Sunday, 27 March 2011

Economic Stories

These are initial drafts of economic stories that I am considering as the basis for economic simulations that challenge conventional economic thinking.

Committed to the economic system

Josh operates in an environment where he is concerned with balancing his inputs with his outputs. Most often he measures this in monetary terms. In order to achieve things, he needs to earn or borrow the money. Once something is created, he sells it at a price that he hopes will give him money to do things other than those focuses on earning money.

Although he works hard, he never finds the release that he is looking for and he increasingly becomes frustrated with his life. He feels trapped. He seems to have gathered a lot of assets but nothing brings him joy.

Josh's parents were hard working people who provided a stable environment and gave Josh every opportunity to pursue his interests. Josh studied at university and has slowly raised his living standards migrating from a semi-detached house to an apartment in central London. He claims to enjoy the Central London life style but it is more an escape from the pressures of attempting to progress on the economic ladder.

Committed to Service

Michael lives in a semi-detached in the suburbs of London. Michael runs his own training organisation. He operates in an environment where he is looking for ways to utilise his skills and talents. He is not concerned about ensuring his inputs equal his outputs. He probably outputs more that he gets in but he never seems to lack what he needs. He looks to maximise the use of his abilities and resources. He seems to find ways of achieving things despite the constraints that others endeavour to put on him.

For Michael life is enjoyable. He is doing what he enjoys and he is seeing others experiencing joy. He has some assets but only those that he really uses. He is full of life and giving life.

The Prophets Actions

In Isaiah 20, there is recorded the actions of the prophet to demonstrate what would happen to the people if they put their trust in foreign nations and not in God. It is clear that these actions were unusual and caused the people to ask what the message was about

If there are any prophetic insights today then they are either spoken at small gatherings or written in books or journal articles. The prophet doesn't take dramatic action to act out a part of the prophecy. Some protest groups do enact what they see as the consequences of the current direction of policies but these messages are not regarded as prophecy.

I am using this blog to try and talk about how I see things and the direction in which things are moving. The question is whether I would be prepared to act out this message in a public place. Would the leaders and people listen? Very few probably read my blog. It is getting the attention of the people so that they at least know the message has been spoken. This is regardless of whether they hear and understand or respond to it. This is the challenge for the prophet or reformer. Without lifting their message to the public forum, they are simply shouting in an empty room with no one to hear.

This brings me back to 'shalom activism.' With shalom activism, the activist acts to bring shalom to those that they are working amongst. The shalom activist aims to make a difference. Again, the activist cannot make that difference unless they are actively working amongst the people to make a difference. They have to be acting out their faith and endeavouring to practice what they preach.

In this sense, the prophet and the shalom activist share a common purpose and goal. The prophet like the shalom activist seeks the people to live differently so that they and all those around them can experience the wholeness of life.

The new Imperialism

War is about protecting our self interest. It is about doing all that we can to ensure that no one else takes or has what we believe is ours or that we believe we should have control of. If someone or group threatens our security then we will invade and destroy. Even if this destruction involves the destruction of a nation that has only threatened us or we suspect has breed a threat against our security.

We put up barriers to protect personal gain and status. We export our economic, cultural, and political ideals, ignoring those of the nations that we export our ideals to. Economics has become the new imperial building force allied by the notion of democracy. Our status, security, and well-being guide our involvement in the lives of others.

Economics is about the protection of personal status. It focuses on doing all that we can to ensure that we are maintaining and improving our position as measured by financial indicators. Concern for others is secondary to our personal position and status.

As I think of a walk around Woodbrooke gardens, the former home of Cadbury family, I think of the mansion that the Cadbury family lived in compared to the Bournville cottages that they built for their workers. Yes, they cared for their workers but not in the sense of being equals. I believe this continues to be our struggle.

Shalom in contrast seeks wholeness for all. The self moves to the secondary position with the focus moving to ensuring all of creation enjoys the wholeness and peace of God's shalom. There is a willingness to satisfy the needs of others ahead to maintaining personal status or power. Limits on giving are based on personal ability rather than the resources available.

The real contrast is the creativity of self or nation or our ways rather than the centrality of all of creation. Shalom focuses on personal gain, security, and protection of resources.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Shalom Activism

I believe we need some stronger voices that are chipping away at established structures and theories.

