the current situation of the wealthy elite in our country and indeed even more so in our world is disgusting and something has got to change. at times i have felt physically sick when i have read of the behaviour of the rich in the wake of the 2008 crash in their own sector and their attitude to the poor. i fear if it is not legislated to change by governments in countries like the uk and usa then it is like a pressure cooker that is going to explode at some point.
today oxfam have published a report wealth: having it all and wanting more. this really is saying the same as their october report even it up: time to end extreme inequality, the statistics are mind boggling. the richest 1% own half of the global wealth. their share keeps increasing in the wake of continued governmental belief and practice in deregulation. supposedly deregulation leads to creativity and fredom for enterprise. but it's stark glaringly obvious that deregulation has created a culture of greed and self interest.
we owe it to ourselves to get informed about this. i don't know if it's just me but it seems like there is a rising anger and awareness. even though it's extremely difficult to fuly grasp the workings of (the god of) the market i have recently been helped to understand it by a few things...
supercrash - a graphic novel by darryl cunningham. this is a book yes in pictures that i wholeheartedly recommend.
capital by piketty - last year an economist who did some counting that caught bthe world's attention as it highlighted how inequality was rising but hugely problematic. it's rather a large book sadly so here's a four paragraph summary!
the new economics foundation are an amazing think tank - follow their work. think tanks have been extremely important for the rise of neoliberal capitalism. so it's a relief to find one or two who are doing the thinking on economics out of a different imagination. this paper is very important because it makes the case that inequality does not lead to flourishing in the economy. it's obvious it doesn't lead to flourishing in life as a whole!!!
ann pettifor's work is genuinely brilliant, a prophet i would say - she now works for another think tank - policy research in macro economics (PRIME) - keep an eye on their work.
the book to get your blood boiling but also highlighting so many shocking things about our society in relation to power, money, politics and privilege is the establishment by owen jones - totally brilliant. i can't recommend it enough. i have two chapters to go and will review it then.
i also try and read most things george monbiot writes as he seems to have a pretty good sense of things.
there are also growing numbers of documentaries of the superrich on their yachts and islands and castles and palaces and private estates living in their own bubble. honestly sometimes it's like watching a james bond villain - epstein and his island for example - just hideous. is it going to get to the stage where they build their own armies to defend their stuff from the rest of the world???!!! that seems to be the way it's heading.
what can be done? a lot actually! it's not hard to work out that you don't have to run society this way. we need to manage the financial sector to address it's immoral greed and that needs international as well as national involvement. it also requires separating the vested interests of the rich from government - it's all too cosy cosy. we need jobs for all and invest that way including reducing inequality. we need fair taxation that hugely shifts inequality and invests taxes in arts, education, welfare. simple! who in politics has the courage to do it? oxfam and others all have theior own take but essentially it's in this kind of direction. i don't hear a lot from the main parties. they seem afraid. who is going to rise up and have the courage to make a better society?
last night i watched charlie brooker's screen wipe 2014. it's a month by month roll through the year with him taking pops at virtually everybody in his perceptive and sarcastic fashion. i laughed out loud several times. part of me wishes he would rant less and shift the tone as i think he has things to say to a much wider audience but i like it none the less... but in the middle of it was an extraordinary five minutes by the wonderful adam curtis who is the most brilliant documentary maker, at least when it comes to taking a helicopter view of the narratives in the wider culture. turns out that that segment is on youtube so take five minutes of your life and watch it.
i've called the post wake up because it's one of a number of things that i have read or watched recently that have reminded me of how much things need to change and i need to wake up and (together with others) imagine and work towards a different kind of world and society than the one we have now...
i was genuinely angry when shell had the audacity to put out an ad making out they are some kind of environmental saviours - what a joke! there’s another energy ad at the moment doing the same thing with an overlay of an orangutan. do these companies think we are stupid???!!! so i was delighted to get an email as a member of greenpeace inviting me to contribute to buying an ad in response which was featured in thursday’s papers doing a bit more truth telling!
if you read my tale of two books shops post, the second of my four books that i purchased at the ICA is i admit a little more obscure than rewilding and you may think what on earth inpsired you to buy that?! it is explore everything: place hacking the city by bradley garrett. in it he describes joining urban explorers who hack the city by which i mean that they find ways into adandoned buildings, sewers, skyscrapers, disused underground stations. the study itself is an ethnography - i.e. the author joins a group to particpate and observe their culture to research and document it. this is a brilliant way of getting inisde a culture and it doesn't take long before he is utterly compelled by it. a lot of this hacking is illegal so what grabbed me about the book? here's a few things...
