tag : bright yellow-green apples: right back at ya

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Friday, March 18, 2005

right back at ya

figure 35.6. do you take me for a mug, Patrick?

I have a feeling we’ll all be sick of politics in a few weeks, if there really is an election in the offing. There already seems to be a lot of action, and only the other day I got a nice little questionnaire from the local conservatives asking me about what I thought. The assumptions and leading nature of the questions was astonishing. One listed a few priorities I could choose from, most of which seemed to be full of stuff like “law and order” and “immigration. Since when is immigration an issue for parochial quaint little Matlock? I was rather awkward in answering, saying that the environment is my biggest concern, that I think crime could be reduced by more opportunities and engagement with the disadvantaged, and that my particular local issue of dissatisfaction is having a Conservative MP.

I’m also troubled by the recently minor ruckus around Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor’s pronouncements. Some people seem to have implied that such ethical considerations as abortion should be made foundational issues on which to decide your vote. I sincerely hope this isn’t that start of a trend, as the example of the USA shows how a relatively minor issue – often involving ‘family matters’ – can be exploited to provide cover for pretty disgraceful policies on social justice, civil society, environmental sensitivity, and economic competence. If they’re going to tread into the political fray, I suggest that Christians do their utmost to promote positive and challenging approaches to these major issues.

If you’re part of the Church, and want to bring your religion to bear…I reckon asking your canvassers about what they will do for the marginalised and the threatened wildlife habitats of your area, rather than what they think about gay marriage and tv.blaspheme, is the way to go. Politics is becoming increasingly banal – I confess that I’m really not inspired by most of what’s been put on offer by the three main parties. But at the very least we might then have some positive impact, on the deadening dehumanising consensus.


Blogger Martin said...

It's not just a Conservative thing though... Remember me telling you about the Lib Dem leaflet that asked:

"Liberal Democrats believe that recycling and other forms of environmental protection are essential in order to protect the environment.

Do you agree, or are you scum?"

I forgot to post earlier in the week about the comments of the Cardinal. Personally, I think abortion is a political issue. I don't see any reason why it shouldn't be discussed.

4:43 PM  
Blogger Ruthie said...

Who are ya gonna vote for Laurence?

7:17 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

As I think I indicated, there seem to be issues around how all of the major parties conduct themselves. Of course it's facile to simply blame them for everything that seems to be awry in our politics, but when their parameters of policy and campaigning are increasingly narrowed by the triangulations of focus groups then something must be quite amiss. I was quite enamoured with the Lib Dems, and they still are fairly reasonable in some ways. But looking in detail I can see enough that makes me hmmm to myself - not least their approach to economics...

I didn't say that abortion shouldn't be discussed. What I hope I tried to get across was my discomfort at the way some would seem to wish it become on a par with social services and sustainable development, as a really pivotal factor in deciding your vote. It may be a moot point when the parties are all pretty close in their views, but I still find the rationale behind the Church leaders concerned to be a bit askew...

11:58 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ruth Ann -

That's going to be a very difficult decision. I think I'm going to leave it fairly open untill closer to the time. But here's my inclings at this point in time.

Practically, it seems likely that West Derbyshire
will not be changing party. I have a strong hunch that we'll remain the only Conservative-represented constituency in the county. So it's a bit of a luxury of choice, unless opposition gets organised.

My instinct is now with The Greens - as they're the party that seems closest to my own heart in terms of sustainability, development, environmental issues. But the Lib Dems are a pretty good second choice, for thier faintly socialist 'tax more, invest more' line. Labour is the only serious challenge round here, but in national terms I would find it hard to vote for them.

For those of you out there who are in a more changable position, the dilemma is much stronger. If the electoral message delivered to New Labour is too strong, there *may be a risk of letting the Tories back in power - which would be a disastor. Whatever else, that is the worst result we could see...

12:08 AM  
Anonymous Donna said...

It seems that nasty American conservatism has reared its ugly head in your quaint village. If anyone should believe that politically active religious conservatives are ever going to care about the environment, well I've some swamp land to sell them. Please read this article http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17852. Religion and politics mix like oil and vinegar. But conservatives it seems think politics should be dished out like a holy wafer.

7:59 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Ah well, things are a little more complicated on this side of the water - as this article begins to explain. But there are certain parallels, on such matters as environmental considerations I get the impression the Tories are a similar mindset to republican mores. And yes Martin, I know I'm doing the silly comparison things again!

But I should say that I don’t think politics can be a situation where religion has a blind spot. It's about the totality of life - if religion has any vision for an inspired and good life then it must be holistic. I do not like the school which makes religion a bulwark of the status quo, or part of the establishment. It's certainly not the preserve of a conservative vision. But I think Christians should carry their faith with them as they go to the polling booth as much as to the pew. So long as they, we, don't claim one party for God...

12:46 AM  
Anonymous RobertB said...

Oil and vinegar my foot!

"When people say that religion and politics do not mix, I wonder what Bible they are reading" Desmond Tutu

And, believe it or not, dispensationalists do not make up a majority of the world's religious conservatives. The mobilisation of the scottish Wee Frees (a rather more conservative religious group than American moral majoritarians) to oppose the Harris Superquarry is an excellent, if small scale, example (unduly lengthy writeup here) of environmental lobbying explicitly motivated by a conservative religion and its theology of creation.

For a more mainstream analysis of the vital contributions a religious perspective can bring to our ecological problems (crisis!), I recommend this lecture by Archbishop Rowan Williams.

And that provides a bridge for me to turn to one of post liberal's original points.

In some sense the ruckus around the Cosmopolitan interviews, and Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor's (extremely innocuous) comments was a media storm-in-a-teacup.

But I am curious how some issues are decided not to be "electoral issues", in the way the major british parties have singled out abortion. I don't make the mistake of thinking democracy means majoritarianism, but I wonder how these decisions are envisaged to be held to account when they are removed from the domain of politics?

A single-issue election is potentially disastrous (though that is a symptom of our electoral system as much as anything), though if there is anything that had the potential of becoming the single-issue in a UK-wide election, I'd say it was probably the invasion of Iraq; but tax increases have come close to playing this role in the recent past. In NI every election is de facto a referrendum on the Union, and it is very difficult for any other issue to make a difference.

(At any rate, the RC bishops conference General Election Letter Murphy-O'Connor was launching is explicit that "Voting in a general election should seldom, if ever, be based on a single issue, because elections are concerned with a whole range of issues, very many of which are concerned with life and human flourishing." One can doubtless quibble with its precise priorities, but the letter does suggest quizzing candidates on, amongst other issues, protecting the environment, peace, and fair trade.)

Finally, I almost forgot my bridge. I presume you have now read Rowan's Sunday Times article...?

11:58 AM  

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