Tag Archives: Ethics

Rediscovering my justice mojo part one: visible clothing

Those who have known me a long time can relate many stories of Sam’s justice crusades and rants. From that life-changing four weeks in Tanzania with Tearfund back in 1998, being chained to the QUB railings as part of Jubilee 2000, to countless campaigns and rants over injustice.

I’ve always held a strong sense of justice and realised a few years ago unsurprisingly that it is one of my values. I’m not sure what happened but it feels like it dulled (or changed) over the last few years. I guess life happens. Moving city, country. Stress. Conflict. Changing jobs. Starting something. Death and grief. Marriage. Living. Maybe losing a community of people also passionate about those things…


Fear not. The justice mojo is returning. Timed perfectly with the advent of parenthood. Inspired by some friends who in the face of tragedy and the reality of sweatshops decided not to sit still but do something constructive. Andy and Andy decided to give away their wardrobe and replace it with clothes they knew were made by people who were treated fairly. Documenting their journey and reviewing their clothes at Who Made My Wardrobe (with a great website too) inspired me again that taking small actions adds up and I can make a difference. As a result my next t-shirt purchases were from Rapanui (right). they make some great t-shirts – the bamboo ones being amazingly soft.

At the end of their journey Andy and Andy realised that the ethical clothing market was still very small. Some ethical clothing is,  let’s be honest not exactly cool, and some almost prohibitively expensive.

And so they decided to set up their own label. Visible clothing was born off the back of a successful crowdfunding campaign. Taking part in that and sharing parts of their journey on social media was a significant step in helping remind me that I could make a difference.

Watch their story here

Andy and Andy inspired me and reminded me of a few things

  • it is possible to do something – we don’t have to feel overwhelmed
  • my buying choices make a difference
  • the importance of community – sharing their story reminded me i’m not alone in wanting to engage on these issues, and without their example and inspiration I’d still be living in conflict with my values. (I’m thankful too for Robin who has also been blogging and acting on this stuff).
  • you never know what will happen when you take a risk and start small

I’m thankful to Andy and Andy for helping reignite my passion to act and live more justly. I want to do my best to make sure the people who make what I wear/eat/consume are paid fairly and treated justly. I’m excited to see where the Visible journey will go and am committed to making more ethical decisions when it comes to purchasing clothes.

And maybe little Colm will become a justice crusader too… Best get him started young. Now ethical baby/children’s clothing – there is another discussion/blog post…2014-08-11 17.53.12





Living Gently in a Violent World

I’m getting my Hauerwas introduction from Nelly through the wonderful little book co-written with Jean Vanier – Living Gently in a Violent World – The Prophetic Witness of Weakness.

Vanier is the founder of L’Arche and lives and works with people who are disabled. The following few lines in the introduction stopped me in my tracks:

If it is correct that in France in the next few years there will be no children born with Down’s syndrome because they will all have been aborted, then something is deeply wrong with our society. As my friend John, who has Down’s syndrome puts it, “That doesn’t make us feel very welcome does it?” And he’s right. One of the very real dangers for people with disabilites in Western cultures is compassion!

The clincher:

Our desire to alleviate suffering in the name of compassion easily leads to the destruction of people whom God has created and loves beyond all things.

Pick’n’mix morality- pay someone to do your assignments

To say the society we live in has a pick’n’mix approach to morality is no surprise. Even in the church the same is true  often exemplified in the vitriol shown in abortion debates, or even those who champion justice being slow to make any comment on the injustice of abortion. It now seems the ministers and pastors of the future in the states are learning to pick and choose at seminary.

“I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow. I have been commissioned to write many a passionate condemnation of America’s moral decay as exemplified by abortion, gay marriage, or the teaching of evolution. All in all, we may presume that clerical authorities see these as a greater threat than the plagiarism committed by the future frocked.”

It seems with a little google searching its possible to be an ‘expert’ and write on everything:

In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper. I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration

At around $2000 per assignment of which he rakes in half.

Obviously this not only raises worrying questions about seminary students who have no scruples about such blatant cheating, but more so about an education system (and students) who have lost the focus on learning in the rush for results…

The number one attribute employees want in a boss is integrity. I wonder how long that will last with a generation who don’t know what integrity is. The thing that staggers me is how these students cope with the rest of their courses and jobs at the other end (never mind where they get the cash to pay for it).

It reminds me that many of us in the western/northern world see education as a right instead of the privilege that it is.

Politics in Ireland – morally bankrupt?

I’ve been horrified to learn the depths of corruption in Ireland over the last few decades. How politicians, bankers and the business elite have colluded in ripping off the country to grease their own pockets. This blog has been brewing as I’ve been reading Fintan O’Toole’s Ship of Fools. It is staggering how Fianna Fail politicians in particular as exemplified by ‘teflon’ Bertie Ahern steered the country towards financial disaster by refusing to regulate spending or the banks in order to ensure they and their cronies in business and banking laughed all the way to the proverbial bank. Even more shocking is the avoidance of tax by the ultra rich – many of whom appear to have paid around 15% tax through cosy avoidance arrangements and politicians and banks turning a blind eye. The lowest tax band is 20%. Ireland is one of the worst countries in Europe for broadband access – something Bertie promised to sort out (but didn’t) and something that could easily be very different had his cronies paid their taxes and that money been used for IT infastructure, let alone health or education. My hatred of Ryanair was tempered slightly by the discovery that Michael O’Leary is one of the few rich in Ireland who actually does pay his taxes and doesn’t pretend to live elsewhere. The complicity of the banks and frightening regularity that those seemingly invovled in ‘Financial Regulation’ ended up on the boards of banks is criminal. But the worst thing is that they got away with it, and continue to.

