From a Tolerant Society to one with underlying Racism is 30 years: The Curse of Individualism.

A recent Report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission called Healing a Divided Britain written in the light of the Brexit vote says that the spike in racist hate crimes since that vote has revealed how entrenched racial inequality is in British Society. The report reveals how there are still massive gaps in equality in pay, in progress in work and in attitudes towards people who are from Ethnic Minorities. It also shows how much the tolerance and acceptance that once we were proud of as a Nation have evaporated in the past 30 years. So what has caused this cultural shift and how have we found ourselves in this unhappy and worrying place?

The rise of Capitalist and Monetarist policies under Margaret Thatcher and consequent Governments, both Tory and Labour, has led to the idea of the Individual before Community and Society. More and more people now are concerned with what is best for them as individuals and not about the effects on wider society. Whilst this has led, in some cases, to a liberalisation of personal rights it has also caused a mistrust and hatred of those who have different needs, views or thoughts. Capitalism at heart is about individual gain and lacks the desire or thought for anyone else, basically “If I’m alright the to hell with the rest”. Anyone seen to challenge that view is seen as a threat and must be treated with hostility.

So despite the best designs and desires of many to have, equal pay between men and women, the gap in pay has not shortened, at least not at the top. People of different ethnicity are often treated with disrespect in the work place and are not always on equal wages, and certainly don’t get the same opportunities in career progression. The rise of migrant workers into this country has maintained that inequality, because as many will take lower wages here in the UK because they are higher than where they have come from, there is no true desire to pay them the Real Living Wage. This is also coupled with the often atrocious living conditions they are forced into.

Worst still it has bred a society that sees “us” and “them”, which instead of embracing difference and used difference as a means of diving and separating. People get labelled as “immigrants”, “Muslims”, “scroungers” (all seen as negative in the way they are used). They get accused of “stealing or jobs, benefits and homes”. They are seen as being “beneath us” as “lower” as “bad”. Intolerance becomes rife.

Where once we embraced different cultures, faiths and beliefs now these are all seen as “dangerous”. The great Cultural Heritage we have as a Nation is built on those who have become part of our society over the Centuries from else where. Not one of us is fully “English” or of “pure Anglo-Saxon blood”. We are all, in the word of Billy Bragg, “English, half-English” and that is what makes our Society so wonderful. We need to re-embrace our roots and heritage, we need to return to being the tolerant, loving and caring Nation we were famed for being. We need the rejection of prejudice so we can live in a Society of togetherness, hope and love. In short we need to try to build the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Selfish Greed.

List-mania: How “High Fidelity” changed the world.

In Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity lists are everything. Tapes are made of favourite albums in genres to fit situations, the books central character lives in a world where his own “best of’s” speak about him, his circumstances and his life. The book was an instant smash hit and bestseller, probably because Hornby tapped into the way many men think, but also because it tapped into the way many women perceive men too. What happened next really was down to the internet and the proliferation of Social Media accounts. Suddenly there was a means where people could write up their Top tens, in any genre, in any area of interest. They could “post” them, “share” them and argue over them. Whilst this makes men ecstatic it also seems to appeal to women too. Its wonderful when people share your passions, agree with you but it’s also great to start a debate that can rumble on for ever!

Magazines have latched onto this as a way of turn around flagging sales and also of getting people to log onto their websites and electronic editions of their publications. Classic Rock, for example, not only does a yearly article on the best of’s in genres but also every day publishes links to the best of by a certain band, in a genre, or by a musician. It enables them to get many hits on their site and also enables them to encourage people to sign up for their e-editions of their publications. Music companies love them too, as they often boost sales in an artists back-catalougue too. It has become a marketing tool like no other.

So what does this say about all of us? Are we now wrapped up in a world of lists, are we identified by our suggestions, postings and responses? Have we become so addicted to the idea of the list that we cannot see beyond them, or see ourselves in anything but how our lists show us? Or, worst of all, have we al got sucked into the cleverest marketing tool of the 21st Century?

