Saturday, June 18, 2011

Community Spirit - Rioting in the Streets?

The swearing in ceremony for the new Greek cabinet finance minister presided over by a senior Greek Orthodox prelate in full religious dress, taking place as the people in the streets of Athens were rioting, provided food for thought this week.

The Greek Orthodox Church is in full communion with Rome but the divisions between Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches almost seem to be reflected by the obvious divide between the rioting governed of Athens and the people's government. Such divides are alas hallmarks of humanity. We in the UK have an established CoE Church which divided itself off from Rome aons ago. We also have a coalition government formed by two political parties, members of which were voted in as MPs by the vast majority of the UK electorate. These facts do not appear to have inhibited the CoE Archbishop of Canterbury speaking out against Coalition political policies alleging that they were not what the people had voted for. However he is perfectly entitled to his point of view which I surmise is well meant and indeed meant to represent his interpretation of the Common Good which would be laudable.

The less laudable aspect which all these events tend to illustrate is that although good men and women tend to speak about such concepts as 'Society' 'Common Good' and 'Community' in positive and unselfish terms, our actions by contrast tend to be far more of the self centred and 'me first' type.

Currently some UK trade unions are threatening strikes going beyond the Arthur Scragill era of confrontation, even in one case without first checking by balloting its members to see if such threats accord with the majority wish -as reported on the BBC website:

One of Britain's biggest trade unions says pension reform plans could trigger the biggest wave of industrial action since the General Strike in the 1920s.

Unison leader Dave Prentis said unions were prepared for "sustained and indefinite" strikes over proposed changes to public sector pensions.

Yet as in Greece debts have to be paid for. Most workers not employed by the public sector in England have both to provide for their own old age pensions and contribute towards those of their public sector colleagues. If man really regarded community and the Common Good as paramount one section would not be threatening major action to force the other to accept more of the financial burdens of the other. Likewise in Greece rioting in the streets tends to result more from individual concerns about personal difficulties than about the welfare of all in the light of unsustainable debts taken on by the duly elected government.

In the end we often act like a child who has been given a delicious sweet but who then cries when he wants but fails to get another. In reality we need to grow up more and growing up in this context must mean greater striving for the Common Good over the personal one.

The Common Good in my humble opinion also means that those who are articulate and not really poor or disadvantaged being specially sensitive to the needs of those who do not enjoy those privileges in decision making processes. David Cameron's unpopular (with the Daily Mail anyway) insistence on maintaining or even increasing the UK overseas aid eg for child immunisations abroad is in that context a very difficult but very grown up decision.

Perhaps David Prentis should think again

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