RESTORING COMMUNITIES AND PRESERVING WESTERN VALUES
A Speech by the Revd John Papworth
Originally published in the August 2005 issue of Sovereignty
The following speech was presented at
My purpose in coming here is to convert you to Christianity.
I am a Christian minister and I am concerned with the decline of Western values if only because the Church was largely responsible for establishing them.
These values stem from Jesus's own summary of the law; to quote "Hear Oh Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord, and 'thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy strength'; this is the first commandment and the second is like, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself! There is none other commandment greater than these, on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets".
I am not concerned here with anyone's views on marriage, sex, the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Christ and so on; whichever way these things take you, however ardently, will not significantly change the world, will not rescue it from its current disastrous onrush down a steep slope.
Western values depend on proper observation of these two commandments and we are in the terminal throes of a global crisis because we are energetically promoting a total repudiation of both.
To 'love God' if it means anything at all, means to love, to cherish and to guard from harm every element of God's creation. How else indeed can we express that love? What in fact we are doing in a quest for economic growth, for 'efficiency', greater productivity and for more and more affluence, is that we are destroying it.
If you are not aware of the brute facts of global warming, of the accelerating meltdown of the polar ice caps, of the destruction of the rain forests, the transformation of vast wheat-growing prairies in the USA, Canada and Australia into sterile deserts because of a generation of soil abuse with chemical fertilisers and pesticides, if you are not aware of the awesome explosion in human numbers which has already made China's population today greater than the global population a mere forty years ago, if you are not aware of the growing danger of another world war as the number of nations with nuclear weapons is now nearly thirty, if you are not aware that the current consumption rate of our remaining oil and energy reserves can only result in the collapse of Western Civilisation, I can only say it is possible you may not be living on the same planet as mine.
We are not 'loving God', our lifestyle seems to be suggesting we hate everything He stands for.
The same seems to hold true for the second crucial commandment, to 'love thy neighbour'. To love your neighbour the first requirement is to have one.
But on every hand we are destroying the very existence of neighbourhood and of neighbourly relationships. We all love our cars, our supermarkets (it's the profits which are super), our holiday jaunts to other continents, our favourite 200-page daily newspaper, our TV and mobiles, our fast food and the rest of it.
But it all comes with a price, and that price is the destruction of family relationships, the destruction of community relationships and the disappearance of the community as a significant social factor altogether.
This is in fact the most significant and tragic, as well as the most ignored, revolution in human affairs; the transformation of an organic structure of society, one of numerous small-scale village and parish communities, into a centrally controlled and ordained mass society.
As such it is the most degraded and obscene lifestyle ever to have emerged on this planet and the forces which have engineered it, unless soon checked, will surely destroy it.
How can you love your neighbour, if by deserting your village store where you meet him you jump into your car to an out-of-town supermarket?
What family life is possible if TV supervenes instead of the family dinner table?
If all the key decisions on local affairs are taken by remote officials in a distant capital, so that local responsibility becomes local irresponsibility and people have no impetus to become involved in the affairs of their local community?
How can you love your neighbour when you cease to have a local community life and structure in which that love and regard can be expressed? When local government becomes local administration ordained by remote non-elected officials?
How can you love your neighbour when instead of relationships with neighbours your relationships are with giant political and giant market forces.
It was Ghandi who remarked: You cannot have morality without community.
To love your neighbour is first to know him, to be aware he exists, to work and play and worship and to shop and relax with him, to use your physical and mental strengths to provide for his needs and welfare as he will provide for yours.
If you habitually drive a car you are defying both of the divine commandments; you are attacking God's creation and you are becoming a stranger to your neighbour.
Yet any priest who preached it was impossible to drive a car and to be a Christian would at once find he had lost most of his congregation!
This tells us something important about the modern world; that its values, the values that guide conduct and hold society together are no longer determined by Christian belief but by market necessities.
There was a time when Church teaching sought to provide society with a moral framework; today that role has been usurped by the market, it is the market which now determines the morality of our social structure and the work, leisure and material standards that millions blindly accept as 'normal'.
Well it is the market forces which are promoting the destruction of God's creation and the destruction of neighbourhood communities which were once the blood-cells of civilisation.
So a word about markets.
Most comment on economics in all our leading journals, The Times, The Economist, The Spectator etc, are based on a patent repudiation of reality, one of the commonest assumptions is about 'free trade' as though it still exists and that it is a desirable aim that it should continue to do so.
Mass production, as well as mass marketing and mass consumption, killed free trade a generation or so ago.
What we have today is a largely monopolistic control of mass production, of basic resources, of powerful central non-elected control of mass communication and its non-stop propaganda for ever higher levels of production and consumption.
The fallacy here is, of course, that you can have infinite expansion of economic growth in a finite world. The basic resources of such factors as oil and water are just not sufficient, and oil and water wars over our remaining stocks are already in progress.
The Church by and large chooses to remain silent on these issues. It is learning the hard way the difficulty of promoting religious belief in a market-dominated moral vacuum, which of course is why it is dying.
What must we do?
Again and again public discourse is infused with talk of free trade and the market economy as though they are inalienable moral imperatives to which every knee should bow. There is a total failure to grasp that the sheer size of economic operations destroys any possibility of the free play or the control of any of the factors involved.
It destroys it because with size increase, controlling power passes inexorably to the forces at the center, who command the resources involved.
In Britain's free market the small family farmer is going to the wall because of the grip on seed and fertiliser prices by giant suppliers, and because of the grip on consumer prices of giant supermarket chains to whom they need to sell their produce.
So what confronts us is not an out of date debate on whether economic activity should be in the hands of governments or free markets. That debate has already been settled by the collapse of communism in Russia, by the free market policies of Communist China and by the same policies promoted by Tony Blair's Britain.
The market wins every time, for that is where the power is and that that is why we are confronted with the breathtakingly presumptuous threat of EUrope.
It is a plot gestated by the boardroom boys to ensure the predominance of market interests and their freedom from control by democratically elected political forces behind national frontiers.
It is not for nothing that Harold Wilson described The Treaty of Rome as 'The Magna Carta of the Western European Multinationals'.
You will have noticed that despite the enormity of this threat in the recent general election none of the three main parties dared to mention EUrope at all!
Their silence is a measure of the prescience of Harold Wilson's perception and of the power these boardroom moguls now wield. When Margaret Thatcher spoke in Bruges against Britain's membership of a European Federal state, she was ousted in a matter of months.
So what is the answer?
Do not make the mistake of assuming you can oppose these giant forces with giant political bodies, the giants in situ will win every time.
The answer to giant, uncontrollable and impersonal forms of presumption can only be a multiplicity of small and intensely personal forces.
So the answer to giant supermarkets can only be small village shops, farmers markets and local vegetable plots.
The answer to the evil of consumerist advertising is to stop being any bigger a consumer than you must be.
The answer to 200-page mass newspapers is to set up your own by linking with others through e-mails -- it is rather easier than you might suppose.
The answer to giant money operations is local currencies, local savings, pensions and investment trusts; they are the only ones which will survive when the global bubble bursts. Giant pension schemes are everywhere on the rocks.
The answer to the giant policies of political betrayal at Westminster and the doomsday scenario of EUrope is local politics based on local power.
All power to the people, so in our villages we control our schools, hospitals, police, radio, TV, transport and so on, if only, in some cases as common sense insists, by electing representatives to regional bodies.
The restoration of local power in the hands of local people by deliberately promoting an organic, power-dispersed, non-centralised polity is the only way we can hope to preserve any future for our children in the storms now descending upon us.
Create small communities where at last we can learn and practice how to love God and to love our neighbours.