Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Criticism of the Government



The cost of living crisis is really only going to affect the poor isn't it?

I live in a Conservative voter majority area, under a Conservative MP. I am always irritated, in discussions, when defenders of Her Majesty's Government say things like, 'You shouldn't judge our PM, he is doing the best he can and you are no better. He is trying his best in difficult circumstances and we should move on from Partygate because there are more pressing issues'.

It isn't a judgement so much as a simple fact that the Government have a lot more responsibility and are in a position of power. Even the Bible says that those who are in leadership should be held to greater account. But the defence of the PM is that he made a few mistakes (weirdly the breaking of arbitrary house of commons rules about lying, considered to be a greater scandal than the fact that he behaved hypocritically).

'But some citizens also broke the rules during the pandemic, so they have no right to judge.'

It's a non sequitor, it doesn't follow that those in power should be held to less accountability than every other citizen. 

'But he has and he has apologised and now we must move on.'

Except the whole of law and ethics is that people are held to account when they have done something wrong, mostly so that they do not do it again. And Boris Johnson saying, 'Let's move on' (as Tony Blair always did) does not mean that he will not do it again. Specifically, to behave hypocritically in any decision he makes in the future.

'But we all sometimes behave hypocritically'.

Sure we do, but we are not all in a position of power.

Who is to say that as Boris Johnson tackles the cost of living crisis, the train strikes (and why will they not even talk with the unions?) or the war in Ukraine, or the coming crises, that he will not do the same thing again - i.e. not practice what he preaches. Well, at least the Government are being consistent in their hypocrisy. They are saying that they want peace in Ukraine and at the same time supplying arms to the Ukrainians, for political reasons, rather than actually caring. They are also not talking with the unions in the train strikes and saying that the train staff are just being selfish. Some of us don't even have the luxury of unions and the Government will make it very certain that you feel that the inconvenience is making things worse. At least the Government isn't greedy for anything huh?

It is said (in the Bible) that people shouldn't say, 'Why were things better in the old days?' It is never explained why. 'Because it isn't wise', writes the leader of that country.

Except that just sometimes things were better in the past. Just sometimes Governments have been held to account and the level of scandal that is occuring in the present would be seen as nightmarish if it had happened before now. 

I always think that the Tories always allow the worst things to happen. They let things happen which other parties would not let happen. They have allowed all of our demons to reign free. This country was my home. I know people who are suffering so much from the negligence of the Government. But it is a delegated neglect. You won't be neglected should you put a foot wrong. But you won't be helped. This current regime has come back ten times as nasty as before. Specifically in the treatment of the poor, the disabled and patients. No wonder the NHS is in crisis - they are under so much pressure from the Government that doctors and nurses barely have time to think.

'Stop doing down the country, we are a great nation and we may be allowed to host Eurovision.'

Except great nations have ethics. They don't NEED ethics advisers to act as their consciences. They should have consciences. Who knew that they had delegated that role to anyone anyway?

'Quit your whining, are you going to offer up any positive solutions?'

Sure, survive. There is no political hope anymore. All we have is this nasty regime which does not care for the poor and disabled. There is simply no compassion. And that attitude permeates all of society now thanks to our leaders. 

So my advice is to survive the best you can under this oppressive Government. If you are so sure that the PM is genuinely sorry for appearing to lie to parliament (surely not?), or worse from behaving hypocritically, then why should you worry that he will do it again? 

If you even dare to criticise them, they point the finger at the opposition. But the opposition are not in power. The Labour leader may have broken the rules too, but the difference is that he is not in Government. 

And they will not even acknowledge that part of the problem is Brexit. Because to do so would be to admit responsibility and that is something which the Government perhaps do need an ethics adviser to understand. We are not free yet.

Because their consciences have been seared with a hot iron, and that's why they need to delegate ethics.

Survive.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

The Dead Shall Rise

 



Since I moved here there had always been this fight. It was a kind of conscious resistance which the villagers had with a man, a rich property developer. The facts of the matter are this – some years ago a man ‘donated’ a piece of land for the council to use as a cemetery. The cemetery was built, with some lovely wooden carving and graves, graves, graves added month by month, year by year. The slight trouble was that the cemetery land flooded. It was not good land. It was a marsh. But the council liked it. It served a purpose.

