Our Economic Crisis
-a time of danger, but it is also a time of opportunity ...
By Rev Lindsay King, founder of The Family Life Foundation: http://www.flfcanada.com
By way of background:
In the following communication, I start by giving a description of the kind of unjust political and economic system into which my family, and most families of the 1930's, was born. By the way, in many ways the unjust political and economic system imposed by the Roman dictators on the colonies of Rome, in Jesus' day, was not unlike that imposed on colonies in modern times.
My experience led me to get deeply interested in the political economy. In a later e-mail I will give my opinion as to what I feel the churches can do to help create a just economic system for all--rich and poor.
MANY ALIVE TODAY WERE CHILDREN OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION
Between 1920 and 1930, an older brother (1920), myself (1930) and a younger sister (1932) were born and raised on the mining community of Bell Island, Conception Bay -- http://www.bellisland.net -- a mining town of about 10,000 people. With five older children, we experienced the Great Depression. With little or no money to buy the necessities of life, it was not a green and pleasant time. A bicycle was considered a luxury of the rich.
Bell Island (8 X 3 miles) is about 10 miles from downtown St. John's (about 40,000 in the 1930's), Newfoundland -- I was the seventh of eight children. Three older brothers and two older sisters--old enough to be my parents--were born born in Perry's Cove, Conception Bay.
THE PEOPLE OF ENGLAND'S FIRST COLONY WERE OBVIOUSLY EXPLOITED
In his book, The New Founde Land (McClelland and Stewart, 1989), Farley Mowat points out that, for centuries, the vast majority of the people of NL, endured a ruthless exploitation under the English and Jersey merchants. He writes that this strained the fabric of their lives to the breaking point. Ironically, there was, as always, if people were prepared to work for the slave wages paid by the merchants, no lack of work to be done. The merchants paid wages so low that consumers were always in debt to them.
For example, even when WW 2 created a hustle of employment, to get the money I needed to get away and get an education in 1947, in 1946, I first worked for a local merchant who paid me about 28 cents and hour. Even when I got a job--picking rock out of iron ore--with the Iron Ore Company, the pay was only 58 cents an hour--$5.80 for ten-hour day.
THE HARD TIMES REMEMBERED
In reading Mowat's book, I discovered that conditions were never rosy for the working class, but conditions in the first decades of the twentieth century were really bad. This came about when the few who ran the government gave the merchants of St. John's a free hand. I remember our parents and older members of the family speaking about "The Hard Times". Malnutrition, to the point of death-dealing starvation, was a constant spectre.
Raised in what I now realize were third-world-economic conditions, the King family, like most poverty-stricken families at the time, faced the Great Depression head on. By the time I was five, T.B.--a scourge of ignorance and poverty--took the lives of six close-members of the family, including our mother. I grew up with a first-hand experience of what is commonly called, "the stress of financial uncertainty". Of course two world wars brought a modicum of prosperity, especially to the fish merchants and to those given the right to exploit the abundant forests and mineral resources. But only a little of the wealth produced reached the workers.
THE VALUE OF HAVING A GOOD FAMILY
Yet, despite this and the deaths in our family--our father died in 1944 (I was 14)--with the help of very supportive older siblings, my sister and I survived and went on to get an education. I even got to university and became a minister.
Looking back, I now realize that the opportunity to reach my goal actually came about as the result of a barter deal made, quite unconsciously, between my older brother--then head of the family--and me. He made it clear to me: "If you do well in school, get through and get a job, I will not charge you any room and board, meanwhile. Within a year you should have enough money to give university a try."
The incentive worked. In 1946/47 I saved enough to to cover one-half a year at www.mta.ca --a United Church university. I was in university at 17. There I made enough to cover the other half year. I also earned money serving in the army and navy a numbers of summers. At MTA I met my life's partner, Jean, who graduated one year (1950) before me and became a teacher. Graduating in 1951, I went on to seminary, in Halifax, NS. There we married (in 1952) and shared living costs. I was ordained in 1953, debt-free. I owed $125.00, which my wife paid.
In 1953, both of us were assigned to the first of the several churches we went on to serve over the next four decades, during which we were never without a job. We both retired in 1994.
THE MORE ABUNDANT LIFE--PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND SPIRITUALLY
Looking back, I now realize that during my ministry I preached a lot about the importance of economics--the Bible calls it 'stewardship'--managing the whole of life. I soon realized that living in supportive communities made up of supportive families makes for a healthy economy.
Because of this, for my whole ministry--including since I retired from the pastoral ministry--I have been interested in studying of the Bible, religion and economics, and I have written a lot about it. This experience, plus the idea of temple-money in the Gospels, sowed the seed that led to the idea of having community currencies.
Interestingly, the word 'religion' is from the Latin, religere. It refers to that which binds us together in the building of community.
In my opinion, the basic economic unit of any supportive kind of community is the supportive family, made up of supportive individuals. Keep in mind: One does not have to be a perfect person to be a supportive one--one with a basic good will (agape-love) towards life and others.
As I look back, this was the way the King family approached each of our ministries--from Labrador, to Northern NB., to Montreal and to two areas in Toronto. We made it clear that we be economically supportive members of the family and the whole community. We make no pretense that we are, or came from, perfect families. We are simply here to work with all interested in building a community of supportive families.
MOST ECONOMISTS AGREE: WE ARE IN A TIME OF CRISIS
By the way, Inspired by writers like Professor Bernard Lietaer http://www.transaction.net and Hazel Henderson http://www.hazelhenderson.com I dare to think of myself as an amateur and intuitive economist. I gladly agree to leave academic economics, with it complex charts and formulas, to the professionals. While I claim that I think that I do have a practical solution to the present crisis, I do not claim that mine is the only one, and the perfect one. To all sincere suggestions, I keep an open mind.
Interestingly, the Chinese symbol for crisis is made up of two symbols. One means 'danger'; the other means 'opportunity'. A crisis, therefore, contains both elements.
I trust we are all wise enough to constructively and realistically deal with the dangers resulting from a flawed economic system. At the same time we must not shirk from having a positive, creative and spiritual attitude which will empower us to take advantage of the wonderful and golden opportunities we also have.
Stay tuned!" (snip) ...