A recent poll suggested 22% of people interviewed don’t have confidence in any of the party leaders to lead the country, but yet no-one seems prepared to take up the mantle and fight a long hard fight for integrity and ethics in the political sphere. It seems to be accepted. Charlie Haughey, one of the most corrupt premiers Ireland has seen was spared the results of an inquiry until after his death, and his protege Bertie (who successfully portrays a likeable ordinary chap image – while lining his mattress with wads of cash) elevated him to the status of patriot at his funeral. Leaving the country in a mess while you get rich is a strange sort of patriotism to me…

The wanton extravagance and largesse of the Celtic Tiger era was amply demonstrated today by revelations that Transport Minister Noel Dempsey (pictured) used a government jet to fly him from Dublin to Derry, and then from Derry the next morning to London – for a breakfast meeting. The Department of Transport claims the estimated cost of the trip as €100,ooo by the media (and Ryaniar) is grossly exaggerated. The farce of it is that his driver drove his ministerial Mercedes from Dublin to Derry to meet him at the airport – why of why could he at least not have driven to Derry? The irony continues given the topic of the MacGill summer school – ‘Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability.’ Maybe he should have stayed on for the next round of talks that evening on the subject of ‘We Need Higher Standards of Leadership, and of Governance.’

More than ever before Ireland needs leaders of integrity who will serve the electorate, not their own agendas.

The soapbox – considering pulling a Wyclif Jean…

Reforming the republic—issues of politics, economics and accountability

If we can’t trust the integrity of the people who make decisions…

… and laws then how can we trust the decisions they make?

A valid question from a radio phone in this morning. The whole expenses scandal has raised lots of interesting questions. Not just why is the upkeep of a swimming pool so integral to performing the role of a Member of Parlaiment? One phone in listener last night admitted fiddling expenses himself yet was outraged that MPs were doing exactly what he had done. It is true that we hold our leaders to higher standards than ourselves. And rightly so if they are to lead. The moral component of leadership has certainly come to the fore again in recent months and years. we want leaders we can trust, who act with integrity. Yet on another level they are flawed individals like ourselves – but does that mean we should simply excuse ther actions? The issue of trust for me is perhaps the major one. If a leader loses the trust of those s/he claims to be leading then obviouslt those people are no longer following and their leadership in many ways simply becomes positional or in name only. When trust between a leader and those they lead breaks down, how can it be restored? Gordon Brown’s apology is a beginning, and then we want to see evidence of changed behaviour. I’ve been wresting with this question of how trust can be restored when it breaks down as I see it not just in the expenses scandal but in churches and work situations. Patrick Lencioni argues that a lack of trust is the foundational problem in dysfunctioning teams. Again I agree. But how can trust be restored? I’ve grown up hearing “trust has to be earned”, but recently was also challenged by someone who added “trust also has to be given”.  How much are we prepared to give our trust again, and how much should we if we keep having that trust broken? Where does Jesus stuff about not just forgiving a few times but many come into play?

apologies and confessions

Much like whynotsmile I must issue an apology regarding my previous post. The helpful people at my bank have now sorted out my problems. It now seems there were in fact no bandits thieving from my account. Some company has a sort code and account number only one digit different from mine and someone got a number wrong, thus the money left my account and not theirs. I am now able to breathe a sigh of relief regarding my banking security. I then did begin to (obviously as a result of living in a litigious blame culture) think “flip someone’s incompetence could have cost me a huge sum of money, what about my phone calls to the bank (a grand total of 3) and distress caused to me (here I was beginning to take on the vocabulary of the said blame culture and exaggerate something that gave me something to talk about but certainly didn’t lose me any sleep). When I took a step back and got some perspective – I realised that someone made a mistake, and here was me getting up on my high horse talking about incompetence and wanting to see what I could get out of the bank. I got my money back, which should have made me thankful enough that I had money to be taken out of my account. I make mistakes every day, and when I do its just a mistake, but when its other people its a flaw in their character, its a trait, its incompetence. I really can be an arrogant git. Much like my encounter with the police here I am again looking to make myself feel superior to someone else – who got one number wrong – big deal. I’ve been reading through the gsopels and realise that Jesus must have been so good to be around. Instead of shooting others down to make himself look important (well he certainly did remind some of the more arrogant of a few home truths) he saw where they were at, he saw things from their perspective and gave people dignity and lifted them up. It must have be so liberating. That’s what I want to be like, instead of someone so insecure at times I need to prove my worth by showing how superior I am to others when in reality i’m no different, constantly making mistake, and needing grace, the grace I maybe need to start demonstrating to others…

Some bandit is thieving from my bank account

I am officially a victim of fraud. Some light fingered bandit has somehow managed to swipe a significant sum of money from my bank account. I feel naked and vulnerable. And wondering how it happened and how to stop it happening again. For a moment questioning whether ethics or pragmatism should win in choosing bank. But just for a moment.

