Cutbacks, Scape-goating and Fairness

The current focus of the nation’s economic woes conjures up for me images of what was known as Structural Adjustment and the IMF in regions such as the Caribbean and South America. I can just imagine the millions who are daily experiencing the “grind” of penury, as a result of an economic system that is still impoverishing whole nations and peoples, more than bemused at our anxieties about pensions, cutbacks, redundancies and loss of benefits. They have been living in a perpetual state of “cutbacks” and impoverishment and can soon come to our help with insights of how to survive. I doubt they would be so calloused as to mockingly point out that we are reaping what we have sowed. The economic Eldorado bubble we have been living in has been punctured. Lies, greed and an insatiable desire for more which have all become first nature mean that need to change our bad habits will be a costly and long haul.

At this time, it is also sad to hear how politics and politicians have degenerated to the level of tribal triteness with multiple excuses of why the cutbacks. The default mode is that of “scapegoating”. The Con-Lib continue to lay all the blame on Labour for their spending spree and at no point is assuming responsibility for the tough choices they have to make and the decisions they are taking. Some labour politicians are blaming the banking crisis for the over-spending and debts. No one is accepting that they have bankrolled their policies on an unrealistic economic model and having encouraged unsustainable life styles. In spite of all the present talk and moves around cuts- the fundamental point about changing lifestyles and making different choices will most like impinge on one set of people – the already vulnerable.

Is this just? Well, we are hearing lots of talk about “fairness” and a new understanding of and conversation on this suddenly elevated virtue. The question, however, is just what is fair and fairness for whom? How about equality and justice and in what ways would these challenge PM Cameron’s privileged take on what is fairness. Only a person from a privileged position of power can speak of fairness in these words:

“Fairness means giving people what they deserve, and what people deserve depends on how they behave. If you really can’t work, we’ll look after you. But if you can work but refuse to work, we will not let you live off the hard work of others.”

Indeed, depending on what rung of the social ladder you are located on, fairness may have a different meaning. One cannot help but sense a default mode in operation here: that of the “deserving” and “undeserving” poor. It would certainly be fair to let the bankers, banks and corpocrats carry the cost for the crisis they have largely engineered, while asking the people to “tighten their belts”. Fairness that is just will want to question the £500 billion bailout of banks as a result of their greed and the continuing piling up of profits and paying out of astronomical bonuses to their executives.

From a Christian [and faith perspective] fairness doesn’t happen by chance. It has to be intentional through just governance and policies and a commitment to the well-being of all (especially the vulnerable). It needs a moral basis which should not be justified in economic terms but along the lines of justice and compassion. This is quite a challenge in view of the modern tendency to reduce our moral values to economic worth.

copyright © jagessar October 19,2010

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