An Attempt at Objectivity

As George Osborne’s first Conservative only Government budget was being delivered yesterday my Twitter and Facebook feeds began to be filled with anger, pain and scorn, with an undercurrentbudget_portal__7_2856733b of a deep sense of helplessness.

And I agreed with everything people were saying.  I agreed with the sentiments and my emotions resonated.  There was not a single post in support of the budget, in support of the Government, in support of the direction this country is being led.  It really got me wondering, why is it this way?  If the Conservative Party were voted into power last year in such a huge swing where are all the Conservative supporters now?  I pondered a few thoughts, maybe there is some truth in the 7 statements below:

  1. Lots of people say they don’t like what is happening to the poor but when it comes down to it they will put their own interests first and vote for what they perceive will make them better off.
  2. Lots of people like what the Government are doing but don’t feel confident to express this for fear of being heckled, or even abused, by others.
  3. There are many who benefit a little from current Government policies.  This means they enjoy a little extra comfort and security.  In comparison to the significant life changes that are imposed on many of the most vulnerable this raises no emotional response and therefore there is no impulse to express anything on social media.
  4. Nobody feels inclined to support the Government policies because they are self-seeking, income gap widening, dangerous and loathsome.
  5. Those who feel upset by the political situation have got it wrong and are caught up in a deluded whirlwind of conspiratorial negativity.
  6. It is cool to bash authority.
  7. By my own conscious and sub-conscious choosing my Facebook friends and those I follow on Twitter are skewed towards my own fairly socialist, left leaning political views.

I asked my Facebook friends and Twitter followers if there were any views that supported Osborne or the Government.  There was silence for quite a while and then a few people gave helpful responses.  The comments  ranged from factual to mildly pleased and were certainly void of any of the emotion that was featuring in my feeds.  Also, I know that those who helpfully commented also have strong misgivings about other aspects of Government policy.

I am pondering all this because my thought processes always take me down the line of anger and a desire for action.  Yet, I don’t want to indulge anger or take action for a meaningless cause.  I want to ensure I am objective in what I expend my emotion, energy and time on.

However, nobody seems to be able to come up with a strong and passionate reason for supporting the Government.  The budget and Government policies may offer small financial gains for many but these benefits are, in my opinion, woeful in comparison to the destruction that I see meted out on our communities.

I can only conclude that the anger is necessary and the need for change is critical.  If we care about our communities, and especially those who are vulnerable, then we must spend ourselves to see justice.   Action will look different for different people but I believe passively continuing with the status quo will lead to generations blighted by poverty and social exclusion.

 

 

 

 

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Profit in Peace

There is no profit in peace.  And that is why we are on the verge of going to war once again.

Tomorrow the House of Commons votes on whether we bomb some towns and villages where we are told there is a threat to our way of life.  Yet can we be sure it is not our own previous military intervention  and consistent supply of arms to all sides of Middle East conflicts that has provoked and perpetuated the violence?

Only this weekend our own government lawyers warned that the UK could be prosecuted for war crimes following the sale of arms involved in atrocities in Yemen.  Surely if we are so prepared to facilitate the destruction of innocents in one country we cannot complain when death comes shockingly to our neighbours.

I don’t understand the world out there.  I just know that killing people is only going to breed more hate.  The corporations and governments of the world are not stupid, they know this.  Yet the pull of riches and power are too much and so war must continue.

“When the rich wage war, it’s the poor who die.”  There is no profit in peace.

Ocean Colour Scene, Profit in Peace

 

 

You can protect children

Our leaders with responsibility for keeping our children safe in our communities are continuing to abdicate responsibility and are relying on children to protect themselves.

Yesterday another gang of men was found guilty of abuse, rape and prostituting girls in Aylesbury.  But the Director of Children’s Services in Buckinghamshire said – “We know a great deal more about Child Sexual Exploitation now, I hope young people…will have the same courage to come forward.”

We cannot put the responsibility on young people to come forward!  Abuse and slavery is manipulative and messy.  You cannot rely on victims to be able to process objectively what is happening to them and then know how to respond appropriately to raise a disclosure!

It is interesting that in the Bible, one of the problems Moses had in getting the people of Israel free from slavery in Egypt was that they wouldn’t listen to him ‘because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.’ (Exodus 6:9)  If as a society we care about children who are at risk of being sexually exploited then we must take responsibility for the problem.  Whoever you are you can equip yourself and those around you to be able to spot the signs that a child or a vulnerable adult may be being abused.

At the very least you can read this brief overview from the NHS which includes things you can do to prevent exploitation before it even happens.  The NSPCC has more information here. Don’t assume that other people are doing something about this.  You could be the person who spots the signs that a child in your street, school, church, family, or anywhere, is being exploited.

You could be even more proactive by volunteering your time to help at a local youth group or even opening up your home to a child or as a Host family for vulnerable teenagers.

Our children are children – we should take responsibility for protecting them.

How to solve the immigration crisis

It seems that the immigration debate has been building up a greater head of steam this year – all the bluster of the election along with the sad and worrying crises we have seen in the Mediterranean and the port of Calais.  Murderous high profile violence such as the massacre in Tunisia adds to the confusion and anger.

The news story overnight of migrants ‘storming’ the Channel Tunnel generates warlike imagery that only heightens our sense of fear and defensiveness, as we imagine brown skinned foreigners streaming through the tunnel claiming benefits, abusing the NHS and forming sex gangs.