For the record, I believe it shows our humanity. Through what we like, and don’t like, for that matter, we show our individuality but also we see who we relate too the most. Sometimes people’s list also open our eyes and ears to new things and enable us to discover more in our world. Certainly what we post is monitored and utilised by those in marketing to try to encourage us to buy or tap into products but that isn’t always a bad thing. It is good to show and share our thoughts, its good to argue, in a friendly way, the merits or not of the things we like. I also think its good to be able share the good things in life with others, be they art, literature, music, film, tv places to visit, beer or wines to drink, the list is endless. God created us to share in the great things in his creation and also in the creativity and beauty of our fellow human beings. So, don’t be afraid to share what you like, or to encourage others to do so, because in so do you are helping us all celebrate and enjoy God’s wonderful gifts to us all.

Corbyn: what the careerist politicians don’t get!

“He’s unelectable”; “He’s too left-wing”; “He’s a Trotskyite”; “He didn’t do enough during the EU Referendum”. All the lies, misinformation and base-less nonsense made by people within the Labour party about their leader, a man who had the highest mandate in an election to win the leadership that has been seen for almost half a century. A man who has built up the membership of the Labour Party from near fatally low numbers into a proper “movement”. A man who speaks the language of the people, who uses real people’s issues and questions at PMQ’s and a man who did more mileage during the Referendum campaign than any other politician, including the then Prime Minister. Not to mention the increased majorities and votes for the Labour party in every election since he became leader.

So why do they hate him? Is it because he’s popular with the people, and they are, therefore jealous? Possibly. But more likely it’s because he shows a way forward that is counter to the culture in the Houses of Parliament. He actually works, he actually has convictions, he’s not about trying to make himself visible he’s about trying to make people’s issues and needs visible. He is passionate, honest and truthful. None of these things matter in modern politics where self-preservation and self-interest come first.

But, they say, he was “trounced” my May at PMQ’s! Was he? I watched in sadness, horror and disbelief as the Prime Minister refused to answer one of his questions, but rather mocked and avoided saying anything real or of value. As she mimicked Thatcher, a women who ripped the heart out of working class communities, she showed a complete lack of respect for the needs and the problems of ordinary people. As a Christian is horrified me that all she could do was act like the bully in the play ground rather than show dignity and reality. However, her disdain of Jeremy Corbyn showed one thing: The Tories are scared of him. If they weren’t they’d want him to remain as leader of the opposition, as a weak leader would serve them well. But they want him out because he is a very real threat to them.

So Labour MP’s wake up and smell the coffee! The people actually like your leader, they hate your lack of respect for him and them. They are your people, listen to them because they know Jeremy does! Let’s make for a real politics where issues, convictions and beliefs are what matters. Let’s try to make this country work for the majority not the advantaged few. The Kingdom of God is for everyone, wouldn’t it be great if our Country was too?

Doubt and Certainty – reflections on St Thomas, Brexit and Faith.

“Faith is more about doubt than it is about certainty” (Philip Brent, 3rd July 2003). That is the closest I have ever come to having an original thought, and perhaps the closest I’ve ever been to being profound. However, its true! If everything was certain, if there were no questions, no doubts, then there would be no need to have faith, no need to trust in God.

St Thomas, whose day we celebrate on the 3rd July, is often labelled “doubting Thomas” for his unwillingness to accept Jesus’ Resurrection based on the testimony of his friends. Thomas wanted to be sure, he wanted to see for himself. People see his doubting as a negative, “The others believed so should he!” But actually I see it as a positive. He didn’t have “Blind Faith” he wanted to know for certain, he wanted to test and be sure. I believe that is the right and good thing to do.

Last weeks vote has left me with many doubts and questions. It has made me doubt my place in my own society, in my own Nation. It has made me wonder if I have been so out of touch with the world around me that I have nothing to say, and no place in Britain anymore. The rise in racist incidents since that vote has only left me questioning my Country and its place in the world further. How can the country I love, with its democracy, its love of equality, its generosity of spirit and heart, its positive support of the down trodden and disenfranchised be turned into a Nation of inward-looking, xenophobic racists? I have also doubted my own place in that country and whether I should be serving and trying to speak to such a world. Aren’t I out of touch and irrelevant to such a world?

However, the bile and hatred, from both Remain and Leave voters on Social media has made me stop and think. Someone has to rise above all this, someone has got to speak reason, someone has got to strike a note of calm amidst the storm, especially for the silent majority. Many people I know, many friends in fact, Voted Leave and not one of them is ignorant, not one of them is a Racist. Many of those who voted Remain, like me, have not got involved in name calling, in demanding a recount or a re-vote, we have accepted the democratic decision, and know we are all going to have to work really hard if we are going to salvage a future for our Nation. It has also made me realise that the place of the Priest in the Parish is not to engage in the mud-slinging, but rather to stand strong in the face of the prevailing winds on the world. We are called to be counter to the culture of the day, to challenge the world to return to God, a God of Love, Hope and Faith.

