Every Thursday, I take part in a sacrament. And so do many of you. Yes, at 8pm, I join my immediate neighbours and we clap to express our gratitude towards the members of the NHS who, despite their danger, work to save us.
A sacrament? Surely that’s the wrong word. But perhaps we should consider the traditional definition of sacrament: ‘an outward sign of inward grace’. Is not the inward grace my personal intention of thanksgiving? And does that not go directly to the Almighty?
In this respect we could consider a formal sacrament, such as baptism. While, depending on our particular Christian understanding of grace, we know that through baptism we are joined to Christ. But even the outward sign can vary. I remember my wife miscarrying at three months and, alone in the house and bleeding, she got her child to the bathroom and baptised him (or her). And as in many cases. the recipient was not aware of what was happening.
Of course, the New Testament goes to great pains to teach that formal baptism is essential. And not surprisingly so: Christianity was a new religion born from an old religion. For practical and hierarchical reasons, it was necessary to distinguish between the one and the other. But we know that even the most wicked man can turn towards Christ at his last moment. “betwixt the stirrup and the ground, mercy I asked, mercy I found.” (Camden)
What does turning towards Christ mean? We all know the answer to that – it is clearly described in orthodox Christianity and of course again and again in Scripture. But it must be more than that unless we think that everyone in the world, going back to our earliest ancestor, failed to get to Heaven because they never had the opportunity to know Christ, let alone follow him. Of course, we cheerfully invented Limbo which conveniently allowed us to resolve the problem without feeling guilty. Tosh! I say.
My answer is simple: love. And I mean love of self and love of neighbour. Love of self is not selfishness it is the intention and the action to develop as a fuller human being. Love of self and love of neighbour are intermixed. Even the walled in hermit must love his or her neighbour because God loves his neighbour. The self-styled atheist who seeks to save his neighbour from the nonsense of religion can be loving that neighbour through doing so.
Why must this be so? That’s an easy one: We can describe God in a myriad of ways, but they are all partial. Quite simply – God is love. Every atom of love is the expression of God – mixed up perhaps, or in the wrong context, or mistaken. But, in the end, it is God.
Love is that indispensable ingredient that forms the basis of human society. Whether it is expressed in helping an elderly person to cross a street, coming to the defence of a person being attacked for their appearance or their religious belief, caring for the sick during the pandemic in hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes, or rearing one’s child to be of good character, they are all examples of love.
I suspect as do many public commentators, that many societies across the globe will come to the other side of the pandemic with altered priorities, sensibilities, insights, that will impinge on people’s political, religious, social and economic values.
While I do not expect an intellectual revolution, I do see nonetheless the action of the Holy Spirit in ordinary human intercourse helping people to reapply their values in changed circumstances.
Throughout the post-pandemic period, any changes in our priorities will not only be guided by the experience of living through this global health emergency, it will also be guided by our love of our fellow human beings and our love of justice, progress, and the betterment of our way of life in society.
“A sacrament? Surely that’s the wrong word. But perhaps we should consider the traditional definition of sacrament: ‘an outward sign of inward grace’. Is not the inward grace my personal intention of thanksgiving? And does that not go directly to the Almighty?”
I think you might get away with a ‘Sacramental’ but not, in my understanding, a sacrament.
If we’re going to be literal, ‘sacramentum’ is an oath, in particular the oath taken by Roman soldiers on their enlistment.
Since the Church (or at least the bishops) are denying the real sacraments to the faithful, I suppose it’s only logical to invent our own ‘sacraments’ to replace them, even if it’s only banging saucepan lids on a Thursday evening, which also has a Latin word, ‘strepitus’. I, for one, am finding the media-driven habit of not being able to pronounce the initials NHS without qualifying it with some superlative encomium increasingly tiresome. When this is all over the NHS will be faced with a slew of lawsuits which will be settled out of court at a cost of billions to the taxpayer. Whoever thinks that we will emerge from this as better people is deluding himself.
The last time the kingdom was under an Interdict was in 1207, and I don’t think that even Oliver Cromwell managed to close all the alehouses. Civil liberties were already being eroded before all this, and the sight of a supposedly free people (93 per cent of them, according to a recent poll) meekly doing what the government tells them to do (it’s ‘for your own good’) frightens the life out of me. And the government itself is in thrall to medical ‘experts’ who are addicted to worse-case scenarios and are being paid handsomely for their advice.
