Friday, June 24, 2011

The choppy waters coming from Greece

The ever prescient Jon Snow has some sobering words on the Greek crisis over on his Channel 4 News blog. You can read it here.

It might be at the alarmist end of the spectrum but it does highlight a salient point in all this: the city of London is still at the centre of the spider's web of international finance. In particular, we are the hub of the world's insurance and reinsurance business and there'll be a hefty bill when the Greek's go belly up. But that bill will be dwarfed by the one coming our way when Ireland and Portugal hit the buffers.

Instead of tinkering at the edges of serious banking reform, perhaps the EU leaders gathering in Brussels today might sink their teeth into the issue of how we can make the sector more accountable and transparent so that we can see the scale of the waves heading our way before they break over us.

I wondered about the consequences about Greek default yesterday. I still think it's inevitable; whether it's desirable is in the hands of our leaders: it could just be the wake up call we all need and failed to heed when Lehman's and Iceland went down.

I am pondering the parable of the rich fool from Luke 12. It's not an exact parallel to our situation but I am always chastened by the fact that Jesus introduced the sobering tale with the words: 'watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions' (v15).

We're good at applying this verse and the parable that follows to us as individuals (well, to other individuals), but it clearly also applies to us as a culture. We live in a system that says 'greed is good' and rewards that greed with all the stuff that we think is essential for the good life. Unfortunately, as in the parable, such a way of life is not sustainable; eventually God comes calling.

Sadly, unlike in the parable, it is not the paragons of greed who suffer when the wheels come off but the ordinary people, struggling to grab a bit of the action for themselves, who get a kicking; and the poor of the planet who see the little they have swept away in the flood.

So let's pray for the people of Greece, the ordinary people who, like us, have tried to grab the most they can, often in the least sustainable way, and who now face ruin. And let's pray for the leaders gathered in Brussels that they will own responsibility for the mess we're in and actually do something to sort it out in the interests of the poorest rather than the richest.

And let's pray that we all realise that 'life does not consist in an abundance of possessions'

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