Who is my Neighbour? Are we becoming a Community of Communities or a Society of Strangers?

WhoNeighbourFriday 10th April, 7:30, Loughborough United Reformed Church on Frederick Street.

Discussion to be introduced by Daphne Beale

In their pastoral letter to the churches the Bishops argue that  the extent of loneliness in society today, with the attendant problems of mental and physical health, is one indication of how far we have drifted into a society of strangers. But that drift is far from complete — and few people, if asked, would say that a society of strangers represents a vision of society which they desire.

Our political life would be equally enhanced if it were possible to speak about markets, business and the profit motive as an impressively effective system of distribution in a complex society and hugely liberating of human creativity — but one that also tends to entrench inequality, diminish human sympathies and, unchecked, damage the conditions for its own flourishing. Adam Smith, the father of market economics, understood that, without a degree of shared morality which it neither creates nor sustains, the market is not protected against its inbuilt tendency to generate cartels and monopolies which undermine the principles of the market itself.

They suggest three criteria for judging any austerity measure: Is it fair? (giving priority to the vulnerable) Is it generous? (including the obligation to share our resources) Is it sustainable? (taking into account the interests of future generations).

The answer to the question  who is my neighbour? will deeply affect the way we practise our lives and the values we promote. If my neighbour is only one who agrees with me, practises my lifestyle, looks like me and shares my ability (or inability) to think through the issues then we end up with a fractured society, with gross inequalities and increasing levels of stress in all parts of society. If my neighbour is a wider concept then maybe we can mend our society so that all feel they are part of a community, we can reduce the inequalities and just possibly improve the well being of us all.

Some useful websites

Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) publications


There are a whole series of publications on current issues well researched
by the churches working together. Among them are:

2013    The lies we tell ourselves: ending comfortable myths about poverty.
2013    Faith in foodbanks?
2015    Time to rethink Benefit Sanctions
2015    Faith in Politics – Preparing Churches for the General Election 2015
(a paper giving one side of A4 to each of 16 issues relevant to the coming

One theme of the Joint Public Issues Team is ‘Think, Pray, Vote’.
The Archbishop spoke on this theme at a JPIT conference on 21 Feb 2015.
You can find his speech on this website using the theme.


Also of interest are the following:

The House of Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on the 2015 General Election titled
‘Who is my Neighbour?’ (a 52 page article looking at issues in our society
urging people to vote after careful thought and prayer). The letter can be
found at


and look for the letter.

Another interesting paper has been produced locally by the Diocese of
‘How do you get by?’ comes from the Bishop’s Commission on Poverty. This
can be found on


and click on Poverty Commission.

Churches Together in Britain and Ireland have produced a paper
‘2020vision: The Good Society and the General Election’.
Look for it under


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Discussion with the progressive Parliamentary candidates

AboveFriday 27th Mar, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

Matthew O’Callaghan – Labour  Matt Sisson – Green Party and Steve Coltman – Lib Dems will answer questions

There is a widespread disillusion with politics based on a perception that it is dominated by Westminster-based career politicians. This is not helped by our first-past-the-post voting system.

We have a government which is determined to sell off as much as possible of what were public assets. In particular, housing is seen as an investment opportunity rather than a public service. Via a secret deal being negotiated known as TTIP, the government are effectively offering our public services, including our beloved NHS, for sale to multinational corporations and companies with a poor service record, owned by Tory donors.

This Government is by the wealthiest 1%  for the benefit of this 1%.

There is a general state of denial about climate change and limits to growth. There could be a decent life for all, but only by moving away from the economics of maximising consumption and inequality.

The above candidates will discuss the alternatives, particularly on issues like Trident (nuclear weapons ), accountability to the electorate, education, the NHS, the environment and climate change, and tactical voting.

(The Friday Room is an independent discussion group with no links to the owners of Unity House and does not support any particular Party)

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What’s happening in March 2015

The next proper meeting is not until 27th March, when we have invited, Labour party candidate, Matthew O’Callahgn and Green Party candidate, Matt Sissons. A detailed announcement will be made nearer the time. Meanwhile here are some other events that Friday Roomers might be interested in:

6 March: Some members are meeting informally at Unity house at 7:15 for 7:30. (Ruth asks: please arrive on time.)

13 March: A performance of the play “United We Stand” about the Shrewsbury 24 at the Quorn Grange Hotel.

20 March: “Education Question Time” at Charnwood College with:

Nicky Morgan – Secretary of State for Education and MP for Loughborough,

Matthew O’Callaghan – Labour Party candidate for Loughborough

Matt Sisson – Green Party candidate for Loughborough,

Christine Blower – General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers,
Professor Howard Stevenson – Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies, Nottingham University,
The event has been organised by the NUT and will be chaired by BBC Radio Leicester presenter, Jonathan Lampon

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Corruption and fat-cats are the enemies of prosperity

ProperityVcorruptionWith the election looming and most people looking for better times, it is instructive to consider what prevents greater prosperity. Comparing different countries, what stands out strongly is that the greater the level of corruption the lower the prosperity, however you define it. That corruption is the enemy of prosperity is hardly a surprise, just ask: in Europe which countries are in financial difficulties?  and which have significantly higher levels of corruption?