i love the word/metaphor of hacking. i appreciate it has a lot of negative connotations especially since the phone scandal. but the original definition of a hack is a solution to a specific computing problem. this quickly got extended to life hacks - creative solutions to problems in everyday life usually exploring the limits of what is possible. but it is particularly the spirit in which it is done that is interesting - there is a sort of ethos or ethic of sharing, openness, and decentralisation. rather than a world where i do my thing to gain competitive advantage and keep it from you, hacking assumes that information should be shared in an open source fashion so that somone else can access it, take it apart to its component pieces and reassemble to make something new and better or repurposed which is then shared with the wider community to make the world a better place. this it seems to me is a fantastic metaphor for mission or theology or the church - making available liturgies and theology and canons to be creatively played with to come up with new and fresh takes on things rather than as boundaries to be defended and kept pure. but in the book hacking is really about viewing a very different city to the one on offer, finding a different map and route through, levering open cracks in its surface to slip through. it reminds me of the work by french philospoher michel de certeau in his masterpiece the practice of everyday life where he contrasts the strategies in place within a system with the tactics that 'readers' or 'poachers' use to make do, to create an alternative route which makes a different meaning to the one imposed in the strategies.
secondly i love the spirit of adventure in the book. i think the author feels alive and discovers a sense of wonder in the world and the city - he says that the one thing urban explorers all share is "the desire to find adventure in everyday life. this is the central foundation of place hacking". now this may just be the rush of adrenaline but i think it's a bit more. a friend and pioneer student at cms, steve, suggests that the gospel can be understood as a call to adventure and he is exploring that - i think he'll like this book. garrett has this lovely word for moments when everything is right and comes together, of epiphany, of "when the seen and unseen, the possible and impossible, the self and community fuse" - the meld! what a great word - i know i have experienced the meld in silence when i have felt at one with the world, at home in my own skin, in god, at peace. the place hacker is trying to get back a sense of what they have lost - a sense of self, place and community. in this sense it is a sort of spirituality i think. it's also a challenge to the way things are, finding cracks in the world, in the staus quo to squeeze open and to disturb notions of property and ownership - which if any of you are familiar with theories of trickster who is a mythological character who remakes the world through mischief is one his or her ruses. in a world where the commons has been almost totally eroded we need people doing this in my view. one way urban explorers describe this is edgework which again is a rather lovely phrase - i recognise this in pioneers who find the edges, the margins the cracks and dwell there in forgotten spaces with forgotten people.
thirdly i love the photography - wow! i don't think urban exploration began as that but the book is full of amazing photos taken in these spaces in the city. here's one from a crane on top of the shard before it was finished!
it's a wonderful ethnography, a brilliant exmple of getting inside another culture to learn its language and codes as a participant observer. for students of mission it might not be the most obvious story of crossing cultures but is worth a read for that as well.
a couple of months back i had a meeting in westminster and dropped in to church house bookshop as i often do if i'm nearby to see what was cooking in the world of theology and faith. i managed to come out without buying anything which is always an achievement in any bookshop to be honest...
i had a meeting in london that evening and as i sometimes do i went to the institute for contemporary arts which has a great space to sit in its cafe and wifi - the kind of place you can sit for a while and nobody seems to mind. in the entrance is the ica bookshop. i was much less successful in my attempt to not buy books. i came out with four! what struck me about his arts bookshop was the focus of the books. i was so struck by it that i started jotting down titles. i won't bore you with the details but they were on themes like the economy, the future, the planet, identity, culture, the environment, gender and sexuality, how to live in ways that might lead to flourishing (and of course art)... in other words they seemed to focus on how to live in a way that might change the world. this seemed osmething of a contrast with the previous bookshop whose titles were more focused on a church agenda. this is probably grossly unfair and it's not meant to be negative about that bookshop (after all my book was one of the ones on display!!!). rather it was a reminder that artists are exploring and asking questions that are so close to seeing different possibilities for living life. it was also a remider that if you want your imagination sparked you need to get outside of your own area (one of the whacks of roger von oech i believe). and perhaps it was a reminder that in terms of discussion about theology and mission the conversations going on in the wider culture are where we should be hanging out and conversing anyway. i have read two and a half of the books so far and will try and post a review or two (i am also reading a few theology and mission books which i always have on the go so the point of this post really isn't to be negative about those)...
richard passmore offers a very moving reflection on memories of being 16 and that he wouldn't survive today with the latest government proposals on young people which demonstrate
a society that has lost its way, a society of selfishness, greed and power
adam curtis and robert del naja were interviewed last night on bbc 6music by mary anne hobbs. the full interview was aired on stuart maconie's freak zone. it will be up on iplayer for the week and begins at about 44mins in. parts of it were also aired on mary anne hobbs breakfast shows on sat and sun.
