DAY 203: What is to be done

February 7th, 2017 § 0 comments

In despair, I’ve been putting off the appalling state of the world and what we can do about it; writing about small mammals and so on when my more courageous friends (Izzy Tomico Ellis, as usual, comes to mind) are out there in the street waving banners. As we all should be.

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity

as Yeats remarked under similar circumstances seventy years ago – although this time around, I believe, some of the best of us do have conviction and show it. Unbelievable crimes are being committed without shame; the President of the United States puts, effectively, a ban on Muslims entering his country, and the British Prime Minister invites him as her guest. Racism and misogyny rule gleefully, imagining that they can get away

4horsemenThe Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

with their ugly misrule – that the ownership of power entitles them to   ignore the drowning of boatloads of Africans, of Syrians, of Afghans, simply because they don’t belong to the class and race which – it would seem – have complete control of our poor planet.

They are wrong, and (I hope) they will suffer for it. But our part is not so much to make them suffer as to stand firm for what is what has always been – obviously right. How can you sleep when you condone the burning of a farmer’s trees, police attacks on old men freezing in the streets of Paris, so much mindless cruelty? How must we live in response? Here I’ve been greatly cheered by the response of the Quaker Meeting for Sufferings (I’m not going to explain what that is) to all these events, in a statement on Saturday 4th February:

“’We are a people that follow after those things that make for peace, love and unity’ (Margaret Fell, writing to Charles II in 1660). Quakers in Britain see these values now under growing threat around the world, not least from recent developments in the United States of America.

“We condemn all acts of government which set people against one another; which discriminate against people because of who they are or where they were born. We reject policies which condone suspicion and hatred; which turn away those who need and depend upon our help. We were not put on Earth for this, but to be a people of God, to live in harmony with each other.

“There can be no peace without justice; no love without trust; and no unity without equality. Our faith urges us to welcome the stranger as our equal and friend, feed those who are hungry and shelter those who are homeless, needy and frightened.

“Alongside Quakers in the USA, and their American Friends Service Committee, we stand with those whose lives are blighted by racist, lynchingdiscriminatory policies and those whose faith is denigrated by association with a tiny violent minority. We pray for the courage and steadfastness that will be needed as we uphold our testimony of equality, justice, peace, sustainability and truth. For us, prayer is inseparable from action.There can be no peace without justice; no love without trust; and no unity without equality.

“Humanity needs leaders of integrity and conscience, ready to be held to account by individuals and institutions, national and international. We pray for those in positions of power. We call on them, as public servants, to work with all of good faith to build the world we seek, to fertilise the soil in which the tender shoots of peace, love and unity may flourish.”

In accordance with beliefs like these, the Speaker of the House of Commons (as you probably know) reasonably concluded that for someone whose values were so appallingly at variance with democracy to address the House of Commons would be a mockery. Now you and I may think that there have been many many undemocratic people addressing the houses of parliament (did Col. Gaddafi? I don’t think so, but in his heyday he might have.) and one more hardly makes a difference. We’ll see.

In the meanwhile, we need to reflect on the number of decent people there are in the world, and, rather than simply being filled with despair at the number of the wicked, rejoice in our friends, in this time of trial. And rejoice that we have been granted the honour of living in such a time, when our faith is tested. (Is that 17th century enough for you?)



Men of England, wherefore plough
For the lords who lay ye low?
Wherefore weave with toil and care
The rich robes your tyrants wear?
Wherefore feed and clothe and save
From the cradle to the grave
Those ungrateful drones who would
Drain your sweat—nay, drink your blood?
Wherefore, Bees of England, forge
Many a weapon, chain, and scourge,
That these stingless drones may spoil
The forced produce of your toil?
Have ye leisure, comfort, calm,
Shelter, food, love’s gentle balm?
Or what is it ye buy so dear
With your pain and with your fear?
The seed ye sow, another reaps;
The wealth ye find, another keeps;
The robes ye weave, another wears;
The arms ye forge, another bears.
Sow seed—but let no tyrant reap:
Find wealth—let no imposter heap:
Weave robes—let not the idle wear:
Forge arms—in your defence to bear.
Shrink to your cellars, holes, and cells—
In hall ye deck another dwells.
Why shake the chains ye wrought? Ye see
The steel ye tempered glance on ye.
With plough and spade and hoe and loom
Trace your grave and build your tomb
And weave your winding-sheet—till fair
England be your Sepulchre.

Here is Fairouz in a political moment.

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