For many years the villagers had consciously resisted the developer. We had resisted plan upon plan to build on the land behind our houses. If I say that the developer ‘gifted’ the cemetery land during his applications for building would that be seen as more than a fact? In the end, after a number of failed attempts to build on this greenbelt land, the developer sold the land on to a company who had a lot more power. The same fight continues up and down the country.

Well, despite the supposed nimbyism, they won. Despite the many objections. Because it has been a long fight. A fight which has involved petitions, council planning comments (hundreds) and a whole lot of angst among the village. Some villagers were against it because they knew that it would be greenbelt land and, despite the new Tory policy of building on greenbelt land, they intuitively knew that it would cause massive disruption to traffic, services, noise pollution and all kinds of trouble. I resisted it too. But more for the sake of the wildlife. There were mineshafts under the land. Chasms that could take a lot of living bodies. And newts and bats and all kinds of flora and fauna. I suggested to the council that the mineshafts might fall in as if in some kind of Poltergeist (you will understand if you have seen the film) scene. I used every argument I knew. I used the last of my authority. Our MP Gavin Williamson supported us. We give him credit for that even though he was part of a regime that decided that developers could build on greenbelt land in the first place. He was swiftly promoted after his announcement that his constituents problem had passed. He even made it to the Tracy Ullman show as a character. For a while he was a rising star.

Meanwhile the graves in the cemetery continued to rise. And maybe the mineshafts in the land to be built on began to sink a little. We were all haunted one way or another.

This is Tory-ground and most voters are Tory, but the locals are human beings, they are friendly enough.

I did pray sometimes. We are commanded to love our enemies and the developers seemed to have fit the bill like the rich man Dives may have done to Lazarus. I shot prayers their way. Resistance prayers. Just occasionally. Prayers to make things better for all of us. But they didn't work and I'm sorry about that.

Enjoy the cemetery, council, enjoy the policy of building on greenbelt land. Bury your dead there. Maybe they are already dead? After all, that’s what people say.

When I die (and goodness knows it may be sooner rather than later), do not let them bury me in the council’s cemetery. I do not want to rise before my time. Let them sprinkle my ashes in the River Trent, to be carried downstream and out to the sea (or else get caught in some branch or blown back in a beautiful face by the wind).

It sounds so pathetic. ‘We tried’. But we did try. For years. But our prayers were unanswered in any meaningful way.

And this kind of tiny battle goes on up and down the country while the Tories continue with their policy of building unaffordable housing on greenbelt land. The nasty party.

Yet still, the dead shall rise. One way or the other.

Sunday, 6 March 2022

Ten more reasons this is not the end of the world...



Things have changed. The pandemic is on the wane. But one thing that has not changed is that certain circles still believe we are in the last of the last days. It is disturbing. It means that hope for your children (should you have them), is no longer there. Who could believe our luck? Not only do we have to cope with energy prices skyrocketing and the strange effects of Brexit just happening to raise the prices of milk, bread and pizza, but we now have to cope with the four horsemen. No! Go away horsemen. You are not wanted.

First plague and now war (and I can guarantee that some people already want you to think that Putin is the antichrist).

So, as I do not like it when people are misled, here are ten more reasons why this is not the end of ages.

I’m going to have to think about all this. I’ve already gone into the main ten reasons here (of which I am 99% certain) and now I have to think ten more up…

 

1.     1.  Believers say that God always keeps his promises. Eventually. So here is the thing – if God has promised specific things to specific people because they’ve asked him to answer their prayers then he can’t wind up the whole of history without answering those prayers. For example, an individual may say ‘God, I really, really want a Blackberry KeyTwo’ (even though it is almost impossible because Blackberry have now faded). And so, if God says “Okay” then that person has the promise of a new phone with that dinky little keyboard. Conceivably they could get one in heaven, but what if they are asking for a specific job? Or a partner? Or some kind of healing? God has made specific promises to lots of people and they can’t all be answered outside of time.