My parents lived through the post-war austerity from 1945 to 1951. Rationing was stricter than it had been in wartime (bread rationing was introduced in 1946). My father was convinced it was prolonged for reasons of social control. Every petty bureaucrat morphed into a ‘little Hitler’.
Remove people’s basic rights and then give them back piecemeal as if they are privileges conferred by a benevolent government. A recipe for tyranny.
We are a free people, not merely a supposedly free people, and we’re not meekly doing what the government tells us to do. We are reluctantly doing what our governments tells us to do because the best available information strongly suggests that that is the best way to emerge from the crisis with the least damage.
If you have an alternative plan based upon your own “expert” analysis of data, please share it with us now as a matter of urgency.
// Every Thursday, I take part in a sacrament. And so do many of you. Yes, at 8pm, I join my immediate neighbours and we clap to express our gratitude towards the members of the NHS who, despite their danger, work to save us. //
As an American, that sounds eerie to me. It would not happen here, even if, as is possible, a confluence of political circumstances leads to the creation of our own version of the NHS. Well, maybe in a hundred years, if things go very badly, but not now. Even the American social class that forced this monstrous lockdown on us would not do it now. From here, it looks robotic, mindless, inhuman.
‘Even the American social class that forced this monstrous lockdown on us would not do it now. From here, it looks robotic, mindless, inhuman.‘
You must be either a Republican, a Tea party supporter, a Trump supporter, someone who doesn’t follow American politics, or someone who likes the war on science. How do you plead? Guilty?
John Candido writes:
// You must be either a Republican, a Tea party supporter, a Trump supporter, someone who doesn’t follow American politics, or someone who likes the war on science. How do you plead? Guilty? //
None of those.
Do you see yourself joining three hundred million individuals who, at the urging of the federal government, all come out of their shelters at 8:30 pm every Thursday, like human cuckoo birds from the darkness of their tiny cages, to applaud en mass the heroism of the national health service? If you do, I confess to perhaps having misjudged many of my fellow countrymen. Perhaps the division here into separate societies of the woke and the unwoke has progressed much further than I’ve thought.
ignatius writes, in response to John:
// Are you doing it in Australia? //
Ah, are you Australian, then, John? Sorry, I was thinking you were American. No offense intended, I assure you.
Are you doing it? Would most Australians do it, if asked or told, do you think?
There has been a small amount of praise for those who take great risks on our behalf and labour at the oak face in Australia.
“‘Even the American social class that forced this monstrous lockdown on us would not do it now. From here, it looks robotic, mindless, inhuman.‘”
Actually there is a ring of truth to this view. The NHS was very strongly politicised in the last general election and became a vague icon for all sorts of strange things, deeply embedded in the British psyche, but only poorly understood. In fact the icon has become a strange kind of Frankenstein on account of its centralised nature. I worked in it as a trainee Nurse and more recently have observed it quite closely either as a chaplain or as a visitor to my own family. It is very possible that, when the dust has settled, our response to pandemics like this one will have to change. There is an increasing ground swell of opinion that the medical response to the pandemic has not been the best of practice. I do not say this to in any way criticise the bravery and dedication of staff or indeed the whole response, but John Nolan is correct I think to anticipate law suits of all kinds….I’m fed up of ritualised fetishistic clapping too by the way.
‘ I’m fed up of ritualised fetishistic clapping too by the way.’
These hand clappers are trying to sincerely thank doctors, nurses, and any category of essential workers for their dedication, and the real risks they have accepted in order to save lives.
Are you doing it in Australia?
Really John….. I thought they were just trying to keep warm…. 🙂
Catholicism really is very difficult. You have to envy our Muslim sisters and brothers. Theirs is a much simpler way of faith. God, the prophet (peace be to him) and the book.
And sacramental theology is just one of those complicating features of our Religion. Centralised authoritarian government is another.
But what has Quentin singing like the Beatles?
It is a hopeful sign of much needed simplicity, that is for sure.
Things don’t have to be so complicated. Yokes can be easy and burdens really can be a lot lighter.
It was Vatican II in its returning to sources that taught us how Christ is the Sacrament of God.
And Jesus taught us that God is love. So of course, where love is happening, Christ is there.
In fact, it is because Christ is there that love is happening at all.
So, the love manifesting in the gratitude expressed in the applause is Christ pouring out the divine life of the Father as they unite in love through the holy spirit. Simple sacrament.
Our only problem is really around how we complicate things so badly.
The Christian message and Christian living moved very quickly from its Semitic foundation to a Hellenistic foundation and that involved a profound inculturation and reculturation.