When the Power & Peace workshop (Anvil Trust 2010) talk of evangelism, they talk of it being the bringing of good news that makes a different to those that hear it. That difference is to their lives now, not at some future time in an escatological event (pp 18-21).

If we are living out the "good news" then we should be making a difference now. Those around us should be experiencing and rejoicing in the benefits of that "good news." This raises the question of what impact are we making in the lives of those around us.

In the notes, they go on to talk of shalom activism, giving examples where major changes have occurred through peaceful means. At the workshop weekend, we looked at Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and changes in Poland through the Solidarity movement.

I wondered whether these peace led changes have led to greater stability than the military led invasions such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Certainly with these two examples, the military solution hasn't yet produced a solution, and they don't look like producing a solution. A major difference with peaceful solutions is that the military solution never involved the people. It was imposed from outside. Even though they have endeavoured to install democratic processes, the bulk of the people in these nations still see it as imposed by an outside force.

In contrast, the peaceful protests involved the people rising up to stand firm against military force. A very recent example is the protest movement in Egypt that has begun a process to change the government determination process. These movements embarrassed the power structures into surrender rather than overthrowing the power structures. Not every peace led revolution has fully resolved the issues that motivated the protest but most have not had continuing conflict and instability.

Despite the obvious advantages of shalom activism, we see powerful nations continuing to use force to bring about what they believe will be better solutions. This is despite these invading nations having experienced changes brought about by peaceful protest.

There are few "peace academies" or departments dedicated to the research of peaceful solutions. There seems to be room for a movement to make the study of peaceful or shalom solutions have higher priority than research on military solutions including weaponry.

Reference

Peace & Power: Being vocal, political and spiritual. (2010). Workshop - because faith is a journey. Course Notes. Anvil Trust.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Shalom Principles

The workshop notes (Anvil Trust 2010) say that "Shalom is formed from a verb that has as its root-meaning: 'wholeness', 'completeness', 'intactness', 'holistic', 'integratedness' - everything fitting perfectly together" (p 9). The verb 'shalem' "has the sense of - 'to make something complete,' 'to finish,' even 'to make an end of'" (p 9).

This sense of wholeness "emphasises the material side with the sense of 'well being'; people having their physical needs met and satisfied" (p 9). This is for the whole of creation and not only human society. All of creation should be "experiencing completeness, unity, and fullness" (pp 9-10).

My contention is that we can not achieve this form of completeness can not be achieved in an economic system that seeks to balance of input and output, and ensuring a return for all that we have to offer. The Anvil Trust workshop notes don't give this emphasis but there is a repetition of the form "that everything, which shares life with us or has been created for beauty and presence, ...

"enjoys well-being" (p 14),

"experiences justice" (p 14), and

"experiences integrity" (p 15).

This experience of completeness is limited by some ability of that which is created. It is a property of the shalom experience.

Coming back to well-being, the notes contend that "every person should have enough food to eat, clothes to wear, a home to live in, able to provide for themselves and others, enjoy physical health, feel secure - and so on" (p 13). This isn't conditional on the person's ability to contribute or earn. It is what all should experience as part of shalom.

With respect to justice, there "should be just and health giving relationships between individuals and between nations, as a present reality and a future hope" (p 14). Again this isn't conditional. It is what all experience as part of shalom.

With respect to integrity, there is an integration "to the depths of their being, incomplete inner harmony (physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual" (p 15). The notes contend that this is similar to shanti, the Indian culture word for peace.

"Shalom is a declaration of how things should be and it is an affirmation of how things shall be" (p 16). The questions are why don't we have shalom and how can we get there?

Based on current economic principles then I believe we have no hope of ever getting to shalom. It isn't can we afford or pay for shalom. We have the resources. They need to be made available or released. It isn't keep for personal need but rather giving to enable shalom for all.

Rather than seeking to balance books and control distribution, we need to be asking how we can liberate what is already there to bring well-being, justice, and integrity (shalom) to reign through society?

I can only see this happening if we move to a focus that looks to the needs of others and all of creation rather than placing economic management as the highest priority.

Reference

Peace & Power: Being vocal, political and spiritual. (2010). Workshop - because faith is a journey. Course Notes. Anvil Trust.