Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Where has the radical freshness of christianity gone? How come the symbol of a martyr who was tortured so much he was resucitated three times before, literally, losing his head for his faith become the flag for a national football team…

Perhaps we in the West, and especially in England of whom the symbol is the national flag just wanted to know George was a soldier and a saint and lets not talk about how he peacefully made his protest of faith and was then tortured and killed for it – Let’s talk about dragons instead… And whilst we are here – here’s a question: Would we return George to his state so they could kill him? Nowadays we do send, or propose to send, folk back to countries which kill folk for their views on the grounds that we get a ‘guarantee’ from the state in question re looking after the asylum seeker – we have courts defending their rights not to be packaged out to be killed as there are protests in the press about the money they cost us… Is this the behaviour of a country St. George would want to be symbolic of?

Would he rather his flag would be waved around for a sporting event where, if not caught, a cheat is seen as herioc – the dives, the ‘ruff and tumble’, the penalties gained.. the list of the behaviour goes on… but if the team wins then the sins are washed clean and the flag can be waved in glory…

Victory was never George’s aim in his conduct and that’s a problem for the church and for society – he went and did what? St. George’s story is not boring so why do we not tell it?

Here’s quote from Vivian Stanshaw from 1983 –

Aparthied and prejudice,come before a fall,

but patronage is even worse, you’re walking towards that wall…

from his rare work of genius ‘Sir Henry at Ndidi’s Kraal’

I’ve had this thought for a while and have tried to figure out exactly how it works but I think going to history may help…

A while ago I managed to trundle through this work Constantine’s Bible which debunks the idea of the selection of the books of the New Testament as forced by the Emperor Constantine except by the power of patronage… True, there is the Council of Nicea and all that but what we do not talk about and thus do not see is the habitus of power that Constantine gave to the church… Thus clergy when given a nice big house, virtually, all said ‘Thankyou’ and with all those comments about trusting power from St Paul – hands were shaken and the church went to bat for the state – a boring conclusion.

Well it is now but way back Then when it seemed that the levers of power were influenced by the church – and indeed when the church managed some tight manouvring to have actual physical, legal and state granted [no matter how grudgingly]  power the the church was exciting but not for the reasons it should have been and as we make progress of the church moving away from the state’s machina for governance [note the sermons of the First World War and those before that for fighting for ‘King and Country’ – just like St. George?] we are left with the stain of granted patronage – we had the patronage of lords or the great and the good [whoever they are] and then the priests could trickle down the patronage of sanctity from God… I’m sure the fines for not going to church managed to keep some bums on the pews, right up into the 1900’s… and now when we see patronage for the skeletal effect it is when not given freely or only on demand the story of christians looks boring because we’ve lived the wrong story for far too long… and have been unable to come to grips with the fact that the history of christianity shows how we remember and honour those who stand against the powers that be whilst we find ways of twisting the story so that we no longer need to feel guilt for our normality…

no wonder we’ve grown dull.

As I left the dog on her own to go off to the polling station I explained what I was off to do, it went something like this –

“I’m going to do something strange, human and pointless.”

As a clip from a former election campaign was played it prayed on my mind – it was a brief quote from James Callaghan who famously lost to Margaret Thatcher in 1979 where he declared that we had to decide what kind of society we wanted. Now I was too young to vote then but I have been thinking about that idea over the last weeks.

Every party is happy with policies that hound and harass 20% of the population – alright they may be smokers but is that enough to drive them away from where they would mix with wider society and make up 40% of the population. So what kind of society is it that we are voting for?

The idea of another five years of Gordon Brown scares me, the idea of being sold down the swanny to the Superstate of Europe gives me the heeby-jeebies thank you Clegg but I still did not vote for Cameron. Or anyone else for that matter…

When the political consensus agrees that 300 odd folk can choose to persecute one fifth of the population and then stick to it – What kind of society can we vote for?

I’ve found on the good old UTube a video of an old song by the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band

No Matter Who You Vote For the Government Always Gets In!

This is not the only version but it does have a good way of getting modern pictures and clips for this song… including clips of the would be leaders…

I wrote about how the novel 1984 was Orwell’s view of how the UK was functioning in 1948 here and argued that he may have been right…

I recently read Anna Minton‘s Ground Control and found that all the debates and protests about whether we are living with ‘Big Brother’ are now redundant. Most folk agree that living in a ‘Big Brother Society’ would be a bad thing but then argue about how we are getting there and worries about how far society could/would go…

Well, the situation is worse than we thought.

In 1984 Orwell argued that the ‘proles’ were mostly left to their own devices and they could get on with their own lives. The problem within 1984 was born by those in government or part of the governing class. This is no longer the case. It might have been one of Orwell’s aims that anybody could read his book and be shaken out of complacency to react to the way we were governed by those who were left to rot by the ruling class.