And not that it was all bad, for that reason, or even unnecessary, but complicated.
Let’s put it even more simply – and the Beatles to the rescue again.
All you need is love, love love love love, all you need is love, love. Love is all your need.
You are forgetting all about some obligatory practices of Muslims: fasting during Ramadan, giving alms, prayer at certain set times of day, and, if possible, a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslim fasting is even more severe than what I, as a child, experienced as a Eucharistic fast: fasting from midnight until after Mass. At least water was allowed. Muslims fast during daylight hours during Ramadan, even forfeiting water except in cases of necessity.
Those periodic prayers are taken so seriously that Muslims will even stop a battle against fellow Muslims from the moment the call to prayer is heard. Not only is that call the sweetest sound Obama ever knew, it also was instrumental in the turning away of Charles de Foucault from a sinful life to the most severely ascetic life of which I know. His tireless service to the Muslims of Tamanrasset was reciprocated when a delegation of Muslims from Tamanrasset participated in the Vatican ceremonies that declared him Blessed, praising him as worthy of the honor.
That “all you need is love” is problematic in that it is unclear what kind of love the Beatles had in mind. Some contemporaries, like the Doors, used the word as a synonym for sexual intercourse, as do many LGBT today. I do believe the Beatles had something more than that in mind, but did it rise to the height of Christian agape — the love that is primarily the one that “God is love” is associated with. Even you acknowledge that by claiming that “In fact, it is because Christ is there that love is happening at all.”
You are no doubt right about water being excused for the Eucharistic fast. But it wasn’t in my day.(1944) I remember my Jesuit schoolmaster saying that if you had put the water in your mouth before midnight it could be swallowed after midnight without breaking the fast, but not otherwise. Cleaning my teeth without drinking water by mistake before Mass was tricky
Both my parents had false teeth, I’d love to hear your Jesuit schoolmaster opining as to whether the moisture attaching itself to them as they were removed from the glass on my parent’s bedside table broke the fast?
I completely agree with your sentiments, galerimo.
I did say a few things about factual errors, but I do agree with the sentiments.
However, I do wonder what galerimo had in mind with “again” in “Beatles to the rescue again.” I can think of a number of other things that qualify, but I do not include the “imagine no religion… imagine no heaven” in the Lennon song, “Imagine”. It reminds me of the Marxist “Religion is the opiate of the masses” and the put-down, “Pie in the sky, by and by.”
Perhaps conversing with David Smith and John Nolan has excited the more curmudgeonly side of my personality but I cant help but think the “clap for the NHS” thing is overdone. Firstly only about 10% of NHS employees are directly ‘in harms way’ and it would be nice to somehow be more selective in our gratitude. Secondly my experience of shopping in supermarkets is that people are even more selfish and isolated. Some shriek if anyone comes within 2 feet of them, others clutch at masks as if it were the black death rather than an unusually bad ‘flu. Everyone shops as if no-one else exists. I refuse to watch any live TV as it’s all so obviously excessive.
As a deacon, I’m rather busy doing funerals, – the number of which belie government statistics. It is sad to see families so scared that brothers and sisters won’t even shake hands. I am not optimistic in believing that there will be any major change in society. I will definitely appreciate being with my children and grandchildren more. I think good people may become even better but the individualism and self-centredness of our society will not change dramatically.
My Jesuit schoolmaster argued it this way. Drinking water is a single action with two elements: water into the mouth, water swallowed. Since the action started before midnight it could properly be completed on the same basis. Thank heavens for a Jesuit education!
The NHS has always been as much about politics as about health. It comes complete with its own mythology. Even intelligent people seem to think that healthcare prior to 1948 was only available to those who could afford to pay. In fact by the 1930s healthcare in Britain was arguably the best in the world, and well over half the population received GP and hospital treatment free at the point of delivery. It included the poorest sections of society; the system actually discriminated against the middle class, who faced rising GP fees while on fixed incomes.
The game-changer of the 20th century was the National Insurance Act of 1911. Aneurin Bevan, the architect of the NHS, was a socialist who restructured the existing system (which, to be fair, was in need of overhaul) to fit his statist ideology. It can be argued that most of the problems with the NHS are a result of this. That is not to say it is a failure; in many areas it performs at least as well as the healthcare systems of other advanced countries. But there is no denying that it is bureaucratic and wasteful, it is management-heavy and has a management culture that rewards incompetence and failure. It is aggressively secular, and ironically it is directly responsible for the single greatest cause of death in Britain – abortion.
