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The Acid Reflux Economy

The trickle up effect is burning our throats and making us choke in protest. Where is the inherited tradition of Christian protest when we need it?

Is protest against the system heating up?


Paul Mason, Channel 4 News’ Economics Editor certainly thinks so, as the title of his book ‘Why it’s STILL Kicking Off Everywhere’ suggests. The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its Global Risks Report 2016 has more dryly observed that we now have levels of social protest not seen globally since the 1980s, when free market reforms in the west and the revolt against communism in the east made for an alternately turbulent and heady decade.

What is driving this protest?


The WEF, while noting the huge impact of instability in North Africa and the Middle East, also points to the impact of new technologies. These appear to give a voice to the masses but power remains entrenched in the hands of a few. If anything the technology revolution, despite the democratising promise it shouts at us, has worsened levels of inequality as a privileged and empowered elite has made staggering gains at the expense of other people’s jobs by the creation of peer to peer algorithms. In some ways we have gained so much; in other ways not. The internet giveth and the internet taketh away. But mainly the latter when it comes to jobs.


As elites across the globe entrench their power, accumulate their wealth and then hide it from national tax systems which ordinary people are subject to, trust is being eroded in institutions at an alarming rate. We are accustomed to a loss of trust within the UK; in many other countries trust in institutions is perilously lacking.

Writing in The Times, Conservative columnist Matthew Parris says these are uncomfortable times for those who trust in the free market. The promise has always been that wealth will trickle down to make everyone richer but the reverse seems to be happening presently. It is not as if we are helpless to do something about absurd levels of executive pay – a typical CEO of a FTSE 100 company makes 183 times more than the average employee – but there is no sign of a reaction against such trends.


This is trickle up, the gastric reflux economy where acid slowly burns upward in the throat until there is frantic choking; a metaphor for the protests.


Protest can be accommodated in any system which has the means and the will to allow expression and to demonstrate that it can learn from it. If this peaceful dynamic is resisted, protest is more likely to become violent.

The promise of a world to come in the Christian faith foresees a day when the mighty have power wrenched from them and the poor can stand up and look others in the eyes with the dignity of peers. The law, the prophets, Jesus and the Apostles each bore witness to this world and those who have followed have sought to confer dignity and power upon the despised and powerless.


The question each generation should ask is how it interprets this inherited tradition of Christian protest. As strong currents of alienation swirl around the world, some feel its effects like a hurricane. If in the UK it feels less stormy, this same weather system still causes damage.


Where, then, in our hymns, songs, teaching and debating are we giving space to godly protest? Worship is not meant to be an acid soother like Gaviscon; it should fill the hungry with good things.



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