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The Whitstable Gazette: "Jerusalem Postponed"

Updated on May 22, 2018
CJStone profile image

CJ Stone is an author and columnist, with seven books to his credit. He lives in Whitstable and currently writes for the Whitstable Gazette.

Jerusalem, from the preface to Milton, A Poem, by William Blake
Jerusalem, from the preface to Milton, A Poem, by William Blake

Jerusalem

There was a strange item in the news the other week. It seems that the famous anthem Jerusalem can be sung at gay civil ceremonies, but not at straight weddings. This is because it falls between two camps. The clergy don’t recognise it as a hymn because it is not a song addressed to God, whereas the civil authorities won’t allow it because of its overtly religious theme. It was, however, sung at the Royal Wedding.

Sir George Young, the Conservative leader of the House of Commons, said, ‘I think that Jerusalem should be sung on every possible occasion.’The Daily Mail described it as 'England’s most patriotic song,' while it has replaced the Red Flag as the Labour Party’s official anthem.

Now this is all very odd. If you listen to the words of Jerusalem you will find that it is a call to resistance, and that it layers mystery upon mystery in the form of questions that have no answers. It is anything but patriotic.

The poem was written by William Blake and first appeared as the frontispiece to one of his prophetic books, Milton, addressed to John Milton, Blake’s favourite poet.

Milton was a civil servant who worked under Oliver Cromwell and who wrote possibly the greatest epic poem in the English language: Paradise Lost. Samuel Johnson described him as "an acrimonious and surly republican". In his political writings he dealt extensively with the trial and execution of Charles I, praising it as a justifiable act.

Blake was also a republican. At the time of the French Revolution Blake could be seen wandering around London wearing a Liberty cap and was once arrested for sedition, having been overheard to make disparaging remarks about the King. He was a personal friend of that great radical thinker Thomas Paine, one of the leading lights of both the American and the French revolutions.

So how did it happen that a revolutionary anthem, written by a republican, in honour of a republican, has somehow transmuted itself into a patriotic hymn to be sung at Royal Weddings?

Stranger things have happened I suppose. But not many.

Rich Ricci: deliberately provocative
Rich Ricci: deliberately provocative

The Bedroom Tax

A friend of mine has just received confirmation that, because of the bedroom tax, he will now be required to find an extra £13.38 per week towards his rent.

My friend is disabled and the spare room for which he is liable is little more than a box room. Two square feet less and it would have been defined as a box room. The letter also contains a veiled threat. “If you don’t keep up with your rent payments,” it says, “your home will be at risk.”

Isn’t this just the meanest piece of legislation ever? What it really amounts to is a benefit cut for the most vulnerable in our society, penalising them for being unable to work.

What is my friend supposed to do? He cannot move. There are no suitable one bed room flats available. His only option will be to absorb the cut in his already meagre income or risk being thrown out on to the street.

Meanwhile, at the same time, the government has also scrapped the 50p tax rate which will mean that, on average, millionaires will be £100,000 a year better off. And on the same day, Barclays announced that is was giving its top executives £38.5 million in bonuses.

You may wonder at the timing of this, making this announcement on budget day. Was it a ham-fisted attempt to bury the news, or a show of bravado, making it clear to the public that the bankers really don’t care what we think?

Head of the investment arm of the bank, Rich Ricci was given £17.6 million in share options which he immediately cashed in. In other words, this one man, with one single bonus payment, could pay the bedroom tax for well over twenty five thousand people for a whole year.

The single homeless person’s charity, Crisis, said recently that in the last two years there has been a 31% increase in rough sleeping. What the bedroom tax will do will be to exacerbate the situation even further, driving many more people out of their homes. Expect more deaths on our streets in the near future.

Homelessness

The news that homeless people have been kipping out in the graveyard next to the Guildhall in Canterbury should come as no surprise. In this era of unprecedented shifts in the balance of power and wealth in this world, it should be expected that some people – the poorest, the most vulnerable, the most damaged, the most lost and confused – will bear the brunt of the changes.

According to Porchlight, the Canterbury-based homeless charity, homelessness in Canterbury has gone up by a quarter in the last year. That is an extraordinary figure, and would bring shame to our region if it wasn’t for the fact that the same thing is happening throughout the country…. indeed, throughout the world.

