Changing the Healthcare Conversation

Here is a slightly impassioned stream of incomplete and imperfect thoughts about the future of healthcare……I hope it stirs some conversations……

Independence?

imgresAs a family, we were down in Sussex over the weekend spending time with our best friends. Whilst there, I read a newspaper in which a local baptist minister was giving his reasons for standing as a UKIP candidate in the next elections. His reasons were really two fold. Firstly, he feels that UKIP will will help restore the UK to being a ‘Christian Nation’ and secondly he feels that the UK needs to be protected from a ‘bleak and intolerant Europe’.

Quite honestly, I am baffled! On his first point, my agreement lies entirely with Rowan Williams, who this week stated that the UK is post-christian. That is not to state that the UK does not have many christian principles under-girding its laws and organisational structures, it surely does. But that doesn’t make this a Christian Nation. The UK is, at best, a nation in which the majority of people (still) claim to have have some sort of christian faith, having been influenced by christian values. But to state that the nation is therefore “christian” is confusing to say the least. I mean, how “christian” is the UK? The UK invests heavily in weapons of war and breaks international law to engage in combat with other nation states. It protects the super rich and punishes the poor with a combination of tax and welfare cuts. It partakes in the global oligarchy that is the G8 and wields it power to extend its own interests internationally. It upholds global capitalism, as though it were this form of economics that will save the world, and in doing so is fully complicit in the global slave trade which upholds it. The church, like Jesus is to be the pedagogue of the oppressed, not those who make life more comfortable for ourselves, shutting our eyes to injustice whilst some moral principles feel safeguarded.

On his second point, I struggle hugely with the whole issue of independence, because whatever we may want to believe, we actually need each other. We need reconciliation, not division. We need love, not suspicion. We need gift not greed and we need collaboration not competition. How this is organised institutionally and structurally can be debated well, but to me the entire concept of independence stinks. I need you and you need me. The UK needs France, Germany, Romania, Sweden et al. and they need the UK. Where there are barriers and walls of division, we break them down, we do not create more for the sake of self protectionism – I cannot think of anything less christian!  We are not made for independence, but for interdependence, for community and for relationship.

Sacred Economics – The Trouble With Property

Sorry it’s been a while! I was trying to do a chapter a week of this awesome IMG_1638book and then a few things converged at the same time and conspired to make blogging more tricky than I would have liked. And then, I went on holiday with my awesome wife and children and we had some QT in La Belle France. But, now I’m back and ready to plod on….

We were hoping that Charles might be coming to Lancaster, to speak at the Richardson Institute (a centre for peace studies at the university) in the late autumn, but alas, we cant make it work – but he is in York, giving the Schumacher Lecture, Friday 22nd November and then in Leeds on 23rd. (I’ll be in Toronto…..wooot, but sad to miss him!). Go if you can!

Onwards! This chapter is challenging to the core. The age of separation has reached a fullness of times. We find ourselves in cyclical crises, (so if you were thinking that the mini property boom in London is an indication that it’s back to business as usual, then think again!) and the trauma of this separation from one another, our community, nature itself and the divine have remedied themselves in self protectionism. The tragedy of this logic of me and mine, as CE rightly points out is that we seek to recover our loss by expanding and protecting the separate self and its extension: money and property.

So, the modern concept of property, or the ownership thereof is a symptom of imgresthe sovereignty of the individual. If we claim ownership of that for which we did not labour, the land, the rivers, the trees, the resources of the earth, which are a gift to us, then this is tantamount to theft. It was Marx, and others like him that proclaimed “property is robbery”, as the origin of most property was taken by force – witness most of the United States of America as just one example! It was the rich and powerful who seized the land and made the laws. So if property is robbery, then the laws which protect private property, so CE argues, are those which perpetuate a crime.

But he is not advocating the abolition of private property for three reasons. Firstly because abolition is a forceful imposition on the unwilling. Secondly, private property is only a symptom of the deeper sickness of separation. Thirdly, the problem is not necessarily ownership, per se, but the unfair advantages of having it.

So, what do we do? Sell everything we have and give to the poor? A beautifully radical way to live. Jesus challenged a rich young man to do just that. He couldn’t do it, because he loved his wealth and it gave him a status and position that he held too tightly. I often wrestle with wondering if I am like that man…..But then Jesus also says – to whom much is given, much is required…..

