Often times when we make new laws or change old ones, we are not thinking of the consequences unseen up the road. We would do well to do so; even when those decisions or laws are made with the best intentions in mind.
Early on in the UK, a law was brought in to make tenancy of rented housing more secure. The good reason for it was that some people were being put out of their rented house for very little good reason. However, the unforeseen consequences were that for a period it actually created homelessness. People were reluctant to give others a room in their house if they thought they would turn out to be a bad tenant. That of course was not the intention, but that was what happened.
I wonder, as I look at recent changes in legislation in the USA and the UK, if we are heading for unforeseen circumstances that we will not like. Of course, from a legislation point of view it may have been done for good reasons like equality and freedom, but are we really sure of the outcomes?
I don’t know, but I do wonder what our new freedom so called, our new equality so called, the removal of fences if you will; I wonder what they will bring up the road. I wonder if they will have good or bad effects on our society.
It’s an old adage, and probably correct that power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely!
Thinking about the subject, I am somewhat puzzled by:
a.) The unwillingness and fight against federalism in the UK.
‘We don’t want it at any price’ seems to be the politicians’ mantra; what is the difference between that and localising government, or giving more power to local areas, be it Manchester, Scotland, London, or Wales.
b.) Isn’t the localising government some form of Federalism?
The positive side speculates that you bring government and decision making down to the local people and that must be better. The negative side, from my opinion, is that what actually happens. It is easier to be a big fish in a small pool than a big fish in a big pool, and so we get small, narrow minded, power hungry, ‘I must protect my insecurities by projecting power,’ kind of people who aren’t beneficial to anyone. Is that not what happens?
Working in Social services and connected areas, I constantly come up against (maybe because it is small and local) the power hungry, insecure people who are splashing their power around, often wrongly, and with damaging results. They love to tell me their qualifications, and who they are, pointing out that that is why their decision will stand, whatever minnows like me think, and it will not be considered if, maybe, I just might be correct. That does not matter; they have the power.
One senior manager recently said, on being confronted about caring for the staff working under him, “I don’t care about my staff.” Great.
I hope they don’t have the investors in people mark, and how stupid to not know that caring for staff is the best way of getting a good job done!
I have to say that the other people I find that I constantly clash with are social workers; they always love to tell me that they are qualified. (not all; there are very good ones too) Is that coming from their insecurities? One of them reminded me why we started an agency for foster care recently.
Having fostered for local boroughs, observed other boroughs, and talked with many foster carers, the thing that I noted was that partly because social workers were very busy, too big a case load, the foster carers did not get looked after well. Foster carers are very aware of that. My thinking is you have to look after the carers as well as possible; that way they will look after the children as well as possible. The situation is not look after the children and forget the carers, or look after the careers and forget the children. It is not either or, it should be both. One social worker recently reminded me of these things. In a dispute on what should happen they said, “I really don’t care about foster carers, they are just paid to do a job.” In my opinion that is completely crazy; it’s the terrible power factor at work again.
So these little fish have a degree. They are now so qualified, they are the fount of all knowledge, so it does not matter about anyone else’s opinion, be they good staff, or great foster carers, or just the minnows who happen to be on the receiving end of this power projection. They have the power.
So my question is this: is it better to have the large pool where it’s harder for these insecure fish to get to positions of power, and use it badly, or is it better to have a big pool where maybe the insecure don’t quite swim to the top so easily, and therefore power is exercised with more thought and care?
Charles Finny on Atheism Difficulty: Another difficulty of Atheism is that it is fundamentally inconsistent with itself. To the doctrine that God created the universe out of nothing, Atheists object, “ex nihilo nihil fit.” But in accounting for th…
Charles Finny on Atheism Difficulty: Another difficulty of Atheism is that it is fundamentally inconsistent with itself. To the doctrine that God created the universe out of nothing, Atheists object, “ex nihilo nihil fit.” But in accounting for th…
I heard someone telling a story recently about how they were working in fish conservation and checking on clean water in rivers and streams in the UK. Apparently they found an area of a stream where the fish were struggling for oxygen and dying. Workers then take out any dead fish and then it’s apparently possible to push oxygen into the water, often the water agencies do this by, as the Environment Agency says, pouring Hydrogen Peroxide into the water upstream. This releases extra Oxygen into the water. Such action appears to somewhat reduced the potential fish kill.
Of course you can keep doing this sort of thing, but of course what is really happening is that you are dealing with an event like an illness or a tragedy that sometime keeps occurring, you put it right but then later on it appears again. Often in the case of the fish dying, checking up stream you discover that there is a factory that periodically discharges its waste into the stream and this waste is toxic or depletes the oxygen in the water thus killing the fish. So it is better to deal with the cause of the upstream issue rather than the results the downstream of fish dying.
