Email this page |
by Gethin Russell-Jones
This café could be anywhere in the British Isles. Built about ten years ago, furnished with soft leather sofas and wood everywhere. The menu is a tea and coffee drinker’s paradise. Hard to imagine a hot drink you couldn’t purchase. You’ve been here dozens of times in the last few years. Whether it’s Aberdeen or Aberystwyth, this café is ubiquitous. No complaints about the coffee but an observation about the setting.
This building is surrounded by major change. Neighbouring shops are emptying, boarded up, advertising the latest closing down sale or home to yet another charity. Yes, there are plenty of charity shops in the UK’s shopping centres. Not that I have any objection to charity shops – much of my own wardrobe has been purchased in such outlets. But they are an ominous sign. Namely, that commercial enterprises have conducted their research and concluded they’re not going to make any money here. And this is troubling me. Where is everyone? Where are they going? These small shopping centres have been sacrificed on the altar of those ghastly out of town malls that have spread like poisoned ivy across the UK.
But that’s not really my rant. Two sentences are ricocheting around my head as I sip my espresso. ‘Big Society’ and ‘Private Sector’. Beloved phrases of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. They’re both connected and they relate to the somewhat depressing environment in which I find myself. David Cameron’s big idea is the Big Society. This refers to an arrangement where neighbourliness, charities, local associations and benign capitalism will all run the country.
This of course allows him to slash public spending and hand over the NHS to GPs. His sidekick George Osborne is meanwhile extolling the virtues of business. Whilst bloated government and over-spending local authorities have drained Blighty of enterprise, the private sector will come up trumps and lead us into the promised land of affluence. Excuse me while I snort loudly. UK PLC is currently in its parlous state as a result of unbridled capitalism. Or ‘greed’ as it used to be called. First in the USA and then in the UK, the chronic avarice of investment banking was exposed. And we’re going to be paying the price for decades to come.
So we have this extraordinary volte-face. We’re putting our faith in the very system which has ruined us and brought us to our collective knees, believing that it is ultimately good. Isn’t this what the Bible calls idolatry?
The Plain Truth is an independent charity.
© copyright 2004-2011 The Plain Truth.