The relentless fight for political freedom from the market, a missional response

At the height of the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln gave and address at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 that contained these words. “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”  What we sometimes forget, is that this battle was directly related to the global market system of the time.  The battle in the USA was whether the State was there in the vision of the founding mothers and fathers of the nation to be centred on human freedom, or like many other nations, end up just another expression of an oppressive feudal state where the uber rich oppress the many.  The battle at the heart of this civil war was for the right to enslave human beings as the cheapest form of labour in the growing of global commodities of the time.  Lincoln won the battle, but I do not think he won the war.  Looking back at the USA now in 2020, I think we can clearly see that the market won and civil rights has never been fully delivered in one of the most divided and unequal societies in the world.

What exists now in the USA and now in the UK is economic slavery, maintaining cheap labour with reduced employment and terrible wages.  The Global Market won, and democracy and equality lost out.  We are now all commodified and where human dignity is now in decline.  You could argue that actually there has been a constant state of battle in the Western World ever since the Black death in 1346, when the feudal system and oppressive market society collapsed in the pandemic, as there were too few workers, so that wages and freedoms had to rise to ensure crops and industry were sustained. It was purely economics that drove this social change, and that since then there has been a battle between a society of justice and fairness v a market feudal oppressive system culminating in our current society.  Until recently you could argue the market had won, but now in another global pandemic, will this give us an opportunity again to diminish the power and relentless scourge of the market society? Or will it actually make a more feudalist system more likely to be reimposed? How does the church respond?

We remember that Jesus’ entire ministry happened in the context of the oppression of the Jewish people under the super power of the time, and that included the imposition of an international market system at the time.  It has always been a personal bafflement to me why Jesus did not call out this oppression at the time, other than Jesus being clear about money about fairness and money being of this world in Caesars name. The only hint of challenge to this, are the words of Jesus before Pilate after he had been flogged where he says “I am not of this world’.  Chad Myers helpfully reminds us that the greek here for ‘world’ here is ‘Kosmos’ the same as ‘domination system’.  With this in mind, Jesus is calling out the Roman Empire as a militaristic market society as a domination system and so we Christians, holding onto our understanding of Jesus ‘now but not fully yet’ Kingdom in the context of having to live in a domination system, but not of a domination system,

I want to point out at this point, I am not being an extreme Socialist or Communist, this is the stories of the Gospels and and Letters of the Apostles, and my thought has always been that more conservatively inclined Christians really need to get back the Gospel narrative, as you will be in for a shock!

So how do Christians react to the reality that our market society continues to oppression and now leads to destruction with global warming and ecocide.  Mission has to start with economic, ecological and social justice.  These are the heart of the Judaeo-Christian understandings of stewardship, jubilee and the Kingdom.  We can not idly sit by and see successive governments just continue to oppress people.  What will it take for Christians in the UK to stand up to the oppression of the market and the invisible power of the super-rich as Jesus sides with the unbearably poor?  What will it take to seek a Government that prevents the excesses of the market system by what used to be called a mixed economy?  What will it take for this to be seen by the church to be a missional priority?  It is not just about evangelism , fresh expressions and new ecclesial communities.  like Jesus turned over the market stalls in the temple for causing de-sacralisation, so we as Christians should be challenging and turning over the market stalls threatening the wellbeing of people and the continued existence of our planet.  It is high time that the Christian Church rediscovered it’s calling and historic roots. Now in this pandemic, can we face this calling to prophetic witness and prophetic living.

Is the normal we once knew worth returning to? – 10 Hyperglocal tips for a different future after lockdown

I’m fascinated by the ramping up of the magnificent marketing machine preparing the way for a return to consumerism. Yes I’m looking forward to the freedom post lockdown but if we come out of the situation unchanged I think we need to ask some pretty big questions of our own humanity. It’s great that so many people are considering whether the normal they once knew is worth returning to. There have been a few memes floating around and they are asking the same question in different ways and Russell Brand pretty much hits the nail here.

However what I want to suggest are 10 Hyperglocal tips towards a different future.

Glocal was a term mainly coined in business terms around how to be a global brand that rolls out local variations to suit a local market. Think Macdonalds offering different burgers in different cultures. Later the term was taken up by environmental activists exploring how to address climate change by thinking of the global climate crisis and acting locally. What I mean by Hyperglocal is about both the small elements of activism we can do locally but also share globally through social media networks etc so the first tip is just that:

1. Be Hyperglobal – share your thoughts and small acts of resistance to the normal, that once was, with the wider world. Whether you are a poet, a pray-er, a philosopher, a carer, a doctor, or a nurse, and let’s be honest, the voices of nurses and bus drivers questioning the lack of PPE and dying as a result of their jobs, are some of the most heart wrenching stuff we will ever hear.

2. Be Courageous – call out the bad normal that once was. I love that Captain Tom Moore has raised over £10,000000 for the NHS and I’m not criticising him, but why the hell does the NHS have to be supported by additional charity, not to mention that we have been underfunding the NHS and undervaluing key workers for decades.

