible, RSV, 1 Timothy 6.10
4. McIntosh, Alastair, Soil and Soul: People versus Corporate Power, London: Aurum Press, 2004p. 4.

© Eleanor Stoneham 2011 Excerpts from Healing This Wounded Earth

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