So, we are all back to work after the holidays; the World Cup has come to an end with the defeat of Argentina and the taking down of the Argentine flag from the front garden at Casa Turlough. Certain members of the Quinn household were sorely disappointed at that result but such are the vagaries of life.
Over the holidays I had a lot of time to think. I enjoyed the break, not having to work so hard at the weekend was a nice change. Actually I spent quite a bit of time reflecting on my own life and how ignorance of Christian principles in the past have led to my downfall.
As I grow older and continue to study the teachings of the Catholic Church, I am beginning to understand and appreciate something of her wisdom. For example, how many of us know that the Church has a lot to say on social teaching or indeed, has much to say on business and how a business should be run.
In her teaching the Church always begins from the position as to ‘what does God want us to do for the betterment of the world in this particular situation?’
This is a very general question and at first glance you would think that it is so general it means nothing. But think about it for a minute and apply it to some particular circumstance and you shall begin to understand what the Church teaches on these issues.
Let’s apply the question, ‘what does God want us to do for the betterment of the world in this particular situation?’ to the problem of running a business.
From Catholic teaching a person running a business begins from the most basic of all questions, ‘what is the purpose of a business?’
That is actually a very serious question because how you answer this problem shall decide how you run your business, your attitude to your customers, to your workers and to the taxman and government authorities.
Most people would answer the question with a statement such as, ‘the purpose of a business is to make money.’ Of course a business has to make money to survive but is making money the primary purpose of a business?
If you look at the question from God’s point of view you will see that the purpose of a business is to provide a service for the community, to build up the people of the community and to make life a little better or more interesting.
From the Christian point of view the primary purpose of a business is to provide a service; profit follows naturally from the provision of the service.
Think about it for a minute. When you ask a friend what was a particular restaurant like for a meal one of the first, if not the first question you ask is, ‘what was the service like?’ It is the same if you go to stay in a hotel, people will often say, ‘it was a wee bit expensive but the service was great, it was worth it.’
Any good business puts service at the top of its priority list knowing that people will pay for a service because they feel valued and appreciated. When people detect that they are not valued or appreciated they soon leave and seek somewhere else to take their business. Successful businessmen know this.
The provision of service, although it appears to cost money, adds greatly to the profitability of the business.
What about the businessman who sees business purely as a method of making money? For him the customer is a person to be bled dry, service is an expense that can be done without and workers are annoyances who are costing him money.
In this situation no one is happy and the business gradually dies. We see the effects of this in so many businesses. Take for example those phone companies that shout about keeping costs down and then come up with hidden costs on your bill that make no sense.
The most common of these is the charge for administering your payment used by phone providers; at up to £6 a quarter for some companies it is a hidden charge that causes deep resentment. We don’t need to talk about the contempt in which the banks are held because of their hidden charges which most people consider little better than theft.
But in a small business where profit and profit alone is the underlying motive the first people to feel the effects of this policy are the workers. They are the soft touch, the people that the bosses can take it out on and the quickest place to save money.
This is such a false economy: good workers leave and the quality of work goes down and thus begins a self-perpetuating cycle of decline. The problem arises when a company sees a rise in costs but no rise in income. Instead of looking at how it can improve its service and enhance its turnover, the first reaction of a profit driven organization is to cut costs.
A shrewder businessman would ask himself, ‘how can I generate more income?’
The point that I am trying to get across is that Christian principles and how we try to live by them affect every aspect of our lives. The moment we change from the Christian principles we begin to move away from what is good and move towards negative aspects of life.
Leaving business aside, look at the reaction of the world to the shooting down of the Malaysian airplane last week. Instead of trying to find out what happened and getting to the truth, certain countries began a blame game and immediately tried to shift the blame away from the people who fired the rocket or who supplied the rocket to these fighters.
It was the same with the four children blown up on the beach in Gaza; Israel blamed Hamas for firing rockets onto their soil, saying that if they had not done so the children would still be alive.
Isn’t it amazing how we can justify just about everything when we put our minds to it! But is it anything near to the truth?
At least the twelfth was quiet and for that we have to thank the Orange Order, Peter Robinson and the assorted list of unionists who signed the pledge.
For me it was funny to see the serious faces of the unionist leaders sitting behind a wee table, nodding as Peter spoke and then going forward, á la Carson, to sign the wee book.
Who do they think they are kidding? And to be honest, who gives a hoot about them?