” It is aggressively secular, and ironically it is directly responsible for the single greatest cause of death in Britain – abortion”.
Gosh John, I was enjoying your history of UK healthcare then you hit me between the eyes with that, – long pause to digest!
// Every Thursday, I take part in a sacrament. And so do many of you. Yes, at 8pm, I join my immediate neighbours and we clap to express our gratitude towards the members of the NHS who, despite their danger, work to save us. //
It’s belatedly occurred to me that in writing that, Quentin may have been expecting a challenge to “sacrament”. As a theological ignoramus, I’m incompetent to formulate one, but ignatius is not incompetent and he does object to the use of “sacrament” applied to the mass banging of saucepans on cue, offering Quentin “sacramental” as a barely possible replacement.
I see nothing commendably religious about mass compliance with a kingly directive. Evidently the king understood his people well, though, and provided them with a symbol around which they flocked to unite. But I fear there’s more of Pavlov there than of Christ.
David Smith writes:
“But I fear there’s more of Pavlov there than of Christ.”
Ha ha ha!!! That’s really funny and pretty cogent…I like pithy phrases I can sneak into homilies.
I have to say that I too have been clapping away, perhaps hoping for pavlova, till last week when I got fed up with it ….and no one turned up with any Pavlova either 😒
Well, the whole country is going to the dogs …
At least Americans are prepared to stand up for their rights and liberties. Seventy-odd years of the Welfare State have reduced Britons whose bloody-mindedness once impelled them to stand up to Napoleon and Hitler to a people who are content to stay at home and do as they are told.
It’s not so much the pot-banging as the maudlin sentimentality which underlies it. It was particularly evident in the paroxysm of synthetic grief which followed the death of Princess Diana in 1997. For the first time I understood what was meant by collective insanity.
I can’t help but think of the ARP warden in Dad’s Army who used to refer to Captain Mainwaring as Napoleon and an Agatha Christie novel where Miss Marple accuses her doctor of being Mussolini. The US Constitution was, I understand, based on the Bill of Rights both of which embed a strong principle of personal liberty. The problem of erosion of liberty is that it is just that, a little goes as each tide comes in and goes out and it’s only when the cliff collapses that we realise how bad is the situation we have reached.
If we come back, for a moment, to the situation on the Catholic church. I wonder how people will view the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday when they haven’t had to do it for 3+ months and how they will view the sacrament of Holy Communion when they have been told that spiritual communion – said as a prayer at home – supplies all the graces previously reserved to receiving Communion at Mass?
The phrase “seeds of our own destruction” is milling about in my jaded mind.
“paroxysm of synthetic grief”
Hmmm, we went and laid flowers for her, because we were genuinely touched by the loss. Grumpy Northerners are not prone to shell out two return train ticket south just to have a paroxysm in London when we could have a perfectly good one at home laddie… There are some things that are not easily explicable.
“”Maudlin collective insanity”. Sounds like the paroxysm of synthetic grief for John Lennon, Elvis, Michael Jackson etc. But wait a minute – wasn’t that in the USA?
“paroxysm of synthetic grief”
Hmmm, we went and laid flowers for her, because we were genuinely touched by the loss. Grumpy Northerners are not prone to shell out two return train ticket south just to have a paroxysm in London when we could have a perfectly good one at home laddie… There are some things that are not easily explicable.
Well said, Ignatious. A synthetic paroxysm indeed!
The Catholic Church has been self-destructing for nigh on six decades. Perhaps this might prove to be the nemesis of liberal Catholicism. One can but hope.
John Nolan, I occasionally read the Guardian, we have a long way to go yet – or perhaps, this out doesn’t have a bottom.
I worry that I may be getting too cynical as I can’t get over the idea of Ignatius and wife coming to London to lay flowers. I was 23 years younger and far less cynical butt I remember taking my son for a drive on the day of the funeral. The roads were empty and he remarked that we might be the only 2 people not watching the TV.
I must admit that, as I get older, pretty much the only thing I have little patience for is cynicism. What is cynicism I wonder? I tend to relate it to schadenfreude rather. We become ever more aware of our own weakness and that of others I know, but I do think that awareness should ideally breed gratitude and acceptance. Imagine Peter tipping up at the shore on Lake Galilee after the resurrection:
Jesus: “Oh its you Peter..told you so didn’t I..don’t come round here looking for breakfast, mate. You are just like the rest of them..snivelling cowards the lot of you..push off!!”
