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American consumption

... And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched...            Mark 9: 47


The draft Business Plan of the States of Jersey is highly controversial. The need to make significant cuts in expenditure (i.e. in consumption) is generating a great deal of heat. And, as successive areas of consumption-reduction (cost-cutting) come up for scrutiny, the fire becomes more and more intense.


Interestingly, one area of cost-reduction has been accepted without any public complaint whatsoever: the aid given to the poor and suffering and ill in the third world. That’s OK, then. (We must believe that these folk are unaffected by the global recession.)


These plans (for continuing consumption) have been outmanoeuvred by the global recession. But, in Jersey’s case this has been compounded by the earlier decision to alter Jersey’s tax structure by adopting Zero/Ten. That approach would ensure the continuing success of Jersey’s financial services industry. Jersey’s ‘consumption’ would be able to continue as in the past. But Zero/Ten left a ‘hole’ that was to be filled by GST (a 3 % sales tax) and 20 means 20 (under which the full 20% tax on income would apply to the seriously high income folk).


How very interesting then to see that, amongst many economists, the perceived wisdom is that American excessive consumption is the reason for the global recession itself.


Perhaps even more interesting is a comment by Anatole Kaletsky (a regular speaker at Jersey investment seminars), writing in The Times, “America’s ‘excessive’ consumption, widely seen as the most fundamental cause of world economic instability, has been entirely due to health spending.”


Consumption – worth thinking about, then.


The quote in bold above is from Jesus Christ of Nazareth around AD 30 speaking to his key pupils/followers in a little town named Capernaum.


And, Yes, Jesus was referring to the eyes of his followers. But, No, Jesus was not asking them to self-mutilate – he was stressing the seriousness of his statement. Their eyes were looking for ‘greatness’. Immediately before they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. They all fought for a self-sufficient power and authority that would see them “well-off” and “better-off” than others.


Jesus warned of the consequences to them by using graphic terms that related to consumption.              How so?            Three things.


First, “hell” (where great ‘consumers’ go) is a translation of the Greek word Gehenna = a ravine in Jesus’ time SSW of the city of Jerusalem where the city’s offal was dumped and its rubbish burnt. If Jesus had been in Jersey today he would have used “Bellozanne” instead. It’s where what remains after consumption is itself consumed.


Second, “their worm” (that doesn’t die in Bellozanne) is literally “The worm (both singular) within all of them (‘them’ in Greek = autos)”. Yes, this is the worm of consumption, the desire to consume, to have more, to be AOK for always. That continues in the Bellozanne that Jesus taught so seriously.


Third, “the fire” (that is never put out in Bellozanne) is literally fire.   But fire denotes desire, yearning, irresistibility and violence. The fire of desire? Desire that consumes? And doesn’t stop consuming – because there’s nothing else worthwhile in life?


And the eye that must be plucked out? Is that the eye that, if followed to the end, will consume unendingly? Consumption caused the global recession. Is that not a strong warning – a global warning?


How can I get off this miserable bandwagon that is never satisfied? Shall I ask the man who taught this nearly 2,000 years ago?

 ‘If your desires be endless, your cares and fears will be so too.’(Thomas Fuller, English author and historian, 1608-1661)
‘On the soft bed of luxury most kingdoms have expired.’(Edward Young, English Poet, 1681-1765)
Richard Syvret

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