Thought for the Week (Archive)
Me First or Enough for All? (01/02/2010)
‘Let's hope 2010 is better than last year.' That's a sentiment I've heard many times in the past few weeks - at least as far as the economy and jobs are concerned. We may certainly hope things don't get any worse, though some, particularly in the public sector, are pretty gloomy both about jobs and about the effect on services by the widely anticipated spending cuts.
Sadly, unemployment is likely to go higher in the next few months, but more worryingly those out of work for more than six and 12 months will also grow in number. Even if there is some recovery, firms are ‘hoarding' labour so are less likely to recruit, though there are some vacancies and so some people do find jobs.
A great deal more is done by JobCentre Plus and others to help with searching for work and with training than in past recessions, so those who are unemployed may be less visible. Unemployment is also quite patchy, with some areas much more affected than others, so churches need to be aware of what is happening in their locality. It may be that a more individual and personal response is needed rather than the drop-in centres of the past.
One way to raise our awareness is through Poverty and Homelessness Action Week, promoted by Church Action on Poverty, which runs from 30 January to 7 February. There are worship materials for both adults and children, including for assemblies in schools at http://www.actionweek.org.uk/. It also reminds us that, as well as those who are struggling financially because of redundancy and possibly facing repossession of their home if they can't pay their mortgage or rent, there are many who face long-term problems of poverty and homelessness only made worse by the downturn.
For whilst in the past decade or so inequality has generally reduced, for the very poorest five percent things have got worse (and for the very richest five percent things have got very much better). Action Week introduces the radical idea (to many ears these days) of ‘Enough for All'. Perhaps from the experience of living in community, Kathy Galloway (former leader of the Iona Community) suggests that sharing is not just about giving away some of our excess, or even what we feel we can't afford, but is about enjoying in common with others. It reminds us of our interconnectedness when everything in our present-day society is about being competitive and individual choice. Competition and choice may appear to work when things go well for us, or when we think we are fighting for survival, but the economic downturn reminds us just how narrow the gap between success and disaster can be and how, in a short time, our fortunes can change.
History shows it takes about eight years to get through a recession, so we are not going to bounce back any time soon. This might give us pause to ask if the ‘me first' ways of consumerism, which can never be satisfied, really are the right ways of living or whether our wealth is to be found in a deeper sharing with God and our neighbour - and how we might change our economy to reflect that.
Phillip Jones, Team Leader of Faith at Work in Worcestershire