oil drone

Oil Drones

I was pondering the invasion of Iraq today, after reading the article above when it appeared in my Twitter feed. The invasion of Iraq kicked off when I was living in Dun Laoghaire so I watched in unfold from a different context.

But I was wondering how I would react if it had kicked off today with Thiepval Barracks nearby and me living here and armed forces being sent to fight in Iraq all in the name of ……well what exactly? The security of my family? Justice? ‘My country?’
Or lets face it, keeping the oil flowing.
Could I do anything about it? Should I do anything about it? Or would I just have to resign myself to these things happening and happening again.

All the churches here in Lisburn and what would we say about it? War is terrible but we just have to support the families and soldiers as best we can? Say that because we’re living in a different kingdom we don’t want people going over to another country fighting on our behalf.

I can’t think anymore, it’s depressing me.

where the billionaires live

I was re-reading a book I love last night in bed and it got me thinking ‘Where do the top 100 richest people in the world live?’

So at midnight, armed with a list from Forbes and Google Maps I marked them on the map.

A few things caught my attention.

1) There are a lot of very rich men who call Moscow home.
2) There was only one in Japan and he was near the bottom of the list.
3) There was only one African in the Top 100 billionaires
4) There are a surprising amount around Mexico City.
5) The owners of Microsoft, Facebook, Amazon, Google are all there.

But two things are very noticeable
1) There are women represented but their wealth has been inherited or passed on. There are no self made female billionaires on the list.
According to Forbes ‘only 19 of the world’s billionaires (or 1.6%) are women who earned their money’.

I’m not sure why that surprised me, but I guess it did.
If money or wealth represents power, then power is male.

2) The other thing that stands out like a sore thumb is the US of A.
According to Forbes
‘There are now billionaires from 58 countries including ones from Peru, Morocco and Georgia. The U.S. is still home to more billionaires than any other nation, with 425, a dozen more than a year ago. Russia and mainland China follow behind. They have 96 and 95, respectively, down from 101 and 115.

So the USA can claim nearly 35 % of the world’s billionaires, Russia 7.8% and mainline China 7.7%.

If money/wealth represents power, then power is American. They’ve even increased the number of billionaires during all the stuff that has been going on with the economy.

The reason why I wondered is that I’m trying to work out if the USA really is the Roman empire of our day, the place where power is concentrated and controls the world or is just because I’ve been reading certain types of books that suggest that and are unbalanced.

Jesus and beef shin

The butcher looked genuinely happy to see me and kept on calling me ‘Sir‘.
Is that all sir?’ he said.
I started laughing and said ‘I’m not used to people calling me sir‘ and the butcher said that old habits are hard to break and that you would have got a slap on the head if you didn’t call people sir years ago.

I told him that I hadn’t noticed the butcher before and he said that there actually used to be another one in the village and then I thought I’d say the word ‘Tesco’ just to see what would happen and he said ‘Tesco? They just do whatever they want..’

I had a similar experience from my nearest butcher who said ‘Tesco? If they were running the country I’d vote for them tomorrow…but they’re hoods‘ ….or words to that effect.

The butcher I was talking to today was only too eager to help but this  made me sad because you got a sense that he was eager to make the most of every new customer that comes through the door and make sure it counts purely to make sure the business survives.
I’m glad he was nice but I hate to think that he’s having to be extra, extra nice and helpful because supermarkets have come in and taken his custom.
Maybe that is the law of business, the law of competition and fighting for customer share etc etc but it seems more like the powerful against the weak and it doesn’t seem to be particularly helpful for community as the people who can’t compete get left behind and forgotten about, and what is Christian about that?
Suddenly the street is boarded up and all the economic life has shifted to the other side of town, freedom and choice have disappeared from your town or village and another big box appears near a roundabout a few miles away.
G.K. Chesterton had this to say about big shops

The truth is that the monopolists’ shops are really very convenient–to the monopolist. They have all the advantage of concentrating business as they concentrate wealth, in fewer and fewer of the citizens. Their wealth sometimes permits them to pay tolerable wages; their wealth also permits them to buy up better businesses and advertise worse goods. But that their own goods are better nobody has ever even begun to show; and most of us
know any number of concrete cases where they are definitely worse.

All I’m saying is that although I only popped into this particular butcher for the first time today I care for him or worry about what will happen if the local supermarkets continue to drain business.
I would hate to think that because I chose to buy my meat in a supermarket (that already makes billions of pounds in profit per year) he would be struggling to make a living or make it work.

