Saturday, July 11, 2015

Financial Crisis and The Joy of the Gospel

Evensong Reflections

Readings:   Job 4:1;5:6-27; Rom 15:14-29

“Misery does not come from the earth, nor does trouble sprout from the ground;
but human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.” (Job 5:6-7;)

The proposition offered in these words to Job is that misery is not a feature of the natural order but something that evolves from within our (disordered) human nature.

In 2008 our world was reeling from the Global Financial Crisis and we saw the way Wall Street and other global Financial Centres had manipulated the market and had to be bailed out with tax payer money to prevent further financial collapse.  We saw the Occupy movement formed to oppose the great global corporations that managed the markets and enriched the 1% who controlled the world’s wealth.  Occupy was a grassroots peoples’ movement; it was a movement in favour of democracy as opposed to the veiled totalitarianism of the market. 

A few years later it seems to me that we have learned little.  We see much of the same behaviour continuing.  In 2015 the Eurozone Financial crisis over Greek debts has shown Greece humiliated by the financial centres of Europe, punished because its leaders and people questioned the legitimacy – even the sanity – of imposing more debt to sustain debt that was already unsustainable.  Greece spoke in favour of democracy and the primacy of the people, but the cold hand of a totalitarian neoliberal market may have stifled that brave protest.  It did not have to be like that.

Truly, “human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.”

What we have seen from Europe these last few months has made me question the European project and warm to the Euro-sceptics!  It was the late Margaret Thatcher who warned of the danger of any monetary union that was not controlled by democratic checks and balances.  The people who set the interest rates, who may never be accountable to any electorate, are the true political masters and control the fate of nations.  There is a democratic deficit in Europe and it is still unaddressed.

For example, the Transatlantic Treaty Investment Partnership is it seems something negotiated in secret with large corporations, and it conspires to give them the power to sue elected governments in secret courts to try to stop policies they believe hit their profits. The EU treaty negotiated in 2011 effectively forbade any future eurozone government from developing a fiscal policy that might buoy up a flagging economy. 

A similar democratic deficit could so easily happen in New Zealand via the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA).  The agreement would override the sovereignty of our parliament; our government could be sued by corporations in off-shore secret courts: if anyone can feel content with that, then indeed, “human beings are born to trouble just as sparks fly upward.”

In 2013 Pope Francis wrote the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) calling us all to the freedom of the gospel while also providing a clear and simple description of the plight facing a world where capitalism has gone amuck.

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. 

It seems to me that the world as envisaged by the Eurozone, the Transatlantic Treaty Investment Partnership and the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement is incompatible with the joy of the gospel.  Those are my thoughts; I will be grateful to hear yours.

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