Here is the Thousand 4 1000 December update. I warn you now that it is going to contain a reference to Christmas. First the good news. £815 was deposited into our account last month. Thank you. At the beginning of the year, we set ourselves a target of £1000 by Christmas. We, naïvely, thought that this was a modest ambition. It turns out that fundraising is much harder than you might imagine. It also makes your commitment all the more precious.There is an update on the housing situation. You, collectively, are housing 4 people who the strong arm of the law is trying to keep at arms length from mainstream society. You are helping them resist that. It does look like we are on track to be able to rent somewhere on the outskirts of Brighton come February. It isn’t ideal. There is something awful about an area being too affluent to accommodate the less financially well endowed. Mind you, I am a homeowner, so I guess I am part of the problem (and I have a beard).
We are about £400 a month short of a four-bedroom house in Woodingdean, for example. Fortunately, there is enough cash in reserve to make that a possibility for a 6 month contract. So, here comes the usual plea. Can you help bring in more subscribers? We have some exciting new bits of media to share, if your friends need a bit more of a nudge:
A new independent media collective, Real Media, made a short film about us. You can find it here. If you would like to share it on Facebook, here is the sharing link.
If you’ve not yet sent the Positive News article to your entire address book, you can find it here and/or share it on facebook if that is your bent.
Seeing as I am learning how to use HTML, here is a Twitter link for those of you who like twitter: Tweet about thousand 4 1000
If, like me, you find Christmas presents a bit awkward, maybe you could ask your loved ones to set up a standing order to thousand 4 1000? It’s a very cheeky request, and £12 might be more than you would want anyone to spend on you at Christmas, but it is for a good cause. It is also, I think, very much in the spirit of Christmas. Now, here I am going to be talking out of my fundament as Christmas is very much not part of my heritage, but not knowing something has never previously stopped me from talking. So, here goes.
It is obviously the case that there is something very commercial and offputting about Christmas. Everybody, including us, comes hounding you for your money. There is a big old orgy of spending and consumption that can and does put enormous strain on finances, relationships and livers. (One of my clearest memories is of the first time I saw an advert for a Christmas loan – offered by Lloyds bank, since you ask.) It is the Tom Lehrer view of Christmas:
Relations, sparing no expense’ll
Send some useless old utensil,
Or a matching pen and pencil.
“just the thing I need! how nice!”
It doesn’t matter how sincere it
Is, nor how heartfelt the spirit,
Sentiment will not endear it,
What’s important is the price.
But, as Half Man Half Biscuit pointed out, “it’s cliched to be cynical a Christmas”. A couple of weeks ago I saw a documentary about a winter night shelter in Switzerland, ‘L’abri’ (‘The Shelter’). It’s a heartbreaking and brilliant documentary. Shot, in the main, from the point of view of some of the users of the hostel, it captures the frighteningly impersonal nature of a bureaucracy struggling to ameliorate the human consequences of a system of which it is such an integral part. We also see the low-level violence required to maintain the strategy which does, more or less, manage not to leave people to freeze to death; the various attitudes and responses of the municipal employees to the problem and the system they work within, as well as something of the drudgery and grind of being street homeless.
I mention it because, amongst all the tedium and emptiness, everybody gets a break for Christmas. The normal rules of selection for the night shelter don’t seem to apply. The food is significantly better. People are able to cook their own meals on their own portable stoves. Some form of sparkling wine is provided, and, most significantly for me, the distinction between staff and users breaks down. It is a fascinating moment. For a brief night, all the mechanisms, visible and invisible, that, for better or worse, keep the system working breakdown and another world is possible. It is a world in which there is enough for everyone and the logic of “what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” no longer dominates.
I think that it reveals the essence of all true holidays. From my own tradition, it reminds me of the Shabbat. Between sundown on a Friday night sunset on Saturday, traditionally, Jews abstain from any creative or destructive activity. It is as if, for a brief 24 hours, the world is such that, without trouble or toil, there is enough for everyone. In addition, there is, practically, an obligation to ensure that everyone in the community, including strangers, are housed and fed. I believe that the same is true of Ramadan and the Iftar breakfast. The community, at this time of heightened holiness, must make its faith concrete by eating together and welcoming in guests.
Of course, in the run-up to Shabbat, and to Iftar and to Christmas, enormous amounts of work must be undertaken. Food needs to be prepared, houses cleaned, table set and invitations issued and, although some of that stuff does grow on trees, it is not obtained simply by wishing for it. So, the deep question, for me, from both the film and from holidays is this: are these moments of reprieve simply an illusion or do they provide a glimpse of the ever present possibility of an actual, different way of living? I don’t pretend to have the answer to that question. But what I do think that holidays reveal is that we are better off when we refuse to live according to the double entry accounting of Scrooge and his ilk and realise that the world is a place that we share with others. The merry merchantmen of Lehrer’s Christmas Carol serve a function that we cannot do without, but it doesn’t mean that we have to share their cynical views (and make the yuletide pay). Christmas, I hope, proves that we could live in a world which has space for all. It will take some work but you are already undertaking some of that labour through your support of thousand 4 1000. Thank you. Do please share the project with your friends and then it really could be Christmas everyday.