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What are we in this for?

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money." Matthew 6.24

It is easy to share the outrage prompted by P&O's decision to lay off 800 staff and replace them with cheaper agency workers. After all, these are 800 human beings with bills to pay and, many of them, families to feed. Ought we be persuaded by the hit this and other ferry companies have taken over the past two years, when the pandemic has sorely curtailed their operations and therefore slashed their income?

None of this is fair, yet the sordid reality is that P&O's decision appears to have been forced on it by its Dubai-based parent company DP World, whose priority is not its staff, nor its customers but its shareholders. And that is how capitalism operates. It skews everything in favour of fuelling relentless growth to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the mega-rich, while the rest of us fight for the scraps because we all want more stuff.

The antidote is a reappraisal of our goals in life and a repurposing of the motives which drive us. We need to measure performance according to the improvement of health for all and care of the environment, rather than economic growth. Everyone should receive a fair income, whether in work or not. And nobody should be allowed to earn more than a modest multiple of what their employees receive.

Some will object that curbing financial reward will blunt the incentive which drives our innovators. But do we really run on greed? What happened to the principle of service? Jesus' stark warning, that one cannot flourish with mixed motives, challenges us all to look deeply into our our souls and to ponder what kind of society we aspire to become...



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