Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Nun & The Letter from Nigeria


My Aunt Cathleen was too kind for her own good. She was a tiny woman, thin, a TB survivor & badly dressed because she gave away money instead of buying clothes. Oxfam was her boutique of choice, she liked the prices. We knew her both by her religious name of Sr (Mary) Aloysius and as Aunt Cate. 

That was a different Ireland, you had Aunts in convents & brothers and sisters in classes with your cousin's brothers & sisters: an Ireland not yet used to low child mortality or the cool of modernity. Despite having five aunts nuns, two bachelor uncles and one childless married aunt we had seventy one first cousins. All now dead but one, the nun-aunts, swept away, Salve Regina sung in old womens' fading, cracking voices by their Sisters, my father & his brothers crying. The Batchelor uncles too, gone. The price of a wonderful childhood is an adulthood burying those you loved.

Cate was a Mercy Sister and lived was the poverty-vowed life of a nun in a small Yorkshire convent. She elected by her sisters as Mother of the small community in brass-band Barnsley. Her clothes were so bad they were a shame to my parents. My mother tells the story that she & Dad decided to buy her a coat one year she arrived home without one, my mother suspecting she had given it away. Aloysius demurred, she could buy a coat much cheaper in England if she had a little money. Next year she return in what my mother described as " a black rag so old it had faded green that you wouldn't put under the dog". Clothes were not her priority.

With few or no novices coming from the developed world the Sisters of Mercy were not alone in advertising for them in the developing world. Did Sr Aloysius place the advertisements or was it the organised by the order? An ad that ended with "If you would like to be a Sister of Mercy, write to the Convent of Mercy, Barnsley" was published in a Missionary Magazine distributed in Nigeria.

That was before email, before email scams. A letter arrived, from a boy, desperate for an education but too poor to continue at school. My Aunt sent ten shillings. The correspondence continued between the boy and the tiny nun, encouragement to continue despite the hardships, and, when she could small sums of money. 

Aunt Cate kept her own council on the correspondence. In the last years of her life I think she suffered from the dementia that has haunted my father and his siblings but I do not think she would have spoken about her charity."When you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."

The good is oft interred with their bones….

The boy, yes there was a boy, Boniface Ezaegu, is now the Barrister General of the Ebonyi State in Nigeria. In memory of the woman who helped him he is helping others: he financed and built the Sr Mary Aloysius High School in his home district.  There are Four hundred & fifty students and a staff of twenty. A red bus is proudly marked in my Aunt’s name. Her religious sisters are justifiably proud. So am I.

There may be morals to be drawn here but I don’t want them. Aunt Cate was kind; the memory of that kindness lives on far from home, in a country she never visited.  Somehow I get pepper behind my eyes when I read that the anniversary of the death this tiny quiet woman, January 19, is a school holiday and the students have mass in her memory. I picture them, bored, distracted as children often are, thinking of other things, at mass, in a small town in Nigeria, very far away.

In The Name of The People, The Hive Mind Delusion


There is a delusion, common amongst left-wing politicians & those who believe them, that we share a hive mind. They speak of a need for “us” to control some aspect of commercial life: “we must decide” is spoken as if this mythical hive mind had a moral compulsion.

Mr Boyd-Barrett of the wonderfully named “People before Profit” regularly speaks of the need for this “we” to control banking decisions & loan capital allocations but he is just the exhibitionist in this particular brothel, all politicians hint & nod at the idea of this hive mind, this fictional “We” who could do things better than crude anarchic markets. They want us to believe that there is a common consciousness, replete with our total collective wisdom which could allocate resources better, make better commercial decisions,  create a better world.

In their world we are ants, worker ants striving for some goal, not of our choosing but of theirs. We, as ants, are too stupid, too short-sighted to know what is good for us. Our individual decisions are the mere whims of children. The adults in the form of Government will make the decisions for us. Our labour, the resources we generate will be taken & used for "us". 

There is no hive mind, no shared consciousness, no “We” taking decisions. There are only politicians making grand plans & at the level of foot soldiers, bureaucrats in offices making decisions for on the basis of rules laid down rather than customer desires, bureaucrats obeying their own rules & ideas but with no stake in the outcomes.

"We" does not exist.

Decisions made by non-stakeholders are invariably bad decisions. 
Government decisions are always made by people who will suffer no loss or financial pain for that decision. By contrast decisions made by privately owned companies always have direct consequences for the people involved. With no tax payer to pillage & competitors willing to serve customers, fear is a constant accompaniment & goad. Serve the public or die!

What we as individuals want matters to the economy. We each take decisions every day about our spending, guiding businesses to our needs by our purchases & investments. The We-speakers would absolve business from that guidance substituting their goals for our individual goals, their priorities for ours. That is not we, that is them.

Every cent we spend guides resources into fulfilling our needs for cheaper, better different products & services. Enterprises that fail that guidance, that do not serve us, die & in a biological analogy, resources of labour, capital, land they held are salvaged for use in enterprises attempting to satisfy us. In a free market resources are allocated not where a few hundred politicians & a few thousand bureaucrats want but to satisfy the wants of all of us. That efficient resource allocation makes us all richer.

Private property is not some middle class illusion but a fundamental essential to that process. Mr Boyd Barret & ultimately every politician that speaks of “us” controlling some aspect of commercial life, must abandon private property rights & its role in economic calculations.

Limiting the government’s role in the economic life of the nation is the easiest best road to prosperity. Private property is the basis of that limitation. 

Ants don't own anything.

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