Thursday, 10 February 2011

Of prisoners, pirates and society.

Three news items come together here. Today our MP will be voting over the prisoner vote issue. I sincerely hope his vote is cast with those who want no change. I passionately believe that those whose wrongdoing commits them to prison forfeit the democratic right. Of course as we all realise, the issue has become larger than itself. It is now about Europe and national sovereignty. I cannot think for one moment I want to be part of a union where such decisions are not left to national competence. It has become an eye opening example of the dangers of the European delusion. Hopefully the MPs will do the right thing and the government will persuade the court that this is not its affair. And if it cannot, then the jurisdiction of the court over our nation should be removed. I am not a fan of Europe, I studied Roman and Medieval History (when the Holy Roman Empire sought the same end). The nation state is the right scale for humans to work with. In our case the nation state that geography dictates is that of Britain, the British Isles. The four groups that make up Britain may of course rightfully have areas of devolution and even their own languages. But those who wish to destroy Britain are not those who have the interests of these islands as their priority. The proper appreciation of nationality comes when each of English, Welsh, Scottish and Irish value their greater whole over their individuality. Yes, this means realising that English is the lingua franca of these islands and is also our greatest gift to the world. It means appreciating all our culture whether of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Burns or Yeats.

For me an essential component of being British is its religious heritage. Which is Christian and has been since the late Roman period. Arthur is a Christian hero and myth. Our Christianity may in part have come from Rome but even at the beginning it was mediated through the great Celtic tradition. A large element of Britishness is Celticness. We were always suspicious of Rome. Even the Irish once were. We made clear our national aspirations at the reformation. I often think of the Roman Catholic church and I weep. I know Christ commissioned Peter and gave him the keys. I know also Peter denied Christ thrice. Faith is nothing if not paradox. The paradox of the incarnate deity who is crucified and rises again. The paradox of the communion whereby at His instigation bread and wine become His body and blood. This is not cannibalism, it is paradox. The Tri-Une God, the marriage vow whereby 1+1 = either 1 or 3> but never 2; these are paradoxes. And faith cannot make sense unless you understand paradox. There is much paradox in being British, not least that we are tolerant and broadminded. I wish to respect those of other faiths in our nation but they have to understand that the British spirit of fair play is formed in our faith and our temperate landscape.

These things turned us into a mercantile nation which is natural for a group of islanders. Oh,we might have been better served if Liverpool had become our shared capital not short hop from the Continent London. Recently someone put it to me in great detail that the Devil entered into Roman Catholicism at the moment of the Constantinian settlement. Not such an outlandish idea. A lot of the old pagan order must have been subsumed into the new, privately vowing to put as much corrupt sand in the mechanism as they could. So ensuring that power took precedence over grace. Creating a church which would dominate private lives, denies its ministers the succour of women, denying its members the freedom to choose what they wished for their bodies. I may sound very conservative but can also be hugely liberal. Catholic one moment, Evangelical the next. I see contraception (but not almost all abortion)as an opportunity for grace. Gay relationships, gay priests, women priests, a woman pope; none of these would alarm me. Hedonism with some rules makes sense. The renaissance took place 500 years ago and still many Catholics deny reason and yearn for "their Latin past". I believe in reason (rational Biblical (and Koranic) Criticism), science, evolution and commerce. But not in unbridled capitalism or competition. Evolution may have required competition but in humans it has created beings who can reach beyond this. Who can see Grace is of God and thereby a society can grow which is not a slave of business, mere numbers or competitive urges.

Back to the news and this theme reflects two immediate matters. I heard today that Somali pirates hold 700 hostages and 36 ships. This is an affront to civilised life. One which at any time between 1800 and 1970, it is hard to see Britain standing idly by. Our commerce is threatened and thereby our interests. With other nations a far stronger response is needed for otherwise a whole nation has been handed over to criminality. Britishness would have demanded a response that rightly crushed the Somali pirates and in our loss of national identity it would appear we have lost the will to defend shipping.

Tomorrow in Hexham I shall attend our MP's meeting about The Big Society which relates to several of these themes. A friend said to me today for Big Society read Big Chaos. Those who are being expected to shoulder the burden of provision are the same organisations lined up to face local authority cuts. I wonder when we will all realise of whatever political ilk that a civilised society costs. It is not created by saying that selfish wealth creation and the market are the supreme end of man.

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