One of the repeated pictures of ordinary life that Orwell gives is a ‘prole’ who continually hangs her washing out on her line – a classic image of life in Britain but now in 2009 there are areas were this – hanging washing out – is banned. Minton goes through the dreadful reality of ‘gated’ communities and some, as part of their conditions for living within their bounds, ban washing lines…

This is a petty point, to be sure, but it indicates the amount of fine toothed infractions on what is still considered everyday life but won’t be for much longer if we’re not careful. To show how bad things have become I wondered over various titles for this post and just as throwaway pictures I’ll give a couple here…

Why be proud of our armed forces when the government is destroying our way of life?

Government destroy our way society – what can terrorists do to us?

Now, they were not particularly thought through and in the end I plumped for the reference to Goerge Orwell. Make no mistake though – I still think they are right. Take our valued and precious ‘Rights of Way’ – these are being destroyed by government policy to allow private corporations to buy up city centres and privatise the streets. To give an example – I was walking down to meet the wife in High Wycombe through the Eden shopping centre which mixes open streets with ones with a high ceiling with my elderly and friendly dog [not the new arrival] and was told by a reasonable ‘guardian’ that dogs were not allowed. I was following a route that was a cut through that previously had no by laws regarding the four legged friends… The ‘right of way’ had been stopped and now it is a ‘conditional way’… True, the reasonable and private security individual allowed me on my way but he did not need to.

If you don’t like strange four legged life forms you may be sympathetic to the Eden centre but think about this stark fact – there are over a thousand ‘designated dispersal zones’ where groups of two or more can be  moved off. How many times have we not merely ‘hung around’ and waited for some friends. We did no harm but then again, we did not buy much then either and the thing we have to understand is that dispersal zones are in both shopping centres and working class areas who don’t, effectively, want the local kids to be able to grow up with friends they used to ‘kick around with’…

Shopping centres are being designed with CCTV of various calibres and one even uses drones that can fly around and watch folk as they meander around.

There is just too much to be stuffed into one post and so I’ll come back to other issues within Minton’s work at another time but for now I’ll leave you with this question – If we are really fighting the war on terror to preserve our way of life, then why does government policy itself tear our way of life apart?

Not only is this the title for a rather entertaining yarn by Mike Resnick it is a direct reference to one of the CampQuest‘s activities, well at least as part of the UK’s camp experience…

The idea is that the leaders talk about unicorns that live in the nearby forest and there’s a prize to be won for being able to prove that the unicorns do exist. There are various ideas behind this whole thing – the one that is given is that it is to show how the onus is on the propegator of a positive idea to prove their point to the sceptic.

The idea that the unicorns stand in for God at the atheist camp is neglected to be mentioned by those little atheists; the children are merely trained in critical thinking whilst having a fun time in a secular camp…

Part of the idea is from how did we ever get ourselves to the folly of belief  in supernatural things/spooks? Note that this activity is dreamed up by atheists for atheists and their children… amongst other fun and frolics…

So why single this one out as the activity to be blogged about?

Because, dear reader, this is the one with quite a few assumptions behind it. Even perhaps dogmatic assumptions -the ones that are accepted but still open to be contested, if only philosophically. Take Occam’s Razor – the rule here is that between two explanations for the same phenomena the simplest should be accepted because that is a. easier to test and b. more elegant. However more complicated explanations could have a firmer grasp of the various factors that are played out… Occam’s Razor or, as it’s also known The Rule of Parsimony is undoubtedly useful and has its place but I doubt that it is infallible…

The simplest explanation for the unicorns is that they don’t exist – and they don’t. No-one is arguing that the unicorns drawn out of the atheists hat are real. The issue I have is that they are obviously meant to stand in for God. According to atheists there is the same level of chance of existence for God as their precious unicorns…

This is obviously contentious.

Take a historical view. If anybody looks back through time to the documents prepared for the camp they would find that the whole activity was a sceptical study – we have historical documents [ie manuscripts that go back through centuries] that speak about historical events and who some call and called God. The role of this ‘Super Being’ is supposed to have done various things – one of which is to have created us and the world and universe around us…

Kant managed to disprove that Creation was Proof of a Creator back when he wrote Critique of Pure Reason but did not then say that disproved the presence of a creator… which is what some would have argued. The problem is that we are losing the ability to balance evidence – only being able to take a ‘proof’ rather than think things through. There are what we theists sometimes call ‘footprints’ of our Creator. Whilst a contentious being some beings have been completely assumed and recreated from one impression in the ground from millenia ago… and accepted by the scientific community.