It seems to me that this is often the case in our society at large. We deal with the results and never think about the cause. Now I know it’s not the whole answer but in this country we constantly hear we are short of houses, when you ask people what is the upstream issue they will tell you it’s immigration; Now I am sure that is true to some extent but is there another factory upstream creating the need? What I would like to ask, happens when people get divorced? Oh yes there is often the trauma for the couple, definitely for any children involved, but then housing do they still live in the same house or are now two houses needed?
Now I think there are lots of upstream issues in our world that I think we need to look upstream to really help rather than just sticking plaster on the hurt at the point where the upstream issue has impacted. Let’s think about some of the things we are reacting too. What about the current government tax receipts shortages, are the upstream factories putting poison into the system?
At the moment we have more children coming into the care system than ever before, 2014 hit the highest need for Foster Carers for children than ever, we are doing our best with help and plasters, but is there an upstream issue we should be looking at? In 2013 there were 68,110 children in the care system costing the taxpayer £2.5 Billion. The predicted increase in 2014 is said to be around 7%. Will it go up again in 2015 are we dealing only with symptoms or is someone looking upstream and if so what is the cause?
According to the National Statistic office these figures are continuing to rise:
Number of children looked after at 31st march each year:
So I have picked up on just a couple of areas of our society and I am asking the question – its great and necessary to care, and to deal with symptoms, just like we would care in any situation such as a road accident for example, but it would be better to put things in place to stop the accident happening if we could, surely we should try and examine the upstream issues – don’t you think?
Edited by Gena Areola
Another Upstream Issue
The report is yet another example of the way that the practical action of the churches has been combined with a prophetic role in speaking out against structural injustice. This is the synthesis we should always be looking for – compassion and justice – so that we continue to help people who are drowning in the river, but we also go upstream and find out who is pushing them in.
By John Kurt in Resistance and Renewal speaking about food banks and their need
Many who read this probably do not know what a metanarrative is, that does not matter you will have one. The word really means ‘the big picture’ but we often use it in terms of a ‘world view’. “What’s that?” you might ask, well even though we don’t think about it often we all have one. And the thing about ‘world views’ because it’s the way we think, ultimately it will affect the way we live, our actions and all that we seek to do or not as the case might be.
There are lots of world views out there Christianity has its world view, its big picture if you will the start and the end, Communism has a world view, Atheism has a world view, Hinduism has a world view as does Buddhism.
Very often we do not think about our ‘world view’ but we are nevertheless living by them and when a lot of people adopt a particular world view it has an effect on our country, our culture, our laws in fact everything.
There is a great move in the UK and in fact many western countries to push us into a materialistic world view, that world view will ultimately change lots of things if more of us accept that, even subconsciously accept it, even though we may never have sat down and analysed ‘our world view’ even though we have maybe never thought about ‘world views’ until you read what I am saying now.
I had a small discussion on TV with Richard Dawkins he got somewhat upset with me when I said that he was a good evangelist for his religion, i.e. Atheism, he of course does not see it as a religion. I do, and certainly that religious view will, in its tail give us a world view, that if we accept will lead us in certain directions.
Another funny thing happened while we were making the particularly slot in the TV programme, I am not sure why that particular part of that discussion arose but Richard said to me “I am more Moral than you are” I of course asked “and how is that so” to which Richard responded “well I don’t pillage or rape and I don’t need a god to stop me doing so, you on the other hand would argue that its God that gives you a moral base and so stops you from doing those things.”
I responded by saying “bully for you, maybe you should watch the news more” my implication being that there is an awful lot of pillage and raping and other nasty things that people do to each other with their own justification. Maybe I should have asked, what is your morality and how does it work. However just recently I have been able to see some of the argument more clearly from Richard’s perspective.
I don’t know if you ever saw the TV series of Faulty Towers, where Basil’s car breaks down, first Basil shouts at the car and then beats it with a stick because it won’t start Richard Dawkins uses this skit to explain his ‘moral’ position, and show us how we should act if we hold his world view / metanarrative. Here is what he says:
Let’s all stop beating Basil’s car
Retribution as a moral principle is incompatible with a scientific view of human behaviour. As scientists, we believe that human brains, though they may not work in the same way as man-made computers, are as surely governed by the laws of physics. When a computer malfunctions, we do not punish it. We track down the problem and fix it, usually by replacing a damaged component, either in hardware or software.
