Posted Under: Capitalism,Charity,Uncategorized
‘Tis the season for rampant consumerism, and given that I live within spitting distance of the new Westfield shopping centre in London – a place where people actually put on their ‘Sunday Best’ to worship at the temple of ‘fashion’ – I have more than my fair 12 days share of festive reminders. I’m not saying that giving people presents is a bad thing, but that’s not what Christmas shopping is about – it’s a sport akin to The Price is Right. People judge their value according to what they receive and try to match the price in the presents they give. A friend once explained to me that there’s a prestige to judging the correct value of presents: if you give a present of less value than the one you receive then you look bad, if you receive a present that is less valuable than the one you give, you feel cheated. This sounds like a hazardous tightrope to me, which is why this year everyone is getting mixtapes.
It’s difficult to argue against a mixtape – the ‘thought’ is there and, unlike a charity goat there’s a tangible present for the recipient. However, not everyone sees such a simple positive solution to consumerism.
This week, a vicar in York has advocated shoplifting for poor people – I’m taking it he means ‘Bob Cratchett’ poor, not the relative poverty of not being able to afford the same presents as your friends. Father Tim Jones said:
I would ask that they do not steal from small, family businesses, but from large national businesses, knowing that the costs are ultimately passed on to the rest of us in the form of higher prices.
My first reaction to this was ‘what has it come to that the most vulnerable in our society do not receive enough money from us and so are forced to steal in order to make up the deficit?’ However, telling poverty-stricken people it’s ok to shoplift – however laudable your intention – is a bad idea. The last thing people need is to be is poor with a criminal record. Then it’s that bit harder to get out of poverty long-term. Saying that it’s ok if a poor person steals is patronising and reinforces the schism in society that there’s one rule for one group and another rule for ‘the underclass’. But in a world where politicians have been sanctioned to steal from us by filing ridiculous expenses claims – which we have to pay for – is it any wonder that such divides are being seen as justifiable?
Proper welfare support, charity and equality of status are the answer to the problem – not shoplifting, consumer economics or religion.
I leave you with this festive thought – how is it that teenage Dutch sailor, Laura Dekker, can find her way to a Caribbean Island while hundreds of thousands of families in the UK are unable to get anywhere due to the snow?