The Governor of the Bank of England has issued a warning of an ‘apocalyptic’ scenario, with food price surges affecting our daily bread in particular. There is a war and rumours of war: nation is arising against nation, people are fleeing to the mountains. As the sun turns to darkness and the moon turns to blood, the time of tribulation shall come.
Much of the world’s wheat and sunflower oil comes from Ukraine – the breadbasket of the Europe – which provides food for about a billion of the world’s people. It is also the fourth-largest producer of potatoes in the world. Even if the crops are grown and harvested, there is currently no way to get them out.
Russia is one of the world’s biggest exporters of fertiliser. With a near total global embargo on all Russian exports, the nutrients needed for crop production in other parts of the world can no longer be obtained. This will affect grain quality and crop yields, causing still further price rises for ordinary people.
Famine is the beginning of sorrows.
When the price of a loaf of bread increases by 50%, it is the poorest who go hungry. When the price of potatoes and pasta also soars, hunger becomes starvation. Perhaps not in the UK or Europe, but Ukraine feeds Africa, and so does Russia, providing a combined 44% of the continent’s wheat imports, along with maize, sunflower oil, barley and soybeans.
The apocalypse will be worse in the world’s poorest nations, and the Governor of the Bank of England says he has “run out of horsemen” when counting the shocks facing Britain.
So we have ‘horsemen’ and ‘apocalypse’.
When people cannot afford to eat, there is civil unrest. When they cannot afford to heat their homes or fill their cars with diesel; when they cannot afford to give their children food, warmth and clothing, there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And the suffering will be worsened by the looming recession, when many hundreds of thousands will lose their jobs as the winter comes, and the economic hardships will lead to depression, bankruptcies, heart attacks and suicides.
Governor Andrew Bailey didn’t say we shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing where it ought not, (let him that readeth understand), but his use of apocalyptic language is quite rare (and some may say inappropriate, unprofessional, and unnecessarily alarmist) for an economist of his stature and standing. He is effectively telling the country that the imminent plagues and woes will be of biblical proportions.
‘Apocalyptic’ conveys an eschatological crisis (for those who have ears [or those who give a damn]): the End is imminent (at least for some of the world’s poorest). It also reminds us of the rise of false prophets, who might proclaim ‘The time is near’ (for the restoration of Russkii Mir [the ‘Russian World’]). Apocalyptic signs include wars (cf Isa 19:2; Dan 11:44; Rev 6:8), famines, plagues and natural disasters, such as climactic destruction caused by global warming.
And then come the heavenly signs (cf Rev 6), but these are the beginning of birth-pains. Such apocalyptic chaos in the universe has Old Testament antecedents (cf Isa 13:10; Eze 32:7; Joel 2:10; 3:15), and Luke makes these the harbinger of the parousia, consequently alluding to Daniel’s Son of Man (Dan 7:13).
The Governor of the Bank of England did not say: ‘You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds of heaven’, but he has certainly sounded a trumpet. There are rough times ahead; perhaps even social chaos, global terror, and distress and confusion among the nations. Andrew Bailey may have pushed the linguistic threshold of political economy, but in doing so he reminds us of what the Bishops of the Church are not doing: warning of the apocalyptic signs of the End, and telling the world that time is indeed short. The harvest of souls is rather more urgent than the harvest of wheat: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’