2.      2. What did the thunders say in the Book of Revelation? Maybe they said ‘Ignore all this really bad stuff, there’s going to be good stuff too’.

3.      3. The Two Witnesses. According to our favourite book, which we all read all the time I’m sure, there have to be Two Witnesses. Now this is the reason I’m never going to Israel. For someone like me, with mental health problems, apparently it is a thing that Christians who go to Israel get really worked up and start believing they are one of the prophesied two witnesses. Apparently, it happens all the time and even has a syndrome name amongst doctors there. But, if we are in the start of the tribulation then where are these protagonists? You could say they are symbolic and not literal, but I still don’t see how they are around now. And for us literalists, take some comfort in the fact that the Church fathers actually thought that a literal reading of the gospels and revelation (not the rest) showed spiritual maturity rather than the opposite. No two witnesses. Not here yet.

4.     4.  Us Christians can be an argumentative bunch. You may have noticed that we are not as loving as we are supposed to be and that we sin all the time. So here is number 4. ‘The worldwide church has been prayed for by Jesus to be in unity. But have you seen the state of us? We can’t agree on the very slightest thing most of the time. I’ve seen unity in political parties at moments (such as in Labour at the start of Blair’s takeover), but I don’t think you can call what is going on now unity, even if you redefine the word. No unity.

5.      5. If the main forces who want us to think that this is the end of the world happen to be the devil and his demons, then can someone tell me how they know that when even Christ claimed to have hidden it from himself? Do they have secret knowledge of some brooding antichrist figure? The spiritual forces are bullies and as far as I am concerned have no rights. They certainly have no knowledge concerning the actual end of the world. They simply want to freak people out.

6.      6.6.6. According to the Muslim meta-narrative there will be a wind which will take out all of the believers. It’s windy here but I haven’t seen that happen. I may have got my faiths mixed up momentarily but bear with me…

7.      7. Earthquakes. There was one here in Blighty just recently. I slept through it. You tell me just how it so happens that earthquakes and great plumes of smoke ‘just so happen’ to have been more reported recently? Oh yes, that would be because of the digital revolution. Now we all hear if there has been an earthquake in Dudley or wherever. It’s also possibly down to fraking or something. I bet they are still doing that.

8.      8. The harlot riding the beast! So where is she then? And no, it isn’t the Catholic church. Anyone saying that is kind of proving my point that we are not in unity. The harlot represents such and such but according to the Bible, Babylon effectively implodes through fighting factions (you could say ‘oh, what is the point of fighting it then?’ and maybe you would have a point). Revived Roman empire. Good grief.

9.      9. So much for receiving the latter-rain in terms of revival. Oh, and some of us thought that was promised as a mercy in the midst of plague and war. God was supposed to be pleased with Brexit. Where has that reward gone then? Now we are facing an economic nightmare.

10.   10. The rapture! Well, this is the main argument against any of my sign-seeking. The idea is that the rapture could happen at any moment, meaning that none of these prophecies needs to be fulfilled (although you would think church unity would, but hey?). Could happen any moment. Take your lover close and all that. But no, is church unity to happen in heaven alone? What is the point of the prayer of Jesus then? And no orthodox Christian ever thought that a rapture would save us from the tribulation when it comes. And surely someone during that time will be writing a list of 20 reasons it is not the end of the world? According to the Bible, the Church is right there side by side with people in that time. Those of us still alive are still here and haven’t been swept up into the air. Yes, we are going through all this bad news with you. It could happen, but I’m 99% sure that the other prophecies have to happen first. Christians can argue about the pre-trib rapture all day long and it kind of proves my point that we are not in unity on this or on most other issues. The rapture hasn’t happened yet. It could happen, but God, as a storyteller is probably most likely to do it at the very last moment when all seems more hopeless than ever. No rapture yet.

And no Season 4 of Stranger Things.

Think happy thoughts.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021

The Parable of the Cold Island 2021

 

 The Parable of the Cold Island

Update: 2021

"Love is caving in beneath a hundred years of winter.
Love is breaking down, there's no sound, there's only winter.
But darling, the sunlight is just around the corner, it's alright."

A Hundred Years of Winter
Steps

It has been over a hundred years since it happened properly on this island.

