Wednesday, 20 October 2010

'Profit vs Prophet' - Responses to presentations

  • While I personally enjoy voluntary work, for those shut out of the economy their only option may be to work voluntarily ad there can, therefore, be a patronising aspect to voluntary work.
  • The benefits of volunteering often outlive the person who volunteers.
  • There are patterns which can be identified around which healthy systems can be designed.
  • There is a relationship between systems and human emotions as systems can accommodate the expression of emotions and imagination.
  • We can't generalise about bankers being the sole problem in this recession.
  • Technology has a tendency to ratchet upwards. This is a destabilising tendency.
  • Micah says that wealth is the opposite of righteousness and that it feeds a feeling of omnipotence. In response we need a greater appreciation of common wealth and common well being.
  • I was impressed by the thought that profit should be kept for planting.
  • How can the principles of well being be applied to those in business, that there might be a blessing of business? Judaism doesn't have a problem with business.
  • How to define excess?
  • We are inclined to approach issues from ourselves and move outwards from there but faith in God's economy will challenge London's economy. Secondary theology is thinking about the present situation and applying theology to it. Primary theology is starting with God's economy and challenging the current situation. Most Western life is actually based on the exploitation of others. We are ridden with usury and don't recognise it. As our corporate structures are based on violence they erode the values of which Abigail Morris spoke. TED talks suggest that there are nine planetary boundaries that we have crossed. We must deal with these structural issues.
  • We need to develop balance. The Qur'an says that if the tribe of Adam were given one mountain of gold they would not be satisfied until they had another.
  • Interest needs to be set against trade. Trade is encouraged in the Qur'an.
  • Usury is either excessive interest or any kind of interest. My argument is that, if you gain benefit from others or from the Earth, that is usury. Corporate Social Responsibility is payment for guilt.
  • Money can be a receptacle for our fantasies. It can make a difference by putting something in to society. It is easy to think that everything is negative but there is change afoot as organisations realise that in order to gain business you have to contribute to society.
  • I live in a Benedictine community which has a common fund and where we pool our wealth which is then redistributed according to need. The Christian Church quickly moved away from this position and became a defender of private property. We need to explore the idea of common wealth, that wealth is a gift from God which is only loaned to us giving us a duty to ensure that everyone benefits according to need.
  • I wonder whether a male/female divide is going on under the radar. I am not sure that my husband could have conversations about the values which Abigail Morris raised in what is for him a very masculine work environment.
  • We need to emphasise the responsibility of individuals in society to live within their means.
  • There is a general promotion of greed and consumption within our society. Small businesses and entrepreneurship can signal a different approach. We need to step up and lead by example.   
  • Who will be our Micah?
  • Jeffrey Sachs, Economist at Columbia University, has written about common wealth and the possibility of a change of mindset.
  • There is the question of excessive money and what people do with it. Bill Gates is an example of drawing others into philanthropy.
  • This seminar, and Abigail Morris' presentation in particular, has been a example of the translation work needed to connect what faith traditions have to say about work and wealth and link these to the world and language of business.
  • Money has been fantasy since Richard Nixon delinked the dollar from gold. We have seen hyper Capitalism since that point.
  • I visited the Amish community and found that they could not believe the craziness of our systems, including the setting aside of land that is not farmed. They have two questions for their discernment test, from which we could learn; Is it useful for our community? Is it doing God's work?
  • We need to be wary of philanthropy as it is often palliative.
  • Micah-like statements can be found in the recent book by Rowan Williams and Larry Elliott, Crisis and Recovery.  

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