The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have been ‘having a spake’ about the financial system and its inequities. +Rowan says that ‘the biggest challenge in the present crisis is whether we can recover some sense of the connection between money and material reality.’
Quite so. I first began to ponder these slippery realities while sitting in the sun in a cafe in Greece somewhere around 1970. ‘How could it be’ I asked myself, ‘that the sole visible economic activity in Greece consists of people hanging around cafes either serving or being served fizzy lemonade?’ Yet apart from the baneful presence of the Colonels and their dictatorship, everything seemed to be getting along just fine.
Meanwhile, nobody whose financial well-being is hitched to the SEC could possibly be described as a plutocrat [note the Greek roots by the way – nearly as good at Boris]. But I am quite a supporter of more wealth as a driver of human progress… opening the doors of educational and other opportunity .. the enhanced status of women .. the lowering of the birth rate .. the easing of sectarianism.
But my mind bends at the idea both that money must always be connected to material reality – and equally that it doesn’t need to be. Both seem to have elements of truth and I understand neither. Perhaps that’s why we’re in the mess we are.
I find it easier on the level of values. Aspiration seems to me to be mainly a ‘good thing.’ But its second cousin, envy, is surely not. The desire to create wealth is largely a good thing .. but it is better if the wealth creation is done with a clear eye to the true environmental and human cost of it. Better still if it is used to care for the poor.
Meanwhile I carried out my own researches into the state of the commodity market among the second-hand cars of a Honda dealer in Kirkcaldy yesterday – not, I can reassure you, with an eye to replacement of the faithful Passat which at 166000 miles has plenty of life left. But why would I buy that leather seated, low slung, wonderful-noise-making crumpet-catching supercar which I can’t afford, when I could have this 54 reg, 35000 mile Toyota Corolla at £5999 which I can’t afford. I could have spent time exploring with second-hand car salesman Ken why his job and mine are alike – but I contented myself with, ‘I’m sure you’d give me at least £500 off that for a straight sale.’