We’re caught in a difficult position.  We want to have compassion on those in difficult situations but we see the strain with which our public services are already under – not to mention how we hate the thought of being taken advantage of by those who need no asylum but just want to live an economically more advantageous life.  We could debate the various approaches the Home Office could take but I honestly think even with the best ideas at our borders and in our legislation would barely be a sticking plaster solution.

We live in a huge and glorious world rammed with incredible opportunities and resources.  Yet what we reap in terms of immigration concerns is only the result of generations of selfish and greedy foreign policy.  We have exploited the riches of Africa and Asia, turned brothers against one another, and now complain when these damaged continents overflow with people desperate for a bit of what we took from them.  Globalisation and technological advances mean the whole world can look on as we flaunt our gadgets, cars and entertainment.

The problems that occur from people wishing to move from one country to another cannot be solved in this generation.  A stand against migration now is only going to condemn your own grandchildren to face increased tensions and issues.  If we wish to make our own country a better place then we have to start by addressing our superiority complex and begin to understand that we must help others to prosper and thrive.  Only when we seriously attend to our foreign policy, radically turn it upside down and treat our fellow human with respect and love will we begin to see the a reduction in the numbers trying to get into the UK.  Except by then, we’ll recognise the humanity in our fellow humans and be hungry to exchange our lives, culture and opportunities with our brothers and sisters from all over the world!

Posh London street to be blessed with Montenegrin footfall

I must admit I love it when the underdog manages to ruffle the feathers of a few supreme peacocks.  This article from the London Evening Standard describes a row in some posh London back street with lots of clean white houses.  It all centres around Montenegro moving their embassy to the street without planning permission.  Probably not the wisest thing to do but the objections are very funny, if not also very sad.

“We don’t want emotionally unstable people attracted to the street”

A few responses from me:

  • Who do they think they are?  Is the way of the world that if you are rich enough you don’t have to see normal people with normal problems?  Very sad.
  • As if a bunch of upper class London residents are not going to be emotionally unstable already!?
  • Did they not read the client list of the hotel at the nearby Baglioni Hotel – Beyonce, Jay-Z and Lindsay Lohan.  I’m not one to judge but the objecting residents may want to pass similar concerns on to Kensington & Chelsea Borough Council about this establishment also!
  • I assume the complainants haven’t don’t much research and so their concern about ’emotionally unstable people’ may just be the tip of the iceberg.  Let’s hope they don’t get into conversations with any visiting Montenegrins – as it does take a bit of getting to know the Montenegrin way to realise that what can appear to be some blazing row about to explode into violence, is in fact just a helpful discussion to help understand one another’s perspective.  Nothing to worry about but a little alarming when you are in the middle of it.

May 7th…..Remember the poor

Where will you put your X on May 7th?  How are you going to decide?

If you have a secure job and want what is best economically for you then without doubt you should be voting Conservative.  You won’t go wrong with Labour or Lib Dem either.  If you are comfortable now then stick with the political establishment and nothing is going to change much – the colour flying over Downing Street might be different but our social landscape will remain the same.

However, if your desire is to see the poorest and most vulnerable in our society protected and empowered then maybe think of an alternative to the political establishment – and I’m not talking about the purple migrant bashers.  I would suggest that if you have a care and hope for those excluded from society then consideration should be given to a Green or Independent vote or maybe a spoiled ballot.

As a follower of Jesus I cannot bring myself to vote for my own needs and comforts.  “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:4)  If you love Jesus, if you love your fellow human – then don’t waste your vote selfishly.  Maybe you will come to a different political conclusion to me but do vote with your conscience.

West Bromwich vicar, Neil Robbie, has written a great and succinct post commenting on political thought processes with a different twist on who the poor could be.  Definitely worth a read for just 1 minute of your time.

If you have an hour then do invest it in listening to the late Simon Pettit’s biblical mandate for the poor.  This was recorded in 1998 and was a real watershed moment for the Newfrontiers famly of churches that I belong to – it provides a great introductory foundation on Christian teaching regarding the poor.

Election and Poor

Do not fear the Paris attacks

Please, understand that what happened in Paris in the last few days was not:

  • Muslims attacking non-Muslims
  • Islam against the West
  • Anti-semitic
  • An attack on free speech
  • War

What happened was evil.  It was carried out by people who have most likely been exposed to evil themselves but have chosen to allow that evil to take root and bear horrible and terrible fruit.

Living in Western Europe is no more dangerous today than it was at the start of the week.  You are many more times likely to be killed driving your car than you are at the hands of a random murderer.  We have nothing to fear.

Sadly, and dangerously, the media seem to be loving it.  The coverage has been relentless, speculative and sensationalised.  The attacks were horrific but if they had not been reported, or at least not been hyped up, then the strange stirring of fear would not have been provoked in our communities.

Every day across the world similar and worse things happen but we do not hear about them.  Today 16 people have been killed in a bomb attack in a Nigerian marketplace.  You, I, and even someone sitting in a Paris suburb, have as much to fear from the attack in Nigeria as we do the attacks in Paris.  If you allow the Paris attacks to settle bitterness, fear, suspicion or hatred in you then you could be at the top of the slippery slope of allowing evil to bear fruit in your own life.  If you spread or indulge the scaremongering in conversation or on social media then you are actively helping evil spread like a deadly virus.

We all have so much in common.  To hate or fear other humans quite simply robs you of your own identity.  Do your bit – love your neighbour and love the stranger.