Summary First Thursday 1st September 2016
In the prayers we read the story of King Solomon’s alliance with King Hiram of Tyre and Sidon (from 1 Kings chapters 4 and 5). This was the result of peace in Solomon’s reign, after earlier wars.
The newspapers carried reports of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder/Syndrome in ex-soldiers, and the way this was being dealt with (often not, apparently, very effectively). A high percentage of ex-servicemen in the 1950s also found it hard to cope with civilian life, but the fact that the majority of men of that age had similar experiences meant they could meet together to support one another. Now there is more isolation (and possibly more traumatic experiences?). Things have advanced since the WW1 branding of “shell-shock” as cowardice, but more needs to be done.
Solomon and Hiram’s alliance led to trade: cedar wood for wheat and oil. The morning before (August 31st) Teresa May’s cabinet had met with calls for no “Norway”-type agreement, which would mean that the UK would accept free movement of labour as part of access to the EU Single Market. Instead we should go back to the days of the British Empire when our trade was with the whole world. But we thought we joined the EEC in the 1970s precisely because those days were over- and we have much less manufacturing to export now.
However, people’s aversion to the EU was perhaps as much because of a sense that when things get “too big” they are beyond our control, even our understanding. We have a similar reaction when our small familiar communities get absorbed into a larger (though perhaps economically more thriving) conurbation- there is a sense of loss of identity, and the feeling that Brussels makes decisions that do not “suit us”. The EU principle of “subsidiarity” (the notion that decisions should be made at the most local level possible), has not been properly explored.
Immigration is also not well understood. The economic facts and arguments may point clearly in a positive direction, but the sense that large numbers are a “threat” is a natural feeling (one played upon by newspapers in order to increase their sales)- the mistake comes when we take the feeling to be the reality, rather than examining it closely.
There is also the suspicion that the German economy, because of its success, has too much influence in EU policies and can lead to unfair impositions on weaker members. In the same way the North American Free Trade Agreement ruined many Mexican small farmers, by exporting surplus maize from the USA which undercut their markets.
We signed up to the EEC Common Market in the 1970s, and many people question the fact that the EU has since developed stronger political institutions. But the reality is that a free market without political control inevitably leads to a widening gulf between rich and poor, between the successful and the “failures”- and when debt gets involved the scene is set for a massive cut-back in social provision, because the payment of debt has priority. Free markets with no political control have proved to be only good for the rich and powerful, and for those who can find employment in the economy they dominate.