Tag Archives: Distributism Chesterton n friends

I don’t do politics usually but…

I tend to follow the Chestonian view that “It is terrible to contemplate how few politicians are hanged.”  Frankly the whole lot of them are so alike it would be difficult to tell them apart even though they wear different coloured ties.

Until I settled on distributism as a general political, social and economic view I suppose I was more or less a Labour supporter. That changed rather rapidly when Blair fitzThatcher took over and the astonishingly nasty Balls and Brown dark-comedy duo hit town.

Interestingly I see Fr Ray has this post with a link to this article which appeared in the Herald, and I never got around to reading. It’s a good article that explains how people like me ended up with no “politics” to speak of at all.

Some of you may remember how difficult I found it to decide how to vote at the last General Election. I knew from a tactical point I had to vote Tory, but most people of my age have a lot of memories of the Thatcher years and they aren’t good.  I went to school in an area where within a couple of years of Mrs Thatcher’s attack on the unions we had a school full of kids on “free dinners” because their dad’s were suddenly out of work. Whole communities went to the wall – and frankly the Union grip didn’t seem to get any less. But I was just a kid – what did I know?

As a nurse however I saw something up close that I still think was so utterly unethical and wicked, I am amazed there was such silence on it. It was the full on attack on those who had long term serious illness.

Most people noticed that “Care in the Community” was nothing of the sort. Beds in psychiatric hospitals closed with a startling correlation on the number of people with mental illness in prison and the rise in homeless figures.  Like many nurses in the ’80s I saw people who had once been patients begging on the streets.

But for me it was one patient that made me swear never to vote Tory. Let’s call him Jim. He had schizophrenia. It had not been all that well controlled and he had been in and out of hospital and sectioned more than once. Then one day out in the community he had been attacked and left with brain damage. He had been transferred to the psych from general and once his schizophrenia was controlled I had received him for rehab. By this point he had been in hospital a good number of months. He had to deal with trying to get well, and coping with the permanent damage he had been left with thanks to his attackers. (I don’t think they were ever caught).

Jim had a flat in a high-rise which he had continued to pay rent on while in hospital so he would have a home to go to. Unfortunately, his brain damage and the uncertainty of the effects this would have on his long-term mental health meant we no longer deemed it a safe place to be discharged to. Thankfully Jim had a good mother. She was getting on a bit and just about making ends meet on her state pension but she was willing to take care of her son and keep an eye  out. All we needed was a change of tenancy so he could live on the ground floor and near her. SIMPLE.

However, sneakily Thatcher and her buddies had changed the benefits system. Once a seriously ill person had spent more than a year in hospital their benefits were drastically cut. No appeal. Just cut. So Jim received weekly benefits that were less than his weekly rent. This put him into rent arrears obviously and also meant he couldn’t even buy basics such as toiletries. – just at a time when hospitals were no longer helping out there either.

Like many student and qualified staff back then, we bought stuff for our patients because they wouldn’t have them otherwise.

Being in arrears meant Jim could not have a change of tenancy even with the maximum medical points that he had.  In the end his mother had to try and pay off his debt out of her state pension. I can only assume she went without a great deal to do this for her son. God bless her.

At last we were able to get Jim the flat near his mother that he needed. No thanks at all to the astonishing attack on the truly vulnerable from that Tory Government.

Tony Blair was pretty dreadful and nick named “son of Thatcher” for a reason. But he did at least ensure nurses got a reasonable wage, eventually.

As a distributist I believe that families should be left with their own money so they can take care of their own and that with local funding and charity projects the truly vulnerable will be known and not slip through the enormous holes in the net we have now.

Jesus said “The poor we will have with us always,” but He never said, “So lets make the really vulnerable as poor as possible.”

Subsidiarity, J.T.Gatto on the Amish, and my oldest children.

click picture for document

I have some vague memory of Dr. Scott Hahn saying something about his days studying economics when he was a fairly anti-Catholic protestant, that he (for some reason) read Rerum Novarum and had to admit, that while Catholics were terribly wrong – they were right about social teaching and economics in this area.

At the heart of Leo XIII’s encyclical is the idea of subsidiarity; doing it locally. Doing it as a family first and then a community.

From what I’ve read, the whole structure of the philosophy of Distributism is built on the corner stone of Rerum Novarum. The family is the unit of society. A strong family structure equals a strong, economically viable society therefore. Conversely a weak family structure, broken by divorce, contraception and other forms of self centeredness, will mean a poor economy.

Distributism is based on the philosophy that all men are free and that with the family at the root of society, and subsidiarity as the base of running the society which would then (as in days of old) be built on the wealth of little family businesses. Family run businesses would keep a family housed, fed and looked after, but it depended on families sharing their lives and being open to children.

The present reality for our adult children is there is no real work for them. There is only wage slavery and that means being paid as little as possible to work as hard as possible for some faceless boss of a corporate institution. Their friends, if they have work, are doing much the same. Worse still many of them have degrees in law, or biology or architecture with all the debt that goes with that and they too are either working in a shop or not working.

Many adults who are about to finish school are heading straight to University to do whatever they could get onto before the prices rise.

To be honest, I find it heartbreaking for the waste of such talent.

I am encouraging my children to work for money as they must, but to spend time trying to work out how to run a business for themselves. It will take time, and with the lack of investment in young people and the increasing demographic problem of not enough children, they will have a lot to overcome. But they are strong people.

