Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Best Interest

Once upon a time, far, far away, there was a small community who decided to put the wealth of some to the service of those who needed it. Those who had cash invested it in the community, and received interest, while those who needed cash could borrow from the pot, for a manageable rate of interest, and thereby keep loan sharks (and piggy banks?) at bay. As the size of the pot increased, relative to the number of loans being requested, the excess cash was used to purchase property that would give rental income, thus helping to keep the borrowers' interest rates down.

Time went on, and times got hard. But the community's pot of money was not invested in crumbling banks - the people were invested in each other. So although the government guaranteed the banks, the community clung together. Those who were in difficulty could still borrow from those who had chosen to invest in the community rather than the iffier stockmarket and banks.
Then one day, Someone realised that there would be a cost to staying invested in the community. The economic hard times would mean that the investment properties would fall in value, and rental income would fall; as recession deepened, some borrowers would be unable to pay their loans, and the interest made on investments would fall. Someone decided to withdraw their substantial sums of cash from the community and invest it in the banks, guaranteed by the government.

Did Someone know something that everyone else didn't know? Or was Someone just smarter than the rest of the community? Somehow, more and more investors realised that they were financially safer with the banks than with the community. One by one, they took themselves and their money off to a new home, leaving behind them a community increasingly bewildered, beleaguered and short of the means to meet the challenges of the times.

Am I alone in seeing the current difficulties with the Presbyterian Mutual Society as parallel to the Presbyterian exodus from inner Belfast? Those who could leave did. And felt justified in so doing. They were acting in the "best interests" of their family, those to whom they had the most pressing relationship. And in so doing, abandoned their former community to a shortage of capacity for investment and community.

And so, the principle of community and mutuality was lost; the poverty and hurt of those left behind contributed to the instability and violence of a society which damaged all of society for generations to come.

The best interest of those who can choose it is not always in the best interest of their children's generation.

Friday, 14 November 2008

The answers are at the back of the book

Today's Gem: (I found this excerpt in the Northumbria Community's Celtic Daily Prayer )

To a visitor who claimed he had no need to search for Truth because he found it in the beliefs of his religion, the Abba said:

"There was once a student who never became a mathematician because he blindly believed the answers in the back of his maths book - and, ironically, the answers were correct."

- Anthony de Mello, One Minute Wisdom

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

What not to wear...

Trinny and Suzannah, come back, all is forgiven... well, maybe not all... but if we're going to have thought police and style police, at least let someone be getting the good of a few new clothes. I'm conscious that in some minds, the wearing of a red poppy is a sign of conforming to the world as it should be. To others, it is a sign of having bought the lies of the Empire/upper classes/government propaganda...

It ought to be something people do (or don't do) freely, without judging others who do or don't choose to do the same. Yet certain newsreaders aren't scheduled to read the news at this time fo year because it is known they won't wear a poppy. And individuals are put under pressure to wear/not wear one, and potentially risk their job or a bloody nose.

I'm no great fan of some of the thoughtlessness attached to wearing poppies for Armistice Day. I want to ask, "Are you remembering the others who lost their lives too?"
"Are you assuming that the war is just, because it's "our" soldiers fighting?"
"Can we support and remember the soldiers who died and their families, and those who carry their mental and physical scars, whilst acknowledging that others give their lives in what they believe to be their duty?"
In Northern Ireland, particularly, can we learn to remember the cost of war, without pretending that all the wrongs were on the "other side"?

This is about remembering the past, and living with diversity in the present. It is also about dealing with grief and loss. We have to find ways to make room for each other to experience the death and deadliness of war for ourselves; and to protect each other's space to express it as we feel it for now, whilst being committed to hearing and learning from each other.

Our remembering touches who we are at its most vulnerable, and hence most volatile. The Eames-Bradley report into the dirty war of my generation is still to come, and these questions will be all the more relevant in the wake of it. Combine that, the credit crunch and the (actual, if not technical) insolvency of the Presbyterian Mutual Society, to make for a jolly dark 2009.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

White Poppies

I have no idea where the idea came from this year... I had seen a white poppy once, in the eighties, when I was at school, and heard of its being controversial. But it's not the controversy that attracted me. Rather the offering of alternative ways of living - ways which are peaceloving and acknowledge the messiness of war, the impossibility that the right be all on one side.

Chatting to Hubby last week, I mentioned I would like to wear a white poppy alongside a red one this year - but I didn't know where to get white poppies. He gave me one of those "she's off on one again" looks of incredulity.

I knew little of the political background, but felt I wanted to show an alternative to blind acceptance of the militarism that often dominates the right remembering of the war dead.

So I settle down to catch up on my blog-reading, and discover that both crookedshore and virtual methodist are on the same theme this year.


Very odd... and to find myself in such auspicious (suspicious?) company!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

OK. Tonight I'm cheating. This came as spam... or rather, as quality meat disguised as spam! I didn't write it and I don't know its origins, but it does speak something beautiful into my life... Plagiarism? Well, may you enjoy the love...

A son asked his father, 'Dad, will you take part in a marathon with me?'

The father, despite having a heart condition, says 'Yes'.

They went on to complete the marathon together.

Father and son went on to join other marathons, the father always saying Yes' to his son's request of going through the race together.

One day, the son asked his father, 'Dad, let's join the Ironman together.'

To which, his father said 'Yes' too.

For those who didn't know, Ironman is the toughest triathlon ever.

The race encompasses three endurance events of a 2.4 mile (3.86 kilometer) ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile (180.2 kilometer) bike ride, and ending with a 26.2 mile (42.195 kilometer) marathon along the coast of the Big Island

Father and son went on to complete the race together.

Turn on the sound, and watch ...