Thankfully, don’t remember reading that anywhere though… 🙂
I think that part of the problem is the misuse and abuse of the word love. As previously discussed saying ‘I love chocolate” is not the same as “I love my wife” or “I love my children” – each use of the word has one of 4 or 5 categories (C S Lewis talked of the 4 loves, but none of his covered chocolate!).
When I want to identify “true love” – i.e. the love which is the genuine reflection of Divine love I think of the Latin chant “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est” which I translate “where there is love and loving care, God is present”. So the selfless dedication of doctors and nurses in our intensive care units can be a reflection of that love. However, when I see Prince Charles and Camilla looking socially gauche as they clap outside a house which has no neighbours, or Boris at No.10 – protected by armed police, I think we have traversed the line into empty gestures. I don’t actually think I’m being over cynical because, if we assign the same value to empty gestures as to real sacrifice then what value has real sacrifice.
“..However, when I see Prince Charles and Camilla looking socially gauche as they clap outside a house which has no neighbours, or Boris at No.10 – protected by armed police, I think we have traversed the line into empty gestures. I don’t actually think I’m being over cynical because, if we assign the same value to empty gestures as to real sacrifice then what value has real sacrifice….”
Probably a debate over words this but I disagree profoundly. Human beings generically suffer from well meaningness and shower empty gestures around like confetti. Then they do what they can. Why disparage others like this when we cannot even discern clearly our own motives?..log in eye syndrome methinks
Schadenfreude is finding amusement in other people’s misfortunes (the classic banana-skin joke, or the man treading on a rake). Cynicism is a healthy attitude of mind which refuses to accept everything at face value, which looks into real motives underlying apparent ones, which doesn’t see human history in terms of continual progress. A cynic takes a pessimistic and realistic view of human nature, but that does not make him a pessimist; people can behave well in spite of everything.
During the present ’emergency’ cynicism is more important then ever. At the end of April COVID-19 deaths in the UK stood at 27,000. In March the now-disgraced ‘expert’ Neil Ferguson was predicting 250,000. Cynics questioned this, and they were right to do so. Italy gave out the average age of COVID-19 deaths as 79.5 which is not far short of the average age of death anyway. No figures have been released for the UK and no one seems to have asked for them. A cynic would ask why.
It now transpires that in the UK the number of COVID-related deaths of people under the age of 45 by the end of April was 322, a mere 1.2% of the total. A cynic would ask whether shutting down the economy and creating a depression which could last last for decades was the wisest course of action.
I could go on. I remember a debate at the Durham Union in the early 1970s on the motion that ‘the historian is society’s cynic’. I can’t remember whether or not it was carried, but I do remember speaking in support of it. I was a Modern History undergraduate at the time.
in British English
1. distrustful or contemptuous of virtue, esp selflessness in others; believing the worst of others, esp that all acts are selfish
2. sarcastic; mocking
3. showing contempt for accepted standards of behaviour, esp of honesty or morality
Many more definitions exist of course. I don’t think that the opposite of cynical is ‘gullible’ and I do think ‘Realism’ is realism, full stop,;neither cynical nor gullible.
Cynical realism is something else less savoury.
“It now transpires that in the UK the number of COVID-related deaths of people under the age of 45 by the end of April was 322, a mere 1.2% of the total. A cynic would ask whether shutting down the economy and creating a depression which could last last for decades was the wisest course of action…”
No, John. Doesn’t take the label of cynic to ask these questions, they represent a perfectly obvious normal response – neither gullible nor naive nor cynical. In fact these questions , as you know, have been debated in the Press and all over the media for a month now at least.
So should the word be sceptical rather than cynical?
Follow the discussion a bit further to see!
Natural language is inherently fuzzy. Words often become clear only after they’ve been implicitly modified with other words. And a word can fall into bad odor. It seems that, looking at “the dictionary” (in quotes because that word itself begs for clarification), ‘cynic’ has acquired a pejorative smell in popular usage. I don’t know why, unless, perhaps, there’s a popular consensus that critics are unpleasant people, out to spoil the park for everybody else by pointing out the dog poop and the noisy children, rather than articulating delight in the trees and the painted benches.
I suppose I’m a cynic, as, perhaps, was my father. My mother generally saw the good in people, as does my wife, whereas my father was inclined to observe the differences between the masks many folk wore for use in the world and the faces behind the masks, especially when the differences seemed to him comically great. Sometimes, I think, those differences can be so great that there’s not a lot to smile about. Such, I think, are made manifest in the routine behavior of professional politicians, who, in order to please enough of the voters to give them the power over people that they desire, constantly fiddle with the language of their public utterances so as to make it appear equally attractive to everyone.
