Thursday, 9 June 2011

Rowan Williams attacks the Coalition - Decoding the Leftist Message

I was hoping for a quiet evening today. The Ikon Extravaganza, Readers, held altogether too much excitement for me. All those saints looking at me in the flickering tea light-light - like the whole Host of Heaven had dropped in to see us. It was - in the truest sense - awe-full.

And I thought I could sit quietly and read through my new book of Abandoned Railways of the South Midlands. How lovely that book - how aching the feeling of loss. But the Archdruid had other ideas. She was ranting about the "left-wing prelate" who had apparently called for armed revolt to bring down the Coalition. However when I asked if she had read the article in question, she admitted she hadn't. She calmed down and went away.

Twenty minutes later, I was poring over the details of the Northampton to Peterborough Line. Did you know, Dear Readers, that Wellingborough used to have two railway stations, just half a mile apart? How annoying would that have been if you needed to change trains on the way from Peterborough to Higham Ferrers? And while I was thinking that I now had a quiet night in, Eileen came crashing back in, waving a printout of the New Statesman article that she had pulled from the Web. And asked me if, since she couldn't understand a word of it, I could analyse the article and pull out all the left-wing bias in there.

Now, I did suggest she could read Church Mouse's blog post on the subject - but she expressed doubt that Church Mouse is even a real rodent, and questioned what, if he really were a mouse, he would know about politics. So I agreed, and got to work.

After I took my results back the first time, she pointed out that I hadn't found any bias at all - just a balanced, thoughtful if a little over-written article. Then she threw a golf ball at me. So I had another go. The results are below - the grey text is the Archbishop's, while the red (appropriately) is the obvious examples of left-wing tendencies.

But we are still waiting for a full and robust account of what the left would do differently and what a left-inspired version of localism might look like.
Sub-text: The Labour Party have set out a clear plan of how they will save the economy - indeed, the world - and I think they are right. Although anarcho-syndicalism might be even better.

 Managerial politics, attempting with shrinking success to negotiate life in the shadow of big finance, is not an attractive rallying point, whether it labels itself (New) Labour or Conservative
Sub-text: (Old) Labour is an attractive rallying point.

With remarkable speed, we are being committed to radical, long-term policies for which no one voted. At the very least, there is an understandable anxiety about what democracy means in such a context.
 Sub-text: All Government policies are wrong. Just think, we didn't vote for a new policy of being able to eat kittens, either. But I bet they'll do that next, because we didn't vote for it.

I don't think that the government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem.
 Sub-textThe government's commitment to localism and devolved power is simply a cynical walking-away from the problem. 

Government badly needs to hear just how much plain fear there is around such questions at present.
Sub-textThey've thrown millions on the dole in the last year. And there will be millions more to come. Only Ed can save us now.

 If what is in view - as Iain Duncan Smith argues passionately on page 18 - is real empowerment for communities of marginal people...
Sub-text: In a certain light, I look a bit like Karl Marx.

But there is another theological strand to be retrieved that is not about "the poor" as objects of kindness but about the nature of sustainable community, seeing it as one in which what circulates - like the flow of blood - is the mutual creation of capacity, building the ability of the other person or group to become, in turn, a giver of life and responsibility.
Sub-text: Vote Labour. You know it makes sense.

A democracy that would measure up to this sort of ideal - religious in its roots but not exclusive or confessional - would be one in which the central question about any policy would be: how far does it equip a person or group to engage generously and for the long term in building the resourcefulness and well-being of any other person or group, with the state seen as a "community of communities", to use a phrase popular among syndicalists of an earlier generation?
Sub-text: [I'm sorry, readers. I really have no idea what this sentence means. I know there are clauses in it that I can vaguely understand, but the overall message is simply beyond me.]


  1. Fr Egbert Twinkinson10/06/2011, 00:41

    Two points:

    * if he doesn't want an exclusive and confessional religion, why is he pushing for the Anglican Covenant?
    * if we want Archbishops who don't look like Karl Marx in ANY light, isn't it about time we starting picking them from amongst the fairer sex?

  2. Trying to parse the last sentence, I remembered a line that was at one point a favourite of the then-young academic's: "Our social program is the dogma of the Holy Trinity"

  3. Sounds like he's been reading too much Bertrand Russell.

    I never quite got over the Beeching Cuts myself and still hanker after Shirdley Hill station.


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