Ronald Blythe’s ‘Word for Wormingford‘ column concluded with unlikely conjunctions and a question pertinent to a constituency far wider than the readership of the Church Times.
Blythe wrote, ‘When the aged St John was pestered for information about Jesus, he would say: ‘Little children, love one another.’ And, when they protested at his inadequacy, he would add: “It will suffice”,
and finished his column thus,
‘We walked to the car alongside an elderly joiner who had come from foreign parts in his youth, and it had sufficed. A boy’s lunch had once sufficed a crowd. What is going to suffice capitalism at this moment?’
Perhaps in the conjunctions there is the potential of an answer to the question. The aged Saint John had pointed to a way of being the Kingdom that rested upon individual enterprise; their community and its values depended upon each member embracing the ethic that could bind them together.
The elderly joiner who had come from foreign parts and had found a village in rural Wales sufficed for his needs had found that sufficiency through his own individual enterprise. Though of advancing years, he is still described by his occupation in younger days; he is characterised by his work.
The boy who shares his lunch in the Gospel account of the feeding of the five thousand shows individual enterprise in a context where the mood around would have suggested a very different response.
‘What is going to suffice capitalism at this moment?’ asks Ronald Blythe, and surely what suffices in each of the situations he has described will suffice in the market place – individual enterprise.
The economic crisis that has beset much of the Western world arose from a culture of cronyism, a culture dominated by large corporations and banks where the last thing sought , and the last thing wanted, was a culture of individual enterprise. What would suffice for capitalism would be a breaking up of that culture, a legislative framework that barred the domination of markets by a handful of corporations intent on eliminating any competition that might inhibit their capacity to make large profits.
The elderly joiner in Blythe’s description had travelled from foreign parts in search of work; he has not been located there by a corporate deployment of staff. He has initiative and a marketable skill and is allowed freedom of movement. What would suffice for capitalism are states and economies and markets that allow freedom for the type of individual response enjoined by Saint John, demonstrated by the boy with his lunch, fulfilled in the life of the elderly joiner.
It is not the free market that has been the problem, it is the rigged market, rigged in favour of the rich and the powerful. Make space for individuals and it will be sufficient for capitalism.