surinenglish

Money and care

You must be reading this post Election UK 2017. I write as the polls suggest a hung parliament after a campaign that, as always, tends to focus on the economy. How does any country support the elderly, ensure security, find sufficient funds to run the health service, maintain pensions, build new houses and pay for education etc? Will Brexit make the UK/the EU/Spain richer or poorer?

Money was a great invention as important as the wheel. It enables us to buy what we need without having to barter. Bronze-age men like Abraham had to barter to live. “Shall we swap some of your cloth for my goat?” With the ‘in-between’ of money you can sell your goat to one person and buy cloth from another.

But money is a servant, not a god, and as Saint Paul said, “Love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”

When money becomes the reason why the elderly cannot be looked after, why some expat pensioners are on the breadline, why countries are crippled by debt, why politicians become corrupt, then money has taken charge.

Our psyche automatically asks how much everything is going to cost or earn. We blithely accept that capitalism, by definition, must be driven by the profit motive, but that motive encourages people to want more wealth, usually for themselves. It relies on people being selfish, and, for a Christian, that is the opposite of what Jesus called us to be. To my shame, some churches even preach that God will bring you great financial wealth if only you put money in the plate now. That is not how God works!

I want to live in a world where, irrespective of cost, the elderly and infirm are looked after, the hospitals have sufficient staff, people are safe and educated to their potential and everyone has enough to eat and a roof over their head - irrespective of money. I want money to be the servant, not the tyrant that cuts love out of society.

It takes a major mind shift to think like that, but governments must learn that running a country is not simply like the bookkeeping of a corner shop, because it deals with humanity, not commodity.

One day the banks lending to Greece, for example, will have to do a massive mind shift. Greece, and a dozen other countries, will never be able to grow themselves out of their horrendous debt, instead they need their debts to be forgiven - like in the year of Jubilee in the Bible - when debts were cancelled. If it doesn’t happen the prospect is dire. Macroeconomics fails when it drives Trump to dump the Paris agreement on climate change. It failed when, in 2008, the US banks foolishly speculated on unpayable mortgage debts. The media reported that recession caused 10,000 more suicides, 20 million lost jobs and, amazingly, half a million more cancer deaths. All in the name of money.

The economics of the school tuck shop should never be applied to the macro-needs of dementia care, drug provision, reciprocal health, refugee care, feeding the hungry or housing the homeless. Such economics forces the weak to be poor and the poor to be hungry.

Meanwhile, I have a friend, with severe dementia and no family to look after her. Her apartment was sold a year ago, and now that money is running out. What will happen to her when it is gone and the care home has to turf her out? I’m reminded of the Scottish version of the Lord’s Prayer: Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.