For the past week or so I have been in London getting my Big Picture Social Justice Film Festival off the ground. As you know, following its success in Sydney, Odeon Cinemas here have expressed interest in hosting it in London.
That has meant I have been outside of the country while all this pre Budget speculation has been going on but the gloom coming out of Australia has been palpable! It could not be ignored, even from thousands of miles away.
As you know, I have always been a strong advocate of freedom of the individual and societies doing all they can to maximise the inherent, God given potential of it’s citizens. I also believe that the way we measure a society is how we treat and look after and provide maximum opportunities for our most disadvantaged citizens, young and old.
Forty years ago I began on the streets of Sydney’s Kings Cross and was shocked to my core by what I encountered there. I learned that Dickens lived, not hundreds of years ago but then on the streets of Sydney, 1970.
That experience stays with me to this very day and, to this very day , I try in my own fragile, human way to “do something about it”.
You all know my story, it includes working with the homeless and the poorest of the poor and the kids. Always tying to give a break to those poor buggers who, without help will never achieve any of the potential they were born with.
Jesus said “ The poor will always be with us”. But for so many it doesn’t have to be and yet we, us, good decent tolerant Australian Society allow it to be.
Time and time again I have found that offering someone a way out of conditions or situations that have led to, or prohibited rise out of poverty WORKS. To see a kid who had no chance rise to where he or she realises they can get a job or even go to University is to witness life arising out of death. A truly Holy experience! To hear how guests in my Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant are denied basic opportunities most of us take for granted and what they have to do to simply survive often leaves me speechless.
Over and over people come to me wanting to volunteer or work with me because they are fed up with “the system”. Many work in corporate life and are appalled at the greed and corruption they daily witness in the face of all this corporate double speak about “values” and “integrity”.
Which brings me to London and the budget. Somehow, through meeting people over here I ended up at an “Occupy London Economic Working Group” meeting. What I found was economists and citizens who had learned the hard way that the best way to work was to engage with corporate life rather than mindlessly attack it and work on those issues that all citizens are fed up with. The blatant corporate greed and the inequality it generates and perpetuates. Yes, of course you have your firebrands there but overall rational debate is the order of the day.
Out of all of this has come the writings of Thomas Piketty whose book “Capital” has created such a storm. In the words of Paul Mason of The Guardian
“Piketty’s argument is that, in an economy where the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth, inherited wealth will always grow faster than earned wealth. So the fact that rich kids can swan aimlessly from gap year to internship to a job at father’s bank/ministry/TV network – while the poor kids sweat into their barista uniforms – is not an accident: it is the system working normally.
If you get slow growth alongside better financial returns, then inherited wealth will, on average, “dominate wealth amassed from a lifetime’s labour by a wide margin”, says Piketty. Wealth will concentrate to levels incompatible with democracy, let alone social justice. Capitalism, in short, automatically creates levels of inequality that are unsustainable. The rising wealth of the 1% is neither a blip, nor rhetoric.”
If I hadn’t come to London, I would be very depressed by this budget. In it I see the poor missing out again. In a way the poor always suffer in times of ‘Financial Rectitude’. One Politician told me “Look after those who vote for you. They will vote for you next time. The others never vote for you anyway”. So, once again we will see poor kids missing out and being treated like the welfare manipulators they’re not and the kids of the wealthy looked after. We’ll see poor sick families being made to jump through ever higher hoops and made to look even worse managers than they are. We’ll take money from the poorest of the poor and give it to corporates who don’t really need it.
And, mark my words nowadays with the Opposition trying to outdo the government as being trustworthy economic managers there’s no guarantee they would/will do any different. No matter what they say now.
So, I’m not depressed. I see change coming. Everyone I speak to whether they be “Occupy London” people or senior corporate types realise change has to come. Corporates are getting too powerful at the expense of legitimate people elected governments.
In this day and age of social media inequality cannot stay hidden, it has a voice that can’t be silenced.
I’m sure, over the next few years my Loaves and Fishes Free Restaurant and special schools for the poorest kids will be in more need than ever and I will have to redouble my efforts to raise donations for them. I’m starting NOW.
If I hadn’t come to London I would be feeling that all my forty years of work would have been in vain! The poor now will be worse off than when I started. But I now see a discussion amongst all levels of society is starting and it’s asking the right question “How do we, as a good decent secular society genuinely look after ALL our people.