Politicians are not the only people who seek power over people. Parents, priests, teachers, employers, policemen, salesmen, transport drivers, service men, and the huge new class of television and Internet influencers also do that, though usually on a much smaller scale. But politicians take the grand prize. It is they who claim the mantle of rulers, not long ago the province of royalty. In democracies, rulers must always be suspect. If they aren’t, they’ll quickly become the rulers they secretly aspire to be. We’ve seen that happen, dramatically, over the past eight weeks.
David writes: Natural language is inherently fuzzy. Words often become clear only after they’ve been implicitly modified with other words. And a word can fall into bad odor. It seems that, looking at “the dictionary” (in quotes because that word itself begs for clarification), ‘cynic’ has acquired a pejorative smell in popular usage.
I like the olfactory analogy.
For me, a cynic is someone who, not content with calling ‘a spade a spade’, must yet insist on it being a ‘bloody shovel’
I am more than happy with the term ‘sceptic’ which, to me, simply implies an acceptance of the evident truth that face value is only that and nothing more. Yet ‘scepticism’ and ‘cynicism’ can be called synonyms. I distrust cynicism because it implies to me at least an element of self satisfaction and the belief that one’s own jaundiced frame of reference is somehow to be preferred over others. St Paul wrote something interesting I have often pondered over:
“2 Corinthians 10:5 New International Version (NIV)
5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Paul was, I think implying the interrogation of culture by a Christ centred mind. For me it also implies keeping a close eye on ones own dominant internalised patterns of thought. A tendency towards cynicism, methinks, needs very careful watching on account of its tendency to be a poisoner of joy.
I looked up ‘cynical’ in Chambers 1964 (which is basically that of 1952) and it gives an even more pejorative interpretation than does the latest edition, leading with ‘dog-like, surly, snarling.’ A cynic is described as ‘morose’.
I think that what has happened over the years is that popular usage has softened its meaning to make it more-or-less synonymous with ‘sceptical’. Popular usage usually reflects ignorance, and I am something of a stickler for accurate definition, so it seems I’ve fallen into a trap.
I should have written ‘sceptical’ and ‘sceptic’. A healthy scepticism is laudable, a healthy cynicism is a contradiction in terms.
The American spelling ‘skeptical’ replicates the original Greek rather than than the Latin. In both landuages in means ‘thoughtful’.
On Match Of The Day, Gary Lineker often refers to a deliberate infringement in a football (soccer) match as a cynical foul. Given the cultural influence of the show and of football punditry generally, should this now be accepted as a valid use of the word. The incidents referred to may well involve some ” dog-like surly snarling” – such is the nature of the beautiful game.
I’m a cynic, worse than a sceptic. “Sceptic” has to my ear an unpleasantly polite sound. I tend, unhappily, to blunder into rudeness when objecting to something particularly egregious that a sceptic might let pass or touch on only lightly, either out of common courtesy or to forestall an argument that might turn tense. For example, a sceptic might say that in an epidemic, destroying the world’s economies in order to delay a few thousand deaths for a couple of months seems possibly questionable. A cynic might call it insane.
For example, a sceptic might say that in an epidemic, destroying the world’s economies in order to delay a few thousand deaths for a couple of months seems possibly questionable
Where I am the president decided that the Corona virus panic was overblown and so far no lockdown has been ordered, in fact he has decided to take the opposite track and is sending children back to school and holding large military parades this weekend where people who work in the state sector will be strongly encouraged to attend.
People are mixed in their attitude, there is support for not destroying the economy by imposing a full lockdown but many people are creating their own informal lockdown because the number of cases is spiralling. The mother of one of my wife’s close friends has already been killed by this disease, she was 60 and only retired 3 months ago. Her husband and mother-in-law are both in hospital with it but seem to be recovering, despite the mother-in-law being aged 98. It seems she has somehow become distraught or deranged by the disease or the sudden death of her daughter though for the moment.
Since the regime is already non-democratic, kind of a police state with a heavily censored press and very large military and police organisations, if a lockdown had been ordered it could have been one of the best in Europe. I was surprised it wasn’t really, but it seems the president is taking a risk that still may or may not pay off in terms of how things go in the future.
