Friday, September 6, 2013

Art and the Global Financial Crisis

Guest Post by Mike Haywood

Question..... What is the link between the famous hymn “Amazing Grace” and the Global Financial crisis? Answer.... Debt slavery and 3 paintings that hang in an English church.

John Newton (1725 -1807) wrote the words to “Amazing Grace”, one of the most beloved hymns of all time. Few people know that Newton was the captain of a slave ship for many years. He had a dramatic religious conversion on board a storm tossed ship in the middle of the Atlantic.  The words of the hymn refer to that moment on the ship.

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Newton went on to become a leading influence on the abolition of slavery in Britain.

Mike Haywood painted a triptych in 2007, entitled "Amazing Grace”,which portrays John Newton's dramatic religious conversion. But it is also an allegory for global debt slavery, and was painted before the 2008 financial crash.

The triptych is over 10 feet wide. 

·         The left hand canvas shows the depths of Newton's despair during the storm.
·         The central canvas depicts Newton's ship in the violent storm.
·         The right hand canvas depicts his moment of redemption.

The paintings are an allegory of the current state of the World. For instance, canvas 1, the empty hourglass that Newton is holding is inscribed with the words "Homo sapiens" the Main canvas the ship's name of "Greyhound" has been obscured slightly so that the word "Gaia" is visible

.... the chained World in the 3rd canvas is upside-down and Newton is trying to break the chains of debt

“Debt is the slavery of the free”…. Publilius Syrus, Roman author, 1st century B.C.


  1. unfortunately, its much easier for humans to let a supernatural sky fairy 'punish them' for their sins than respond rationally to problems of their own making. because that involves actually doing something (or in our case, mostly not doing things).

    1. As the artist, I have no religious agenda, just an intense interest in human collective insanity. Mass denial will continue right up to the tipping point. Research published last year by the American Psychological Association shows that the less people know about important complex issues such as the economy, energy consumption and the environment, the more they want to avoid becoming well-informed, …..Ignorance Is Bliss
      So most individuals will not be prepared.



Ugo Bardi is a member of the Club of Rome and the author of "Extracted: how the quest for mineral resources is plundering the Planet" (Chelsea Green 2014)