what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

What We Leave Behind

On this day, the anniversary of my father’s birth (in 1907 I think), it is appropriate that I offer a book today for “slow reading” which has the subtitle “exploring workplace issues from a Christian perspective”  and a main title  Questions of Business Life. It’s by Richard Higginson (2002) who is Director of Studies at the Ridley Hall Foundation in Cambridge and who will hopefully forgive me for taking the liberty of uploading it to scribd - since it is a fairly rare assessment of the ethical implications of issues such as global capitalism, corruption, marketing, sustainable development, E-commerce and the purpose of the company.
Its opening story makes an amusing use of typologies -
Fascism: You have two cows. The government takes both, hires you to take care of them and sells you the milk. 
Communism: You have two cows. You must take care of them, but the government takes all the milk.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull. Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows. You sell them and retire on the income.

Enron Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then create a debt equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows. The milk rights of the six cows are transferred through an intermediary to a Cayman Island company secretly owned by the majority shareholder, who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company. The Enron annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more!

How people remember us was the subject of a recent post – although obituaries are not quite the same thing. My father was so loved that his church was packed out for his memorial service. I delivered a short address at it – all of 25 or 26 years ago - and spoke about his love of books and of travel. 
I pity those who think that they will be honoured for the goods and possessions they have amassed eg, according to a cutting portrait, Jeff Bezos the founder of Amazon who relentlessly has removed anything and anyone who has stood in his way. 

We are honoured and respected for the intangible things we give others – in my father’s case, pastoral care which knew no bounds. Down and outs would beat a path to his door and would generally leave with some coins which we could ill afford. He was not only a Minister (ultimately of two churches (or congregations as we call them in Scotland) but (very unusually then for a Minister) also a Town Councillor and magistrate and, for quite a few years, a Prison Chaplain. 
It was he who gave me my love of books and travel (which I see also in my daughters). 
In a famous line, TS Eliot wrote that “old men should be explorers” and my father was exploring until almost the end. He died when that light of curiosity faded from his eyes.

This is an oil painting of my father which a Bulgarian painter, Yuliana Sotirova, did a few years ago from a black and white photo I gave her. It's an extraordinary likeness. 

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