“Subsidised capitalism”

“Conservatives oppose change and want things to remain the same. On climate, however, inaction means that things will not remain the same but will radically change—for the worse. Thus conservative politicians should join with social democrats and greens in accelerating the necessary actions to repair the ecosystem.” writes Paul Sweeney in the latest edition of Social Europe.

Read the full article here https://socialeurope.eu/from-free-market-to-subsidised-capitalism

Primary memories

Greenside Primary School, Pudsey on 3rd January 2022

Visiting my mother in my native town of Pudsey, West Yorkshire today I took a moment to photograph my first school, Greenside Primary. I attended it from 1961 until 1966. In fact, it was also the school my mother attended when she moved with her parents to Pudsey from Leeds in 1939. It’s still a primary school today and one of my brother’s grandchildren attends it.

Among my most vivid memories of Greenside are the snowy days. We created immense (to us) icy slides the length of the gently sloping tarmac- coated playground. Playtime breaks were spent whizzing down these achieving feats of balance and speed, like a landlocked simulacrum of surfing.

There was a seasonality about our playground activities. Conkers in the autumn, slides and snowballing in winter, and at some point when the weather was warmer and the ground drier, marbles would be brought out.

In September 1966, for my final year of Junior school ( Year 6 today) the whole school decamped to a brand new school with its own playing field about half a mile away at Southroyd. This was just slightly closer to the house to which my family had moved earlier in 1966 than Greenside is. I don’t know what happened to the Greenside school building immediately after that move but it wasn’t long before it was operating again as a primary school as it continues today. No doubt the growth of the population in Pudsey in the mid- 1960s and 1970s required the additional school places.

Pudsey became one of the fastest growing towns in the West Yorkshire conurbation in the latter part of the 20th century. There were numbers of new homes built on brownfield sites previously occupied by industrial plants such as tanneries, woollen mills, and light engineering workshops. When I was a child it was nothing unusual walking around outside to be met by the greasy smells, incessant whirrings, and occasional bangs and blue flashes of local industry. It seemed there was a pub and a chapel at every significant street corner, and some in between too! The former I aspired to visit and frequently succeeded from the age of 16 upwards, the latter not so much. Whatever Primitive Methodists and Strict Baptists were I was content to remain in ignorance of them. I was unconflictedly Church of England! Decommissioned pubs and chapels were demolished and new housing built. At one site a former graveyard is covered over now by an innocuous cul-de- sac of modest detached homes; providing a complete visual erasure of its previous awe-inspiring appearance.

Redwings hit the garden.


I saw my first redwings of the winter today. There was a small flock of them feeding on our lawn. Lorraine spotted them. What she thought were leaves in the distance suddenly started to hop around over the grass, pecking at the ground for worms.

The link to the RSPB site explains the annual journey of redwings to southern England in Autumn and Winter

Refugee Blues

I’ve discovered today the poem of this title by WH Auden. It was referred to in this week’s New Statesman in the article “Humanity, not hostility, will solve the migrant crisis” by Philip Collins. The poem’s context is the situation facing German Jews in Nazi Germany. It could have been written today in the context of the present crisis of hostility facing refugees.

The poem is online here


The public kicks back

Currently I’m reading The Assault on Truth by Peter Oborne about the destruction Boris Johnson is wreaking on British democracy and public life by his disregard for truth and integrity.

He quotes this from the political philosopher David Marquand

“The private domain has always been with us; and Adam Smith was probably right in thinking that the ‘truck, barter and exchange’ of the market domain are natural to human beings. But there is nothing natural about the public domain. It is a gift of history, and of fairly recent history at that. It is literally a priceless gift. The goods of the public domain cannot be valued by market criteria, but they are no less precious for that. They include fair trials, welcoming public spaces, free public libraries, subsidised opera, mutual building societies, safe food, the broadcasts of the BBC World Service, the lobbying of Amnesty International, clean water, impartial public administration, disinterested scholarship, blood donors, magistrates, the minimum wage, the Pennine Way and the rulings of the Health and Safety Executive. Less obviously, they also include liberty – not in the familiar sense of freedom to pursue private interests, but in the classical republican sense of freedom from domination. In the public domain, market power is over-ridden; citizens bow the knee to nobody.” (The Decline of the Public, 2004)

Yesterday the news was dominated by the story of the collapse of a proposed European football superleague in the face of general outcry against it by the public and politicians alike, including Boris Johnson. It strikes me here was an example of citizens refusing to bow the knee to billionaires. That doesn’t mean I think Johnson has changed his ways. He knows a moment of opportunity to garner voter support when he needs it, especially a couple of weeks ahead of local elections.

