Thursday, 24 October 2013

PC Plodgate

I'm listening to a fascinating conversation in our local coffee shop - I can't help it, I hasten to add, as it's being conducted in emphatic tones. The discussion concerns what's been dubbed "Plebgate".

What's interesting is that none of the participants is quite certain of the meaning of the word pleb. It is, I suspect, more familiar to those privileged enough to have received a public school and university education. Exactly what was said at those ugly gates blocking off Downing Street on Wednesday 19th September last year may never be known. One thing is clear and that is that the frustrated Andrew Mitchell did swear at the officers on duty (repeating the "f" word, so familiar from the lips of Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It) for which he did subsequently apologise. Just as well in the light of the earlier comments of Boris, Tsar of London: "If people swear at the police, they must expect to be arrested. Not just because it's wrong to expect officers to endure profanities, but it's also because of the experience of the culprits. If people feel there are no comebacks, no boundaries and no retribution for the small stuff, then I'm afraid they will go on to commit worse crimes"! 

What is puzzling is where the offending word "pleb" popped up from. Is it in your ordinary copper's daily vocabulary, any more than it is around the table in this rather polite coffee shop? 

Last night on Radio 4, following the arraignment of the police federation representatives and the Midlands chief constables before the Commons' Home Affairs select committee, the very patrician Jacob Rees-Mogg MP declared that the police concerned ought to confess, "Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa" (sic - "Through my fault, my own fault, my own most grievous fault"). I'm not sure whether he expected the plebs to know what he was talking about, but he did at least reinforce the spin the opposition have been so keen to create, of a government of toffs out of touch with the majority of the population. At least Mr Mitchell avoided that and used gutter Anglo-Saxon instead. 

Personally I find it very sad when politicians undermine trust in the police, and/or vice versa. I know it's tempting to deflect blame on to others, but a cohesive society needs the mortar of trust. 


  1. ________________________________________IF by Rudyard Kipling
    IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
    Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:
    If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
    If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:
    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'
    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    ' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
    if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

    Perhaps this should be requires study for all in positions of responsibility? and children could be encouraged to explore it's meaning.

  2. I, too, have been puzzling over "plebeian" - it seems just the sort of word of which a Chief Whip would be aware though unlikely to use - but not one with which a real pleb would be familiar.

  3. Plebs, or non plebs,; this morning I received this, which for me, covers it well and makes me laugh as well as being encouraged.

  4. Oh dear, the link didn't work.
    Here it is

    Become Yourself in Christ

    Timothy Radcliffe O.P.

    Apocalypse 7:2-4,9-14
    1 John 3:1-3
    Matthew 5:1-12

    On the feast of all saints, we celebrate the great multitude of holy men and women, those whom the Church has recognised and the vastly greater number whose names we do not know. The number of canonised saints seems to be increasing dramatically. Pope John Paul II canonised more saints than all previous Popes combined, and now he and Blessed John XXIII are soon to join the swelling number. Isn’t this all a bit exaggerated? Isn’t sanctity becoming a bit too thinly spread? As in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gondoliers: "when everyone is somebody, then no-one's anybody".

    No, because sanctity is not a common feature that is shared by lots of people, like being right handed or ginger haired. In the third Eucharistic Prayer we say, ‘You give life to all things and make them holy.’ Holiness is being fully alive, as God created each thing uniquely to be. There are as many ways of being a saint as there are human beings.

    This can sound like the common mantra of today: Just be yourself. Even the Girl Guides have changed their promise. They now promise ‘to be true to myself.’ Embrace the inner slob! But here we come across a paradox which is central to the Christian understanding of holiness. We can only really be ourselves, most authentically who we uniquely are, by conforming to Christ. St Paul said ‘it is no longer I who live but it is Christ who lives in me.’ (Galatians 2.20). This does not mean that St Paul’s individuality has been extinguished but that in Christ it comes to complete fruition.

    Thomas Merton said to his novices at Gethsemane Abbey: ‘What you came here for is to become yourself, to discover your complete identity, to be you. But the catch is that of course our full identity as monks and Christians is Christ. It is Christ in each of us… I’ve got to become me in such a way that I am the Christ that can only be the Christ in me. There is a Louis Christ [Louis was his name as a monk] that must be brought into existence and hasn’t matured yet. It has a long way to go.’ We need the courage to let go of what might look as if it makes our special – a superiority based on our looks, or intelligence, or amazing skill in Scrabble or whatever – to attain that unique identity in Christ, which is beyond all rivalry and competition.

    This is wonderful news for a society in which many people have insecure identities, and for whom celebrities seem to be the only real people. We see them on the TV and so they must be real! If only we could wear what they wear, eat the same food and have the same hair, then we would be real too, perhaps. But these pseudo-identities of the market place, off the peg self images, are illusory.

    The film Of gods and men tells the story of a small community of Trappist monks living in Algeria in the 1990s. Slowly they find themselves caught up in the rising tide of violence, caught between the Islamacist terrorists and the military. They struggle, together and individually, to discern whether they should stay with the villagers or find safety back home in France. Finally, their separate mental journeys converge in a common decision to stay and share the lot of their Muslim neighbours. When the Prior describes this process shortly before they are murdered, he sees it as a journey towards sanctity, each monk becoming the person he was created to be. He says: ‘I think that each of us discovered that to which Jesus Christ beckons us. It’s to be born. Our identities as men go from one birth to another. And from each birth to birth we’ll end up bringing to the world the child of God that we are. The Incarnation, for us, is to allow the filial reality of Jesus to embody itself in our humanity. The mystery of the Incarnation remains what we are going to live.’

    We celebrate the vast throng of saints today, each utterly different; each themselves by being one in Christ.