Long time no post, awkwardness, community, middle-class churches, labour exploitation versus financial success

I’m so conscious that I have not posted for a few weeks now. I must confess that I am procrastinating a little! (Coincidentally just a few hours ago I was explaining to a relative the Latin breakdown of the word “procrastinate” pro=forward,to cras=tomorrow tinere=extend.) You know,  I used to be the world’s greatest expert at procrastination. True story. Thankfully that is no longer my life, that has ceased to be my life now for many years. However the reason I have been putting off writing the posts is not because I am too lazy to think through them. In fact, I have mentally drafted a number of posts as I constantly do. Rather it is because I just have not been feeling settled enough in my mind to actually sit down and type out the thoughts in my mind.

[Blog posts before I forget:
– Humility: owe it to myself to be the most humble person I can possibly be, daily humility discipline – what consistently provokes me to act or think in a non-humble way?
– Big humility v big self-esteem
– The difference between big humility and being taken for granted is in a word boundaries.
– In evaluating a spouse, perhaps the most important thing is not about the man himself, but rather about the company he keeps. Is he deliberate and proactive in seeking out excellent people to surround himself with, or does he just mould himself to whatever is available?

Plus an assortment of other ideas which have floated through my mind which I currently cannot call to mind, responses to other people’s posts etc.

For now though I am just going to write something very brief: something a little funny and awkward happened a few days ago.  I am a little reluctant to spell out all the details just in the tiny chance that the person concerned could be reading this. The probability that he could be aware of this blog much less reading it is probably a millionth of one percent, and it would only have happened if he decided to google my name one day, and then kept scrolling through all the results! However, if he did somehow manage to find this blog, and read this post, he would instantly know that I am talking about him!

It was caused by me, but only to the extent that I own the offending er, phone! Obviously this should exclusively work on human input but mine decidedly has a mind of its own. So when it goes ahead and, er, accidentally dials someone, it looks as if I am the one to blame. What I am trying to say is that I did not even touch it! I am being perfectly sincere about this. And then of all the numbers to accidentally dial – this man was not even in my recent contact lists! I almost screamed in shock when I saw what was happening!

While I may, however inadvertently, have been the cause of that awkward episode, something striking that I have noticed over the last few months is that, for the very first time in my life, any awkwardness when interacting with men has not actually been caused by me! This is such a revelation to me. I did not even know that grown men could act awkward! And it has happened a few times. In fact, to make matters worse, the previous, very real awkwardness between me and the man at whom I “awkwarded” above, was actually, largely caused by him, or at least it was not caused by any conscious behaviour on my part. However, I must admit that at each awkward instance, I have not been able to help standing there and grinning. This is purely because I am enjoying the novelty of not being the one to cause the awkwardness, for once, and I have never previously realised that mildly awkward situations can be quite humorous! Actually, i have just remembered that many romcoms are based on awkward interactions between men and women so of course I have previously realised how humorous they can be, when happening to other people. What remains true is that I have never been in a position to enjoy the humour myself in real life between me and someone else without fear of jeopardising a friendship. The truth is that the situation is inherently awkward. That contributes to making this whole phone episode particularly annoying, because now it might seem as if I am the one who has been subtly creating or stoking the awkwardness all along! This article might also reveal just how much I overthink awkward things that happen!

All of this just makes me wish that my husband was here and things were clearly demarcated between me and everyone else.  But then, is it naive to think that the mere fact of being married would instantly quell any sense of awkwardness between me and other men? Obviously it would still be more than possible to accidentally dial someone’s number even after getting married. Perhaps the truth is that the natural awkwardness within a marital relationship would be so overwhelming that it would just completely overshadow small accidental things like these…

So I initially started writing this post a few hours ago. While writing it, I was so tired that I abandoned it and just went to sleep.

