Resetting.

The Covid-19 pandemic has caused upheaval for
business. Is it time to reset business practices?

Goods and services have, in recent years, been supplied largely on a just-in-time basis. Companies often hold little stock is held and have minimised cash reserves, relying on cash turnover and credit. Perhaps it is time to take a look again at such practices.

Within my lifetime, certainly since I’ve been adult enough to take an interest in such matters, businesses both service and product rely on loans and credit. Those that have, if not actually prospered, sustained themselves through the pandemic to date without taking additional credit, are businesses that have maintained a cash reserve or float.

Short term profit currently is seen to be the order of the day for many companies. It is this shortermism that leads to minimising reserves. Every pound (dollar, yen, select your currency) must be invested to generate more income as soon as it is received. Clearly there are exceptions, for new developmental products and new start-up businesses that must rely on loans in their early stages.

Even some big household name companies keep relatively little cash reserve. In addition, their assets frequently do not even include the premises from which they ply their trade. Many high street shops only rent their stores and warehousing, so even the buildings they trade from are not a business asset for them. The premises are generally leased, not even purchased by business loan/mortgage.

Once the pandemic begins to come under control, and eventually , hopefully, eliminated, perhaps it is time to take a hard look at modern business practices. Is it time for business of a certain minimum size to be mandated by our politicians to hold a proportion of their funds in cash or assets, such as buildings, that can be converted to cash relatively easily? Such action might reduce short term profit, but should also lead to greater long term sustainability and, potentially long term profit outweighing any short term disadvantage.

Untalented

Another perspective on the parable of the talents.
Refreshed from 2014 for today’s (15 Nov 20) Bible reading.

The Parable of the Talents” (1906), artist unknown.

In the parable of the talents as told by Jesus, related to us by Matthew (Matthew 25: 14 – 29 NIV)the wealthy master entrusted some of his wealth to his servants’ stewardship, whilst he went away and he did so ”each according to his ability”. I assume he considered the servants all to be honest.

He gave each of three servants a different sum of gold (Talents). The amounts are relatively unimportant the point being in the difference of amount he gave to each, the third servant receiving the lowest sum, only 1 Talent.

It is worth noting that a Talent would equate to about 20 years worth of a day labourers wage at that time, so even a single talent entrusted to the steward of the gold, like the third servant, was considerable wealth.

I assume, although we are not told, that the servants in the parable were the only three in the master’s service, so there were no others whom he might have judged unfit to receive any Talents, because he doubted their honesty or ability.

When the master returned from his travels, two of his servants each presented him with a healthy profit on the money he had left with them, having doubled the amount the master had entrusted to them. It is perhaps worth note that the two who increased the sum given to them, both doubled or added 100% to what they were entrusted with. It is reasonable to assume they were both astute in their investments. I suggest that if their proportion of the master’s wealth been split equally between them, they would have returned equal amounts to their master on his return.

The third servant returned exactly what had been left in his care. For this the master called him “wicked” and “lazy”. Was this really fair to that servant? There is no suggestion that this servant was in anyway disloyal or dishonest.

If we consider for a moment how this might be today, we might draw a comparison with The Apprentice television program. In the The Apprentice, the selection criteria are based on what was perceived to be required of a new employee, whereas in the parable they were all existing employees for which the master should already have had a good assessment of their abilities.

We have already noted that the master had given to each servant a sum of gold “according to his ability” and the master himself had been the judge of that ability. Since there is no suggestion of dishonesty by any servant, whilst the master might have been disappointed in the third servant’s stewardship, was he right to treat him so poorly on his return? Could the master’s reaction have been using that servant as a scapegoat, to hide his own poor judgement? Each according to his abilities remember, and it was the master who assessed those abilities. 

And what of the master’s own honesty, since we are told that he harvests where he has not sown and gathers where he has not scattered seed. Might this not be thought by some to imply that he was not adverse to stealing bits of a neighbours’ crops to boost his own?

