Tuesday, 12 October 2010

On being thankful

I was away from home last week and threw away the papers, but think it was in Wednesday's Guardian that the following three items appeared:

  • Sales of tickets at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi are not going very well, as they are too expensive for local people - the equivalent of about 70p, which is half a day's pay in New Delhi.
  • People on housing benefit in Central London will be forced to move out, away from relatives and friends, when the new cap on benefits is introduced.
  • A lady with an income above £44 000 a year moaning away that she couldn't possibly maintain a decent lifestyle if her child benefit were taken away.
What clearer evidence do we want of a divided world and a divided Britain?

It really is high time that those of us who are comfortably off (ie rich enough to be paying any income tax at all, never mind the 40% rate) learned to appreciate our good fortune. Below is the Prayer Book's "General Thanksgiving." Even if you don't agree with its religious sentiments it may help you develop a sense of perspective.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we thine unworthy servants
do give thee most humble and hearty thanks
for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all men;

We bless thee for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for thine inestimable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ,
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies,
that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful,
and that we shew forth thy praise, not only with our lips,
but in our lives;
by giving up ourselves to thy service,
and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness
all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom with thee and the Holy Ghost
be all honour and glory, world without end.


  1. I totally agree with your thoughts on our need to have perspective on these things. On the first point you raise though, about Commonwealth Games tickets being around half a day's pay in Delhi - I haven't yet found out the cost of Olympic tickets, but wouldn't it be likely that they too would be the equivalent of half a day's pay here?

  2. They could easily be , since half a day's pay here for those on £44 000 is over £60, even if they work 365 days a year, which leaves plenty left over for luxuries.

    Do you see "giving up ourselves to they service" as an early version of the Big Society?

  3. Surely that suggests that the economies of the UK and India are at least matched with regards to the relative worth of the tickets they're selling; I suppose the underlying issue is not how much Games tickets are going for, but how much the necessities of life (food, clean water, shelter, clothing) and other items conducive to health and productivity (medicine, transportation, communication) cost as a proportion of income.

    I'm not personally religious, but maybe you could argue that "giving up ourselves to thy service" is an idea in a similar vein to the Big Society - that ultimate good is acting unselfishly in harmony with others to build something better than that which we could selfishly build alone.

  4. Yes, of course we must take into account the relative purchasing powers of the currencies, but, as the following figures show, Indians are hardly living the life of Riley, even if commodities are inexpensive by UK standards. (figures for UK given in rackets)

    %ge below poverty line: 25 (14)
    Infant mortality rate 51/1000 (5/1000)
    Life expectancy 66 (79)
    Female literacy 49% (99%)

    Can't beat your definition of the ultimate good. Excellent!!! Rather different from Mrs Thatcher's view.

  5. Indeed; I suspect that many commodities are indeed much more expensive in India, and that the society is structured in such a way that that those who are marginalised or excluded from society are for the most part unable to seriously affect their position. I suppose (with a touch of pedantry!) I meant that the pricing of the tickets was not in and of itself evidence of a divided world; but the fact that they are still too expensive even at what we would consider a very reasonable rate, is a consequence of that.

    I have to say I'm very flattered by your use of the word 'excellent' as stuck very firmly in my mind is an assembly you delivered where you decried the very liberal use of it to praise mediocrity; so an 'excellent' from you is very high praise indeed!

    For what it's worth, I don't think Mrs Thatcher and I are as far apart as you may think. Whilst her "there is no such thing as society" speech is frequently misquoted as evidence of a supposed dog-eat-dog mantra on her behalf, in reality she was a great supporter of community action and the power of individuals and groups to self-organise in order to tackle societal ills.

    Meaning, I suppose, that the ultimate goal - building a society where all are cared for and reach their potential - is more or less the same; it's the means (state command and control of resources, versus small platoons of ingenuity and guerilla action) that differ.