Thought for the day

Henry360_576545aSo ‘farewell then Henry Allingham’, one of five survivors of the First World War and, for one glorious month, the oldest man in the world. Putting his longevity down to ‘cigarettes, whisky and wild, wild women’ he also attributed his great age to ‘trying to be as good as you can’. He seems to have been a wonderful man who lived a wonderful life. Henry died in a strange week for the news: one in which the highly Calvinist Scottish Island of Lewis has been riven down the middle by news that the Caledonian McBrayne Ferry company are going to disturb the sabbath rest by laying on a Sunday ferry. The Kirk is up in arms and there is much quoting of biblical texts taking place. Interestingly, a similar fracas is taking place in France where President Sarkozy has indicated that he wishes to relax the country’s strict Sunday opening laws. Now, forgive me if I am wrong, but do I recall that the arguments around relaxing England’s Sunday trading laws were that unfettered seven day a week consumerism was already being enjoyed on the Continent and that it would be selfish of us not to join in? Yet another lie then to get us to give in to unbridled profiteering. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not against Sunday trading for religious reasons but because it has had dreadful consequences for the family, has removed one day of the week when we could all think of ‘higher’ things and not have to work and has also enforced seven day working on the most vulnerable in society. Hey ho! It’s off to the Garden Centre we go.

This is also a week in which that most English of pursuits, Thought for the Day, has been questioned and there are serious doubts as to whether it will survive. As English as the Archers and Cricket on the village green, Thought for the Day has given a platform for faith commentators for decades: and I’m with those who would abolish its exclusively faith based nature. For one thing, the easy access of the Church and other faith communities to this unchallenged privilege of airtime has led to some of the most humdrum and platitudiness spouting on faith and religion I have ever heard. Equally, I am dismayed by those who claim such privileges for the Church because they are part of the fabric that continues to make our nation a Christian one. I am very uneasy when society or organisation claims the involvement of the Church because it stresses our ‘Britishness’ and the Church appears subservient to a strange form of patriotism. The Church should be free and unfettered to speak out as and when it likes, even if it is subversive of a prevailing social trait. Likewise, if Thought for the Day were opened up to men and women of all persuasions and understandings, then the Faith communities would have to fight there corner in the marketplace of public opinion. Wouldn’t this mean our contribution to public thought would have to be more robust and thought through than the sentimental drivel we

sometimes endure now?

Besides, if Thought for the Day were opened up to all, then we might hear the wisdom of men like Henry Allingham who said that ‘one of the secrets of old age is not to hang about with too many old people’. Perhaps best of all, we might have heard him say: ‘War’s stupid. Nobody wins. You might as well talk first, you have to talk last anyway’.


~ by Tim Ellis on July 19, 2009.

3 Responses to “Thought for the day”

  1. Removing a Sunday shop-opening ban = unbridled profiteering ?

    I’d like to see the thoughts behind that assertion.

  2. Hi John

    Sorry about the late reply, but your question is worth an answer. Which is simple really: the combined policies of the late 1970s and 1980s of both governments here and abroad (notably America) were unashamedly and declaredly about profit making being ‘unfettered’, not even by moral considerations and certainly not by the demands of a community or the local. The agenda was, and continues to be, this but we are less sensitive to it now, and have completely unregulated financial and business activity with profit as the only motive:the thinking was, and is, that the riches and capital thus created would ‘trickle down’ to all sections of society and all would benefit, not just the super rich. Most reputable economists seem to agree that this is sheer bunkum and that such ‘unfettered profiteering’ has actually worsened the gap between the super rich and the desperately poor and also made more people poorer and less people fabulously wealthy. The deregularisation of Sunday trading was just one link in this process of releasing trade from any constraints. There is a useful unpacking of all this in Robert H Frank’s book ‘The Return of the Economic Naturalist’ in which he points out that the idea has been around for a very long time and is basically Adam Smith’s ‘invisible hand’ theory. Barack Obama also rails against the notion in his excellent book: ‘The Audacity of Hope’.

  3. On the subject of Sunday trading, our company offers an opt out policy. I dont know if it is something all employers have to offer but surely if everyone refuses to work Sundays, the big companies will have to think twice about opening 7 days.
    Until this happens I will continue a sustained campaign of refusing to shop on a Sunday.

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