River Wissey Lovell Fuller

Anglican Newsletter

November 2008

Keith looks critically at the Credit Crunch

November 2008 Newsletter

Last month I was thinking about our relative and different reactions to the same things - based on our individual standpoints. That could hardly be more appropriate to our current position. I write as the world (or at least the Western Capitalist World) economy seems to be in or entering crisis. Iceland's banks have had to admit they cannot pay their debts. The USA and Europe have taken concerted action to try to bolster the banking community and boost their economies. By the time this is written it may be clear that these actions have worked and reversed or critically slowed down the plunge into recession OR not worked at all OR (most likely) we still won't be sure which way we are going.

But how real is this crisis? If we look at different bits of it, it doesn't seem so bad, does it? For example, house prices are tumbling and mortgages are getting harder to find. The question is - how many people does this actually affect? For the vast majority who are not thinking of moving at present, the change in house prices is really academic - it will only matter when we decide to sell. Even for those who are selling, if they are buying new in the same area, then a 10% drop in the sale price should be more or less matched by a 10% drop in the purchase price. It's a problem if the equity is negative or too small, but not otherwise. It's certainly tough for first time buyers, but not nearly so tough as it was when my parents first wanted to buy a house - my father died in his early sixties never having owned his own house, although he would dearly have loved to have been able to do so.

So I'm inclined to think its all relative - depends on who you are, what you are doing, what you want to do, where you are, at what time you are and so on. So long as we don't become a basket case economy, like Zimbabwe at present, most of us are not really badly affected. Some of you will remember Harold Wilson comforting the nation, at the time of his big devaluation, when he told us that the 'pound in our pockets' was the same as the day before and had the same purchasing power. That was not quite true, but close enough. Of course, for foreigners holding pounds, the pound in their pockets was worth less than before. Again a matter of relativity!

So where are the absolute truths? There surely must be something we can truly hang on to regardless of these shifting sands of relative truth. Funnily enough it is the things we can measure accurately, like bricks and bank balances that seem to change value all the time. Remember the old adage about statistics? Conversely (or 'Contrariwise' as Tweedledum and Tweedledee would have said) it is those things that we cannot measure that seem to retain their value - loving and caring (and their contras such as hatred) that do retain their value for so long as they exist. Your love for your children may change its shape over time, but it does not lose its intensity (its 'value'), but you cannot give it a number. Children, of course, try to do so - 'I love you millions, Mummy' - is their attempt to quantify the unquantifiable.

Jesus said that the poor will always be with us - it was almost an aside (like those asides tossed over his shoulder by Laurence Olivier in the long soliloquy in his film of Richard III) - and statistically they clearly always will be unless and until the day when everyone is exactly equal (whatever that means). So 'poor' is a relative or comparative term. But there is nothing relative about the care that we can give to those who are worse off than we are. If we pour out all the love and generosity that we have in us then however many or however few the people we give it to, however badly they do or do not need it, however gratefully or ungraciously they receive it - it remains of inestimable value, whenever and from whatever standpoint it is regarded.

Licensed Lay Minister

Keith MacLeod

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