When I was just waking up, I was struck by pangs of loneliness, not romantic loneliness, but community loneliness. I was wondering what to do with those feelings and how to deal with them until I finally realised the following: the community that I yearn for is simply not out there, at least not under exploitative, profit driven Capitalism. I have to accept that, and learn to satisfy my yearnings for community within myself.  The thing is, the yearning for connection, to belong is a natural yearning, and a consistent community to belong to is something that I am sure most people would have been able to take for granted throughout most of human history. So it is not weird on my part that I would yearn for this. The way we live with that most basic of human needs being constantly eroded by time and money pressures is such an aberration.  However when other people or at least the people in power act as if it is normal and desirable to spend your life chasing money to fill your life with material things, it makes it look as if you are the weirdo when you are constantly talking about community and belonging. The truth is that not everyone acts as if this (our current Western way of life) is normal, so many people question the system, many people are realising more and more that this whole system is a complete scam. But the way things have been constructed that you have to pay your rapidly increasing rent or you get thrown out homeless onto the street – and the jobs which many of us can find increasingly fall short of supplying basic needs, many of us don’t even have time to sit around and argue.  Many people are working multiple jobs just to be able to afford essentials.  And yet somehow enough people still find time to write posts on Reddit “Antiwork” to indicate how many people hate the system, enough people still rant on TikTok or at least they did until it was banned in the US (if the ban eventually does go through!)  Ironically, I have noticed that people who have money are able to form community. This is likely because they have the financial stability in their lives to not have to be working multiple jobs, often with erratic hours. Rather they can each work a single job, with reliable 9-5 hours, or sometimes they have the funds to eschew work altogether, and then they can create a consistent community in the remaining time. They have time to build friendships, to go for coffee, to build church communities. Having been a part of those middle class churches or church communities, I just could not accept that kind of lifestyle for myself because to me it aligns too closely with the exploitative Capitalistic status quo. This is for two reasons:

The first subtle reason is this: people may not have overtly acknowledged this, but their lives of relative ease and comfort were and continue to be built on other people’s hard work, that often invisible hard work which underpins modern life, and which sadly often comes from exploitation. To be honest, this is undoubtedly true for most of us in this country, emphatically including myself, as for instance many of the foods we eat especially those from the developed world are grown essentially with slave labour. Even in European, developed countries such as Italy, slavery and sexual exploitation of workers is rife. I was reading once years ago in the Guardian about tomato growers in Italy who lived in squalour, with frequent rapes happening to the women (I don’t mean that each woman was raped frequently, but rather that rapes and sexual assaults happened frequently to the group as a whole. There is a second older Guardian article about deadly, murderous exploitation in Italian tomato growing here, without reference to sexual violence.) I’m sure that similar things could be said of essentially all those fruit/ vegetable crops which still rely heavily on human labour, unlike for instance wheat harvests, which have been largely automated. (She says naively?) Come on church/come on Tosin, what *would* Jesus do?! This is not a trick question! Even supposedly “fair trade” items essentially constitute what we would probably consider slave labour in the West. That said, Fair Trade items are still better than non-fair trade items, but still not good enough. And then also many of our clothes are made in sweatshops. The same is true of pretty much everything we consume: clothes, shoes, electronic items. The difference with the UK middle classes is that they are also benefitting from the often invisible, underpaid labour of people right here in this country, people such as gig workers who work for Deliveroo and UberEats, or people who drive for Uber, transport workers, cleaners, people who work in those coffee shops that they meet in to catch up with one another, whereas the working classes *are* the people who work in such jobs! To the extent that I also benefit from overseas slave labour, perhaps it is hypocritical for me to talk about middle class churches. Except that I have also complained about overseas slave labour too, and as I write this, I realise that I am in a position where I can finally reject this, at least in terms of clothing.  I am going to have to sit down and work out a diet where I can ensure that all my food comes from this country. [I did say that a few years ago though. I also resolved a few years ago to not eat fish, because of the ethical issues involved but in the last few years I simply forgot that resolve and started eating it again.] While there would undoubtedly still be exploitation here, because human beings are human beings, and exploitative capitalism predictably brings out people’s worst natures, at least I would be sure that food produced here was produced subject to UK labour laws etc, such as they still exist. Or failing that at least there is still some kind of  legal recourse for workers if basic laws are broken.