Basil Fawlty, British television’s hotelier from hell created by the immortal John Cleese, was at the end of his tether when his car broke down and wouldn’t start. He gave it fair warning, counted to three, gave it one more chance, and then acted. “Right! I warned you. You’ve had this coming to you!” He got out of the car, seized a tree branch and set about thrashing the car within an inch of its life. Of course we laugh at his irrationality. Instead of beating the car, we would investigate the problem. Is the carburettor flooded? Are the sparking plugs or distributor points damp? Has it simply run out of gas?
Why do we not react in the same way to a defective man: a murderer, say, or a rapist? Why don’t we laugh at a judge who punishes a criminal, just as heartily as we laugh at Basil Fawlty? Or at King Xerxes who, in 480 BC, sentenced the rough sea to 300 lashes for wrecking his bridge of ships? Isn’t the murderer or the rapist just a machine with a defective component? Or a defective upbringing? Defective education? Defective genes?
Concepts like blame and responsibility are bandied about freely where human wrongdoers are concerned. When a child robs an old lady, should we blame the child himself or his parents? Or his school? Negligent social workers? In a court of law, feeble-mindedness is an accepted defence, as is insanity. Diminished responsibility is argued by the defence lawyer, who may also try to absolve his client of blame by pointing to his unhappy childhood, abuse by his father, or even unpropitious genes (not, so far as I am aware, unpropitious planetary conjunctions, though it wouldn’t surprise me).
But doesn’t a truly scientific, mechanistic view of the nervous system make nonsense of the very idea of responsibility, whether diminished or not? Any crime, however heinous, is in principle to be blamed on antecedent conditions acting through the accused’s physiology, heredity and environment. Don’t judicial hearings to decide questions of blame or diminished responsibility make as little sense for a faulty man as for a Fawlty car?
Why is it that we humans find it almost impossible to accept such conclusions? Why do we vent such visceral hatred on child murderers, or on thuggish vandals, when we should simply regard them as faulty units that need fixing or replacing?
Presumably because mental constructs like blame and responsibility, indeed evil and good, are built into our brains by millennia of Darwinian evolution. Assigning blame and responsibility is an aspect of the useful fiction of intentional agents that we construct in our brains as a means of short-cutting a truer analysis of what is going on in the world in which we have to live.
My dangerous idea is that we shall eventually grow out of all this and even learn to laugh at it, just as we laugh at Basil Fawlty when he beats his car. But I fear it is unlikely that I shall ever reach that level of enlightenment.’
So now I see the moral perspective that the atheist would have us come from, that is the world view. No responsibility, no blame, a mechanistic world view no less.
Let’s just fix them or replace them (does that mean we just kill them?) I do think that ‘following Jesus’ gives us a much more enlightened metanarrative world view. What do you think?
Listening to the news coming out of Rochdale I know, as everyone is saying, that this is not the end of the story. For my readers who follow what is happening in the British news, or those that don’t watch the news, there has come to light the fact that some 1,000 plus young people have been abused, prostituted and beaten, giving them lifelong problems. Yet they were under the care of the authorities and had allocated social workers. Police were also aware, but no one did anything in case political correctness was interrupted or their carers where put in jeopardy.
When I look at the regulations governing social work, fostering and the care of young people in the UK so much of it is good. Good regulations, good intentions with an emphasis on good practice. However it’s not so much the regulations that are at fault, rather the culture. A culture that from many social workers is a culture of, I must protect my back at all costs. I must make sure if something goes wrong then I don’t get the blame, and if it does go wrong how I can make sure I do not take any responsibility. I must protect my career and my income my salary my job!
I have some sympathy with the approach, not a lot but some. I know that Social workers are often criticised for doing and criticised for not doing. It’s a no win situation. But there is a huge cost to that culture, and who pays the cost of that, well as we can see in Rochdale it is of course vulnerable young people and children, the very people that the social workers and the system is there to look after and protect.
I wonder if it’s the training that puts this culture into the system. Or is it Mrs Thatcher’s fault with her ‘look after number one’ that was promoted in the 80’s, or is it that we fail to think in terms of good and bad. Even the word evil has become politically incorrect. Often I will say to people when in those difficult situations ‘we need to ask what is right’ not what protects me or defends me, or my interests. It can be that I lose out by doing what is right, it’s still wrong not to do it.