one of the questions mary anne hobbs asks adam curtis is are we really free?
in response he suggests that the issue he is trying to explore in the film is how power works, how it pervades our lives - not just through westminster but through popular culture. one of the examples he gives is the feedback loops that are going on around us all the time thorugh computers - you like this so you'll like that. we've probably got so used to it now that we don't think about it. we're continually being given what we liked yesterday.
he suggests that the idea of the film/experience was to pull back like a helicopter to enable people to stop and see this static managed world (what he calls the pervasive ideology of our time). and he then muses whether we are really free?.. we're free to have what they think you like. is that freedom? it's a kind of static or limited freedom where you are stuck in your own yesterday!
i thought this was such a good line - stuck in your own yesterday. it's back to the previous post in some ways - with this approach to reality ideas and possibilities that are new will never emerge - they will be perceived as risky, unprovable, unmeasurable, and a threat. yet when we are stuck precisely what we need is this genuine kind of newness.
[update: thanks to laura for the link to this letter to massive attack and adam curtis]
i have not been able to stop thinking about the massive attack v adam curtis gig that i blogged about here. joel send me a link to a piece which is really interesting in FACT magazine where adam curtis says a bit more about some of his ideas. and he reiterates the theme that really caught my attention which is that we are stuck because
"we have opted to manage the world rather than change the world"
what an extraordinary insight! i think this is true in many businesses, lots of the social/charity sector and the church. we elevate managers and prefer and feel safer with them than visionaries and dreamers in top leadership positions. this may be because of fear of money, the future or simply we want to feel we can control things as best we can. and i also think it is also a really bad habit. shoot me down on this or tell me it's not true - but i am now seeing it everywhere where last week i was used to business as usual!
the article includes the words that were projected at the end of the film which i was trying to remember. they are:
"the future is full of POSSIBILITY"
"IT IS NOT PREDICTABLE"
"YOU CAN MAKE ANYTHING HAPPEN"
"YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD"
"PLEASE FIND YOUR OWN WAY HOME”
i liked his book but never got round to reviewing it - especially the first half of the book and his exploration of the commons and beating the bounds.
loving this year so far for music. bbc 6 music especially gilles petersen, craig charles and mary anne hobbs shows have become weekly essential listens. but the delights of the year so far include the likes of these artists some of whom have albums out, and some on the way
so what are you listening to?
at cms yesterday the pioneer students were looking at culture and identity in relation to englishness which is always a lot of fun. if you've not come across kate fox's watching the english it's a must read for anyone from another culture trying to work out why the english are so confusing! two things people pointed out were @soverybritish twitter account (ht: kim) with gems such as
The unwelcome surprise of someone telling you how they are after you've asked them how they are
Saying you're pleased with your haircut despite the deep inner sadness it's causing you
and this series of posters in the guardian following the ministers rumoured negative advertising campaign to deter potential immigrants from comning to britain which i confess i found hilarious (ht: johnny)!
every year there is a 24 hour get together of people in a region of 5 dioceses in the central south who are involved in theological education. the last few years i've been along and they always manage to find a very stimulating speaker to get conversation started. this year it was graeme codrington of the tomorrow today project who describes himself as a futurist. really what this means is talking about cultural changes in a number of areas and helping businesses, schools, churches and whoever think about the implications. i actually knew graham some years back when he was involved in youth ministry (an area in which people are always interested in the changes in culture of course).
all that is by way of saying that we had a pretty interesting discussion today around this question -
If the old logic won't work how do we find a new logic for the moment?
i had lots of suggestions to make but if you have any thoughts leave a comment!
a second and related quote from mark twain was also memorable
It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble it's what you know for sure…
the creators of the original big chill festival have a new festival nova festival in the south downs from 5-8 july. i don't think i can make it. the big chill festival was bought by a bigger organisation and pretty quickly lost the wonderful vibe of the oriiginal festival so it's great to see something new landing...
i'm heading up to scotland again at the end of june for solas festival which you may remember me blogging and enthusing about last year. the line up is growing. rory butler and adam stearns who i picked out last year as highlights are both back. harry baker (!) is performing, along with the likes of ricky ross. this year i am giving a couple of talks. maybe see you there?
joel is in his final year of graphic design and one piece of work this year was entering the D&AD annual student awards which are in a number of categories. he chose typography for which the brief was to create a series of typographic posters for the ministry of sound nightclub...
anyway congrats to joel for being nominated as best of year for his typeface and posters. the writing is envisaged to be made in neon - i can't help thinking some of these would look amazing made large in a church space. anyone out there ready to commission them?!
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