Perhaps if we embrace gift, we understand that nothing we possess is really ours. And so we must ask ourselves how we steward that which we have been given, so that it can be given again to the community in which we are embedded. Can our properties become gifts?

Reimagining Money aka Sacred Economics

For a long time I have been convinced that we cannot reimagine the future if we do not redefine our relationship with money. A number of years ago I read a book by a chap called Alan Kreider in which he was talking about how we foster community. He said that the sad truth is, until we’re able to talk about money in a free and open way and sort out our finances, we can never truly learn to be community.

Since the financial crash of 2008, I have been fascinated to watch the unfolding interplay between the banking sector and the ‘political elite’. We suffered a massive earthquake, the after shocks continue and serve as a warning that more disaster is on its way; but we have an hilarious situation in which the politicians tell us that by some weird combination of printing more money, tightening our belts or spending more (depending on who your finance minister is!), punishing the poor and ‘regulating the banks’, whilst bailing them out, we  will somehow recover from this trauma, so that we can continue business as usual. But it is business as usual that caused this crisis and it is business as usual that will lead us back into one.

I have been disappointed by the lack of alternatives discussed in the public political arena. In my mind, it matters very little which party is in power, as the general direction of all of the current alternatives is towards future growth of the economy with more of humanity and the earth itself becoming fodder to the ever hungry machine. Here in the UK, the conservatives tell us that austerity is the answer, and we must particularly blame the ‘feckless poor’ for the mess we are in. The labour party tell us that actually spending more is the answer, but the responsibility must lie with the ‘greedy rich’. The liberals are lost at sea and seem to have forgotten what liberalism is, (at least for a while) and then UKIP arrive to offer the ‘heroic’ idea that what we really need is self protectionism, independence and more patriotism. Kill me now.

And yet, we remain in an amazing moment of anomy, in which many, the commons, the multitudes are undeniably calling into question meaning and purpose at a profound level. We are at the fullness of what Foucault calls ‘Biopwer’ – the commodification of life itself. And people are sick of it. People are sick of feeling like they are being eaten rEVOLutionup like bread in order to keep the economy going, to keep the targets met, to keep the debts serviced. I see teacher after social worker after nurse after builder after sales person have breakdowns in my consulting room, because they can no longer stand under the rod of their oppressors. I see managers and directors having breakdowns as they realise they are losing touch with their own humanity and for what? Is this what we were made for? Is this the best we had hoped for? But it is in these moments that we must allow the songs of ‘Les Miserables’ to become our own – “Do you hear the people sing, singing the songs of angry men, it the music of a people who will NOT be slaves again….”

There is a sound emerging in our hearts, there is a rumbling in the people, there is a hope rising in our hearts that this dog eat dog world of violence and suffering is not the future we must endure. There is an alternative. There is a possible future of peace and love, but raging against the machine and losing our voices shouting at it may not accomplish very much – at least that is what I am learning! I have ranted to myself and others many times, but what has it achieved? Perhaps a stirring of hearts, perhaps a rising of hope, perhaps a new determination that life can and will be different for the multitudes. But ranting will not suffice, nor dreaming alone. It is time for brave acts, to disregard the powers and to begin to be creative.

But our creativity must be both prophetic and practical, experimental and pragmatic. We call for a new future and we live differently. And so, we must redefine our relationship with money, not do away with it, but refine what we mean by ‘money’ and ‘the economy’. With that in mind, I want to do some blog posts on a phenomenal book I have just finished entitled ‘Sacred Economics’ by Charles Eisenstein. It gives voice to Sacred Economicsmany things I and others have thought about but lacked the understanding or language to communicate. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Charles believes in the creative commons, when it comes to copyright – (check out their website), so I am free to copy passages of his book where that is helpful, but I want to honour the brilliant work he has done. He gives a brilliant history lesson in our relationship with money, how it has led to an age of separation where community is broken down and we have lost relationship with one another and the earth, how we recover a ‘gift economy’ and how we practically move forward to “the more beautiful future our hearts tell us is possible.” I hope the coming blogs are inspirational, encouraging and practical.

The photo “revolution is taken by Tim Pierce. http://www.flickr.com/photos/qwrrty/6209634263/