Posted by: aboutalbion | March 30, 2018

Saving as a national liturgical practice

In a previous post [30 January 2018], I noted that the commercial calendar in the UK seemed to have the structure of a liturgical calendar.  I now review some different evidence from another country.

Last weekend, a broadsheet newspaper had a feature article on an EU country that seems to have a national habit of saving money.

The evidence suggested that the practice of austerity was reasonably widespread and perceived to be patriotic.  Sayings such as “The fate of the nation rests only in our own strength” and “Add to the wealth of [our] people” adorned household money boxes in the past.  And the image of a beehive was used to summarise this orientation.

In the present, the MD of a savings bank in the country’s capital [with two million accounts] is quoted as saying, “Saving is seen as the morally right thing to do.  It is more than a simple financial strategy”.

So ingrained is the savings habit that the citizens are well aware that it seems to make them different to other nations.  But to this country’s citizens, balancing budgets and avoiding debt is believed to be much more than just prudence.  Rather, it seems to be conceived of as a service to their nation.

And this is all the more remarkable because this EU country has been defeated twice in war in the past century.  After each defeat, savings evaporated, and each time the people started saving again within the new financial framework.  The savings rate appears to be fairly stable over time.  A Princeton University professor is quoted as suggesting that this phenomenon might be an example of the legacy of the Reformation.  “There is a Protestant tradition of saving and restraint.  Virtuous behaviour means renunciation of present satisfaction.”

In detail, this country’s households save about 10% of their disposable income … significantly more than the average of EU countries, and of the US, and of the UK.  And this country’s banks are authorised by law to advocate and stimulate the practice of saving, and this they do in co-operation with school governors.  This country has both a public finance budget surplus and a massive trade surplus.  This evidences a deep-rooted preference for saving, and a prevailing belief that saving need to precede spending.

My interest is in collecting evidence of central organising principles in the life of a nation, and to view their manifestations as aspects of a nation’s wor(th)ship.  And I do this in order to suggest that saving (in this case) might function as a liturgical practice of the nation’s religion – whether or not it is acknowledged as such.

Posted by: aboutalbion | March 29, 2018

My new garden … March

Some daffodils have added a splash of colour to the front garden.


Posted by: aboutalbion | February 27, 2018

The safeguarding of children is everyone’s responsibiliy

I have been surprised to read that some front-line professionals in the area of child abuse are reported as unsure of how to safeguard vulnerable children.

The report I read referred to the number of UK children who were abused because their carers believed they were possessed by evil spirits or they were witches.  The annual estimate (derived from the 2017/18 ‘Children in Need’ census) put the number of potential cases at around 1500.

Many rights are mentioned in the European Convention on Human Rights.  And I can imagine front-line professional discussing the balance between, on the one hand, the right to a private and family life and the right to manifest one’s religious beliefs, and, on the other hand, the right to liberty and security and the right not be subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.

Both the lead Inspector of the Metropolitan Police on this issue and the Chair of the National Working Group for Child Abuse Linked to Faith or Belief are quoted as referring to “beliefs [that] are very real” and “genuine beliefs systems” on the part of carers of children.  In the abuse cases they instance, the carers believe they are doing the right thing for the child.

What is disappointing to me is that, for whatever reason, these front-line professionals are referenced by the media in a way that suggests that ‘faith or belief’ can be discussed as a defence to child abuse.

My understanding of the UK’s ‘rule of law’ society is that the ‘rule of law’ does not stop at anyone’s front door.  Any right to a private and family life is a concession that assumes that private and family life is arranged to be consistent with the ‘rule of law’.  Any right to manifest one’s religious beliefs is protected on the assumption that the religious activity is consistent with the ‘rule of law’.

As I see it, beliefs are not the issue, but actions are.  The issue is the translation of these beliefs into social action.  A religious organisation or social network may be formed to read and reflect on literary texts from the past.  Traditionally, such meetings can promote mutual friendship and support.  But when these same literary texts from the past are used as the basis to transform a group into a re-enactment society, then other criteria are involved.