3. Be Aware – Take time to respond to the feelings you are having about questioning the normal that once was. Pause and reflect and throw those questions and angst out into the ether of social media, you might be surprised who responds and how this can equip you to move forwards.

4. Be Attentive – Notice the small things. People have talked about hearing the birds in Wuhan or seeing the mountain goats in Llandudno, notice this stuff in your locality and use it to resource your resolve when bombarded by busy-ness on the return to “normal” either by noticing those small things that continue, or their absence when they get squeezed out.

5. Question Language – In fact question most stuff that’s media and marketing related. Already the marketing machine has shifted its message to being “with” you at this time, Amazon boss Jeff Bezos saw his wealth grow by $24BILLION since the start of corona, whilst many of their workers fear for their health, and when the chancellor suggests we need to get the balance between health and the economy, what does that really mean, and what is your local response to all this? Yes we might question the long term economic sustainability if we are trying to return to the normal we once knew but remember that normal was a mirage, so we don’t have to play the same game any more. Research and support different economic possibilities, suppliers and use the questioning of language to help build some resistance to the lies we were once sold and will be re-ramped up as soon as lockdown ends. Indeed we are likely to see marketing messages about returning to “normal” as doing our bit to help economic recovery, when what we really need is a recovery package more like the 12 step programme to challenge our addiction.

6. Help others find a new vocabulary – keep reinforcing the message that the real key workers aren’t the business bosses. Start locally to do stuff that helps by giving the supermarket workers a thumbs up, gifting something to the refuse workers, etc and share your ideas and actions with others. Look for the positives of the lockdown (I know for some this will be easier than others depending in circumstances) and frame your language around this to explain and remind yourself of different possibilities.

7. Act yourself into new ways of being – Learn different ways of doing, behaving and belonging. Do-Be-Do, don’t rush back to the old ways but pause and reflect each time after picking up an old activity to ask if this is needed, helpful, healthy or simply a quick fix to the false normal. Take time to learn how to grow your own food, get an allotment, learn how to meditate, make that career change/move you have always wanted.

8. Live a different rhythm – many people are putting in different spaces into their day to help them cope with the lockdown, time to read, time to chat online with friends, experiment now with what works for you and join online groups or connect with friends to help you keep these up afterward.

9. Keep being Neighbourly and keep volunteering – If the lockdown has taught us anything it has been the rise of good community neighbourliness. From the practical support to simply chatting over fences. We too easily exist in social media echo chambers, but we rarely choose our neighbours, and so they are a great resource for hearing difference. Equally the massive response to the request for volunteers was great, and volunteering is a great way to open yourself up to newness and break out the bubbles you’re in.

10. Be still and Still Moving – many people will have to for a time at least return to jobs they no longer really want to be in. But can we cultivate a stillness deep in our being that will carry us through as we take the steps we need to change to the new normal we might be dreaming of.

Debt Money v. Banked Money – a Gold Problem

This is a post that continues a casual series about debt (here is the previous post).

Most money in circulation today only exists because someone took out a debt from the banking system, which promptly created the money from nothing. The simple way to express this is it is just like giving someone an IOU: If you want to trade with someone and you have nothing you can promise them something in return – so your promise is a debt to the person who gave you something of value in return for your promise. This is the concept of debt money.

Alternatively we can have money that is based on the value of something that is stored away. For example at one stage money used to be issued when you stored gold in a ‘bank’ (a bank being a store where things of value could be kept). Let’s call this ‘banked asset money’ – when you give the money to someone, they effectively become the new owner of the item kept in store.

I’ve commented on the problems of debt – that you become endebted to someone, you owe them and you are therefore controlled to some respect by the need to pay them off. However, most of our money in circulation is based on debt, by holding some money you are either in debt to someone (because the money is a loan) or someone else is (because the money is a loan).

It is my preference to not owe the loan myself, but to hold money that exists because someone else took out a loan and spent it and the money came to me (eventually). Is this a tacit acceptance of debt? Hmmm. I’m not sure that it is, but how about using ‘banked asset money’ where there is no debt at all?

The problem with ‘banked asset money’ is that there are loads of assets sitting in a bank doing nothing! Rather unproductive and inefficient. In this scenario it costs a lot more to have money because of the overheads of storage and the fact that stored stuff doesn’t get very well used.

I just had an email in about gold and the ethical problems of gold production. Much gold is basically stolen from the people of the country that it was mined in and also a lot of pollution is produced to create gold. If you have gold based money you are necessarily causing gold to be mined – as if you mine some gold you can exchange it for money. Using precious things as money tends to stop that material being used for useful purposes as it has an exchange value far in excess of its useful value (value to do something useful).

Most gold spends its time being valuable either as ingots or as jewellery (which has status because of its value) – only a small proportion of gold spends its time being useful – perhaps in electronic goods or dental fillings. (I’m basing this judgment of how gold is used based on this info: which states there is probably 3/4 of an ounce of gold per person and I reckon that an average person does not typically use that much gold for utilitarian purposes – I know that I have some electronics, but it won’t have that much gold in – therefore most gold must be used as a store of value instead.)

If gold is used to back money then we are poorer because it reduces the amount of gold being used for more useful purposes that would make us wealthier (in a practical way).