Suing the poor – vulture funds and is God a capitalist?

This article – Vultures leave the developing world hungry (a response to ‘How top London law firms help vulture funds devour their prey‘) made me sit bolt upright when reading my Saturday Guardian this morning. My non-economist understanding seems to be that these ‘vulture’ funds buy debt of Heavily Indebted Poor countries (HIPC’s), countries like Zambia, Congo and Tanzania which are receiving debt relief. These companies or funds then sue the governments of those countries for more than what they paid for the debt. It seems crazy, morally repungent and many other phrases that this should be allowed to happen. Talk about stealing from the poor to make money! Is this the logical conclusion of a capitalist system that is all about profit – the poor always get oppressed? The growing global rich-poor divide seems to be damning evidence. Given Gordon Brown’s commitments to the fight against global poverty I for one will be dropping him a line about this horrific state of affairs of companies making money at the expense of those who have little enough choices and hope as it is.

It reminds me of several conversations about faith and economics and remembering a comment from someone from the States who said “well, i think god would be a capitalist”. I remember the shock and horror that arose – did he just say that? Especially after an articulate explanation from a theology professor on economics and the bible. We cannot and should not equate Christian faith with one economic system but it is undeniable that a capitalist system with its exploitation of the poor is certainly less aligned with the teaching of the bible than a Christian socialist model that wants a more even distribution of wealth. Of course there are lots of caveats there. Believing that the capitalist model of free markets etc is the best way to lift people out of poverty is different that simply believing in capitalism. It worries me that the church seems to have imbibed so much of capitalism and ignored so much of the Bible, of the God who is concerned about poverty, who asks his people to look out for the poor, to live generously, who designed an economic system that would have avoided long term poverty. The example of the early church who shared everything, who gave sacrificially (as God has asked – to give/lend until the person is no longer in need, not just give a bit to ease our conscience) is one to remember. Certainly what stood out to me in Peru this summer was the thankfulness and generosity of people who were less concerned with what they had and more with how others were. Maybe on some of this the church in Europe and the States has become too ‘of the world’ as opposed to ‘in it’., we have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in the southern church.
soapbox – confusing himself with economics but the red light on his injustice-ometer is flashing brightly

**UPDATE** Tearfund’s Superbadger takes on the vultures here.

I’ve been censored by the big brother of Rugby World Cup Ltd!

rugby World Cup ballPrepare yourself for an outpouring of indignation. I have received an email from youtube informing me of a copyright infringement, and my video of the haka at the France-New Zealand Rugby World Cup Quarter Final has been removed! Not even action from the game but the haka. Waht the flip are Rugby World Cup Ltd up to? Have they nothing better to do with their time than trawl the internet and remove the slightest footage or photos of all their games? Seriously think about it – someone must be being paid from the money I paid for my ticket to trawl you tube looking for videos from matches. Do they expect us to pay to take videos and photos or something? What sort of world are they living in? Do they have Orwellian dreams and want to take on Rupert Murdoch for control of the media? Is 1984 looming? Can anyone tell me what major crime an advert for what is possibly one of the most attractive games to watch played is? I’m awaiting a writ now for criticising their small minded ridiculous pettiness, and to be told that I have to remove the photo of the French fans as it was at an official Rugby World Cup Ltd event. Maybe it should be Big business is watching instead of big brother…

the soapbox – so angry he can barely type

Egg all over the fomula one and football faces

So Fernando Alonso certainly does come across as a petulant little boy – threatening to dob in his own team if they didn’t make him the big boy of the team. I guess he is a double world champion and is having to live a little in the shadow of his boy wonder team-mate. How Alonso kept his points is certainly miraculous. Jackie Stewart’s claims of bias toward Ferrari did look a little silly after the publication of the emails the next day. Apparently its par for the course in Formula One and we really shouldn’t be surprised, McLaren are just the ones who have got caught, big style and hauled over the coals. But does that make it ok? Is honesty and integrity fast becoming a thing of the past?

And then there’s Stephen Ireland of Man City, who got caught spinning a bizarre web of lies in the midst of his girlfriend’s tragic miscarriage. Proof that when we start lying it gets harder and harder to own up to the truth. Seeing his granny who he claimed had died will be interesting. I didn’t realise football clubs and associations went to such lengths to check things out though.

An elaborate web of lies is what much of the media are insinuating the McCanns have been spinning. Its strange how the media has turned on the couple – in much down to the Portugese police. I’ve no idea what actually happened but people are very quick to crucify the McCann’s. If they are innocent it’s another example of lives scarred and ruined by the over-zealous media. If it turns out they were involved in Maddy’s death they certainly have spun an incredibly elaborate web of lies.

Soapbox – off to invest in Northern Rock