The third servant may not have been wise, might well have been lazy but there is nothing but his master’s word to suggest he was wicked. He was evidently not dishonest. There are plenty of people around today whose idea of stewardship of wealth, is to hide it under the mattress.

I have also heard it suggested that in the parable, the man who went away was meant to be Jesus himself, who was telling the parable. His return therefore might have been a prophecy of his second coming. I also do not agree with that suggestion because if it had been Jesus, wouldn’t he have forgiven the third servant? 

However since it is a parable and can’t be taken literally there is yet another way we might think of it. Jesus could be telling us that we should invest in the future. Unfortunately, too many of us behave like the servant entrusted with only one Talent; we’re too worried about protecting what is, keeping the status quo, than investing for the future and I’m not just referring to money.

Remembrance 2020

A personal reflection for Poppy Day.

Remembrance used to be commemorated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. Now it is on the 11th hour of the nearest Sunday in the 11th month.

Remembrance, like so many things, is so very different in this year of 2020, with few public events. Without the public services and events to jog memories, people who perhaps otherwise take no part or interest in poppy day may not be reminded at all.

My own church’s remembrance service was recorded and streamed online. The online comments during the streamed service were the only live aspect this year. Nevertheless the memories remain, though there are now few people with first hand memories from those that remember the wars.

I remember my parents often but on Remembrance day, or Poppy day, I think of their time, serving our country. Both my parents served in the military during World War Two. Mum in the Royal Air Force, Dad in the Army. My grandfather, Grandad, served in both WW1 and WW2. 

I have never served in the military. I failed to achieve the qualifications I needed to apply for the trade I had hoped to take up in the RAF. No I didn’t have aspirations to be a pilot. My eyesight has been too poor for that since a young age, though I would have liked a flying role.

The number of veterans with direct experience of WW2 is now a mere handful. Soon it will be a generation removed, as word of mouth memories passed on to those with parents who served and told their children of those experiences diminishes year by year. Even the number of people with direct connections to the military is much diminished. There are already many, many families and people whose only experience of the horror of war is what they see or read in the news.

All my family who served all returned alive and uninjured, at least physically. I suspect Dad had some mental scars. He was posted to Burmah, now Myanmar. He never spoke about his time in the military. Not even to Mum, as far as I know.

There are only two things I know for sure about Dad’s time in the army in Burmah. He never ate another banana in his lifetime after he returned. He refused his campaign medal. Dad was a conscript. He thought only volunteers should get campaign medals, though anyone could receive one for conspicuous service or valour.

When we remember those who served our country, we are not glorifying war or conflict. We are honouring those whose sacrifices are what kept our country free. One of the greatest ironies of those who protest Remembrance is that it is possible they would not have the freedom to make that protest without those who made sacrifices in the past.

Those who served their country deserve to be remembered and their achievements commemorated.

THE KOHIMA EPITAPH

When you go home
Tell them of us, and say,
For their tomorrow
We gave our today.

REMEMBER THEM

Dinner Time

School dinners during Covid and holidays.

Regular readers will be aware that I rarely touch on politics. It is not politics per-se but compassion, or rather lack of it by a particular British political party, that prompted this article. So, in this instance my post it is unavoidably political and I make no apology.

The British Labour Party, placed a motion before UK parliament to provide free school meals to children who would normally qualify for them, during school holidays during the time of the Covid pandemic. The motion was defeated by the Conservative party, the current ruling government.

Bear in mind that the members of parliament who voted down the bill are well paid. They are in no danger of losing any income during the pandemic.

The children of poorer families by contrast, are from families whose breadwinner/s have, in many cases, lost a significant portion of their income, or are already on state benefits. It seems that, in monetary terms at least, the poorest families will become even poorer because of reduced hours, or unemployment during the Covid pandemic because of government introduced restrictions.

To add insult to injury, those same politicians who voted down the free school meals are able to claim an allowance if not the whole cost for many of their meals; why? The majority of people have feed themselves at their own expense. They buy food from their own pockets at work in a canteen, or to take to work, or they take a packed lunch, at their own expense. Why shouldn’t politicians do the same?