I’m also sympathetic to the ‘whistle blowers’ don’t tell me that they will be fine, legislation assures them that they will be protected, it’s too ‘under the carpet’ for that, I still think they need to blow the whistle, even if being right puts them in the wrong place. I do know what this means, we had a case whereby I encouraged a young person to take a particular authority to court for the wrongs being done to them, the authority used our service, I did think, they won’t use us after this, (I.E. encouraging the young person to take them to court) the young person won the case, rightly so, the local authority did not use our service again, can I prove that it was because of this case, of course not, it’s just one of those things. Would I do it again, unfortunately yes, I say unfortunately because the moral imperative is more important than the consequences that I might suffer.
What do we need to do going forward, well maybe we should make sure that would be social workers foster for a year before being approved to start with, but what is really needed is a changeof culture, that is not easy, usually it means a change of heart and many people don’t think that is possible, and certainly don’t know how it can be achieved.
I like words, actually trying to speak French gives me great frustrations as I know my vocabulary is incredibly small, which it is not in English. I remember telling a story to a young lady in French, and at the end I said do you understand me, “yes” she replied, and then I asked “then why are you laughing?” She replied, “Because it’s like listening to a five year old!”
I used to think that words where just how you expressed things, and so got irritated by those in the equality lobby who wanted to change expressions like chairman to chair person or manhole to person-hole. It seemed to me to be picky and stupid. I no longer think that way. I recognise that our words come from our thinking and actually re-enforces our actions. So if we are sexist, using sexist expressions just enhances our bias.
For those of us who are followers of Jesus language is such an important element, words are important. The great thing is that John, in his book in the New Testament part of the Bible, in the very the first verse says a very interesting thing about words; he says ‘The Word, became Flesh, and dwelt amongst us’. He is of course talking about Jesus, and powerfully presenting the fact that God puts his words into action, in flesh and bones, so that we can really understand what is being said by a physical being in a historical setting in our time/ space/ world.
So then we as followers of this Word go on using words wrongly, and though we profess to say we think/believe something we, usually because it’s easier, use words that say the opposite. Let me give you some examples. We say we believe in the Priesthood of all believers but then refer to clergy and laity, which sort of in action tell you the opposite to what we have said we believe. We say where you go to church, implying that church is a place or building, yet we profess to believe that we as people are the body of Christ, i.e. church. I know it easy shorthand, but it is actually in action saying something opposite to what we say we believe. People get irritated with me when they ask where do you go to church, and I reply, “You can do that?” Puzzled look, what do you mean? Well you can’t go to church you can only BE church – sure lots of the church can gather together, but you cannot go somewhere when you are it.
A friend used to ask me with a smile when I used to ask what time is the Service, do you mean for the car or do you need a service station. What do we think ‘divine service is anyway’ I guess if it is as scripture would have it ‘present your body a living sacrifice’ then I can understand?
Of course we use words in language to cover up the seemingly unacceptable don’t we so ‘Collateral damage’ ‘Friendly fire’ what we are really talking about is dead people, people who have been killed, but that sounds a bit harsh doesn’t it.
Words are important, let’s try and say what we mean and mean what we say.
Some time ago, before the tribal troubles in Kenya I was speaking at a conference. I was using for my talk the story of the Good Samaritan. Knowing a little about the tensions of the area I used as my illustration one of the tribes, who in the area where I was, was not very popular to say the least. I chose this least popular tribe and used the tribal name instead of a Samaritan.
At the end of my talk, and the meeting over I was taken on one side and told how dangerous it was to speak thus. Much better to tell the story with the Samaritan as the good neighbour, as I did not understand the culture of tribal enmity, and by putting one of the ‘despised’ tribes in place of the Samaritan I was living dangerously, and people would not like it.
I wondered how we might tell the story today, maybe in the streets of London or New York perhaps, and some poor Christian guy has been mugged and beaten and is lying in the gutter.
Along comes a good Charismatic Pastor, who knowing that he has to preach to his good congregation hurries by on the other side of the Road, must protect himself to deliver the sermon.
Then along comes a worship leader par excellence, boxed instruments over the shoulder, ready to lead the people in Praise and Worship, very necessary that he was on time to tune the sound and check “1,2, 1,2, 1,2”, shame for the man in the gutter but there are people to lead, to stand, to raise holy hands; Very important that he was early to get it all ready.
Finally, a young Muslim guy saw the man from his nice new car, he stopped and lifted the mugged young Christian and put him, dirt and all, on the back seat of his new car and drove very quickly to the nearest hospital, phoning the police on his mobile. He then visited the poor guy every day he remained in hospital until he was well again. Which one I wonder was the man’s neighbour?
You can read the original story in Luke 10:25-37 I have put some of it here for you from the New International Version (NIV)
Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind ‘and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he travelled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”