Church and Village, June 2016

A few weeks ago I read in the Hampshire Chronicle a letter written by a man complaining that the ‘Have Nots’ had been complaining about the ‘Haves’. I forget which issue he claimed the great unwashed were complaining about, but the issue itself is not important. I was shocked by it, because it clearly demonstrated a rare example, in vulgar terms, of a lack of compassion and understanding. And what’s more interesting is that the HC printed it – although they do print what I write, so perhaps pot and kettle springs to mind.

I was troubled by the letter as the correspondent lived in a very privileged and glorious part of Hampshire, not without its issues, but broadly safe, wealthy and vibrant, with good housing, education and community spirit – a place I almost took for granted would possess social intelligence and understanding, and really importantly, compassion for those less fortunate. I/we live in a place of great power; people possess the ability to affect their own destiny and are in charge of their own lives. This is not something to be taken for granted, which is why I found the comments so shocking.

There is a sociological theory that the more affluent and powerful you are, the more external influences are geared to support the structures in your favour – your privileged lifestyle becomes normal and weightless – literally, you forget how lucky you really are, because it’s normal: isn’t everyone wealth and lucky like me/us? Well no, they are not.

At the other end of the spectrum you have many places across the country and in this county where the population are marginalised, even characterised as self-indulgent, or worse parasitic. Their behaviour adoptive and adaptive, they are their own worst enemy – they are work shy, their plight in poverty the making of their own fault rather than the structures around them. They find themselves devalued, deemed to be less well educated or resourceful, different because they have refused after a long process of neglect to comply with the social niceties of polite decent society – to be like the deserving gentleman who wrote into the HC who had decided the ‘Have Nots’ do not merit a say when it comes to a longing to share in the national wealth/resources/opportunities. The ‘Have Nots’ having the nerve to express through the political process an opinion – how dare they.

Jesus made no distinction with the poor – He neither judged nor condemned them. In fact, he often sought their company preferring it to that of the perceived ‘deserving’. In the Gospel of Luke (6.21-26) Jesus says an amazing thing: ‘Blessed are the poor, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are you who hunger, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, because you will laugh.’ This is followed by a warning to those that are wealthy: ‘Woe to the rich, the full, the laughing…for you will weep.’ Difficult to hear that isn’t it, perhaps as difficult as being poor and having your concerns and worries dismissed because your opinion is less powerful, articulate or deemed less deserving?