Poverty is on the rise. The price of basics relative to income is going up. Food is more expensive. Affordable housing is getting rarer and more difficult to find. More and more people are being squeezed by the new economic “realities” being imposed on us from above.

Meanwhile, the rich are getting richer. In 2010, the average annual salary of the top 100 chief executives was more than £3,747,000, 145 times greater than the national average wage. At the current rate of increase, by 2020 that ratio will have risen to 214 to one.

Think about it. While our public services are under attack, while more and more homeless people are appearing on our streets, while poverty and unemployment are on the rise, while every family is being forced to make cuts in their living standards, some people – the already extraordinarily rich – will be siphoning off an ever greater share of the national income.

This is no accident. It represents a hidden policy agenda underlying the economic crisis. You might almost imagine that it had been engineered that way.

You will notice that I put inverted commas around the word “realities” above. That’s because economic forces aren’t like the weather. They are not imposed upon us by some outside force over which we have no control. The economy is a purely human phenomenon.

Human beings make the economy. Human beings can change it.

Letters to the editor

The Whitstable Gazette is part of the Kentish Gazette

Newspaper editions: Canterbury, Whitstable, Herne Bay, Faversham

Tel: 01227 768181

Email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

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© 2011 CJStone

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    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

      My criticism would not be of the buy-to-letters. Who can blame them for having the energy and foresight to exploit an opening in the market? I do know, however, that buy-to-letters have been at least partly responsible for keeping traditional 'first-time-buyer' properties at a higher price level than most young couples can afford. The supply of such properties is limited, especially here in the South, so competition is fierce. Where supply is limited, demand inevitably drives prices higher. Personally I'd like to see rent caps introduced, and I'd also like to see stamp duty scaled by area. A 3 bedroom terraced family home here on south coast easily exceeds the £250,000 break point for the higher stamp duty. Elsewhere in the UK, you could buy a rambling detatched house standing in half an acre for similar money.

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      No criticism from me AlexK2009. As you say, the problem began when the Tories stopped paying mortgages. But I agree, the recession was probably planned in some quarters and planned for in others.

    • AlexK2009 profile image

      AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      I hear an undertone of criticism of buy to let landlords.

      Is this a consensus they are greedy bastards getting ideas above their station?

      Separate out the big companies renting property out from the middle class people hoping they will be able to rent for enough to pay the mortgage till it is repaid outright and they have an income at retirement to supplement the ungenerous state pension.

      Or are you saying only the rich should buy to let?

      Bottom line: look at this from the other side as well.

      The problem arose when the Tories stopped using Housing Benefit to pay Mortgages (It is now another benefit, I forget which) sending the message they wanted to keep the poor in their rightful place paying rent to the rich (buying dodgy shares in denationalised industries was OK)

      Bottom line: Landlords and tenants are trapped between vicious government policies and a bank generated recession, which may well have been deliberately caused, or at least planned for

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      Hello Amanda, yes a friend and I were talking about this issue just the other day. At one time Housing Benefit was used to pay mortgages, but this was stopped by Thatcher on the basis that it meant people on low incomes acquiring property, but no one ever stopped Housing Benefit being paid indirectly to landlords on a second mortgage, and you are right, this has caused a form of rent inflation. Trouble is, banks and mortgages companies deliberately talked up prices of property, so a lot of these landlords couldn't afford to drop rents now. It's a chicken and egg situation again.

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 6 years ago from UK

      Hi Chris, 'Jerusalem' is one of my favourites too. It brings back happy memories of my Aunt singing along to Last Night at the Proms. The words are not particularly religious, but it is very stirring.

      You mention an increase in the number of homeless, and a lack of affordable housing. Recently there was a row about the possibility of a cap being placed on the amount available for housing benefit. The feeling was that such a move would drive poorer families out of the capital, and other expensive areas. This seemed like the usual chicken and egg argument. Of course poorer families will be obliged to find cheaper accommodation if their housing benefit is slashed. Landlords, however, will soon cut their rents to more acceptable levels if there are no tenants available to pay their inflated prices. Generous levels of housing benefit have, at least in part, enabled a whole army of amateur buy-to-letters to invest in property. The readily available cash which fuelled this epidemic throughout the last decade, has now largely dried up. Unfortunately it has left Britain with a legacy of over-inflated property prices, and rentals at an impossibly high ratio of rents to wages. Sometimes measures that are introduced with the best of intentions actually create even further chaos. House prices need to fall at least 20% so that first time buyers can find affordable homes. More first-time buyers and fewer buy-to-letters will eventually result in lower rents all round.

