Friday, 25 February 2011
On Friendship and Politics
Over the last few days, watching events in the Middle East, I've been wondering if this blog is turning into a bit of unholy smoke that distracts us from the events we should really be reflecting on and praying about. Toby observed yesterday in a separate message that "A problem with blogs is that it can make you focus on difference, when nobody would be reading a Catholic blog if they didn't have so much more in common". I really like to believe that's true.
I ask these questions because of the krisis through which we are living. The Greek word krisis is far less negative than our English word 'crisis', for it implies a time of radical and unexpected change which is about opportunities and new beginnings as well as about lost hopes and endings. In that sense, the biblical concept of kairos, which suggests an opening in chronological time to a new configuration of time which is pregnant with urgency and promise, may also be related to krisis.
As the people of the Middle East rise up in the name of freedom, risking their lives for some human possibility that they have briefly glimpsed in the promises of democracy, I wonder why we are so complacent. The loss of British democracy has been compared to the gradual heating of a lobster. Plunge it into boiling water and it screams. Heat it gently and it will fall asleep and die more quietly. (I've never tried this, so don't know if it's true). As Samantha Cameron promotes London fashion week, her husband is off in the Middle East peddling arms. This government is introducing policies that were not in either manifesto, which are clearly aimed at the dismantling of public services and the welfare state, handing over control to the neo-liberal ideologues who got us into this mess in the first place. Both Augustine and Thomas Aquinas agreed with Cicero that 'pestilential statutes ... no more deserve to be called laws than the rules a band of robbers might pass in their assembly'. Augustine referred to the unjust state as 'a band of robbers', and Aquinas argued that 'a law that is not just, seems to be no law at all.' When will we realize that we are now governed by a band of robbers?
The West's friends in the Middle East are being toppled one by one as true democracy struggles to emerge, exposing the fact that far from being the friends of worldwide democracy, we are its most subtle and dangerous enemies. And where is our globe-trotting Middle East peacekeeper, Tony Blair, in all this? Perhaps we should be thankful for one small mercy - that he is nowhere to be seen or heard. (Perhaps nobody was willing to pay enough for his opinion).
I have a genuine question: what should Christians do in a time like this? How can our prayers translate into an active presence for freedom and truth in our shattered country and our troubled world? How can we use this krisis and recognise that it is also kairos time?
In the meantime, here is part of today's reading from the Book of Sirach. I recommend it to Colonel Gadaffi,
former President Hosni Mubarak, and Sheikh Nasser of Kuwait, and I dedicate it to Tony Blair and David Cameron:
and be not too ready to trust him.
For one sort is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.