Saturday, 26 November 2011

Interesting Times

As the old Chinese curse, as made famous by a certain Mr Pratchett, says, “May you live in interesting times!”  Suffice to say, it’s been an interesting month.  First, I found myself agreeing with Dr Rowan Williams, both his backing of the Occupy London campaign and his subsequent criticism of the government’s proposed welfare reforms.  While I acknowledge individual faith to be a powerful and, more often than not, positive force, I have an inherent dislike and distrust of organised religion.  The centuries of social control, and the oppression and demonization of women by the patriarchal monotheistic faiths has always struck me as nothing short of hypocritical.  Much of their ideology comes across as hopelessly outdated in the twenty-first century, while the underlying principles of love, compassion and peace are too often forgotten by those who profess to practice them.
The cynic in me, in these times of falling congregations and waning influence, wonders if this is no more than an attempt to garner credibility by siding with the public against a common foe.  The resignation of St Paul’s canon chancellor, Giles Fraser, followed by the Dean, Graeme Knowles, over the proposed eviction of the Occupy protestors led to a swift reversal in policy.  One that the Archbishop of Canterbury has followed through to its logical conclusion.  The pragmatist in me, meanwhile, shrugs his shoulders and says, so what?  Surely the end result is more important than the motive?  Is it really such a stretch that Dr Williams and his fellow bishops might in fact be demonstrating genuine Christian values?  Of course not.
The long, dark tea-time of my soul aside, we live in a time when many of those responsible for the global banking crash of 2008 continue to reward themselves with obscene bonus and pay increases far above inflation.  Little wonder those on low and middle incomes, whose disposable income continues to shrink, find themselves confused, enraged and disgusted.
People tend to have a knee-jerk reaction when you employ the phrase “redistribution of wealth”, but with one percent of the world’s population owning forty percent of the wealth it should be obvious to the majority that something needs to change and change drastically.  Will occupying banking institutions and public spaces achieve this?  I rather doubt it, but as the uprisings of the Arab Spring proved, if you push the common people far enough they will take matters into their own hands.  Not that I’m suggesting we get our pitchforks and burning torches and form an angry mob outside Westminster, much as I’d like to see David Cameron and George Osborne’s heads on pikes (there we go again with another inherent prejudice).  Figureheads are just that, and removing them is not unlike cutting off the heads from a hydra.  Instead, we need to look inside ourselves and decide what we truly believe is acceptable in our name, the name of the people.  Governments, after all, are meant to serve us, not the other way round.
Of course the truth is that the revolution won’t be so much televised as franchised!

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