So whilst I have doubted my place in the world, and the place of the Church in the world too, my doubting has made me see that place more clearly. It has helped me understand that speaking out, in order to draw people closer to the Kingdom of God, is my role. I do have a voice, and I shall use it. Its how we use our voices that counts. There must be a rejection of prejudice, of bile, of hatred. There must be reason and a will to work together for the good of all. Through questioning my faith has become stronger, as it did for Thomas, as it will for you!

Faith, Hope and Love – why I am voting “Remain”.

Much of the campaigns for the referendum have left a nasty taste in the mouth. Both sides of the debate have majored on negativity and fear in their arguments. This has led to a sense of despair about the future of our country and its relationships with the wider world. The Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that  Jesus urges his followers to bring in, is based on Faith, Hope and Love. The “Leave” campaign has built much of its arguments on despair fear and hate, and whilst that may only stem from the extreme right part of that campaign, there is no doubt that they are not builders but destroyers, not just of nation but of humanity. I want to put forwards something far more positive, far more hopefully and, I believe full of Jesus’ love.

Since its early formation the EU has maintained and strengthened the peace in Western Europe and beyond. It is the fact that nations have been brought together, have communicated and have strived to work through difficulties that has been the back-bone of that peace. Whilst some would say that NATO has more of a part to play in this, they must remember that France, whilst always active in the EU has drifted in and our of NATO regularly. NATO does not have the same political basis and all round approach to things that the EU has. Peace can be fragile, we need to maintain the Peace that is God’s will for the world.

I am passionate about working people being supported, cared for and treated fairly. People sometimes forget to realise that until the late 90’s holiday pay was not compulsory, it came in as a result of EU legislation, loosing that right would be detrimental to the health and well-being of our workforce and nation as a whole. The EU has also increased Maternity Leave and pay and introduced Paternity Leave and pay. It is currently striving to eradicate zero-hours contracts so that everyone can receive a fair wage. Looking after the people who work is fundamental to making sure that we can grow as a Nation, a world, it also makes for happier people and a better society too.

I am eternally grateful for the freedom of movement in the EU and the fact that it has allowed many hard-working people from around the EU to save some of our major industries and services from failing. Without foreign workers in the NHS and already creaking service sector would have failed, and we need a strong NHS. My father has worked all his life in the Pig Industry, without foreign workers that industry would have failed as would much of the Agricultural industry in this country. The support and hard work of many from around the EU has kept our economy going in recent years. Whilst some would say “yes, but the are paid wages we can’t afford to live on and so are forcing us from work” I would point to the prices in the Supermarkets, if you want cheap prices, then how can our farmers afford to bring that food to our tables. It’s not the EU that is wrong here, it’s the monetary system we use.

I am voting remain because I believe in Faith, Hope and Love. I am voting remain because, although the EU is flawed, it is our best means of maintaining peace, of helping our workers get the support and help they deserve and need. I am voting Remain because I will not give in to Hatred, to Fear and Despair. I love my neighbours and I welcome them wherever they have come from, because we are all God’s children, all equal in his sight and all deserving of equal love.

Myth Busting about the Church of England part 1!

Most people know that the Church of England is the established Church in this country. They know it, therefore, has a major part to play in the life of the nation from Coronations to Civic Celebrations, through praying for the nation in times of war and peace to taking an active role in Parliament (Bishops sit in the House of Lords). If there is something that involves the Nation as a whole, whether in celebration (like the Queen’s 90th Birthday) or in mourning (like the Death of Princess Diana) we, the Church of England, are involved. We do the same thinks, on a lesser scale in every Parish community.

Perhaps because we are so involved in the life of the Nation many people think that our role as the established Church is funded by the state. There is the widely held belief that all our Church buildings, many of which are old and need much work to keep them going, along with the Stipends (salaries if you like) of the clergy are all paid for by the state. This idea is probably not helped by the fact that in Germany there is such a thing as a Church Tax which you have to pay if you want to have a baptism, wedding or funeral service in a church. However, none of this is the case with the Church of England. Clergy pay, the maintenance of Church buildings and the training and support we get to run and guide our churches is all paid for from the generosity of those who give to the Church. A Church like St Guthlac’s Market Deeping costs nearly £90K to run each year, and that rises as costs increase. Without the generosity of those who attend, without the support of generous visitors we’d be in a right mess.