John Taylor Gatto has never said he is a Distributist, but he surely talks like one. He gave a fascinating lecture on how the Amish community works so well. First of all, because they have strong families. They have next to NO DIVORCE at all. They do not contracept, keeping to traditional Biblical understanding of children as a blessing, so they have children as God wills. (Although sadly I have read that some Amish are being led by medics to use contraception). They run their businesses as family enterprises and they have a self-imposed cap of half a million dollars. This means, not only can they have a good standard of living, but by not expanding over the self-imposed limit, they leave room for others to run their business too. None of this shark eating waters view of business for the Amish. As a result of their very pro-family, non-greedy approach to life, they are amazingly successful in the modern world.

Obviously one of the things that must be of enormous help to the Amish is their shared culture. They live together in communities and although, as Gatto tells, they have faced some persecution, in the past, they stood their ground over the education of their children and their rights as parents. Gatto points out that their education ensures the children know their culture and heritage well. In this way, they know who they are have a sense of belonging.

Although the young adults are sent out to see the world, most return to Amish life. I can’t say I blame them. I watched a couple of Channel 4 programmes following some Amish young adults as they learned about the ‘world’. The one episode I saw took place in the UK.  They stayed with people, who on the surface, appeared to have everything, but all they really had, was money.

Gatto is right about what makes the Amish strong – family and their Christian faith. It’s a winning combination.

The Catholic worldview is based on God first, and the dignity of man second with the family as the unit of strength that expresses that dignity.  A society that does not recognise the dignity of the person will always end up with the strongest exploiting the weak.

Those who are wise will try and sidestep this by trying, at least, to make a life of their own, to earn enough for their own family needs (enough for need but not greed). It will be much harder for my children than it was for me, or for their grandparents, because we are further down the anti-family slope than back then. But there is enough pro-family culture left, that there is some hope.

Sharing a suitable education

I wrote a rather rambly piece a couple of days ago about what I had been reading and the ‘different world’ reporting on the budget.

As a committed distributist I finished off by saying we can simply share what we have. Peter commented that people wont share and he has seen the selfishness of greed in the supermarket.  I’m sure this is true but that doesn’t take away the fact that we need to share what we have to reduce the burden on all of us.

I heard a radio programme about large families a few weeks ago. A woman phoned in saying she was one of 13 children. Last year her father died and the solicitor dealing with his will was appalled that the man had left almost nothing to go around his 13 children. He tutted and sighed about the lack of money and investment.

One of the older children spoke up. Their father had used every penny he earned giving his children what they needed and making sure they had a suitable education. Now the children were happy and secure and most importantly, this lady pointed out, they had each other. They would always take care of each other. No one in that family would be left to struggle.

I hope that as part of the ‘suitable education’ I am trying to give my children, that taking care of one another is a major lesson they will learn. It’s a far more important lesson than proper punctuation or the 5x skip counting song.

We are fortunate as a little home ed group in that we all do share.

Our family have received a great deal from the generosity of others. People I only know fromblogging and online have sent books and other items that we need.  We get sent money from people who just simply understand that bringing up and educating children in this country isn’t cheap.

And of course as a family we share with others. Clothes, books, resources, baby stuff-it all gets handed out. Then when we need things, it all tends to arrive back, even from surprising places.

There really is no point in waiting for the right kind of Government. There never will be one. There is no point wishing other people would do things. They probably wont. But we can and if we are making a little culture of care and share around our homes it will spread.

And one more bit of advice on this sharing malarky; don’t wait for people to ask, or make them have to beg. Each man’s dignity can be kept in tact if you just offer and give. If you keep your eyes open on others and not on yourself you’ll soon see when they are in need even if it’s just for a cuppa tea and a chat or a few hundred quid or anything in between- what ever you have that you don’t need you can give or share.

You’ll see and you’ll know. So, don’t be afraid 🙂

Pennywise Life. Distributismish

5312I said I would post some recipes on how we are trying to save money this year. So here are some of our scrimping schemes and a couple of recipes.

I don’t suppose many of my penny pinching ideas are all that new to most of you. We are trying to cut back on the extraordinaryly high electricity and gass bill. I am back to not putting the central heating on and keeping the children in one room as much as possible. If other families are coming over I put it on. But we wear more jumpers and Josh gets the coal fire lit early so we get some good heat downstairs.

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Are homeschoolers Amish or Distributist?

I have talked quite a bit over previous posts about what I call the ‘alternative economy’ used by homeschoolers and our friends and neighbours. Well the inspiration is Distrubitism the dream of G.K.Chesterton and his friend Hillaire Belloc. Gilbert and Frances Chesterton worked in the London office of the PNEU (Parent’s National Education Union) so there’s a lovely link with Charlotte Mason and home education.

I have been reading Damian Thompson’s blog Holy Smoke. There is the really horrible prospect of Catholic primary schools introducing the programme “All that I am” – which is quite frankly an obscene way to teach children as young as five about sex.  One of the commenters on the blog goes by the name of Mystic Mug and one more than one occasion has raised the need for Distributism in the UK (and I think the USA would love it too). S/He wrote this:

Sorry to bat on about this, but the answer is Distributism.

Somebody stop me, I am having a utopian trip here….”

A distributist parent would automatically opt for home schooling as something so important as their children’s education could not be left in the hands of a State flunky, “Catholic” or not.

Distributist parents would most likely form local guilds to amass resources and share the load. This would provide the social element of education and an “extended family” for the children, and adults.

Home school dinners would be provided from home grown ingredients, mostly. Start and end times would be flexible.

Horror stories of nasty Gordon, and evil Peter, and malignant Ed could be related to the wee ones as required.

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