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  • Source: Dundee
  • Date: August, 2003
  • Author: Erik Cramb

This book is a good read. I've never met Antonia Swinson, but I think I like her. She has all the incisive observational skills of Billy Connelly and makes the same colourful use of language ? albeit with a vocabulary that owes more to Momingside than Partick. In a nation where the great divide is between most people who are locked into credit (debt) through mortgages, HP agreements and plastic cards and the remainder (like leftovers) who are locked out of such credit or debt and are prey to loan sharks of both the legal and illegal variety, Swinson speaks from the perspective of the locked in, but she is not blind to the deep desperation of the locked out. She shoots from the lip. Consider what she has to say about money, debt and Christianity.

"Money is more intimate than sex, sought with more passion than true love."

"Debt is a four letter word" "Debt steals hope."

"What is Christianity for, if it is not about fighting poverty?"

About work-life balance, she poses the question, "Is driven business ambition just a subtle form of mental illness?" She could well be right, it might just be an "emperors' clothes" question. She is certainly right when she says, "It is very hard to think we are worth more than the lilies of the field ? when we are pawns of the market economy."

About land she thunders, "Land is the ultimate reality behind money ? It is where real power and influence lies." and challenges our immoral history of land ownership.

She says, "Tax is a seriously boring subject and our eyes glaze over ... we simply cannot afford this indulgence."

I don't think she's tough enough on the subject of tax. She should be castigating the church for having failed to argue that paying tax is one way in which we contribute to the common wealth and should do so with pride. It is how in a modem society we care for the widow and the orphan, the lame and the blind. She should be saying to her affluent friends that low taxes are bad for the soul of the caring rich and they are not paying nearly enough. She is more strident about investments, which are about "Reaping where we do not sow" ? lending out at interest, in other words ? is usury.

She wants to get stuck in. "Isn't it time to rattle a few of today's sleek people and ask some awkward questions?" She wants Social Capital valued, or revalued, arguing poetically that "without social capital, which like coral, takes years to form, the market economy cannot thrive." Her "Just My Share Diet" is a challenging concept for the troubled affluent. She wants the work of Church Action on Poverty to be at the very heart of the mainstream of church life. Although seemingly unaware of the work of industrial mission throughout the UK, she instinctively sees the need for workplace mission.

There is a disappointingly genteel approach to Corporate Social Responsibility bordering on the nonsensical. To claim, as she does, that "good corporate social responsibility could centre on quite small changes in organisational life" is just daft. To be truly serious about Corporate Social Responsibility, business has first to be good business. Honest in its dealings; paying bills on time; being a just employer, embracing taxation; being of big spirit, that is both generous and brave. That is big change and it is Biblical.

The tackety boots ? or should I say the sharp stilettos ? are however clearly evident in her conclusion where she talks about the "whine of 99" from the hitherto excited middle ? classes who were "all swooshed up among the bubbles ? getting rich beyond their wildest dreams" as they began to ask, "If we are so rich, why do we feel so poor, compared to our peers?" She asks, "What about those who were not invited to the party? The public sector workers, looking to have their efforts rerated and rewarded, only to be disillusioned. Then, far from the sunlight, being dragged along the seabed, bruised and broken, have come the poor, the nearly poor and the homeless. These have seen no increasing wealth, but just a life enduring the rough disturbance from above, as the height between them and the top of the wave has grown ever higher." Boy, can this woman paint a picture.

Her analysis may be questioned; her remedies sometimes timid, her theology unconvincing, but her passion is palpable and her observations painfully acute. Buy her book and be prepared to be provoked.

Wednesday, 24 April, 2019
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