(rant coming…
Which makes me wonder why our local politicians think it’s a particularly good idea to charge extra for parking in towns. If you’re having a revenue shortfall don’t charge people for parking in their town centre while allowing planning permission for huge stores on the outskirts of town which don’t charge parking. Tax the huge stores per parking space per year if you are going to charge people for parking in a town centre or else don’t charge people for people for parking in town centres. Fair is fair.
There are few butchers in Lisburn city centre and it is no surprise because why would you circle around looking for a car parking space,
put in 30 or 40p,
walk 5mins to get to the butcher,
and then carry your meat back before the traffic warden snares you for being a few minutes late?
Why would someone be bothered when they could  just pop up to Tesco, park for free and run in and run out? )

battling the self scanning till machines

One the things I hate on the rare occasions when I have to go into Tesco or Asda is the way they try to shepherd me towards the self scanning till.
My mum has the dubious ‘honour’ of manning a set of these tills, of supervising the customer who does the work that someone else could be employed to do. Perhaps this is what annoys me the most.
By getting self scanning tills in store they have cut the workforce while getting the customer to do the work for free. This leads to increasing profits for the company and shareholders while putting more people out of work when the profits indicate that they could easily employ a few more people.

So from now on whenever I see a self scanning till I will refuse to use them even if it means queuing for a real life person.

The other thing I would love to do (if it could be easily organised by the willing) is to get people to use self scanning tills but only if they use 1p or 2p coins to pay for their purchase. So you would pop into Tesco at a busy time (say a Saturday morning) and buy your copy of The Times with 1p pieces. Then the next person would simply come and buy their bunch of bananas with their loose change. By now there should be a nice little tale back building and the machine should be getting clogged with loose change.

Then if any problems should arise just remind them of their motto ‘Every Little Helps’

So there

25 ways to subvert the system

Sometimes I get so worked up about things I don’t like about the world that I neglect the things I do like about the world or the things I should do about the world. Here is a list of things I’m working on.

1 Get off Facebook

You don’t like corporate control in any other area of your life except Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Twitter. You won’t shop at Tesco on principle yet you’re always stuffing your face on Facebook. Don’t let yourself become a marketers dream.

2 Walk More

Get the blood pumping and take the time to learn your place.

3 Grow Herbs

Read the Wendell Berry essay ‘The Reactor and the Garden’ then go out and plant some coriander. You will save money next time you make a curry.

4 Buy from small,local retailers

If possible to keep diversity in your community.
The empires and systems want to homogenize us.
Which is why you should also get off Facebook. We’ve been homogenized and it’s not healthy

5 Bake Bread

Gain an understanding that it’s not Tesco or Hovis who provide our daily bread, it’s God. Touching the raw ingredients of bread makes you realise how we dependent on grace and farming and ultimately God

6 Name the Beasts

Or name the systems that oppress us. If we name them they have less power over us. The unknown has more power as we can’t define it.

7  Look for where power is Centred

Where are the HQ’s of the IMF, the WTO, the World Bank, Tesco, Google, Apple, corporate power? Don’t fail to see the actual people behind the shiny logo.  Look for where the lords hang out.

8 ‘All Roads lead to Rome’

Work out where the roads of empire lead to these days. Not to Rome but to Arkansas with WalMart or the HQ of BP or Royal Dutch Shell.

9 Read your Bible

If you’re Christian learn the Big Picture. Learn the real story of what is going on not just for the sake of reading it.

10 Jesus

As above. Follow the master

11 Say Grace

Relearn that it isn’t our technology and super markets that supply our daily bread, it’s something far more precious and fragile. Pray to God ‘Give us this day our daily bread’ and mean it

12 Write about Food

Again, learn that there are few things more important and vital to us than food and be grateful for it. It’s there to be enjoyed.

13 Make a Lunch Box System

When you’re out and about make it easier to grab something better for you than a Mars Bar to Tayto.

14 Draw and Dream Alternative Images

Try to imagine different possibilities

15 Write, Perform,Educative and Subversive Poetry

Undermine the tag lines and mission statements, take the piss out of them

16 Seek First the Kingdom

Ignore the claims of other kingdoms

17 Read some Irish Poetry/Legends

Learn about the culture of your homeland

18 Write Songs

It’s easier to slip truth through with a subtle lyric and tune

19 Read about Permaculture

So that you can place less demands on your home patch and be more like Adam was called to be in Eden

20 Ethical Clothing

Cloth yourself when possible with clothes that have been made by people who where not exploited for economic gain.  Choose fabrics that place less demands on economic systems.

21 Urban Farming

Try to encourage urban farming if possible. New Jerusalem sounds like a city garden with an orchard, bring heaven to earth.

22 Theology of Housework

See how you might be glorifying God when cleaning the toilet or washing grease pans to keep yourself sane.

23 Wormery

Turn vegetable waste into compost and use the worm casts to grow herbs and salad leaves. Be proud to have worms

24 Listen to good Music

Listen to all that good music you couldn’t afford to in the past with Spotify. Note the songs you like and why they are quality. Have a special place in your heart for protest songs.

25 Read some affirming Books

Read something you wouldn’t normally bother with, don’t neglect the novel and short story either in favour of non-fiction. Read some classics, read something different

structural evil / corporate evil

…our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms…

Captured by the consumerist imagination of the Empire.