a wicked double decker bus?

Oh world, world, world.. *sigh*

I was reading yesterday that the combined wealth of the 85 wealthiest people in the world, that is 85 ordinary men and women who will one day die like us all and who would easily fit on a double decker bus (not that they are likely to get on a double decker bus!) have the same amount of wealth as the 3,500,000,000 poorest people on planet earth.

If we wanted to put all those poor people on double decker buses it would take 41,176,471 of them, which is 41 million double decker buses.

These figures are a bit like trying to count the stars or comprehend the mysteries of the galaxy:- they are almost incomprehensible.

I was finding it hard to sleep last night so to kill the early morning hours I tried making a map marking on the 85 richest people.

What I noticed about the people on this map is that lots of them are no spring chickens (average age 74ish?). Moscow seems to have quite a few while the country with the most is unsurprisingly the USA

I was also thinking about a verse from Psalm 73:-

‘This is what the wicked are like—
always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.’

Is there something wicked about amassing wealth?

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.

trying to walk the bread line

this morning
I’ve been reminded
(once again)
that we live completely
by the grace of God

as usual that part of the Lord’s Prayer
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
was the spark

each time a believer  we prays those words
they’re asking God to provide their daily nourishment
to give them enough for today
and they’re admitting that our daily bread
is a  gift of God’s grace
something we’re powerless to provide by ourselves
for it is a product of the soil, the rains, the sunlight,
that we can never provide
like manna in the desert

It’s  a reminder to myself
on mornings like this morning
that  when I want to lash out at things
to make my own way in the world
to be strong
to be he-man
to  seize the day
to grab my piece of the pie
that the Kingdom  works on different rules
and that this man should work on different rules as well

not that it’s easy
to trust
being on the bread-line

knowing that although you’ve bread enough for today
that tomorrow is a new day
and the day after that

there will be a lot of faith required down the line
and your faith is weak

each day you will pray
‘Give us this day our daily bread’
in faith and trust

do I have that much faith?

we had that those verses
from Matthew six
about not worrying about tomorrow
or the clothes you will wear
or what you will eat
and considering the birds
who neither sow nor reap
and to seek first the Kingdom
and his righteousness
read to us on our wedding day

it is a command of the way we should go

yet  seeking the kingdom
and his justice
in this economy is hard
so hard

writing and topping up your cv
seems to me to be like
playing ‘Top Trumps’
against your neighbour
and at his expense

if it’s true that we receive our daily bread by grace
(like we pray as Christians)
how does this competing for daily bread
(that seems to be the way the economy is designed to work)
come into it?

how do you walk the bread line?

it’s not about making money
it’s about making a living
yet it feels so hard to make a living
in this economy and culture
without engaging that culture and economy
on it’s terms and by it’s rules

money’s too tight to mention?

Last week thanks to a gift from kind friends we had a short break in a hotel that we would normally never dream of staying in. It was lovely but I think it’s fair to say that we didn’t feel entirely comfortable in the surroundings and that we almost felt ashamed that we had to worry about money while the other guests appeared to have little concerns in that department.

The reason I’m thinking about this is because someone (our butcher) mentioned in passing that he mightn’t be doing anything nice this year for Valentine’s Day as ‘to be honest money is pretty tight this year’. He looked embarrassed saying those words and we too felt embarrassed as we’re in the same boat and didn’t want to embarrass him. It was a circle of all round embarrassment.

I hate the way lack of money or financial clout can make a man feel so embarrassed.

I had a plan to save a bit of money last weekend before our trip to Mayo by using some of the store cupboard staples and not going to the market.
But on Monday afternoon the back door lock on our car broke for no apparent reason meaning that we couldn’t lock it and a trip to the garage set us back £30 for the mechanic to do a temporary job and lock the door for the trip away. Factor in another £20 for a replacement lock and £30 to get it fitted and suddenly you are down £80.

This is life of course and being able to lock your back door is more important than a dinner out I suppose. But that £80 when money is tight is the Valentine’s Dinner out or a flight over to see relations in Spain. These are the decisions many of us have to make yet still there is shame in saying money is tight.

Well, feck it and double feck it.

Let’s get real and ignore the words of Simply Red that money’s too tight to mention. It shouldn’t be too tight to mention and we shouldn’t feel shame and saying that we can’t afford to pay for an expensive meal under a helium love heart balloon or go out for a friends stag party or ________ etc etc.

Alain de Botton writes a bit about this sort of thing in Status Anxiety

‘Populations blessed with riches and possibilities far outstripping those imaginable by their ancestors….have shown a remarkable capacity to feel that both who they are and what they have are not enough’

And the reason?

‘Our sense of an appropriate limit to anything – for example, to wealth and esteem – is never decided independently. It is arrived at by comparing our condition with that of a reference group, with that of people we consider to be our equals’

That is it.
Comparing myself to all my friends on Facebook is a bad idea because they are the ones going on holidays or doing exciting, sexy stuff while we’re not.

I guess that my reference group should be the church, not even the local church here in Lisburn but the world wide church as they all are (strictly speaking) my brothers and sister, my family. If they’re my first reference group instead of the group of guests at the slightly plush hotel maybe that would help me to see things differently. Or if Jesus is my ultimate reference he didn’t seem to have two beans to rub together, foxes have holes and birds have nests but the son of man has no where to lay his head.