The second more overt reason that I did not  remain in any of these middle class churches is that people made it clear to me that I did not belong with them, and frankly I was all too happy to agree with them. I do not speak that language and I do not care to learn it. To truly win acceptance in middle class circles it seems to me that you have to somehow echo their belief that being middle class inherently makes you better than other people, and this somehow justifies the idea that you would be benefitting from other people’s labour extracted in an exploitative way. Or if you cannot pretend to be middle class, it is almost as if they expect you to doff your cap in gratitude that they would allow you into their presence. Consider that this idea of inherent superiority is how “they” justified slavery back in the say. Come on, we are Christians. This idea of being inherently superior to other people completely contradicts the Bible. Except that the church was a driving force in promoting slavery back then too. In fact the Southern Baptist Convention in the US was founded with the express aim of fighting to keep slavery legal. All the while, however, the idea of being inherently, ethnically superior to other people contradicted the Bible back then too. As Christians we should not be happily benefitting from other peoples slave labour. Rather we should be working to aggressively dismantle the chains of exploitation, yes, even if that “shockingly” means that our own lives are not as cushy and comfortable as they would otherwise be. If other people were paid fairly, we might well have to pay more for basic services, meaning that we have less money for our luxuries. [However, if there was true justice then perhaps the “middlemen” would be satisfied with lower profits, meaning that they would not need to jack up prices so much, meaning that people might not need to pay that much more for the services?  Who know, perhaps in a less profit-driven world, there might often be room both for workers to be paid enough to be able to survive comfortably and in dignity and for the end consumers to also pay less!]  Ironically, middle-class churches are prime “fair trade” country.  But you know what? As I write this it occurs to me that ultimately, the true peak hypocrisy is to sit here talking endlessly about overseas slave labour, without taking any actual tangible action to address it…

To be perfectly clear, my issue is not that some people have money and some people don’t! My problem is not even that some people naturally have resources and some people don’t. I don’t believe that there has be a forced equality among people. What I have a problem with is exploitation of other people. What I have a problem with is people stealing other people’s resources. I am a  Christian. I believe that as Christians we should share our excess resources with others. However, I also believe that, after taxes as a proportional amount of income/wealth, which are a matter of basic common sense, this is not something to be mandated by law, but something that we should aspire to do voluntarily. However rejecting exploitation of others I believe is not about being a Christian, but rather a matter of basic human conscience. So it should definitely be outlawed, and in most countries I imagine that it supposedly is. It is because of corruption that exploitation flourishes in so many developing countries, despite laws, because greed consistently has a way of overriding basic human decency.

To go back to my own yearnings for community, while I have not given up on the dream of a loving community altogether, I am going to have to find a way of living and thriving with this current reality, even while praying for and working towards a different one.

[Extra thoughts that have occurred to me: it occurred to me that it is extremely hard to get money without exploiting other people. I have personally spent a very, very long time trying to think of effective business models that would reliably bring in consistent passive income without cheating other people, deceiving them, exploiting them or stealing from them. By God’s grace I have finally thought of a few ways.  However, I can imagine that for people for whom wealth and/or power are  everything, integrity would be the first thing to fly out of the window. Furthermore even for people who are not overly money-hungry, in our capitalistic world it is sometimes still too easy to fall into the profit motive when doing something. So sometimes, for instance, youtubers who need to make a living like everyone else would focus on rage-baity topics which drive the most clicks rather than topics which are truly most important but less popular or SEO-friendly. I know that I would be extremely susceptible to this too which is why I have thus far avoided making relationship videos on YouTube or otherwise trying to make money from important topics until I have another reliable, sufficient source of income, otherwise the temptation would just be too great. As I say it has taken me years, decades actually, of relentless thought, effort, evaluation, failed attempts to finally come up with a few ways of predictably making money without selling my soul. However, these ways currently rely on modern tech giants, and whatever dubious practices they may be engaging in which as society we might collectively agree to ignore. For other people who might not be prepared to spend decades thinking through ideas it might be easiest to just go along with the status quo, imagining that you either tacitly exploit others or you agree to be exploited. I know that I definitely do not want to profit from exploiting others. However I definitely do not want to be exploited either. On this blog, I hope it is fair to say that I loudly reject and/or complain about both of these alternatives.]


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