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the Friend INDEPENDENT QUAKER JOURNALISM SINCE 1843
CONTENTS VOL 170 NO 7
3 Thought for the Week:
Moral leadership Ian Kirk-Smith 4-5 News 6-7 Broken or working fine? Gill Westcott 8-9 Letters 10-11 Grace in Hitler’s Germany Jonathan Doering 12-13 Quakers and creation:
Unity with the creation Stuart Masters 14 Stillness Aidan Childs 15 Poem: Settling Pete Stuart 16 q-eye: a look at the Quaker world 17 Friends & Meetings
Cover image: A crow perched in winter branches. Photo: Avia Venefica / flickr CC. See page 4.
. Photo lossom bon
We seem to be at a turning point in human history. We can choose life or watch the planet become uninhabitable for our species. Somehow, I believe that we will pass through this dark night of our planetary soul to a new period of harmony with the God that is to be found within each of us, and that S/he will inspire renewed confidence in people everywhere, empowering us all to co-operate to use our skills, our wisdom, our creativity, our love, our faith – even our doubts and fears – to make peace with the planet. Strengthened by this fragile faith, empowered by the Spirit within, I dare to hope.
Pat Saunders, 1987 Quaker faith & practice 29.03
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the Friend, 17 February 2012 Moral leadership
Thought for the Week
What kind of a society do we live in? What kind of a society do we want to live in? Are the salaries, for example, that are being paid to people in different sectors in ‘right relationship’ to the kind of society in which we wish to live?
The annual bonuses for staff working in Barclays Bank were recently announced. One group of employees received a bonus of £63,000. The average wage of a nurse in the National Health Service is £31,600. Who, or what, determines how much people should earn in our society? Competition, it appears, where there is a free market system – especially when Britain is ‘open for business’. But how?
Take the salary of £2.3 million paid to Ian King, the chief executive officer of BAE Systems, in 2010. His salary was decided by a ‘remuneration committee’ of three non-executive directors… and the chief executive officer of BAE Systems. So, Ian King sat on the very committee that awarded him £2.3 million. In 2010 BAE Systems took the decision to make 3,000 workers in the United Kingdom redundant. The state, under government procurement rules, pays for this.
Today, many important areas of responsibility in organisations, such as remuneration, are ‘selfregulated’. We are told it empowers. People working in organisations that employ self-regulation tend to want it to continue . Sometimes they talk as though it is a ‘right’ that was fought for in the English Civil War.
In the 1990s the Labour Party defended self-regulation in our banks and in the city. It was good for business. We could trust the leaders of finance and banking. The Catholic Church, particularly in Ireland, defended self-regulation. They were spiritual leaders. They could be trusted. Members of parliament, at Westminster, regulated their own expenses and benefits. They were elected by the people. We could trust them.
The press has, for centuries, held those in power to account. It also defends its right to regulate itself. A healthy democracy needs a free and open press and any attempt to interfere with it endangers important values and liberties. The press is the conscience of the people. In matters relating to its internal working, such as how it gathers information, it has also argued for selfregulation – like the police with whom it often seem to have a close relationship. Why do people who benefit from self-regulation feel so comfortable about the rewards it can offer? Do they, unconsciously, feel a ‘sense of entitlement’ to them? Does this culture of self-regulation and entitlement, however, have broader, unintended, consequences?
In 2011 hundreds of young people took part in riots. Some put bricks through shop windows. Many pulled out mobiles phones, televisions and trainers. How many felt a sense of entitlement to do this? What message might they have taken from the actions of leaders in key sections of British society?
In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Quakers ran many businesses. These were often very complex and placed great responsibilities on their owners and managers. These Friends were known for their integrity. Their regulator was internal – spiritually rooted and clear as crystal. Every aspect of their lives, in fact, was guided by its light.
It was renewed and refreshed in Meeting for Worship. These powerful and wealthy Friends provided, within the Religious Society of Friends, strong moral leadership. They were faithful to an internal guide, lived their lives and ran their businesses in fidelity to it, and were inspiring ‘patterns and examples’.
How strong is the moral leadership in key institutions in British society, such as parliament, the city, the banks, newspapers and the police? Self-regulation is not a bad thing. It is necessary. But it is meaningless if some of those responsible for implementing it have no sense of ‘moral compass’. More severe external regulation may now be needed. It is a pity.
The best regulator is a compelling, sincerely followed, internal one.
Ian Kirk-Smith Editor of the Friend the Friend, 17 February 2012