Storing grain instead of gold isn’t an ideal answer for ‘banked asset money’ either as storing grain has costs, unless you happen to be storing it anyway.

So using asset based currencies aren’t necessarily the right answer to the debt question.

To be continued…

Oil Be Going Now…

Seeing as the price of oil hit a record high a few hours ago (, I thought it appropriate to post an article which I wrote for the new edition of Benchmark Magazine (

Is the trend of man’s entire history about to be reversed? Are we going to start getting poorer instead of inexorably richer?

It is possible that the worldwide production rate of oil may have peaked in December 2004, that our supply of oil is slowing down, whilst our demand for oil is still accelerating. The absolute inevitability of this scenario, whether or not it is actually happening now, demands our attention.

In the UK today our energy use is at about 5KW per person. If we consider our waking day and how much useful work we do, then each of us has the energy equivalent of about 250 people working for us! Now, if the amount of oil available, per person, declines (which it is doing already, due to the increase in the number of people making more use of oil) then we become poorer. This is reflected by the price of oil going up faster than our income.

O.K. – so we’re going to become a bit poorer, so what? Well, whilst becoming a bit poorer doesn’t sound too devastating, it can be to a proportion of society. The norm in times of recession is that there is a decrease in consumer, and business spending, an increase in unemployment, bankruptcies and home repossessions. Decline isn’t pleasantly ordered, it is more a case of the weak being picked off!

So what is our responsibility as Christians? Well, unfortunately our responsibility was evident some 40 years ago or more – we have a responsibility to reduce our energy consumption, leaving more non-renewable fossil fuels in the ground for future generations. Instead we steal their wealth from them, while they are still unborn. Now, it is all the more urgent that we stop and consider the price that our children will pay for our greed.

However, aside from such idealistic hopes of reform, we must continue in our regeneration, where we gain control over our motives of greed and focus more and more on those around us. In our communities today people are living death. Our youth see lives devoted to slaving for their shelter with house prices so high that they are continually giving tribute payments to the older generation of ‘haves’. Let us open our hearts and minds to the injustices that we seem so blind to and give people an understanding of Christ’s love in practical ways that really mean something to them. Perhaps this is through charity, perhaps through fairness in trade, perhaps by sharing and perhaps it is through a change in our own consumer lifestyles.

Pimp my ride

I got my first dose of this MTV show today. Whilst i liked what they did with the cars, the positive use of the word pimp reminded me of a link to the F word site that had a great article questioning the corruption of the word pimp into something associated with style, fashion etc. It reminded me to post the link.

One by One

“Poverty is not so much the absence of goods but the absence of power� Robert Linthicum. We live in a world governed by the powerful, those who have power ascribed to them by the nature of where they live, where they were brought up and the education system. This power base is centuries old, is broadly governed by geography, the power and prosperity of the rich countries has been historically founded on the oppression and pillage of the developing nations. Take for example the Philippines, first conquered by the Spanish, colonialised, then the Americans using the islands for military bases, during which teenage prostitution grew into one of the countries largest industries. Now with differing priorities and cut backs the american military is leaving and being replaced by the new imperialists Taiwanese and Korean contractors setting up export processing zones (Kline).

Yet haven’t things changed people say? Aren’t we in the new age of enlightenment and growing social consciousness? History is a force to be reckoned with and a flow that will not be stemmed easily. In these prosperous countries’ systems and structures have been created that reinforce the status quo and protect the powerful, such as trade barriers, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. It is these systems that are at the root of much of the inequality. Campaigns to tackle them have been underway for many years and whilst globalisation may have given rise to much of the current campaigning, it has also compounded the situation making change harder to achieve. These systems and companies have become huge mountains and walls that will not easily be moved. In her conclusion to No Logo Klein says “with globalisation there need to be some common standards and the governments certainly aren’t setting them� whilst this is the case, the question is where do we start. The anti-globalisation movement has pursued common standards, better employment conditions and fairer trade with some success. However when the issues seem insurmountable and the companies are so vast, we need to examine what is achievable. I have a number of questions which need to be explored and propose that alongside governmental lobbying for common standards ect that an alternative focussed approach based on radical community work theories and the model of community organizing should be adopted.

Continuing the wall analogy. The structures and systems as a vast wall, cemented together by companies many of which are now global brands. How do we take on knocking this thing down, many would say it is impossible. The minority of radicals want to give it a go and have spent a lot of time chipping away at the structures often attacking the high profile brands and whilst achieving some success the majority don’t see these successes. The majority however feel it is too big, don’t identify with the radicals, and say it cant be done. A final minority (often the powerful) fuel the argument it can never be done and protect the status quo. We all know that with enough people you could tackle the big corner stones and may even be able to push the wall down. Community Organising is based achieving change by growing a majority that can redress the power balance and thus tackle the issues. Community Organising would take a brick by brick approach, that with time and small successes can grow and take on bigger and bigger issues. What/ How many would it take on a small company first, giving them the option to trade fair or go out business? Could there be longer term view starting small and gaining momentum through small victories?
One By One.doc