Monday, September 19, 2011

Angry at the pigs

Angry at the pigsLast week, I read some words of the prophet Amos, possibly the angriest man in the Bible. Here are some of my thoughts on Amos, chapter 8.

The rich ruling classes of Amos’s day resented the worship festivals in Israel’s calendar; they meant a day’s less trade for them to get fat on. What was more, their crooked and deceitful trade was riddled with injustice and oppressed the poor.

“When will the new moon be over,
that we may sell grain?
And the Sabbath,
that we may offer wheat for sale,
that we may make the measure small and our profit great
and deal deceitfully with false balances,
that we may buy the poor for silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals?..” (Amos 8:5-6)

Amos’s response to these selfish and corrupt fat cats, is to announce a judgement on their nation so fearsome that it makes difficult reading.

“So many dead bodies! They are thrown everywhere!” (Amos 8:3)

This prophet’s voice relentlessly carries within it God’s naked fury at the oppression of the poor. Perhaps, if we find the force of the anger in such passages ‘difficult’, it points to something of our own complacency or insensitivity towards the things that stir the white heat of God’s passion. God simply cannot abide the kind of selfishness that fattens itself at another’s expense.

“The end has come upon my people Israel” God declares through Amos; “I will never again pass by them”.

It was with Amos’s fiery words still reverberating around me that I read, today, an article about Sir Philip Green (knight of the realm), the multi-billionaire businessman who runs some of the biggest names on British high streets (Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, BHS...)

According to this article, Sir Phil dodged tax on his self-awarded £1.2 billion paycheque. (His business empire is conveniently “owned” by his wife who has not done a single day’s work for the company, lives in Monaco, and pays not a penny of income tax.)

Any time it takes his fancy, Sir Phil can pay himself huge sums of money without having to pay any tax. A distasteful fact, made utterly disgusting when compared to the life of the sweatshop labourers in Mauritius upon whose back he has built his £5bn fortune. In these sweatshops, Sri Lankans, Indians and Bangladeshis toil 12 hours a day, six days a week, for minimal pay.

What would Amos say?

And what am I saying? How am I living? Where do I shop? What do I wear? (I don’t think wearing a wristband with WWJD on it is quite enough here.)

Do I get angry at injustice and oppression of the poor? If so, what do I do about it?


Andy Scott said...

On the other hand, those people who Amos raged against probably didn't setup foundations with the philosophy, "Love one another".

Kathy said...

Well, I just can't NOT comment on this can I, after my tweetrage! ;) That man and the attitude he symbolises really wants to make me through up in my soul. Have you heard about the campaigns in London in which people in mass started trying to refuse to pay the VAT on their items? I've been boycotting his crap for almost a year now (although I totally fail every now and then) and trying to be as vocal about it as I can to my 'clothing-enthusiast' friends, but starting to feel like a tadpool in the pool of the British economy. Fairtrade is also freaking hard. I'm interested, do JA community members ever buy brand new clothes and where do they buy them from? kathyx

n0rma1 said...

Kathy, in answer to your question about JA community members... We get some of our clothes from our own central distributor which buys bulk: this avoids the high street fashion store trap, but I wouldn't like to say all the stuff is fairtrade (I wish it was and think it should be, but we're on a journey on that one.)

I say 'some' clothes because in reality other clothes are bought out. On the whole, our simplicity ethic means we don't buy much that's new/expensive (unless needed for work/school etc.) Some of our members are charity shop connoisseurs! And we get given quite a lot of second hand clothes which we distribute to the poor - including ourselves at times!