The other major misunderstanding is that people don’t realise that we are a Charity. The Church of England as a whole is a Charity as are each and every individual parish too. Like any other charity we rely on the good will of those who attend to pay our bills and cover our costs. As a charity people can, therefore, “gift aid” any donation, all regular giving and any generous benefaction they give to the Church. If every tax payer who gives to the church did this then we would get an extra 20p in every £1 given to our Church. I am sure we all reconsider our giving to other charities perhaps its time to do so to our local Church of England Church too.

The worst myth about the Church is that it is one of the richest organizations in the Country. However, the Churches wealth is asset rich but cash poor. All our buildings are worth a lot of money but we cannot sell them off, we need them to maintain our presence within our communities and for the worship and life of those communities too. The Church has very little expendable cash, it remains reliant upon us, the generous givers, to keep running. I am about to reconsider what I give to my favourite Charity – St Guthlac’s Church, Market Deeping, please will you reconsider what you give to your local Church too?

John Lydon – mischevious elf or Prophet of Doom? A review of PiL’s concert at the Engine Shed Lincoln.

Much has been said about John Lydon (aka Jonnie Rotten) over the past 4 decades, much of which he would describe as “b******s” or worse. His band Public Image Ltd (PiL) have returned in the past decade with some wonderfully powerful and effective albums and have certainly got their Mojo working. Their latest album “What the world needs now…” is a fine blend of thumping rhythms, righteous anger and crude humour. Lydon himself saying that one thing that they have re-engaged with recently is humour, they are able to have a laugh at themselves and the world.

This humour was evident in the set from the gig last night the opening number being “Double trouble” which open s with the lines “what are you f*****g nagging again about what? What? What? The toilets f*****g broken again…” all delivered with that impish grin what Lydon is so famous for. Yes, many of you will find that offensive and actually its supposed to make you laugh, its ridiculous and yet echoes many a domestic situation. The song also includes one of my favourite lines in recent years “Domestos is…domestic bliss”, why because it is so banal and yet funny for all that.

Lydon’s presence throughout the gig is memorizing, now at the end of his 50’s he isn’t as mobile as he once was but every hand gesture, every arm movement is made to count. Despite the thumping rhythms throughout and the dervish-like playing of Lu Edmonds it is impossible to take your eyes of Lydon, a true frontman who holds the audience in the palm of his hand. He doesn’t say much between songs but what he does say is full of humour and cheeky chastising of the crowd.

But beyond all this, especially the humour, there is something more serious going down. As the band thunder through songs old and new (including a wonderful electrified and fuzzed up Bazouki led “This is not a love song”) there is something of a call to arms, or anger at least. Lydon barking and accusing as he wonders when we are going to take our country back from those who tell us what to do without caring for any of us. During a wonderful “Warrior” he urges everyone to denounce the powers that be and rants about being not allowed to smoke or drink or… Then there is the 15 minute bone rattling attack on organised religion where he proclaims that the only evil are priests and religious leaders. This isn’t a man who is anti-God but anti those who use God for their own gain. The band then end the set with a wonderful version of “Rise” with the whole audience bellowing its chant “anger is an energy”, a call to arms that we should all rise against prejudice and not lie down and take what we are being dealt.

The evening is not yet over 2 encores – “Burn, Babylon, Burn” and then “Shoom” a song full of expletives  proclaiming modern life is all “b******s” and its chorus of “What the world need now is another f*** off”. All seemingly impish humour but actually reminding us that when punk burst on the scene its purpose was to enable a disenfranchised youth to stick two fingers up to the prevailing winds of society. It seems Lydon and PiL wish us to regain that desire, to stand up, to use “anger as an energy” and to say “F*** off” to politicians and those who oppress. So, yes he has that impish, elvish mischievous edge but he is also trying to be a prophet for our times, calling us all to have a voice. There is one issue though, has his day come and gone, can he really rally us? Looking at the crowd, a mixture of aging punks, middle-aged and, mainly, middle-classed folk perhaps not. However, my son wasn’t the only teenager present, youth and anger was still present, so who knows. I’d like to think this prophet of the late 20th Century still has enough about him to help us all Rise and have a voice. The gig energised me – catch them whilst you can!