I didn’t post on Friday or yesterday as by the ending of my working day, I was tired of looking at a laptop screen & wanted to give my eyes a rest. Neither of the days was especially manic or long, but both have been intense & as a result, I feel pretty confident that I will be going up to Manchester to print, bind & hand in on Wednesday. And as everyone in Britain surely knows, Wednesday is also the day of the government’s long-awaited Comprehensive Spending Review. The irony that I will be handing in a PhD that was undertaken as the next step towards an academic career on the same day that the funding for higher education looks set to be heavily slashed is not lost on me. I had a good chuckle to myself when I realised (better laugh than cry, I guess).
I’ve been thinking a lot about this Comprehensive Spending Review. As the media delight in keep telling us, it is going to affect every person in the country. We know this. I’m sure we also know that it means some tough choices & changes for everybody. I’m getting increasingly infuriated, though, by the frenzy surrounding it & what seem to be quite frankly scaremongering tactics – certain media outlets seemed determined to convince people that they are going to destitute and starving by Thursday lunchtime. Of course I, like everyone, have fears & concerns about the changes – particularly as I suspect the cuts will be used as a convenient excuse to undermine & cut many of our great public services – in the current climate, it will be very hard to justify increased spending on public libraries yet once we lose those resources then we are unlikely to ever get them back.
At the same time as having these thoughts & concerns, I also feel that for many of us – not just in Britain, but in the Western world more generally – the changes spell a relative cut back rather than an absolute one. As always, the vulnerable in society will be most heavily affected while most of us will continue to have warm homes, food, our own transport, clothes, holidays – just not to the level of luxury to which we’ve become accustomed. Maybe it’s time for us to rethink our attitudes to what we expect materially. The environmental crisis has not been enough to alter our behaviour, but maybe the necessities of economic change will.
I was thinking about this during the Quaker meeting I went to this morning. I was drawn to flicking through Quaker Faith and Practice for inspiration & stumbled across these words which spoke to me so clearly that I struggle to believe they were written in 1975 and not specifically in relation to our current economic/environmental situation:
We live in a part of the world where the dominant motivation is material self-interest, justified by the concept of personal freedom. In these circumstances, the rich get richer and the poor, for the most part, become comparatively poorer. This offends our moral sensibility and, at the practical level, the process of material growth cannot in any event go on indefinitely. We must find some way in which we in the West can change our dominance in setting the style of the worl’d living from one motivated by self-interest into one in which material resources are made available according to need….What are we doing to proclaim our joyful acceptance that our living standards are going to have to drop?
’Joyful acceptance that our living standards are going to have to drop’ – it’s a challenge but one that I believe will be essential in the coming weeks and months. I’m not going to starve – unlike an estimated 10 million people in West Africa, who are facing famine. Maybe I’m an idealist, but if all of us who are in a relatively fortunate position looked out for those around us – in our lives, our communities, our country, our world – who are more vulnerable, then we can all weather the crisis together and maybe even come out the other side stronger for it.