And it has been three years since this parable was first published back in 2018. In that time there has been little sign of the winter ending. Three years of increased suffering and people dying and who knows where any of us will spend their eternities? Why does a gift tarry? And who is responsible for the giving of a gift... even if it is undeserved?




This is probably the most important parable that I will ever write. It is also the one I have worked on for the longest period of time. The central metaphor will perhaps give the appearance of being trite, schmaltzy or twee. That was not my intention. I chose this metaphor as I still feel it is the most appropriate for the subject. It is not intended to be unnecessarily didactic in tone, but the nature of parables is to send a spiritual message.

Anyone who tells parables has to decide whether they will explain them or not. In this case I'm trusting in your intelligence and imagination.

'Let those who have ears to hear, let them hear...'





There was once a good king, a king like the sun, who ruled over a cold island with three peculiar children. It was winter and they say that winter is the end of the story of the seasons. But it depends on when you start the story.

Some people hated the royal family, but that was because they tended to get a bad press. Most of the people thought the king was harsh. He always seemed to be on some long journey and his absence caused many of the people to doubt that he even existed. After all, he was never on TV or the internet.

From a distance, he often seemed negligent or downright cruel, if it is possible to be both at once. He did not do terrible things, but he allowed them and would not explain why.

Two of the royal children were as disobedient as vultures. But the third child was as faithful as a robin, refusing to fly away when the winter sun grew austere. Her kindness was all the more remarkable because she was unable to walk. She was as loyal as frost clinging to a car window (for which the people also cursed the king in the mornings).

There hadn’t been a real Christmas on that island for over a hundred years. Although there had been some imitations of it. No-one even knew what Christmas was like anymore. Those who had heard of it either thought it brutal and regressive (following a highly popular Netflix series about what Christmas may be like and a series of stereotypes which were expressed in the arts and media about the character of those who might like Christmas) ... Or else they thought it was yet another money-making scheme, heavy on the merchandise and manipulation.


But the faithful robin-child, after reading of true Christmas, asked her father if they could celebrate too… as the people in far-off places were said to do. She had only read stories of Christmas and it was because she had lost a friend in one of the past winter months that she found her courage.

She entered the throne room in her wheelchair and the king looked sadly at his cold iron sceptre, like a man haunted by ghosts which only he knew about.

"We need Christmas father. Things are getting worse on the island," said the robin-child.

"The island is sick," replied the king.

"Then there is hope of healing. You have healing in your power."

"What do you think Christmas should be like anyway?" the king asked, "Like water? Like the sea's tide turning? Like rain after a drought? Like a river flowing?"

"I don't know."

"Or like the earth? Like an earthquake and a shaking, or a kind of sifting of the good and bad?"

"No not that, Christmas should be for everyone and that sounds destructive."

"Or like the air? Like a wind blowing across the land? Like a change in the atmosphere?"

"I don't know."

"Or like fire? Like tongues of flame? Like a wildfire?"

"I simply think it should be like a new, better season. Like Christmas in the old stories."


But the king went on to tell his daughter yet again that if his children and people continued to misbehave, they would never see Christmas. It was within his power to make the winter months warmer and lighter since kings and queens still hold great power. But it was catch 22 – without the comfort of Christmas, people found it hard to behave, but if they did not behave, the king would not give them Christmas. The king's conditions felt very patronising and simplistic.

It had become increasingly dark and cold in those winter months in so many ways. And the dark and cold had soaked into the hearts of the people, so that even the streets saw puddles of blood. The blood had a voice, but by this time only the king could seem to hear it. Nobody cared about all kinds of roses crushed underfoot. Gentleness had emigrated. It was as if the island was under a curse.

At the start of December, the king sat on his throne and wondered whether he should allow his island child her peculiar request. He was undecided, since two of his children were so naughty (they were always fighting and rarely did what he asked). When he told them to love, they hated. When he told them to forgive, they held grudges. When he told them to not be too proud and condescending towards the people, they simply looked down their noses at the less privileged. It had got so bad that the people were cursing the royal family because of the actions of the princes. “The royal family are judgmental bigots!” the people would sing. Or else, “The king is in the altogether, he’s altogether not there!” And blood on the streets didn’t help. The people would take strange, dangerous potions and dance wildly into the night or else treat each other as badly as the princes treated them.

