‘Money – it’s a hit. Don't give me that do goody good bullsh*t.’ (Pink Floyd)
‘When I die, if I leave ten pounds behind me, you and all humanity may bear witness against me that I have lived and died a thief and a robber.’ (John Wesley)
Now that’s extreme. In his lifetime, UK Christian preacher John Wesley is estimated to have earned around £30,000 (roughly equivalent to £1,000,000 today). When he died in 1791, 47 years after having written these astonishing words (above), he was found only to have a few coins left in his pocket. He had given everything away. Wesley believed that to follow Jesus meant intrinsically to use whatever resources God had given him to help others in need. He challenged fundamentally those who believed that material acquisition was a blessing from God to enjoy for their own benefit. As his own income increased, he stayed at the same simple baseline and gave even more away.
I find Wesley’s example incredibly humbling and challenging. I live in a society that is individual-, wealth- and future-orientated. An implicit cultural imperative is that we should each make as much money as we can; both so that we can improve our own quality of life today and prepare for the future, confident that we will have plenty to spend then as now. I once had a long journey home from working among the poor in Cambodia. An intrigued Indian Hindu businessman travelling next to me on the plane confessed in bemusement that he found my work for a Christian NGO shameful: ‘Shouldn’t you be earning as much money as possible to increase your own family’s wealth?’
He had a point. To take care of one’s own family is, of course, an important, universal, human value. Yet, still, our worldviews collide. I find my life inspired by a different ethic, exemplified by Jasmin, a radical follower of Jesus among the poor in the Philippines: ‘Whatever status or power you have, use it for those who are vulnerable; whatever money you have, use it for the poor; whatever strength you have, use it for the weak; whatever hope you have, use to bring hope to those who live without hope. Speak up for justice and truth – whatever the cost. Pray.’ That isn’t about self-righteousness. It’s not a denial of the visceral tug of anxiety and security. It is about choice, decision and stance.
What beliefs, values and principles guide your life? What do they look like in practice?
‘I could hear an inner voice saying to me, 'Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth.’ (Martin Luther King: shot dead for preaching love, equality and peace).
I feel sick. A 16 year old girl. Deemed: enemy of the state. Beaten to bloody death by insecure security forces, the brutal fisted hands and booted feet of a repressed, repressive regime. Her crime – now read this carefully because this is serious: she…burned…a…headscarf. Death penalty. No mercy from merciless leaders who claim so cynically to represent the merciful.
Nika Shakarami. Remember the name. She shines as a bright emblem of resistance and hope, alongside Malala Yousafzai – the 15 year old girl shot in the head for daring, so shockingly, to say: it’s OK for girls to go to school. Remember too: Sophie Scholl, the 21 year old young woman, murdered violently by violent psychopaths for advocating non-violence in another era.
God help us. Please pray.
'What is the true cost of a hoodie?' (Hannah Marriott)
I hate it. She works in a textile factory in South East Asia, more commonly known as a sweat-shop, for £4.50 (US$ 6) per day. It’s long hours in sweltering conditions and arduous, back-breaking work. The little money she earns is barely enough to feed herself and her small children. If she, or they, get sick or injured, they're in deep trouble. With no discretionary income, she would need to borrow from a loan shark to pay for a doctor, medicine, or whatever else they may need. The extortionate fees and harsh interest rates make even the most rudimentary healthcare impossible, out of reach.
The parent company, a well-known global brand, feels pressure from its customers to ensure that its clothing is produced ethically. Most consumers don’t wonder or ask how it’s possible we can buy a t-shirt in the UK for just £5 that was manufactured on the opposite side of the planet. Somebody, somewhere at the sharp end, is paying a heavy price. The company decides to visit the factory to carry out an inspection. On hearing this, the local HR manager calls all the employees, mostly women, together: ‘You will smile and tell them we pay you £10 per day and provide you with 3 healthy meals a day – or else.’
This half-whispered threat is far from idle. The women know that, if they were to blow the whistle, they would be dismissed as soon as the inspectors leave. That would plunge them and their families into even worse poverty, if that were possible, and there are plenty of other poor women outside willing to take their place. All the while, the local managers pocket the difference that the parent company intends for its workers. They wear smart clothes, live in nice houses and drive around in expensive cars. They know they can bribe any official to whom a desperate worker may dare to appeal. Money talks.
Do we care? What can we do? Write to your MP (your political representative). Write to your favourite brand CEO. Check out: Clean Clothes Campaign; Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.
('The Asia Pacific region employed roughly 65 million garment workers in 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the International Labour Organisation. 80% of garment workers globally are women.' Tara Donaldson, WWD)
It felt like something died inside today. The pain, frustration and powerlessness of experiencing a courtroom injustice first hand felt very different to toying with the notion as an abstract idea. The opposing party presented false evidence under oath yet our barrister was unprepared and the judge ruled in the opposition’s favour.
I felt confused, angry, misrepresented, betrayed. It wasn’t only the loss of the case itself, it was something about a loss of innocence, a loss of faith in a system. How could truth and right be so easily swept away by a legal technicality? How could a judge be more concerned about protocol than the rights of an innocent party?
As I drove home, I felt something stirring inside, an uncomfortable awareness of how far I've become numb to other people's experiences of vulnerability and injustice, in spite - or even because of - trying to address them through my work. I'm praying this experience today will inspire in me renewed empathy and greater passion to strive for change.
I'm a psychological coach, trainer and OD consultant. Curious to discover how can I help you? Get in touch!
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