One of the finest, most pure example of good in Beeston is our local CAB. A charity ran by volunteers, it dispenses advice for those hit by loan-sharks, crap landlords, debt, homelessness and a vast swathe of other issues where the public feel no other recourse than seek help from the CAB. I have used the service before, many years back when I had several problems hit at once and I faced homelessness, hunger and despair. They spent ages looking into my case, checking the relevant laws, ringing round various places and eventually got a solution together that kept the wolf from the door, and enabled me to get some space and get myself together. I did, and I cannot thank them enough for that.
While I was there, they offered me some travel tokens to get to and from Nottingham to deal with the issue, and a form allowing me to go to the Salvation Army and pick up two days food. Fortunately, I needed neither as the problem resolved faster than I thought it would. I was amazed at the dogged determination these wonderful people put in to helping me. I never forgot that. It was the true definition of charity.
Charity is perhaps at the forefront of our mind this time of year. I am not religious at all, but still think of the Easter story as useful in a secular manner. Jesus’s feeding of the multitude. Jesus throwing the money lenders from the temple. Jesus committing the ultimate charitable act, that of dying so the rest of us would be forgiven our sins. When Eric Pickles recently said that we were a Christian country, I didn’t bristle as much as some of my more militantly atheist friends. There still is a basic moral code in there, that once you boil off all the supernatural guff, says ‘Look after each other’.
However, I doubt that was on Pickles mind at the time. The Tories idea of Christianity is massively at odds with the basic premise. Problem is, they are still seen as the ‘churchy’ party, while modern, monetarist Conservatism shrieks in terror at the meek inheriting the earth. The money lenders Christ overturned the tables of are the same people the modern Tory party loves best.
To overcome this, they get creative. Thatcher was once asked how her politics squared with the loosely socialist message of Christ. ‘Choice’ she replied, explaining that before Pilate Christ had the choice to either be executed or spared. Thus, letting us choose our privatised gas supplier was in-keeping with the Christian ethos.
She followed this up with the notorious 1988 ‘Sermon on the Mound’. This speech was given in Edinburgh’s Assembly Hall, which sits on top of the hill known as ‘The Mound’, hence the punning name. She tried to reinterpret Christ’s message again, quoting St Paul “If a man will not work he shall not eat” as a mission statement. Christianity, she claimed, was nothing to do with social reform, but spiritual awakening, in one swipe dismissing many centuries of Philanthropy, charity and sacrifice committed by progressive Christians. Sod the meek, it’s all about getting to Heaven, and if that means crushing your kin under foot to get on Jacob’s Ladder, than so be it.
The sermon backfired magnificently. Many in the audience, made up of Church of Scotland clergy, were horrified by this perverted interpretation, and the moderator was so incensed he presented her with a set of church reports on poverty, homelessness and social disintegration triggered by her government’s policies.
Now we have shiny Dave Cameron, who has refound the God he struggled to tune into a decade ago. Back then, his faith ‘comes and goes, like Magic FM in the Chilterns’ . This made him look very much the modern man, fuzzy of faith. Yet with UKIP tearing away the traditional small c Conservatives, Dave has gone on record talking of his strong Christian values, claiming Jesus invented the Big Society.
It could be noted here that the only comparison Cameron’s clique has with Jesus’s is the predominance of males, one who will soon betray him (Gove? Gideon?)
An interesting thing to note here was Dave’s sudden hardening of Christian values came just as The Trussell Trust: a charity with loose but not explicit Christian values, revealed that food bank usage had surged massively due to the failure of welfare reform. Many leaders of faith groups, including 27 Anglican Bishops, also slammed the way the poor and needy had been scapegoated, targeted and attacked by the likes of Iain Duncan Smith.
Duncan-Smith was not happy with this and went on the offensive. Food banks ‘scaremonger’ he claimed, and ‘create need’. Both statements were said, I best add, without irony.
He refused to meet charity leaders, and floundered wildly attempting to paint them as ‘driven by a political agenda’. This is a line of argument our own MP uses to deflect criticism: any concern for her votes on policy, from NHS privatisation to the shameful selling of Royal Mail, is ‘politically motivated’ and thus filed in her wastepaper basket. Here no evil, see no evil…
Then, today, things reached a head. The scummy Mail on Sunday ran a ‘shocking expose’ on foodbanks, trying to prove IDS correct. Thus they marched into a foodbank in Nottingham, demanded three days food and left with a Waitrose Hamper. ‘NO QUESTIONS ASKED!’ thundered the headline.
Except that didn’t happen. The ‘journalist’, Mr Ross Slater, visited a CAB undercover and after extensive questioning by the volunteer there, was referred to a Trussell Trust foodbank, where he received three days basic food and signposted to other agencies that could aid his claimed problems.
This, to me, is a great act of charity and one that has become a necessity while the Coalition mess up the benefits system. The CAB and the Trussell Trust acted out of pure kindness, while the sniveling scumbucket that is Ross Slater and his editors wasted the time of a CAB volunteer; lied about their circumstances and then effectively stole from a charity.
Their may have been a criminal act here, and I’ve seen various tweets fly off towards Paddy Tipping to investigate.
It’s vile journalism, and has rightly offended and appalled many. IDS must be rubbing his hands in glee. But, rather wonderfully, there has been another effect.
When the Mail does such acts of shiteness, one often feels hopeless and in an impotent rage. You might write an angry Tweet, swear a bit on Facebook or, heaven forbid, blog about it. Yet there is something else.
Make a donation to the Trussell Trust, or the CAB. Show them that despite the attempted undermining of the work they do, you support them. It’s easy to do. The Trussell Trust have a campaign on right now to donate the cost of an Easter Egg to their cause. Simply pick up your phone and Text EGGS88 plus the amount £1, £2, £3, £4, £5, or £10 to 70070
e.g. EGGS88 £5 to 70070. Easy as that.
Or donate to the CAB here.
Their are two main books in the Bible, The Old Testament and The New Testament. As a former Christian, apologies for this oversimplification but: The Old preaches superstition, hate, vengeance, murder, intolerance and fear. This is the side of the hateful Mail and the grasping Thatcherite Tories.
The New preaches compassion, kinship, humility, charity love and hope. This is the side of charities, the CAB, those who see good in the world and wish to follow that path.
This Easter, whether you be a committed Christian; a follower of a different faith; a fuzzy agnostic or an atheist, show what side you’re on and bung the charities a few quid. And never, ever buy anything from the rancid Mail group newspapers.