// it seems the president is taking a risk that still may or may not pay off in terms of how things go in the future. //
It’s all about perceptions, everywhere. If your news media are tightly controlled, they will support the president’s decision and consequently, I’d guess, the people will support it, too. Numbers will always be manipulated to support a preferred interpretation. So much of what we assume we know is largely if not entirely simply what we’ve been told.
What’s been done in so many countries over the past two months seems to me the sort of thing one might expect in a world linked by constant instant communications and an increasing cultural reverence of all things “scientific”. If a consensus of medical experts say “lock them up to save them”, that must seem to boss men and boss women of all sorts other than outright tyrants to be the only politically safe thing to do. And there we are.
For example, a sceptic might say that in an epidemic, destroying the world’s economies in order to delay a few thousand deaths for a couple of months seems possibly questionable. A cynic might call it insane.
Nay…’insane’ still sounds pretty mild, after all, whats a little hyperbole among friends?
// Nay…’insane’ still sounds pretty mild, after all, whats a little hyperbole among friends? //
But this hypothetical cynic means “insane” literally – mentally unhealthy, dangerously beyond the pale. Maybe he does not deserve a pass on this. He sounds to me like a loudmouth and a troublemaker. Yes, the king *may* be a bit clothing challenged, but that’s no excuse for disrupting a perfectly fine parade.
Forgive me for butting in, but I would like some readers to have a look at the Catholic Universe article at https://www.thecatholicuniverse.com/pro-lifers-urge-pm-to-withdraw-legislation-imposing-abortion-on-northern-ireland-53063 . I had a rough picture of this in my head, but I was still shocked by the information.
// I would like some readers to have a look at the Catholic Universe article at https://www.thecatholicuniverse.com/pro-lifers-urge-pm-to-withdraw-legislation-imposing-abortion-on-northern-ireland-53063 . I had a rough picture of this in my head, but I was still shocked by the information. //
If we are to believe the media, the overwhelming majority of the cultural establishment in most of the Western world are united in the conviction that a pregnant woman has a right to kill her unborn child.
This is of a piece with an apparent radical shift in the West over the past half century from one clear moral consensus to its opposite. Apparently, in those fifty years, evil became good and good became evil. I say “apparent” and “apparently” because my sense is that we have this perception almost entirely because we tend to believe what the media tell us. There is a serious problem with this that deserves a great deal more attention than it has – apparently – been receiving.
This was introduced by ministerial Fiat, as I understand it. There had been a hope in Westminster that imposing abortion on Northern Ireland might encourage the Unionists to agree a compromise with the nationalists to re-establish Storming. The problem was that Sinn Fein, the largest nationalist party is pro – choice because it’s essentially Marxist. Thus the Catholic church has no party representative of Catholic teaching.
Storming = Stormont
I am sympathetic towards this legislation and hope that Boris Johnson will not intervene.
Not that I am a ‘baby killer’ outside of a foetus’s gestation period that surgical abortions are both safe for any woman, and legal.
Upholding this bill is a service to all people wanting to not proceed with any birth.
None of these people are ‘baby killers’ either.
Who is imposing a particular regime on Northern Ireland?
Both camps are after their favoured end, and anyone can argue that withdrawing the bill imposes their position or set of values on others.
The central questions are when is a foetus a conscious, sentient human being, that is aware of other people, and can form familial relationships, and are there legal contexts where killing human beings are legal?
The debate on the imposition of extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland is due to take place next Tuesday, 12th May. It is not too late (at time of writing) for those of us living in the UK to email our MPs and ask them to attend the debate (remotely, probably) and vote against.
// The debate on the imposition of extreme abortion law on Northern Ireland is due to take place next Tuesday, 12th May. It is not too late (at time of writing) for those of us living in the UK to email our MPs and ask them to attend the debate (remotely, probably) and vote against. //
What came of that?
I think the original cynic chose to live in a barrel, like a dog in a kennel. “cynic” and “canine” have the same root.
First, some good news from this part of the world. Our Diocese of Charleston will be holding Mass again starting tomorrow. Six days of experience with weekday Masses — which never were populated enough, save on Ash Wednesday, to cause any problem with crowding — may help us ease into the much more challenging issue of how to handle physical distancing at Sunday Masses.
And so, our diocese will finally take full advantage of the civil freedom which has been granted by our Governor, uninterrupted from the past century, of participating in worship services at churches, synagogues, etc. The relative timidity of merely allowing churches to remain open for private prayer is now a thing of the past.