60 years of Bob Dylan gigs.

Today is the 60th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s first professional appearance on stage. He performed opposite John Lee Hooker at the famous Gerde’s Folk City in New York on 11th April 1961. In his autobiographical Chronicles Volume One (2004), the back cover of my copy of which I’ve photographed above, Dylan recalls that the co-owner of the venue, Mike Porco, signed for him as a guardian for his cabaret and union cards, becoming “the Sicilian father that I never had”. Dylan was still only 19 years old.

So today in between other activities I’ve been listening to Bob Dylan on Spotify. The tracks played were from a playlist on the app and should be visible on my blog site’s music feed.

Thoughts on the death of Hans Küng this week.

I discovered today that Hans Küng died earlier this week. There is an obituary by Peter Stanford in The Guardian. Küng was a Roman Catholic priest and academic theologian, a prolific writer of accessible as well as erudite works on religion.

His work in the 1970s had a formative influence on me, setting the pattern for my own liberal framing of Christian faith. I requested his book On Being a Christian as a 21st birthday present in 1977.

As a significant adviser to the Second Vatican Council Küng was seen by many Christians back then, both inside and beyond the Roman Catholic Church, as a torch-bearer of a new dawn for the Christian Church. I had high hopes as I entered training for the Church of England priesthood that it would not be long before Christian churches, certainly in the West but including the Roman Catholics, would embrace and deliver the kind of agenda Küng and other modernisers outlined. This would include intercommunion and mutual recognition of the ministries of the different churches; a rejection of clericalism and hierarchical structures even in episcopal churches; equality for women including opening all orders of the sacred ministry to them; the end of patriarchy as the default mode of church cultures; a new ethics of human sexuality based on compassion and knowledge, informed by the experiences of the faithful and the human sciences, in genuine dialogue with the ancient traditions.

The unbelievable sudden death of Pope John Paul I in 1978 after only a few weeks in office set church history on a different course. In his place came the charismatic but also deeply traditionalist John Paul II. He encouraged others, like Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict, who sought to row back from the progressive vision of the Second Vatican Council. Ratzinger had turned away from an earlier radicalism he had shared with Küng, his erstwhile academic colleague.

In politics too in the West, democratic and socially progressive ideals were being stifled and conservative traditionalism reasserted with the elections of Reagan in the USA and Thatcher in the UK as the 1980s began. Globally, religious fundamentalism was on the rise, most evident in the Iranian Revolution; and in the USA and in Britain conservative churches teaching traditional interpretations of Christian faith and ethics, often allied to the methods of market capitalism with a stripping away of the historic Christian symbolism, were seen as growing in relevance and strength. Efforts to bring the institutional churches closer together as institutions failed and churches began to be caught up in the culture war between progressive and reactionary visions of society. Huge resources of creativity in the Church of England for example were sunk into the long arduous battle through the 1980s to get to a positive decision on the ordination of women.

Küng, who was himself delisted as a legitimate teacher of the Catholic Church by Pope John Paul II, has come to stand for me as a symbol of those who speak the truth before most are ready or willing to receive it. There are many examples in history both inside and outside the Church.

There is no inevitability that the Roman Catholic church, and other churches, will eventually embrace the reforms Küng called for. History does not necessarily run in the direction of greater human flourishing. Yet it’s hard to imagine that 100 years from now the mainline Christian communities will be barring women from any form of leadership, or teaching that same-sex marriage is sinful.

What is easier to imagine is that the institutional forms of the churches as we know them will no longer be the effective carriers of dynamic Christian faith and witness; if they are surviving in fossilised form by 2121it’s more likely they will be social curiosities still practicing archaic customs long since abandoned by the majority across the world.