Sunday, 6 November 2011
Confined to barracks
Having a heavy cold which makes me sound a bit like an elephant with a bun stuck up his trunk has meant my being CB (confined to barracks) these past few days. To be honest, it doesn't make a great difference to my schedule, as I'm not highly mobile and don't get out much. The last time was on Thursday - to my amazing dentist from whom I consistently come away grateful and wee bit euphoric; followed by my weekly trip to Cornerstone, while Jane skivvies in the kitchen. Anyway today I stayed at home while Jane went with our friends, Pete and Jane, to a kind of mini home-church with a friend who's ill.
So I spent a quiet and thoughtful morning on my own. Among other things, I was pondering on what lies beneath the St Paul's protest and, come to that, the summer riots. I know there's no simplistic single answer. In fact one of the (more inane) criticisms aimed at the protesters is that they don't have an alternative. "Where's your programme for reform?" That misses the point entirely. One of the factors behind popular cynicism about current politics is precisely that in campaigns politicians make a whole load of promises, which they then fail to carry out when they come to power. Even now one hears politicians trimming their downright condemnation of the St Paul's protest as they discover that it has more support than they first thought. Such unlikely people as George Soros (megafinancier), Bill Gates (megaindustrialist) and Rowan Williams (megaecclesiastic) seem to have found common issues with them, such as the International Financial Transaction tax (the Robin Hood Tax). Oops, one senses the politicians think, we'd better not miss the band-wagon. Thus they expose one of the weaknesses of our liberal democracy. Instead of politicians standing up with their principles by which they will stand, we have politicians whose only principle is to please the people. I suppose the arch-exponent of this was Tony Blair, with focus groups, e-petitions and spin doctors, whose aim was to win at all costs. He of course has set the trend and David Cameron is said to follow his example.
On the surface it seems a reasonable approach: find out what the people want and then give it to them. Isn't that what democracy is all about? The answer is No. That's not democracy; it's demagogy. It's a system of government where the loudest voice rules. Actually it's mob-rule. The alternative is a system where men and women clearly set out their principles for public examination - and then stick to them. In that system the quiet people, the ordinary voters, have equal influence with the loud-mouth lobbyists. It all depends, of course, on that old-fashioned word "Honour". It depends on our politicians honouring their word, but more than that, being people of honour. I don't often write to MPs, but I don't think I'm alone in the feeling that, when I do, I'm receiving a people-pleasing reply rather than a plain honest expression of opinion. By the way, I think something of this lies behind the Occupy movement's use of general assemblies which I gather are as long as a piece of string. They are an attempt to resist the power of a vocal lobby dominating decisions.
Something else which I believe, recognised or not, lurks behind the protests is a general unease that something is rotten in the state of Britain, and to some degree in the Western world. You don't need to be a prophet to recognise that justice is not flowing like a river (Amos 5.24), either nationally or globally, and to call for it. Ironically I suspect that a contributing factor to this has been the elevation of personal choice over corporate responsibility. Ironically, because on the face of it to allow more personal choice is to add to the sum total of freedom. The end of the 20th century was the great period of deregulation, from personal ethics to market economics. The City markets were deregulated - and since 2008 the world has been reaping the whirlwind. Personal ethics (such as divorce and abortion) were made a private issue rather than one which had implications for society, and we are now wrestling with the effects of divorce on countless children. People who dare to uphold traditional Judaeo-Christian values such as columnist, Melanie Phillips, are branded as "bigots", and we begin to see a new sort of politically correct censorship creeping in under the guise of freedom. However it's a "freedom" defined by the demagogues.
On 27th November 1997 a letter appeared in The Times under the title "The Death of Trust":
"Contemporary morality tends to elevate the right to choose above every other value. It finds offensive the traditional teaching on the sanctity of human life which has been part of common morality in Western societies. This outlook is having many profound effects. It has desensitised many people to the evil of abortion. It has also predisposed many to support euthanasia.
"Euthanasia aims at ending a life judged to be no longer worth living, either because of suffering or because of presumed ‘poor’ quality. The aim is accomplished either by a direct action, such as administering a lethal injection, or by depriving a person of medical treatment or of ordinary care in order to bring about death. An essential defining characteristic of euthanasia is the intention to end life, that is to kill."
The letter was signed by Cardinal Basil Hume. This month will see another push towards euthanasia with the publication of the "findings" of the very unofficial Falconer "commission" on assisted "dying". Hopefully it will be seen for what it is, a piece of demagoguery by a well-financed, well-connected and vocal lobby group.
PS Moving interview tonight on Songs of Praise with Glen Campbell and his wife Kim. He's the American country singer, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimers. That's faith.