i always like the end of year and start of the next as a moment to pause and reflect. in fact tonight as a family we'll do that together round the meal table. whilst sometimes i focus on moments, films, music and the like (and i may well yet do that) it's impossible to reflect on 2011 without the first thing that springs to mind being the global revolutions of the arab spring with the toppling of regimes with more yet to come, and the financial challenges and shake ups going on in so many countries.
for me 2011 has felt like a wake up call, a huge reminder that the paradigm of liberal capitalism or whatever you want to call it runs on a logic that turns out to be an illogic - an illogic that panders to the wealthy and big corporations and leaves the poor washed up. the injustices in the system have got so glaringly huge fueled by greed that the whole thing appears to be at some sort of breaking point. i feel like i have got angry this year about this in a way that i haven't for quite a while. i am ashamed to say i had got used to things as 'normal' and become numb and blind to my own co-optedness even though i've never thought deep down that capitalism is a good way to run a country.
let me give two examples of this illogic - one which i have raged about already is the whole huge bonus culture in business and banking - how can it be logical to pay an individual 8 million pounds or whatever - it's an illogic! another is the revelation recently that the amount corporations have been let off of paying taxes after having lunch with the tax man adds up to 25 billion pounds - yes you read that right - 6 billion for example for vodafone. welcome to corporation tax avoidance whilst paying big salries and bonuses - the illogic of our version of capitalism!!!
to be awoken, to grieve, to get angry and to begin to dream of other possibilities has to be a good start. thank you to those who have protested in the likes of the occupy movements and those who have laid down lives in regimes of oppression to say enough is enough! here's to the to the poets, prophets and dreamers. i have changed the banner of my blog for the first time in a few years. this is so that every time i look at the blog i am going to be reminded that another system, another paradigm, another worldview, another way, indeed another world is possible.
i have been reading adbusters big issues of 2012 magazine which i thoroughly recommend. there are several articles online but is really worth getting the whole edition. the editorial laments the way that there has been a conceptual drought and calls for imagination. it's the first edition i have read for a while and i found it refreshing. there are some excellent articles such as this one on democracy by hardt and negri where they reflect on democraic constitutions and why the foundations on which they are built are insufficient, and begin to suggest some ways forward. they conclude with this...
To confront these issues, we, along with many others, have proposed possible initial steps, such as establishing a guaranteed income, the right to global citizenship, and a process of the democratic reappropriation of the common. But we are under no illusion that we have all the answers. Instead we are encouraged by the fact that we are not alone asking the questions. We are confident, in fact, that those who are dissatisfied with the life offered by our contemporary neoliberal society, indignant about its injustices, rebellious against its powers of command and exploitation, and yearning for an alternative democratic form of life based on the common wealth we share – they, by posing these questions and pursuing their desires, will invent new solutions we cannot yet even imagine. Those are some of our best wishes for 2012.
i couldn't agree more. i am so glad there are people dreaming a different dream. it's interesting soaking myself into adbusters after a while away from it. one of the challenges with this kind of rhetoric when the world is actually shifting away from just protest to genuinely needing new paradigms, is where are they to be found?! what is a vision for running a society in a different way? i confess i was a bit surprised by a few articles suggesting a new sort of communism - i know zizek is all the rage in these circles - but really?!
the article that i found most interesting of all was fear of flying by darren fleet. in this he dares the left to take a look in the mirror and suggests a creeping truth that
activism has become a mask for spiritual and character rot, that we have erected a progressive facade to cover the worst of our denials... if behind closed doors we cannot be free what possibility do we have of offering anything to our world?
and later in the article...
We have all seen it. Maybe we are even these archetypes ourselves. The close-minded open-minded person. Well versed in emancipation and cutting edge lefty rhetoric but altogether intolerable, anal, pedantic, arrogant, rude and fully convinced they know what is best for society. Or the idealist who hops from cause to cause, virulently condemning a belief they wholeheartedly embraced only a short time ago, trying to convert you to direct your energy toward the latest paradigm. Or the usual suspect protesters manifesting a collective oppositional defiance disorder against anything and anyone representing vague concepts of power. Their own lives might be in shambles, without spiritual relief, entirely unable to define their action beyond a sentence, but that does not matter to their leaders. What has become tantamount in activism today is collective, organized action, however weak, regardless of the motivation or the emotional/spiritual source of that action. The left must have more to offer than this. It needs the righteous confidence of the right without the pride and arrogance. It needs the confidence of Evangelicals and the commitment of Islamists without the delusion and apologetics. It needs emancipation. It needs a newfound spiritualism that places a premium on personal enlightenment and monasticism. It needs, in a word, liberation.
wow - an article that looks to the power of transformation through attention to one's own soul - a new found spiritualism and monasticism even gets a mention! i really think there is some wisdom here. we need a new kind of leadership that has deep integrity at its heart.
where will you look for answers in 2012? i confess reading adbusters helped me realise i am more convinced than i have ever been in my life that a good place to start is with the astonshing person and prophet jesus christ. if only i can and i suggest we need communities who can (because individualism is part of our illogic) live and embody a life that follows in some measure the vision and values of another kingdom that he imagined, spoke and demonstrated. i still don't see too many other places to look.
if you want a take on jesus life to get you started for 2012 try luke johnson's commentary on luke-acts prophetic jesus prohetic church which is totally brilliant, one of about 20 books i have meant to review on the blog and not got round to! there's an excerpt here if you want a flavour.
may 2012 be a year in which you experience being woken up and your imagination enlivened to dream that new worlds are possible.
may you pursue that dreaming together with others in conversation, around meal tables, in bars and schools and workplaces and blogs and communities and churches.
may you create in response - a new life, new art, new community, new politic, new humanness, a new way to live.
and may you find friendship, kindness and inspiration from jesus the prophet
happy new year!
Yes! Great way to start year, thank you Jonny!
Posted by: rich | January 01, 2012 at 01:33 PM
Maybe a very simple, but symbolic, place to start would be with the grotesquely large lottery prizes? Because, at the moment, it seems like everyone who buys a lottery ticket, however poor, is giving the message to the corruptly rich that most people approve of obscene wealth and would like to acquire it for themselves. A people's petition to drop the maximum prizes down to a year's average wages might be a tiny drop in the vast ocean of political activism, but could perhaps send a powerful message about common values around wealth? The whole system does seem to be a self-contradiction in terms of where the funds from ticket sales go and what happens when someone wins.
Posted by: Kath | January 01, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Yep - Jonny this is why I was so disappointed that the Anglican Church on both sides of the pond blew off the Occupy movement who wanted to inhabit their space. What a missed opportunity to engage with these seekers and see where the spirit is flowing.
And concurrent with this, I see a very negative spirit here in the US trying to revert back to this crystalized 1950s era civil religion that never really existed except in TV land - the word "unity" is being used too often as a cover for "be nice" all the while ignoring the way too many Christians deal with the least of these.
Posted by: Becky Garrison | January 02, 2012 at 06:00 PM
Indeed. May it be for many, including you and the family, as you hope in the closing section of your post. Really appreciated this two part post. Happy New Year. All the very best for 2012 Jonny.
Posted by: Paul Fromont | January 03, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Thanks, as ever, Jonny. It really does seem like we're in the middle of a deeply disruptive moment, where need to seek our where the Spirit is and join in...otherwise face being left behind as the church so often has been.
I'm with you - communities orientated around the captivating character of Jesus and living out his kingdom are the answer. I'm certain of this too.
Posted by: Martin Thompson | January 03, 2012 at 08:06 PM