Monday, August 11, 2008

Perspective in two seconds

Elaine Storkey's "Thought for the Day" on Radio 4 caught me by surprise. I was driving somewhere and waited for the usual bland thoughtfortheday platitudes to wash over me, but was surprised when the message was different from the standard 'on the whole it's better to be nice' and 'being nasty isn't a good idea' excercises in S.B.O.* which are their standard fare. Storkey, who is the President of TEARfund spoke about the 'economics of enough' - and the text of her talk is here.

Two things have made me unable to forget Storkey's talk. The first is that during the summer, one of our church members was inspired by it to research the area further and base a service around it, adding not just a lot more facts, but biblical and theological reflection on it too. The second is that I have just discovered a website which brings a sense of perspective to these issues in two seconds flat. The Global Rich List is a simple but effective little device. You type your income and currency in, and the graphic shows you where you are in the world's wealth ladder. The results, although I suppose predictable, are a quick and shocking restoration of perspective at a time when accelerating inflation, rising taxes, fuel, food and utility bills and falling assets, make us overly concerned with our own margins at the expense of the bigger picture.

So try it - click here and see where you fall in the world's rich-list, it takes about 2 seconds.
* stating the bleedin' obvious


His Girl Friday said...

Well, I took the test, but really it was a no-brainer! We are very spoiled here in the land of UncleSam. Even our poor live better than those elsewhere in the world, who do not even have government subsidies.

When my hubby and I returned after 4 month work/holiday abroad, we had worse culture shock coming back home. (at all the waste, the multiple overwhelming choices in the food stores, and all the extravagance)

It's easy to fall into the me, myself and mine category with regard to life, and have tunnelvision with regard to the world's woes. However, to throw money at a problem (or should I say enrich the despots in control, ie Africa), or leaving work to live poor (to assuage guilt) doesn't help either.

This does cause me to be thankful for what I do have, and to try to live modestly.
As far as helping others abroad, we've enrolled in a program called KIVA, which helps those in other countries by loaning them money to start a business. The link is on my blog, lower left corner.

good post, and it will cause me to rethink my grumbling when the early morning alarm wakes me up for my day's work! :)

Endlessly restless said...

Scary stuff.

The first large number showing how far down the rich list we were was both disappointing and reassuring at the same time.

The second small percentage of where we sit in relative terms was stunning.

Stumpy Greenisland said...

Actually, at one level I think we should 'throw money at the problem'('his girl friday'). I am (as that cunning little piece of webware shows) filthy rich. As a Christian, I think God made me rich for a purpose. And that purpose was not that I should live a compfortable affluent life (though by any standards, I'm afraid I do). It was that I should give what I've been given to help others. I'm ashamed to say how bad I am at this. And being 'ashamed' or feeling 'guilty' are not intrinsically bad things when one in fact does have something to be ashamed and guilty about!

Indeed I feel that THMs blogspace is a proper venue to release some of my doggeral on some unsuspecting readers:

The Damned Evangelicals

Middle Class Evangelicals
With our middle class ways
Spacious house in the suburbs
And a comfortable pay

We turn up at our churches
In our Audis and our Mercs
And thank the Lord that he has blessed us
With health, wealth and added perks

Our bond of course is simply
That we are one in the Lord
But with working class believers
We do get rather bored

We cannot chat to them
About wine and shares and stocks
Grammar school education
The frightful cost antique clocks

The third world concerns us
Oh yes, we really are distressed
To see famines and destitution
Half of Africa in a mess

But no, we can’t afford to give more
To such people in there plea
Because a new church hall needs erected
Do you think they’ll name it after me?

A life so full of our selves
Leaves Jesus at the door
But I hear he still has friends
Among the losers, drunks and whores

That Hideous Man said...

Yes Stumpy, what a tragedy it was that McGonagle died too soon to perform at Live Aid...

His Girl Friday said...

oh what a pity to be sure
very little in the bank
should I haver on or be quite frank
it would be a lure
that I should donate for the puir
but the programme's administrative costs look quite dank

oh well, there you go...

whether a fiver or five million in the bank, I still wouldn't 'throw money at a problem'.
However, I most definitely have and will 'invest money into a solution'! ;D
(liked your poem, unfortunately too true :()

steg said...

stumpy 'As a Christian, I think God made me rich for a purpose.' Do you believe in a God who is that interventionist? And did He therefore make others starvation-poor for a purpose? Surely the injustices of the world are man made?

Vlad said...

While it’s true that a measure of simplicity is essential for anyone aspiring to a spiritual life it worries me that if everyone decided they were going to live simply and give up consuming the result would be a massive fall in the demand for goods and services leading to mass unemployment. Most people’s income depends on the fact that people buy things. There may be a down side to the consumer merry go round but stopping it going round might be worse. If anyone can explain an economic solution to this I would be grateful. Mind you, it’s academic as millions of people used to soft beds are not voluntarily going to change to a hard one.

Incidentally, the title of the Bard of Greenisland’s versification sums up my feeling entirely. I’m not sure he’s right in saying that the rich are made so in order to dish out to the poor however. I suspect the experience of Cuba might provide a few answers to all this. (That’s the country middle class evangelicals and their representatives have been trying to destroy for years).

That Hideous Man said...

Vlad, your 1st paragraph perhaps illustrates the importance of fair-trade at a personal level and trade justice at governmental levels.

Perhaps our spending patterns should increasingly favour suppliers who distribute profits all the way back in the supply chain, which promotes justice, rather than those whose operations perpetuate the status quo.

Last year our church young people took the service. They talked about slavery and liberation. In their presentation they talked not just about the personal slavery to sin and emancipation in Christ; but also of economic slavery, focusing on the plight of workers in the chocolate industry. Non-fairly traded chocolate appears to be amongst the least ethical purchases it is possible to make!