The English Legal System criminalises actions that amount to child abuse – emotional, physical and sexual – as well as the preparatory actions to child abuse – conspiring and encouraging and assisting and attempting (but failing) to abuse a child.

In an open lecture last night, another leading Metropolitan Police officer raised the question of ‘extremists’ retaining the custody of children in their care.

I am drawn to the conclusion that any normal child would be extremely terrified by being brainwashed as a witch or as demon-possessed.  Safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility, and I would welcome discussion of steps to rescue such children from their carer’s imaginary war zone by the appropriate authorities.

I would go further.  I would be encouraged if professionals in the front-line of safeguarding children were to follow the current debate in Iceland and consider advocating the outlawing of non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys.

To read a literary text from the past about a character named Abraham is one thing.  To proceed to re-enact a literary text and cosmetically disfigure the body of an underage boy, which evolution and nature has given him, is (for me) another example of child abuse.  How can such children be expected to consent to such an extreme action?  The child has become a casualty of the imaginary war that his carers are waging.

The secret cry of each child, “How dare you do this to me …” links all these examples of abuse together.

Posted by: aboutalbion | February 19, 2018

My new garden … February

I have an established camellia bush in the back garden.


Posted by: aboutalbion | January 30, 2018

The religion of the UK

Can you have a religious calendar without a religion?

Earlier in January, I appreciated a piece in my weekend newspaper which drew attention to the current annual pattern of commercial themes for UK citizens to make use of.

The writer listed a commercial calendar that included New Year’s Eve, Burns Night, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, St George’s Day, April Fool’s Day, Father’s Day, Halloween, Guy Fawkes Night, Remembrance Sunday, Thanksgiving, and Black Friday.

When taken together, the writer argued that these special days have the character of a religious calendar.  First, these special days partitioned the year into nominated seasons.  Second, each of the seasons invested distinctive emotional content into the season’s special day.  Third, each special day had the potential to bring citizens together in shared activities.

Taken together, the writer concluded that this commercial calendar for the UK functions as a religious calendar.

It seems to me to be true to life to suggest that the high priests of “the economy” have developed this religious calendar over the years.

I find it strange that these same high priests of “the economy” do not explicitly name the ‘object’ of their adoration and veneration, because, for me, it is difficult to imagine a religious calendar without a religion.

I can only think that the secrecy of the high priests of “the economy” on this matter might have something to do with an understandable reluctance to explain the efficacy of the UK’s religion when “the economy” dips, nose-dives, gets out of control, or collapses.

Posted by: aboutalbion | January 26, 2018

My new garden … January

This month, also in the front garden, I’ve identified some flowering white winter heather.


Posted by: aboutalbion | December 29, 2017

My new garden … December

With a new garden, I always like to wait for a year … so that I can see what has already been planted in it.

Having recently moved, I hope this post will be the beginning of a monthly series that will show what is currently blossoming in my new garden …

This photo shows a solitary hardy cyclamen that is in my front garden.


Posted by: aboutalbion | December 27, 2017

2017 … a very short review of my year

To all who read this post, I send all good wishes for the coming year of 2018.

This past year’s review begins (and ends) with the news that I’ve relocated to the south coast, and to the same area that I explored nearly twenty years ago.

The time-consuming transaction looked simple … a chain-free cash purchaser for my south Midlands apartment, and a property on the south coast with vacant possession.  The chain held, but it took many months to achieve the sale and purchase on the same day – Tuesday, 19 September.

My situation in the south Midlands was personally fulfilling, and I lived among a large community of retirees where the practice of generous hospitality and meaningful neighbourliness was well developed.  But I was personally conflicted in that my mind enjoyed the urban south Midlands, but my heart yearned for the sea.  I suffer from what John Masefield identified in his poem as “Sea Fever”.  For me, the sea shore “is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied”.  The desire to explore the possibility of returning to the south coast just did not go away.

Looking back, it feels as though the whole year has been taken up with the move.

