Sundays: Making them Special Again
- Kamran Mofid
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‘Before we were liberated to spend our Sundays down at the shopping mall, “Sunday was the most miserable day of the week,… The only thing to look forward to was Sing Something Simple on the radio.” - Tory business minster, Anna Soubry
The Tory Government in Britain-like other neo-liberals elsewhere- valuing nothing but unbridled capitalism- plans to allow larger stores to open for longer on Sundays by giving local authorities powers to relax national law on trading hours.
It is very disappointing that this government should be trying yet again to fundamentally alter the balance and harmony of our national life, our health and well-being, in such a underhand manner, all for nothing, but for shop till you drop!
This, as Giles Fraser writing in the Guardian notes: “For nothing, absolutely nothing, must get in the way of shopping and our ever increasing productivity. Instead of all those tedious family gatherings, we should be out there buying more things we don’t need with money we don’t have. A day of rest? God, no! We must be turning those wheels of finance, building those pyramids, getting into more debt.
"A strict monotheist, Soubry wants us to worship the god of finance on a Sunday. All other gods must be smashed, smeared, ridiculed. Only the god of money deserves our true and unquestioning obedience. Well, I do wish she’d stop ramming her religion down our throats. I don’t want to be more productive. I want to lie about on the sofa watching rubbish TV. Or chat aimlessly to the people I love. Or just sit under a tree and do nothing. These are perfectly respectable things to do.”
‘All-night tubes, expanded Sunday trading and non-stop shopping are a step too far if we want to keep our sanity in the internet age’
Shop till you drop – but what is the cost on society?
I believe the Keep Sunday Special and many others like them are correct and justified in their campaign for having time for family, friends and community, at least for one day a week. They believe in working hard and living life to the full, in keeping just one day a week a bit special. And they believe there need to be some limits to protect the things that matter most – people who need to relax at the same time as the rest of us, families that need to spend time together, communities that need to be preserved, relationships that need protection, local businesses that need to be given a fair chance to survive and thrive, and more.
Furthermore, as Rachel Cooke writing in the Guardian notes: “Meanwhile,… People tend to talk about the 24-hour society rather blithely, as if it were just fun, fun, fun. But now here it comes, a little closer, and a lot more loud and exhausting. At what point, I wonder, will their nonchalance shade into hollow-eyed panic at what it is that we are saying goodbye to for ever?
“Everyone feels it: this pressure, this noise. Some of it is literal: the supermarkets whose lights are always on; the trains that never cease clattering across the tracks. And some of it is virtual: the emails that keep coming all through the weekend; those incredibly “helpful” websites that keep a person hunched over their laptop, face aglow, when they should really be asleep.
“And it is making us ill... Those who live close to stations and 24-hour stores struggle to escape the light and the noise that make sleep difficult. Those who receive emails even when they’re trying to have a rare day off are preoccupied at best, absent at worst, and permanently tense into the bargain.
“Ask yourself this: isn’t there always tickertape running through your mind of all the things you could be buying and ordering and speed-reading and speed-writing? Then cast your mind back 15 years or so. Wasn’t it then a good deal easier truly to enjoy your supper, to settle down into a novel, to go to bed before midnight?
“Forget the debate about the green belt. This is a world with no space in it, no air. The mind still wanders, but dumbly, un-creatively, in the direction of – choose your poison – eBay, John Lewis online, Ocado or Asos. We’ve all but eliminated the time we used to spend thinking and talking (I mean really talking, not the hurried emails).
“A news story informs me that some parents now devote £3,600 to ensuring their teenagers remain strangers to ennui during the long summer holidays; that most children will spend at least 95 hours of their vacation checking social media sites on their phones and tablets. But as the great children’s author and illustrator Shirley Hughes pointed out last week, having received a lifetime achievement award from the Book Trust, boredom itself can be productive, even liberating: it was as a fed-up child that she first took up her pencils."
All in all, in short, there are perfectly good religious and non-religious reasons for keeping Sunday special: It is special to me because it’s one day when we must not be forced to worship the market. And that’s why I believe the neo-liberals, such as Tory business minister hate it.
And this is why the GCGI wishes to stand with all those who want to Keep Sundays Special.
“Common Good Sunday Initiative”
Imagining Sunday as a day for culture that brings people together, reinvesting it with meaning and purpose
GCGI speaks to those seeking a balanced, harmonious and peaceful lifestyle. We believe in the wise words and sentiments of Mahatma Gandhi, when, well before the digital age of high-speed communication, just-in-time deliveries, social media and twittering, warned us against the pitfalls of living full throttle when he said, "there is more to life than increasing its speed".
For this reason I invite all our GCGI Family and Friends to advise me on how we may set up our “Common Good Sunday Initiative”-the antidote to hectic modern life: A day of reflection and reconnection.
The aim is to re-establish Sunday as a special day during which we engage with our family, friends and local community. A day we reject fast food and like the olden days prepare and make food for the whole family, all eating together, celebrating our love for each other. A day to take part in simple actions that symbolise a rejection of commercialism, a passion for the planet and a desire for change. A day respecting peoples faith and religious traditions. For many people across the globe, Sunday has a particular religious significance as a day set aside for worship and a day that's different from the rest of the week. This view is not shared by everyone in a world that has become so multicultural, but it's a view that should command our respect. A day that all of us, people of all faiths and none, talking action in the interest of the common good.
To make Sundays Special Again, requires different set of values to the ones promoted currently
Saint Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle spoke of meaning in life when they respectively noted that: ‘He that seeks the good of the many seeks in consequence his own good’ and ‘What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good’. Albert Einstein spoke about values when he said: ‘Try not to become a person of success, but rather try to become a person of value.’ The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich also similarly noted that: ‘We have to build a better man before we can build a better society.’ Gandhi also spoke of meaning in life with his famous phrase: ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world.’ And the wonderful woman Helen Keller noted that ‘the only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.’
This is only a selection – there are thousands of superb quotations and proverbs about values, ethics, morality and spirituality that can be helpful and inspiring to each of us. But finding quotations can also be a bit like looking for needles in a haystack. We also know that humane and humanistic values can change our hearts and nourish our minds – prompting us to take action in the interest of the common good and literally improve the world.
Today, in many parts of the world, the so-called ‘free’ market, the consumerist culture, and ‘Black Friday’ sales, have become increasingly dominant, and are now seriously threatening our global future, both in terms of our care of the planet and in increasing societal rivalry and conflict.
Today’s world, it seems, has become a world of continuing and deepening crises. Wisdom, must surely compel us to ask: Why?
Please consider joining us at our conference in 2016 and share your story, ideas, vision and insight with us all. Together, we can and we will build the better world we are all imagining.
First Announcement of 3rd GCGI-SES Joint Forum
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School of Economic Science (SES)
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13th GCGI International Conference and the 3rd Joint GCGI and SES Forum
Why Values Matter
The Power of Purpose and Values: The Path to a Better World
Wednesday 31 August- Sunday 4 September, 2016