Pizza Express’s near-death experience this week prompted a spasm of extremist, Left-wing overreach, of the sort that now happens whenever there is bad news. Instead of going under, claimed some bright sparks online, the struggling restaurant chain could simply be nationalised!
What began as a joke on Twitter morphed instantly into painfully virtuous ruminations by a student, Anisha Faruk, about how “we legitimately do need a national food service”, followed by the obligatory “moral lesson from history”, in which a journalist called Jon Stone pointed out that, during World War Two, the government ran state canteens to feed people.
It then reached the peak of quackery: an endorsement by the Left-wing columnist Owen Jones. “Publicly owned restaurants,” he mused, could offer cheap food especially for “nurses and care workers”.
These people aren’t the fringes, though. They are also running the Labour Party. Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey expanded her party’s “nationalise everything” policy platform this week by demanding “a full public inquiry” into why Thomas Cook wasn’t rescued by taxpayers.
In the interests of saving public money, I myself have conducted a full investigation into the systemic importance of Thomas Cook and can issue this authoritative and comprehensive answer as to why it wasn’t bailed out: it’s a travel agency.
How do you atone for sinning against yourself?
Wednesday was the Jewish Day of Atonement, the only holiday on which even lax participants like myself really ought to make it to synagogue or cease to be “practising” Jews. So, I made it. The centrepiece of the service is “the confession”: a collective recitation of sins that you may or may not have committed.
This isn’t a personal confession to a priest, like the Catholic version. But it involves a more modern list of sins than, say, the Ten Commandments, which is just as well, since most of us probably haven’t killed anyone or bowed down to an idol recently (well, unless you count Mammon, Gaia or “ever closer union”).
The list does, of course, cover the blockbuster sins – like murder, violence, stealing and so on. It includes lesser but still traditional no-nos, such as bribery, dishonesty, pride or callousness. But it goes further. The congregation asks forgiveness for “calculating kindness”, for “sending in accounts for love”, for “charity that is cold”, for “the ideals we neglected” and for “misusing sex”.
Interspersed is an intriguing category of sin that sets thoughts whirring: that which involves hurting ourselves, rather than others. For example: indulging “the fear of change and renewal”, “feeding our bodies and starving our souls”, “the opportunities we lost”, and “being our own worst enemy”. The 10 days before the service, which begin the Jewish year, are meant to be spent putting things right with those you’ve wronged. But putting right a sin against yourself is less straightforward. Wallowing in guilt probably isn’t the answer. New Year’s resolutions rarely have much staying power. Changing one’s everyday habits can be effective, but it’s difficult.
As with any religious confession, the service itself plays a part, perhaps on the basis that people are often better able to change if they have first been forgiven. Even for an atheist, a well-written religious rite can, as it says, “feed the soul”.
Food for Thought
Rabbi Lionel Blue, who wrote the confessional part of the liturgy quoted above, used to end Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4 with a joke. So here’s an old Jewish joke adapted for the times: a congregant sees her rabbi reading The Socialist Worker. “Rabbi, why are you reading that Corbyn-supporting propaganda rag,” she asks.
“Well,” said the rabbi “I used to get The Jewish Chronicle and all I read about was anti-Semitic harassment and terrorism and abuse. Now I read The Socialist Worker, I see that we control the banks, the media and the entire world government and I’m feeling a lot more positive!”
A cracking way to get it oeuf
A few weeks ago I asked readers for their advice on the most respectable way to open and eat a boiled egg in polite company. After receiving many and varied written replies, I now feel much better-prepared for any future posh breakfast meetings.
But by far the most delightful response I have had so far came in the form of a picture, printed above. My profuse thanks to the artist, Tony Hall in Norfolk.