In the old soviet era, the bolder more stoical Russians sustained themselves like oppressed peoples all over the world with humour. One of the popular formats for jokes was to repeat to ones friends and neighbours reports from a fictional radio station – Radio Yerevan (Radio Armenia)
One such joke ran that the station had reported the economic forecasts for the following year.
“It will be terrible,” ran one such report, “Natural disasters will strike, the crops will fail, tractor production will plummet. The rouble will collapse, and there will be widespread hunger and demoralisation- but happily, there is good news”.
“What’s that the?” neighbour would ask.
“It will be a whole lot better than the year after”.
Well, things did change for the Russian people, and notwithstanding current difficulties, most Russians would not want to go back to their old regime. Things did eventually get better, if not yet perfect.
We would do well to remind ourselves of how optimism lifts people in times of change as we enter our own period of modest uncertainty with the approach of a General Election in May 2015.
No sooner have the Magi arrived in our churches with their gifts to lay before our mangers, than our party leaders are similarly out on the road bringing less tangible largesse in an attempt to close the Christmas season down, and bring the news spotlight back onto themselves. This will continue as we observe the circumcision of Christ and that troubling account for all,parents, when the young Jesus is left behind in the Temple by oversight of Mary and Joseph,,
Thereafter, Jesus and his family disappear from history until his cousin calls him to his mission many years later.
During that time Jesus lived an ordinary life, and so shall we, whatever the politicians and even the liturgy may say to us.
It occurred to Brother Ivo that before we get caught up in the partisan battle, it will do us no harm to encourage each other during the remainder of the Christmas Season by counting our blessings during these early days of 2015.
Brother Ivo was taught to be methodical about such analyses so here are a few headings for you to consider , and perhaps add thoughts of your own as we learn to start #CountingOurBlessings .
Our Constitution is under discussion, yet none of us fears greatly for our lives and freedoms under our present current constitutional arrangements.
We have a Monarch of unquestioned and unrivalled probiity. Her vast experience may be called for if the election yields a multi-party parliament with various permutations of Government needing to be negotiated. We know and trust the Queen to play her part with impartiality, and the Armed Firces and Police will stay out of the matter entirely. Happy is the country with such stability.
Our politics are robust, yet despite widespread cynicism, the remarkable question is not why our politicians are so bad, but why- looking at others around the world- they are they so much better than in most other countries. Opponents will not be imprisoned, and notwithstanding occasional malfeasance., you would not now how to go about bribing one, the ballots will be honest and true. Do we value our politicians and their parties for that most comfortable of political expectations? Are we yet #CountingOurBlessings
The economy is a contentious issue, yet it will do us no harm to remind ourselves that the difference between the parties in the previous Party Leaders debates was over budgets differing by only one or two billion pounds. The contentious ground was remarkably narrow. Whatever happens, the supermarkets will be full, we shall overspend next Christmas, the holiday industry will be advertising on full throttle in the next months and even the unfortunate will find the food banks fully provisioned.
Our “austerity” debate is largely about whether our government spending should return to the level of of few short years ago, when few of us were feeling despondent at Radio Yerevin levels. Our NHS will continue to do sterling work so that many will be healed and restored, whilst our hospice movement confers upon most of us the blessings of palliative care.
This is not to say that there are insignificant differences, yet we are the fifth largest economy in the world and even the worst scenario is infinitely better than the prospects for most of the world’s inhabitants.
A UK welfare claimant receiving the highest allowance under the benefit cap of £26,000 pa stands in the richest 1% of the world population’s income income – and that is before one factors in the value of a lifelong pension, free healthcare and schooling for children.
Brother Ivo is no Dr Pangloss: he simply does not need to have pointed out that come what may, we shall continue to be vastly blessed in comparison with our brothers and sisters across the globe. None of us turns on a tap expecting to drink infected water, we have a temporate climate which yields few natural disasters, and our security at many levels is greatly to be envied from abroad.This is why so many people would love to come and live in these islands.
We have religious freedom despite there being concerns at encroachment, and despite anxiety at the arrival of newcomers, the North/South divide and the problems of our young getting on the housing ladder, we are a nation largely at social peace one with another.
These are great benefits to acknowledge in these early days of the year.
The Kings knelt in thanks for the gift of the Christ child, the saviour of the world. We too should do so, firstly and foremost,
Whilst we are there, however, it will do us no harm at all to close our ears to those who would have us fearful, anxious, suspicious or be-littling of each other.
This week Brother Ivo will be tweeting on the hashtag #CountingOurBlessings in a small protest against the negativity that the spin doctors will try to stampede us towards.
Please retweet and feel to join his modest campaign if you too, wish to start the year with a proper sense of proportion, giving thanks that notwithstanding proper concerns for what needs to be done to address our nation’s problems, we are indeed of clear mind and full of thankfulness that we are indeed a most fortunate people.