Professor Joe Goldblatt
“Charity is not justice.” Whilst attending a meeting of faith leaders at Edinburgh’s City Chambers I learned of dozens of old and new schemes to help the homeless and others suffering from the cost of living crisis this winter and beyond. However, perhaps the most profound statement came from the highly respected leader of a youth homeless charity whose own background included a period of homelessness as a teenager when she, for a time, was forced to sleep in cemeteries.
She reminded us that by building more shelters or temporary accommodation for homeless persons in our city we are not solving the problem. The problem is unfair pay and unafforable housing. Therefore, the solution is to increase pay and reduce housing costs so that all citizens may benefit from the dignity they deserve. According to this experienced advocate for young people in our city, true justice is when we establish economic and social policies to end homelessness and poverty, permanently in our city and country.
As I departed the City Chambers I noticed that a homeless person had established a temporary home at the front door of this historic building. Every week, thousands of visitors, including our civic leaders, would walk by this site to enter or exit the building that houses our local law makers. Surely, one or more of them also must have been given pause to think, “Why is this happening and what must we do about it?”
The Sunday morning news presenters began their programmes this week by actually apologising for all the bad news they had to report. From the official declaration of a recession in the UK to the discrimination at the World Cup in Qatar to the cost of living crisis in our own city that is evidenced by the growing number of hand out programmes being proliferated in every ward and the continued environmental desecration of planet Earth due to inaction by world leaders, there is no shortage of doom and gloom.
One presenter turned her deep frown into a slight smile when she announced at the end of the broadcast “And on a bright note, a rocket was successfully launched to the moon where one day we may actually escape all this mess.”
Is this the same human race that once listened to President John F Kennedy declare that within a decade we could land a man on the moon and return him safely to earth? Now, only 61 years later is the best we can do is look at the moon as a place to potentially escape the problems we have caused on planet Earth?
The world does appear to be one so regularly filled with much greater potential for doom that even the boom of a successful rocket cannot repair the problems we have caused upon this planet. However, if we could discover, as my friend the youth homelessness advocate suggested, a path through justice then perhaps we could experience in our lifetimes a boom of success upon our own rocket that will help heal our planet, city and local neighbourhoods.
The path to justice will require us to demand that our legislators establish a Zero Poverty policy for our city and country. This policy will require further legislation to equalise pay reduce the cost of affordable housing, to enable our citizens to be able to permanently live in dignity from their labours. Whilst handouts are commendable, they will not fix the problem nor delay our departure for the moon or other destinations to escape the problems in our own back garden.
I believe that he best and only way to promote future justice is perhaps to remember the words of Dr Martin Luther King who inspiringly asked all faiths and none to work tirelessly together “Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” Therefore, we must now urgently call upon our lawmakers to change their policies and recognise that charity is indeed not justice.
Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland and Chair of the Edinburgh Interfaith Association. His views are his own. To read more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot