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Friday, 18 February 2011

We're all in this together! (aren't we??)

The heading is the mantra of the British Prime Minister - and it has been for some time now, as he has pushed his concept of 'The Big Society' (i.e. more being left to the voluntary sector - much of which, in the UK, is of a specifically Christian nature!), and assured us that every sector of British society will feel the same economic pain as the country is dragged up from the mire in which the Blair/Brown governments left it.

However, although the wording sounds fine - hints of Churchill during the Second World War - the reality would appear to be rather different.  Bankers have had their bonuses reduced slightly - but have had massive salary increases in order to compensate!  The equally discredited European Union has ensured that it's officials have received inflation-busting salary hikes, and that the multitude of perks (at the ordinary person's expense) has been maintained - with no hint of real protest from the UK government.  Local councils are paying off front-line staff, who are on less (in some cases, much less) than £30,000 per year, so that the top executives can retain their healthy 'six-figure' salaries.  Even our Members of the Westminster Parliament appear to still be carping on about the paucity of their 'expenses'!

They could all learn from the Old Testament prophet, Nehemiah.  In the book that is known by his name, we read: "But now I said to them, 'You know very well what trouble we are in.  Jerusalem lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire.  Let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem, and end this disgrace'."  (Neh.2:17)

Notice the words we and us!  In order to motivate the Jewish people to rebuild the city wall, Nehemiah identified with their problem; with their need; and with their future.  It wasn't simply their problem.  It was his problem as well.  He recognised it as our problem!  And the people responded - gladly, positively, and energetically.

Can you imagine the response that Nehemiah would probably have received if he had said, "You folk are in a right mess - and it's one of your own making.  So, do you know what you need to do?  You need to rebuild that wall.  If you happen to need me, I'll be in my office.  Feel free to give me a shout.  But remember, I wasn't part of the problem.  You will just need to get on and do the work yoyurselves.  Oh, and do let me know how you get on!"

When Lee Iacocca became chairman and CEO of the Chrysler Motor Company at the height of the auto giant’s problems in 1979, he knew he would have to ask employees to take a pay cut to keep the company out of bankruptcy. Although he persuaded Congress to guarantee the company loans, he was still deeply distrusted by Chrysler’s union members. He knew that he had to find a way to persuade these workers that he had Chrysler’s best interests at heart.

Iacocca called a meeting of key management and union executives. He announced that for the next year his salary would be $1. The gambit worked. By sacrificing his own salary, Iacocca proved that he placed the welfare of the company over personal gain. He identified with the workers. He was saying, 'We are in this together. And, together we can make it through.' He knew that people will accept a lot of pain when everybody is going through the trial together. If the followers know that the leader’s in with them, together they can move a mountain.

Perhaps those "at the top" in our current political-economic circumstances could take note - and even follow Mr
Iacocca's example!  (Is that a herd of pigs I hear flying overhead????)

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