If you follow the link at the CampQuest site to the clip from this  radio 4 programme then you’ll hear camp followers argue that we have a universal moral code and that we do not need any divine laws to make us ‘behave’… This is sloppy thinking – at the moment I’m reading a terribly engaging book on hunger – Hunger: An Unnatural History by Sharman Apt Russell and the ninth chapter is ‘The anthropology of hunger’ where diferent cultures who suffer from near starvation, notably two of interest here are the Ik who lived near the northern border of Uganda and Kenya and the ‘People of the Alto’ in Brazil. Both of these populations are or were, used to a near starvation diet and if the humanists are correct we should be able to see similar values and cultural norms between the two peoples. This is not the case.

Both societies are also a great deal diferent to the modern western norms. These norms come from a history of a common faith. They are not universal norms that all humans share but becuase there is a great deal that we like about ‘our’ norms we assume that these are universal and correct.

I can argue for my values and norms but I find it interesting when I challenge atheists and humanists about why they think something is ‘right’ about how we should behave; we move onto the shifting sands of debate. There is nothing wrong with debate – I like a good debate as much as the next person and quite possibly moreso… but it shows that there is not this ‘universal’ view of right and wrong.

Perhaps rather than sending kids off to stalk a fictional unicorn they should think things through more and go in search of what is the universal code of behaviour…. Maybe that would be more ellusive than they assume.

Could it be a worthy quest to be undertaken and at the end of the search they might discover something as valuable and as precious as a unicorn would be.

Peggy!

Hope you take the time to enjoy this slice of four legged life…

yes it’s that book by George Orwell

My rather plush copy came with a forward by Robert Harris although that had nothing to with my purchase – I simply mention it here because he claims in the forward that George originally thought that he had produced a gem of a book but by the time he had typed it up he despised it, not that Harris offers any explanation of that change himself…

I think it is simple – originally he wanted to call it 1948 and in changing the title to 1984 it was robbed of the intended impact Orwell intended it to have.

Awhile ago I read George’s book of Essays and found them such a profound read I blogged about them [please note that there are more essays in this collection than the recently released Shooting an Elephant with an introduction by Jeremy Paxman who does have a grand mind so if you want a smaller slice of Orwell and a word from Paxman this volume might be more to your liking – as a note just to be clear, every story in ‘Shooting…’ is in the collection of Essays…] and to make my case that 1984 is 1948 I’ll have to go back to those essays…

Part of the book has comments that Orwell made as observations in his essays. The prolonged rationing of the post war years gives credence to the idea of perpetual war and the ‘why’ of it. There were still identity cards…

Alright the extensive camera and listening devices were not around in 1948 – but all else in the book would have been possible then.  Indeed the ideas of doublethink and thoughtcrime were lifted from his pointed criticism of the intellectual left.  The idea of having a political class always in power subject to various tests – ability and hunger for power could well be the critique of someone who has seen anarchy and collectivism work – this is what has become quite clear in the british model of democracy, indeed this has grown and become even clearer since Thatcher and Blair… And when was the last president of the USA to be elected with a smaller campaigning budget than the other guy?

The most mentioned departments are called [and no spoilers here, thank you] Ministry of Peace, Love, and Truth – at one point the War Department became the Ministry of Defense… The judicial arm of the government is called the ‘Home Office’ where we can all feel a warm glow of being looked after… Ministry of Truth is harder but if you read Orwell’s Essays you find that he thought that the owners of the press, part of what was [and is] called ‘The Establishment’ and because they wish to continue the status quo ie staying in an influential place where there situation is protected – it is in the media’s interest to sell the story that they think will create the right reaction from within us… Either things don’t get reported and therefore never ‘happen’ in any way we would know or they are told in ways that will provoke the right reaction – note how folk accept each paper has an ‘editorial view’…

The other piece in this jigsaw is the civil service who can be vetted and made sure that their views and work comply to their orders and of course the higher up the ladder they climb and the fewer they become the more closely they can be watched.

And this is were the Thought Police come in… with the job of maintaining the work so ordered by the political class in the Post War Consensus… And the rest of us are left to sink in a way that blurred the lines between the middle and lower classes – partly by raising some up and making it possible only for so many to rise higher… Leaving the grand rump of society to a different set of rules that seek to govern their behaviour and to hide the insidious truth of the thoughtpolice and the hopeless plight they were in under the political rulers .

The question to some extent runs about why Orwell wrote this book. I think he wanted to have a much wider audience for his political observations than his essays received and in so changing the dates to coincide with the publishers demand that it not be ‘1948’ he felt it was robbed of it’s power and force – which would answer the question of why he thought it a terrible copy once he had typed it up…

Ironically one can see the sense that in the publisher being part of the establishment makes the case, in a small way, for the de facto Ministry of Truth…

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.