Why should any child go without a hot meal, when our politicians, on a whole host of expenses that no one else ever gets, don’t even pay for many of their own meals out of their own pocket. It is not just a lack of compassion. It is hypocrisy.

Freedom

How free is free in these days of Covid19.

Freedom in these days of coronavirus seems to be taking on a slightly different complexion.

It seems, for some people at least, to mean the freedom to not wear a face mask. It can mean the freedom to gather in bigger groups than prescribed by our governments, in their bids to stem the transmission of the coronavirus.

But freedom comes with limits, or perhaps more correctly consideration and responsibilities. Freedom cannot be absolute, that is anarchy. Freedom must be collective, not individual. One person’s freedom by choosing not to wear a face mask, or to join a group can impact on others’ freedom.

One person’s freedom with regard to Covid19 could infect, even kill others. Could an infected person who knowingly flouts the rules of face covering and/or social distance be accused of murder if someone they infect dies? It seems to me that at the very least they could be guilty of manslaughter.

When people talk of freedom with respect to the restrictions of coronavirus, they usually think only of their own personal freedom. They generally fail to acknowledge that their freedom acts as a detriment to the freedom of others. They think only of the risk to themselves, not the risk they might pose to others.

Reneging On The Franchise

A modern re-telling of the parable of The Tenant Farmers.

Duncan Tranter had opened his newest branch of Tranter’s Wine cellar and off licence. As he shook hands with and handed the keys to his latest franchisee, the local paper for Kingsdown took pictures.

A year later, just ahead of the end of the financial-year, when accounts would need to be audited, Tranter sent one of his company’s financial officers to review the Kingsdown branch’s books. While most of the officers had little trouble, Eric Faulks, sent to Kingdsown, was agressively and rudely denied access by staff at the Tranter’s Kingsdown branch. Not only was he denied access, he was assaulted and hospitalised.

Tranter next sent another auditor, this time accompanied by another branch manager. They were treated just as aggressively as the original auditor. They were both denied access and assaulted even more seriously than the first man. Both were hospitalised and the branch manager later died of his injuries.

Eventually Tranter sent his son, Duncan junior, to review the Kingsdown branch accounts. Duncan junior didn’t even make it to hospital but was dead on arrival. Finally Tranter senior was forced to go the the Kingsdown branch himself. Before going he employed a company of debt collectors, two of whom accompanied him.

Tranter’s recalcitrant franchisees were ejected from the Kingsdown Wine Cellar branch and handed to the police, after before being ‘worked over’ by the debt collectors. The now former franchisees were duly charged, tried, convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.

Tranter eventually re-sold the Kingsdown franchise. Whilst his business was finally in good order, he never recovered from the loss of his son.

Religion and Faith

Are they the same?

There are probably plenty of definitions of what actually constitutes religion, or a religion. I am not going to add another one. I just intend to try to put into words my own thoughts.

Regular readers will know that I follow the Anglican Christian religion, even if I could be a better Christian. Yet, I do not think of myself as religious. I do however have faith, In God and in His Son, Jesus Christ.

You might think this infers that I believe every word in the Bible. I do not. I know that the Bible contains some fiction, in addition to verifiable historical events and people and places. By fiction, I mean interpretations of events that enable some little understanding of the otherwise unexplainable, at least to the people of the times of the parts of its authorship.

Some stories are complete fiction. They are told to illustrate a point or a truth. So whilst not every word of the Bible is true, as a whole it contains truth.

In the same way, I do not follow religion blindly or unquestioningly. That doesn’t mean I do not attend church or take part in communal worship. At least I did until the coronavirus restrictions prevented that. Nor does it mean I don’t believe in God. If I didn’t, then I wouldn’t attend church.

My church, the church I attended and hope to attend again in due course, now streams its services online. I ‘attend’ the streamed services and sometimes contribute to them. The prayers that I publish on this blog occasionally, since the coronavirus restrictions, I have also recorded on video for use in the streamed service.

