Tag Archives: sacrifices

Human Sacrifices

Dear George Osborn,

I heard you talking yesterday, in your Autumn Statement as Chancellor of the Exchequer. You mentioned the ‘sacrifices’ of the British people. I’d like to take a small, semantic issue with this, but it has considerable implications, so bear with me.

When people ‘make sacrifices’ as a voluntary act of love or devotion, that’s one thing. However, what’s been happening in the UK over the last few years has not been people voluntarily putting themselves through hell for the good of the economy. You did this to us. People have not made sacrifices. People have been sacrificed. I was surprised you were brave enough to even use this word, it was remarkably honest of you, because your government’s policies are killing people, and at this rate are going to kill more people before we’re done.

This report from the 3rd December, in the British Medical Journal, suggests Britain is on the edge of a health crisis caused by malnutrition. http://www.bmj.com/content/347/bmj.f7157. There’s every reason to think that malnutrition is in turn caused by poverty (given the rise in foodbanks) but your government has yet to publish its look into the subject. We’ve also got a lot of fuel poverty in the UK, Mr Osborn. Add together a cold winter, and poor diet, and there will be people who die as a direct consequence. Many of them will be elderly.

The Daily Mail has reported that poor people are killing themselves as a direct consequence of government actions and ‘austerity’. There have been a few explicit suicide notes on that topic, from people pushed over the edge. How do you sleep at night, Mr Osborn, knowing that your choices have led people to kill themselves? And then there are the sick, vulnerable and disabled people bullied by ATOS, too many of whom have already died in abject poverty because their benefits were cut. As more than 60% of appeals against ATOS are won, it’s clear we have an unfair, unjust system here. No terminally ill person should die in abject poverty, abandoned by the state.

People are dying, Mr Osborn. Vulnerable, elderly, ill, disabled people with no options are being made more sick with anxiety by your cuts. Do take a moment to read up on the impact of severe stress on the human body, and the impact of malnutrition, and unheated homes. Hospitals are seeing more people with hunger related illness (that’s doubled since 2009, are you proud?) and those freezing through the winter are going to get ill, too. But then, someone in your party (Owen Lister, Tory councillor) recommended guillotining disabled children. Some of us wonder if your aim really is to kill off the vulnerable. Is this malice, or incompetence at work?

There are frequently no jobs available for people who want to work, and yet your government blames the jobless and penalises them with draconian systems. Are you aware, Mr Osborn, that it is entirely possible to cause mental illness in people by putting them continually in impossible situations? I doubt we will ever know how many people have become sick with anxiety and depression as a direct consequence of your policies.

Human sacrifices, Mr Osborn. Human lives brought to an end in the name of the Gods of GDP. We frown on ancient peoples who sacrificed people, and animals to their Gods. I ask, how are you any different? The bodies of badgers, and the rising number of the dead stand as witnesses against the government you contribute to. Stop sacrificing people for the sake of the economy. An economy exists to serve and facilitate the people it belongs to, not the other way round!

 

Sincerely etc.


What is sacrifice?

Making my annual blood sacrifice to the blackberries, I’ve been pondering the nature of sacrifice. I’ll come right out and say that the more I think about it, the more I think that the very idea of sacrifice is a nonsense. The idea, as I understand it, is about giving up something, enduring, suffering, going against your own interests for the sake of the gods, the land, ancestors etc etc. The nature of sacrifice demands that there be nothing in it for us other than the act of submission and relinquishing.

There is nothing a human being can consciously choose to do that they cannot also consciously choose to gain from, or perceive as an advantage. If you want to wear a hair shirt and sit on top of a pole in a desert, eating only dry bread, that might look like sacrifice. Doing so allows the person that ‘more holy than thou’ feeling. There is a self righteousness to be had, a sense of spiritual worth and significance. We feed ego at the expense of the body. If we eschew wordly goods, it’s because we think we are spiritually better for so doing. If we give our time, money, energy to some good cause, we get something out of that – it may be the joy of giving, the sense of self worth from feeling like a good person or the feeling that our gods, like watchful parents, will be pleased with us.

Our pagan ancestors offered sacrifices to the gods. As best I understand it, this was undertaken for pragmatic reasons – a safe journey, a good harvest, protection, promotion, success. When we ‘sacrifice’ we are, really speaking, doing something for ourselves. We are trying to make a bargain. I give you this goat, you give me an uneventful voyage. I build you this temple, you make sure my children prosper.

The second conclusion I am coming to is that sitting on top of a pole wearing a hair shirt (to revert to my previous example) doesn’t necessarily achieve much. You might, I suppose, hallucinate, and learn something useful from your vision. Meaningful sacrifice should, allegedly, hurt. It should cost us in a significant way. It’s very easy to give yourself opportunities to experience pain. Any door jamb will do. You could shut your hand repeatedly in a door as an offering to the gods. You could fast for a week, or put stones in your shoes. I believe the mediaeval Christian mystics went in for all kinds of strange and masochistic activities in the name of faith. What does it do, aside from giving you the warm glow of being all noble and self sacrificing? ****all.

If you want to give of yourself, do so in a way that makes a positive difference to something, or someone else. There are plenty of jobs out there that will hurt your body, stretch your mind, dismantle your comfort zone and otherwise give you a hard time, but which result in change. They aren’t sacrifice, they are opportunities to be and do more. At the end of which you can still feel like you’ve done a spiritual thing, but have some wordly impact too.

Sacrifice is only possible if we do things to ourselves and then steadfastly refuse to learn, grow, change or feel anything as a consequence. Everything else, we stand to benefit from, because all experience takes us forwards in some direction or another. I think service is a far more useful idea, consciously recognising that in service, we may also serve ourselves, and looking for ways to take our individual spiritual journeys forward in ways that share the benefits and bring greater good. That has to be a better way to go.