But, while waiting for agreement on a ‘completion’ date, I did enjoy day trips to the Forest of Dean and to Paignton (and Torquay).  A visit to the River Cherwell at Oxford for punting (my first time there) enabled me to put another tick on my bucket list.  And I am most grateful to the NHS for arranging a suite of four urology tests during the year to attempt to find the source of microscopic amounts of blood in my urine. The tests results did not reveal the source, and the mystery continues …

My children (and grandchildren) continue to flourish.  One daughter was called away from her school role for a fortnight’s jury service (which she found fascinating).  My eldest grandson completed his university degree and has now commenced a PGCE secondary teacher training year.  Another daughter is hoping to resume part-time professional work before too long, since her younger child is now established at nursery.  As last summer, my ‘international’ daughter vacationed with her children in the UK over the school summer holidays.  But soon after returning to Houston, the family faced Hurricane Harvey (which they survived with very little damage).  My grandchildren continue to progress at school there.

What have I bought on the south coast? … a bungalow with a modest garden.  It was built thirty years ago, and the first purchasers had lived in it since then.  They fitted it out for their lifestyle when they moved in, and I have the task of refurbishing it for the twenty-first century.  And that will keep me occupied for the next few years.  Neighbours have told me that my garden is adopted by foxes in the spring – to raise a family before moving on.

I expect soon to be interviewed for my first volunteer role in my new neighbourhood – more about that next Christmas.

May the spiritual mystery at the heart of creation give us all peace in the year to come.

Posted by: aboutalbion | November 30, 2017

The approach of winter

The temperature in the UK today has been close to zero (centigrade). So here’s a seasonal poem by William Carlos Williams (1883 – 1963)

Approach Of Winter

The half-stripped trees
struck by a wind together,
bending all,
the leaves flutter drily
and refuse to let go
or driven like hail
stream bitterly out to one side
and fall
where the salvias, hard carmine–
like no leaf that ever was–
edge the bare garden.

Posted by: aboutalbion | October 31, 2017

Remembering Balfour

My weekend newspaper added to my slender knowledge about the Balfour Declaration, whose centenary is being marked in the next day or two.

Urging the declaration forward were the Zionists, together with Lord Rothschild, David Lloyd George (Prime Minister), Lord Balfour (Foreign Secretary), and The Times.

However, I appreciated reading that “many long-established Anglo-Jewish families were strongly opposed to Zionism”.

Within the British Cabinet, the only Jew, Edwin Montagu (Secretary of State for India), wrote in a memorandum: “The policy of His Majesty’s government is antisemitic in result and will prove a rallying ground for anti-Semites in every country of the world.”

Joint-presidents of the Conjoint Committee (drawn from the Anglo-Jewish Association and the Board of Deputies), David Lindo Alexander and Claude Montefiore, wrote in a letter to The Times: “The establishment of a Jewish nationality in Palestine, founded on this theory of homelessness, must have the effect throughout the world of stamping the Jews as strangers in their native lands.  …  The proposal to invest the Jewish settlers in Palestine with certain special rights in excess of those enjoyed by the rest of the population … would prove a veritable calamity for the whole Jewish people.”

My current understanding is that geo-political proposals for winning the war against Germany had the highest priority in the British decision to promulgate the declaration.  The proposal for giving “encouragement” towards a Zionist “homeland” to as many Jews as possible around the world seems to have been based on an exaggerated belief in global Jewish influence and a perception of at least two potential wartime benefits.

First, it might weaken the support of Jews in Germany for their wartime effort and, at the same time, encourage Jewish financial contributions from the US to the British war effort.

Second, and in the knowledge of the German plan for a strategic railway from Berlin to Baghdad (and beyond), it was thought that Jews in Palestine could be presumed to be reliable partners in the region for British plans to be able to deploy military forces to the area of the Gulf if it thought India was threatened.

I find it profoundly sad that the UK government has resisted appeals to revisit and to review its decision a hundred years ago – a decision which has birthed one of the world’s most intractable political problems.

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