Peter's Blog

Mad Wednesdays

Written by Peter Johnston on .

At the moment Wednesdays are just crazy in the Johnston household. Once everyone is back from school, there are 45 minutes before the start of drama class for the oldest three, then back home for an hour before Rainbows for Katherine, Anchor Boys for Andrew, and then gymnastics for Katherine in Cumbernauld... It is manic. We're just back home from that, thankfully to a quiet house with everyone else in bed.

However, I must admit I am quite relishing the hour sitting in the car outside Broadwood Gymanstics Academy on a Wednesday night. Peace and quiet and a book. I was hoping to finish the book I am currently reading, Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine, but 20 mins cat nap threw that in disarray.

This book has been eye-opening in its detailed description of free-market capitalism and the costs that come with it. While I have been aware of the "dark side" of capitalism for a number of years, particularly after doing some reading on trade issues, the depth of the corruption and even criminality is mind-blowing.

One example was reading about what has happened in Sri Lanka following the devastation inflicted on that country amongst many others on Boxing Day 2004 when the tsunami hit land. 

You may remember the extraordinary generosity of people across the world at the time. In the six months following the tsunami $13bn was raised to help the people who had lost everything: their homes, livelihoods and, tragically, often family members.

While those of us who donated money expected that money to go to help those most affected, the fishing families along the coast, the devastation has been used as a cover to completely change much of the area. So today there are shanty towns two or three miles inland where the people who lost everything now live in penury with no source of income, while their land has been taken by the state and sold to large businesses to develop for tourism. They couldn't do it while the fishermen were there, the tsunami gave them the perfect cover. And the aid money raised went to help do this. The governments, backed by the likes of the World Bank, said it would help raise the total economic performance of the country and so would benefit everyone. It is a sad joke. Those who already have plenty get more, and those who had little end up with less.

This same story is repeated everywhere. As a follower of Christ, the more I read about capitalism and the free market, the more I get the feeling that there is something deeply wrong with it when it is allowed to run rampant. I know it has extraordinary powers to create money (even in the disaster of Iraq, the main beneficiaries (predominantly the American corporations who have all the contracts) are doing very nicely thank you), but always one must ask: at what cost? In America in 1980 a typical CEO earned 43 times a typical worker's salary. An extraordinary gap, you might think, but that was only the beginning of the real push to capitalist excess that Reagan and then Bushs I & II have pushed. In 2005, CEOs earned 413 times more. The rich get richer, the poor don't get anything. How so many Christians can make a link between capitalism and Christianity is beyond me. They seem to be polar opposites.

I highly recommend the book. Here's a wee video from a girl in Sri Lanka who is still living by the waters. Pray for those like her, and particularly for those now living in shanty towns with no future.