"The combined unionist parties call upon the secretary of state to establish a time-bound commission of inquiry with the necessary legal powers and resources to examine the Crumlin Road parades impasse and the wider issues it represents.
"This is consistent with a proposal in last Friday's Belfast Telegraph editorial.
"The issue of the Ligoniel parade will not go away after the Twelfth evening.
"This is a further part of our graduated response strategy, and follows on from our withdrawal from the leaders' talks, ending contact with the so-called Parades Commission and the steps outlined by the Orange Institution.
"In addition, the parties are agreed that at every level - council, assembly, Westminster and Europe - the denial of cultural expression, resulting from republican violence and threats of violence, will have a consequence determining how our members at each of these levels of government will participate.
"We intend to seek an urgent meeting with the secretary of state - the response of the secretary of state to the positive proposal of this commission of inquiry will dictate the nature and timing of those actions.” (BBC News)
It is worth noting that the blame as usual was left at the feet of ‘republican violence and threats of violence.’ There is no ability in the unionist mind-set to admit to any wrongdoing on their behalf, as they stood there with a convicted terrorist. But Billy had good justification:
“The leader of the PUP has claimed that his murder of two Roman Catholic men on their way to work in 1974 helped prevent a united Ireland.
In an interview with the News Letter, Billy Hutchinson made clear that he had “no regrets in terms of my past because I believe that I contributed to preventing a united Ireland”.
And he attempted to claim that the two men he murdered had links to the IRA.
In 1974, Mr Hutchinson and UVF youth member Thomas Winstone shot the two Catholics – Michael Loughran and Edward Morgan – as they walked along the Falls Road to work. Hutchinson pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The trial was told that the victims had been selected at random and the judge told Mr Hutchinson and his co-accused: “They were cold-blooded murders.”” (New Letter Interview)
What does this tell us about the integrity of unionism as regards the desire for real peace in Northern Ireland? We are back to the old thing that somehow Unionist violence is less reprehensible than that of republicans.
But in fairness, the 12th passed over peacefully. However, this begs the question, if the loyalist mobs could be held at bay by the signing of a piece of paper, why were these same politicians not able to stop loyalist violence at the parades in years gone by.
We think of the many dead people, both Catholic and Protestant whose lives could have been saved if unionist leaders had walked solemnly to their wee desk and signed a bit of paper.
And what is the constant refrain of people who want to walk down the roads where they are not wanted: “Our fathers did it before us so we have to do it too.”
No you don’t! We have no need to be held in bondage by the attitudes of our parents in any sphere of our lives.
It was the same when it came to the massive bonfires which grow larger every year. Heaps of tyres, which are illegal to burn anywhere else but on an 11th night bonfire, gather in a multitude of places throughout the province. Pallets, which rumour has it, now have to be bought from the community grants given to loyalist areas, are stacked three stories high, bedecked with effigies of the Pope, Our Lady, photos of Catholic politicians, all because ‘our fathers did it before us.’
Go back to our first question about business and apply it to politics: what is the primary object of politics?
Surely it must be for the good ordering of society, to bring peace and prosperity to the community, to give equality and fairness to all.
Take the Christian principle out of it and what have you got?
Northern Ireland, where sectional politics is the order of the day, ‘everything they get is a loss for us.’
Great Britain, where politics is geared to making the rich richer and the poor poorer. There are now more people in work receiving benefits than there are people out of work receiving benefits: how is that for a society!
The Free State, our beloved homeland, where civil war politics and cronyism still rule the roost and where the poor are seen as lepers to be trampled on.
Yes, I enjoyed my holiday break. I had time to reflect on the teachings of the Church and was able to look at how far from these we have moved. Had I as a person, been more aware of the true nature of business and the true purpose of politics, I would probably have a totally different life today.
Sadly, it has taken me to come near to my 60th birthday to see that the accumulated wisdom and reflection of the Church for almost two thousand years does have some real bearing on my life and how I should try to live it.
But it is never too late to learn. Maybe businesses shall come to see that they are part of God’s plan for the building up of the community and that politicians will come to see that service to the community, all the community, is what they are supposed to do.
And maybe some wee Orangeman shall stand at Twaddell Avenue and say to himself, ‘I don’t have to walk up here just because my da did. I think I’ll go home and watch the football!’
We can always hope for a miracle of God to take place and touch the hearts of Northern Ireland men, women and children. Come to think of it, why not add to the list all the countries fighting in this world today; Ukraine, Israel, Gaza, Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran…
The views expressed are not necessarily those of
the editor but are the views of the writer.
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