The king wondered whether he should simply give a present to his daughter and ignore the others. But then he considered that Christmas should be for everyone and an exclusive Christmas had never happened before. But why Christmas on his island alone? There was the Commonwealth, and the people there could be said to be worthier? One last worldwide Christmas for everyone (even though that had never happened before). What had happened before can happen again, for good or for evil. He had told all his children to behave and they had largely ignored him. What should a good father do? He, did, after all, have his enemies and ghosts. And the land had enough problems already, ready to break and divide for the sake of a freedom which was only hoped in.

One of the naughty children didn’t believe Christmas was healthy, he thought it probably meant, a pair of socks as a present, a lot of disappointment and probably a lot of grief. He didn't like anything about Christmas. The other thought it was unlikely to happen again before the end of the world. He simply thought there would never be a genuine Christmas again. But the faithful robin child would read old stories and she believed that even if they were only to have one last Christmas it would be a good thing for everyone on the cold island. It would help them to prepare for the coldest and darkest of days. She too loved the people of the island.

But the winter winds pummelled them all and the thunder made it seem as if the sky may fall at any moment. And the naughty children started to doubt that their father really was good – not because they wanted Christmas, but because he seemed to allow so many bad things and then said it was some kind of test. And never explained why. The tests were always the same anyway, they were either endurance tests or self-control tests, but the king, because of his ghosts, considered that an unfair criticism. Kings can do that and you can't tell them that they are wrong.

The king had set out conditions for there to be a Christmas. He had said that if his children talked to him, keeping their conversations secret, and if they were well-behaved and if they trusted in him, he would give them Christmas once again and the Christmas would be both a relief and a healing for them all. Hearts would turn warm and there would be more light, like the light of a baby in a manger. But the trouble was that he had three children and only one of them was behaving. The majority were not. In a sense, it was because of the naughty children that the whole island did not get Christmas, especially the fault of the naughtiest leading prince who had been given more than the others and who was relatively healthy.

So, the king faced a quandary – he had promised that he would order Christmas throughout the land if all his children behaved. But how could they behave when all was cold and austere and there was no Christmas? The robin princess had talked to him on countless occasions about this, about how Christmas would be good for both him and the people, about how it would make things better, about how a good father should not deny the request of an obedient daughter simply because others were not so obedient. About how Christmas itself would swing the hearts and souls of people onto his side. About how, while he delayed, the people and the children suffered together. About how he had also promised to grant any request made persistently. About what kind of good father would deny Christmas to his children anyway? About how he wanted free will love from the people and he would get that if he gifted Christmas.

But the king simply looked at his cold iron sceptre, shrugged and said that unless his people and his children talked to him, behaved, and trusted in him, he couldn’t send Christmas.

“But you also once said nothing is impossible for you,” said the robin princess.

“These are the conditions,” said the father with a stern face that did not suit him.

“But you once said that even a bad judge would rule in favour of a petitioner if they persisted, and I have pestered you about this for years.”

“These are the conditions,” said the king, his face like flint (which did not suit one whose glory was supposed to be greater than the sun).

“But how can the conditions ever be met on this island where the streets drink blood without conditions changing so that the conditions are more likely to be met?”

“That doesn’t make sense.”

“Why must you win every argument?" replied the Princess, "It isn’t endearing. People are suffering. What kind of good father would deny Christmas to their children? You told us that you love us.”


So here is the quandary, the mystery and here is the parable – that the good and kind king had seen how cold and dark his land had grown and truly understood the suffering of his people (having lived as one of them, in another land, a long time ago). Yet he denied them Christmas, saying it was the fault of his enemies, or of his children, or of his ghosts. Saying that conditions needed to be met, saying that his timing was perfect. And often saying nothing at all.

And still, the faithful robin princess and the people waited to see if a good King and Father would really delay Christmas on that cold, dark island for reasons known only to himself and his ghosts. And the robin princess, her heart broken because of the blood on the streets, knew that the only thing left to do was to keep on asking.