Whether or not there is belief in religion, God or Jesus, and allowing for historical fanaticism cruelty and excesses of the past, I think that the modern Christian faith, the emphasis being on Faith not religion, is a good way to interact with our fellow human beings.

Pandora

The ‘green’ world of Avatar.

The Hallelujah Floating Mountains of Pandora

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about an aspect of James Cameron’s 2009 film, Avatar. Last time I associated it with some biblical parallels. I recently watched it again, which prompted some new thoughts, related to the damage we have done to Earth’s ecosystems and climate.

Pandora is the fictional world on which the Avatar movie is set. It is lush and, green. A planet populated by a people called the Na’vi, a race living in sympathy with their planet, its flora and fauna.

The Na’vi rely on Pandora for their food, homes and wellbeing. They take only what they need from the land to sustain themselves, living in harmony with the planet’s ecosystem, not trying to change it to suit themselves and profit from it. Although some life on Pandora is dangerous, the Na’vi understand that all life there is dependant on the chain through Pandora’s ecosystem.

All is well until humans arrive on the planet, to discover a valuable mineral resource called Unobtanium. Needless to say, commercial profit motive soon results in humans trying to educate (read subjugate or indoctrinate) the indigenous Na’vi people. The next step is to attempt to displace the Omaticya tribe of the Na’vi, when it is discovered their home is located right above a rich deposit of Unobtanium.

As seems to be the case for much of our history, anything, everything and anyone who is not like us becomes relocatable and/or expendable in search of profit. Humankind, has raped their own world, “there is no green” Jake Sully tells Eywa, the Na’vi’s deity. Having exhausted Earths resources, new sources are needed. 

The film opens with a military transport landing in a fortified, industrial compound on Pandora. The only human outpost in what is considered hostile territory. A bit like US cavalry forts in American Indian territory when the white man began to ‘invade’ the North American continent. 

Does any of this ring any bells so far with non fiction history on planet Earth? Humankind as a species, is doing on a planetary scale what humans, as various races, have been doing to each other for centuries. They are destroying a planetary ecosystem in search of the mighty profit. Deliberately or not, Cameron’s film is an allegory for how we humans have damaged our planet and people on it in search of profit.

“All energy is only borrowed.” – Zoe Saldana as Neytiri

Intercession Prayer

 For Sunday 13th September 2020

Everlasting God, who is always ready to listen, hear us as we offer you this prayer. We petition Your Son, Jesus Christ to speak to you on our behalf. Lord Jesus Christ, we offer our hearts and minds and ask for forgiveness for the errors and actions on our conscience, whether accidental or deliberate.

We pray for children, students and everyone returning to education for the first time since the start of effects of the Covid pandemic, whether in our country or around the world. Keep them safe and healthy with their teachers and carers. Guide them as they cope with new ways to learn. Support them so that they learn without detriment to their education resulting from the necessary coronavirus restrictions.

We ask Your strength for those afraid of returning to work or education that can not be continued from home. Give wisdom and compassion those trying to plan and provide a safe environment, for those that must attend education or work in person. 

Father help us to show compassion to those in our debt, as you show compassion to us and forgive us the debt we can never repay. Bless us as we repay such debts are we are able to without grumble and with good grace.

We bring before you and remember the unwell and injured in body, mind or spirit, whether illness might be the pandemic covid virus or any other cause. We ask You to guide, strengthen and protect their carers whether medical professional or friends and relatives giving their own effort and time. We remember in particular those we know personally.

Prayer of St. Columba of Iona (slightly updated to modern speech)

Lord, You are my island; in you I rest.
You are the calm of the sea; in that peace I stay.

You are the deep waves of the shining ocean; With their eternal sound I sing.
You are the song of the birds; in that tune is my joy.
You are the smooth white strand of the shore; in You is no gloom.
You are the breaking of the waves on the rock; Your praise is echoed in the swell.
You are the Lord of my life. 

Amen.

Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of Your Son, our saviour Jesus Christ.  

Amen.

Download and print this prayer.