Cleethorpes Chronicle June 2010
Next week’s emergency budget is going to be a sharp reminder that we have to work together if we are to get our economy back on track. For me, however, the essential question will be how far the more vulnerable in our community can be protected from the effects of the recession. I suspect that such protection will only be possible if we are prepared to accept additional sacrifices to our own standard of living being included in the budget.
Working together and making sacrifices are at odds with the ‘culture of self’ which seems to dominate our society, with its high awareness of our own needs and focusing on the individual rather than the community. It has been a way of life where we have become observers of other people’s problems, yet have become unwilling to bear the cost of finding solutions. The immediacy of television takes us to the heart of tragic and challenging situations, but then moves us swiftly on as the next headline clamours for our attention. The ‘culture of self’ has eroded so many aspects of community and made redundant the language of working together for the common good.
I recently visited the grave of Valentine Joe Strudwick, a rifleman of the First World War. I found him in the Essex Farm Cemetery just outside of Ypres, lying amongst his comrades from the 14th (Light) Division. He had been killed in action on 14th January 1916, just one month short of his 16th birthday. He was one of 50 from his Division to be killed that January – yet it had been a “quiet month” with little action. I wonder what this 15 year old farm labourer, “of tall and well built stature”, from Dorking in Surrey would have made of our ‘culture of self’?
In the Christian faith we find love and self-sacrifice held together in the man Jesus. The baby of Christmas ends up dying nailed to a cross and becomes the ultimate expression that love without sacrifice is a very shallow, selfish and hollow emotion. Next week’s budget may well help to balance the books, but unless we learn how to work together as a community – to make the personal sacrifices needed to balance the community – then I suspect that little will be changed by the Chancellor. We hear so much about love, but so little about sacrifice – we have much to learn from that 15 year old rifleman lying in Flanders Fields and even more to learn from that young man who died on a cross 2000 years ago.