We can easily see the mechanism by which corruption reduces prosperity, corrupt practices simply siphon off money from enterprise.  But legal practices can do the same. For example, ticket touts are not illegal but are entirely detrimental to the prosperity of individuals wanting the tickets. Is there really any difference in financial effect between an executive in any business paying themselves an excessive salary and embezzling the same excess?

In common language these are the people we define as “fat-cats”. The effect of a single fat-cat, like the effect of a single corrupt individual, may not be significant, but the widespread existence and tolerance of both fat-cattery and corruption drains away prosperity.

What is the evidence? It seems very likely that the cumulative effect of many fat-cats will tend to increase inequality. Again, comparing different countries, greater levels of inequality correlate with lower prosperity. The degree of correlation is not as strong as with corruption but it is there. We can say that fat-cat induced inequality probably reduces overall prosperity but certainly does not increase it, While it may increase the prosperity of the fat-cats themselves, the prosperity of the majority, the 99%, is significantly reduced.

Corruption and fat-cats are the enemies of prosperity.

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Just Deserts? Attitudes to Fairness, Poverty and Welfare Reform

JustdesertsFriday 27th Feb, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

Discussion to be introduced by Steve Coltman

Just Deserts? examines public attitudes towards fairness, poverty and welfare reform. What do we think “fairness” is? Extensive new research finds British voters believe that fairness is about getting what you deserve, not about equality. British people are strong believers in reciprocity: and want existing rights balanced by new responsibilities. The poll finds strong support for asking the long term unemployed to do community work in return for their benefits, and also support for a cap on child benefit. Reducing unemployment and cutting taxes on low earners are seen as the most important steps to a fairer Britain. Voters want politicians to tackle poverty, but want them to focus on its root causes – drug addiction, poor education and unemployment – rather than ‘papering over the cracks’ with cash transfers.
Just Deserts? is from the think-tank Policy Exchange. See:

To download the this report in pdf format:


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The Future of Work

21947950-robot-replacementFriday 20 Feb, 7:30pm, Unity House, Fennel Street, Loughborough

To be introduced by John Barton

By way of introduction we will show the 15min. film “Humans Need Not Apply” Which asserts is that almost all unskilled jobs as well as many professional jobs are going to be replaced by computer intelligence.

This suggests that there will never be enough conventional jobs for a significant and increasing proportion of the population who will need to be supported somehow. Added to this an ageing population will make increasing demands on the NHS and on pensions.

With an aging population and shrinking overall economy, almost everyone in employment might be employed looking after other people, and most of those will be in the public sector: Nurses and doctors, plus of course teachers, police, fire and rescue….

Does the private sector really pay for ‘the public sector? Traditionally, public spending is paid for by taxation on the private sector. Government spending (Total Managed Expenditure) is currently running at almost 50% of total GDP in the UK but might have to rise much higher.

On top of all this, we must not forget climate change and the need to stop emitting greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular. The carbon intensity of the economy is reducing, but perhaps not fast enough. Is the growth model of the economy broken, as many environmentalists maintain? Does the private sector of the economy have to shrink as, regrettably, clean energy is more expensive than fossil energy.

Will a large number of people be permanently unemployed and unemployable through no fault of their own? What happens to taxation when most things that society does are essential necessities and luxuries are few? Does the income tax rate have to rise to 80% on top of other high taxes, which will be made less avoidable such as inheritance tax and a wealth tax?

Will living to an old age be seen as a luxury? Or will we be looked after by robots?

Will the new sturdy beggars face a life of being bullied by the state to seek non-existent employment, while governments are blamed for not providing jobs for everyone?

Humans Need Not Apply: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Pq-S557XQU

An analysis of employment trends, via the BBC and speculation about the future. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10557724

Trends in society including the aging population are described in:


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No meeting this Friday

The meeting planned for 13th Feb did not work out and so, as time was too short to arrange an alternative, there will be no formal meeting.

However some of us will be meeting in the Swan in the Rushes, all Friday Roomers are welcome to join us.

We propose to meet on 20th, 27th Feb and 27th March. We may sort out details this Friday!




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