    • profile image

      RebeccaMcCoo 6 years ago

      Your hub about the homeless doesn't surprise me. I work within the Rough Sleepers Sector and the cuts for ourselves have come our way. I work in a Hostel with the most challenging people in london. Challenging but human and great people. We are now expected to take a £5000 pay cut work more hours up our number of clients and take on what really is management responcibilities. The wages i can swallow...we get paid well but it will impact on who really counts the rough sleepers. We will be over stretched and stressed and not be able to do our jobs for the clients well. All the powers that be want is results on paper. Never mind that if we move people on too early or bully them into things they aren't ready for they may fail making them even more frustrated with them selves and the world around them. I am now thinking of leaving a sector i love,the people i enjoy and feel privliged to work for.Needless to say that the Higher Management are not taking a pay cut! The Rich get Richer....ect. Rebecca

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      AlexK2009, I think you might be right. Maybe it was engineered that way. Thanks for the comment.

      Jerusalem is my favourite hymn JSParker and that is one of the greatest lines. Blake is also my favourite poet. It's a pity more people don't read him.

      RedElf, hopefully your thoughts are less chaotic today, but I'm glad you enjoyed my hub.

      2Patricias, yes, I got that information from the Daily Mail. There's a link in the story on the words "strange item" above. It's a matter of debate whether Jerusalem is religious or not; or rather, if it is religious, it is a particularly unusual form of religion. Blake was a radical dissenter and his concept of religion was a critique of contemporary society, not a celebration of it. Great to hear from you and I agree about the clothes. But what do you do?

    • AlexK2009 profile image

      AlexK2009 6 years ago from Edinburgh, Scotland

      Great stuff on Blake and a heads up on everyone except the rich getting poorer. Till I have evidence to the contrary I will assume it WAS engineered that way.

    • JSParker profile image

      JSParker 6 years ago from Detroit, Michigan

      Those are inspiring words, "I will not cease from mental fight." Your article was quite educational and sent me down avenues of recollection from my college days of English history and literature. Most enlightening. How long this fight goes on!

      It's a beautiful anthem, too.

      Thank you.

    • RedElf profile image

      RedElf 6 years ago from Canada

      Fascinating and thought-provoking hub - I am a bit tired this morning, so my thoughts, though provoked, are somewhat chaotic. I shall have to return to make a more coherent comment.

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 6 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This is a wonderful hub, full of things that we should all think about.

      The trouble is, that we are all tempted to cease from mental fight because our every day lives are so comfortable.

      For example, I can buy very cheap clothes. Clothes are so cheap that I could buy a new outfit every week if I so desired. Of course, it is easier to buy very cheap clothes if I don't give any thought to who made the clothes, or about their working conditions or wages.

      I didn't know that there was a divergence of view about at what type of service "Jerusalem" might be appropriate.

      I do know that the general view is that Civil Ceremonies must (by law) be non-religious. This makes sense to me, because if a couple want a religious service they could go to church.

      However, it is up to registrars to make their own distinctions about what is/is not religious, so their can be local differences.

      It is easy to sing "Jerusalem" without thinking about what it means.

      I like the way that you have moved from that thought to the idea that it is easy to do or accept other things without thinking.

      Sad hub - but very well written!

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      It is isn't it? I won't tell them if you won't. Good HUB, Peter

    • CJStone profile image
      Author

      CJStone 6 years ago from Whitstable, UK

      It's a world-wide phenomena Peter. It's a world system we live under, and it's the same people in the US as in the UK who are profiting from the economic crisis. Just don't cease from Mental fight, that's all, nor let your sword sleep in your hand. What amazes me is that the British establishment can sing that song and not know what it means!

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      So it seems that Britain is in the same muck that the U.S. is and our rich are getting richer and poor are getting poorer. So the "Arab Spring" will be just in time to starve along with the rest of us. "Bring me my Chariot of fire!" we're going to need it. Thanks for the read, Peter

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