October 7th 2021 Summary
Rising world gas prices were the first subject for our discussion. A good deal of blame has been placed on Russia, but that is probably unwarranted. The USA (and some others) are questioning Europe’s dependence on Russia for gas (through the NordStream pipelines), but Europe seems to be wanting to resist US pressure on this.
We live in an increasingly international economy- much of our earlier manufacturing industry has been “exported” (along with our carbon emissions), so we find it easy to blame China, for example, for causing Global Warming, though China is de-carbonising faster than almost anyone else. In Brexit we were promised a thriving UK economy, but this depends on international trade- and in many ways it is better to have goods travel short distances and be produced “near home”.
Are we being reduced to hoping that future generations will find the solutions to all these global problems- provided they are not blocked but present objections?
On Russia we need to recognise how it was deliberately isolated from Europe in the 1990s, with former Eastern bloc countries “captured” by the European Union and NATO. A major part of Putin’s motivation is to restore Russian greatness to counter this humiliation. [Though Catherine Belton’s book “Putin’s People”, published by Willian Collins in 2020, paints a darker picture of how this is being achieved. A review can be found here: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/apr/12/putins-people-by-catherine-belton-review-relentless-and-convincing ]
The same is true of China, which is still reversing the humiliations of the 19th century (the Opium Wars etc). And Germany after WW1, when and armistice was turned into a revenge peace settlement by the victorious allies (in contrast to the post-WW2 with Marshall Plan rebuilding- though Germany was divided because of fears of its future power, and Russia’s “need” for a buffer zone and desire to exploit Europe to rebuild its own economy). These continuing global tensions put increased pressure on people’s mental health, perhaps particularly young people.
In contrast after 9/11 a Birmingham Rabbi walked to Central Mosque to express solidarity. Karen Armstrong talks about classical Greek plays- after victory, losers must be portrayed in compassionate ways to provoke the “victorious” audience to tears.
Our reading was from 1 Peter chapter 2, the first ten verses. This talks about a “chosen race”- does this mean people who have been excluded and ignored by society, but are “chosen” by God and given a new status and dignity (for example those in our own society who depend on Universal Credit?). Or is it the opposite- a group who arrogantly claim superiority and power because they believe they are “God’s chosen”?
In many cases the first can too easily turn into the second- trauma experienced in in childhood or in political society can lead to abusive relationships later. Dealing with the trauma and moving beyond it is difficult, and needs support and care.
There are political parallels here- the crisis of nations being forced to “let go” of former Empires (but also seeking to retain financial control), and perhaps Donald Trump is also an example.