Two brief comments about themes that have occupied y’all [Yes, I like that Southern idiom, now that the plural “ye” is no longer in common use.] on this particular thread, with more to come:
First, I learned the distinction between sacraments and sacramentals in a Catholic school when 7 years old, straight from our simplified catechism: sacraments were instituted by Christ; sacramentals were not. Both are sources of grace. Banging pots and pans and lids in solidarity with our neighbors is at most a sacramental, full stop. [Those last two words are a British term that I only learned well into adulthood.]
Second, the world’s reaction to the coronavirus has a precedent of sorts in the fifties and sixties: great fear of nuclear armageddon, and its effect on our everyday lives. Millions of people were seriously contemplating the investment of money and time into backyard fallout shelters. There were also suggestions of a similar fear, of economic and social breakdown, in the Y2K “crisis” that never happened. It seems like every new generation needs a major crisis, even if they have to manufacture one.
// It seems like every new generation needs a major crisis, even if they have to manufacture one. //
That’s a notion that deserves a long look. There must be books written on or around the subject. Is there such a crisis in every generation, and is there only one per generation? How do we define “generation”? What qualifies as “a major crisis”? Is this a phenomenon made possible only by electronic mass media, or has it occurred repeatedly throughout history? Are these major crises becoming more frequent as technology makes mass communication more potent? What part might be played by an increase in population density? Must these crises be created directly by those in power, or, perhaps, must they be sparked by some specific thing the “leaders” have done?
For me, perhaps the most striking – and disturbing – aspect of what’s been happening over the past two months is the way both rulers and subjects have seemed to act in near lock step. The idea that “people are sheep” is not new, but I think I’ve never before seen it demonstrated so clearly and dramatically. Perhaps if I’d been more aware in the sixties I’d have seen it in the hippie phenomenon and the “civil rights movement” and its associated upheavals.
Perhaps these and many more similar questions are best answered only partly and only provisionally, tentatively. We humans will always be mysteries to ourselves – or, at least, we should be. The impulse to definitively label and pigeonhole all observations into grand schemas is one of the unfortunate characteristics of the modern age. We are far too confident that we have the power to understand everything.
So nothing very bad is ever going to actually happen then? Good to know.
You have the advantage of being an American. You have a federal government which is not an over-arching authority. There are no circumstances in which a US government could assume powers to curtail freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution.
Yet the British government could assume draconian powers based on one section (45c) of the Public Health (Containment of Diseases) Act of 1984 which allowed for restriction of movement of individuals or groups of individuals in certain (local) circumstances. The Act did not envisage a legally enforced total lockdown.
You are also aware that at the time of the American Revolution the British government had a case for expecting the colonies to bear a more equitable burden of taxation (land tax was a twentieth of what it was in Britain) and yet a large section of the British political establishment supported the Americans on a matter of principle. Incidentally, it was one of the two reasons why Britain could not win the War of Independence; the other was that she found herself involved in a world war without allies.
Sadly, we are now a cowed and browbeaten country sheltering behind the skirts of the ‘nanny state’. Sans principles, sans liberty, sans dignity, sans backbone, sans common sense, sans everything. Even the stiff upper lip has gone; emoting in public is now praiseworthy. One hopes the USA can provide a better example, Meghan Markle notwithstanding.
Nanny State is a non-alcohilic beer produced by a friend of mine which sells in 36 countries, including the US, you can get it in Wholefoods – I recommend it if you have to drive.
If we are dependent on the US to provide an example we are indeed doomed.
I don’t recognise a single one of you’re sans’s. And I’ve never been a great fan of the “stiff upper lip” I’m glad we got rid of that.
Thank you for your comments, John. Here in America we do take our Constitution very seriously, especially the Bill of Rights (the first ten Amendments, without which the Constitution would not have been approved by enough states).
An interesting source of difficulty is that freedom of religion, right to life, etc. are only guaranteed by our Constitution against governmental action. For example, withdrawing of life support from people without their consent isn’t a violation of the Constitution as long as the legal guardians of the people consent to it. Hence the hands of the Supreme Court were tied in the Terry Schiavo case.
It is here that the danger lies: freedom of religion, speech, press, etc. can be taken away if the society is sufficiently ostracizing of certain views and actions. An extreme but telling example is the firing of nurses who refuse to refer to an obviously male “transgendered person” by that person’s preferred name/pronoun.
This is getting us far off the topic, but it’s interesting to read things about the American revolution that I have not read about here. The slogan that went around here was “Taxation without representation is tyranny!” Could this be behind the principle that swayed so many Britishers — the idea that the colonies should have representatives in Parliament if the British government were to have the right to tax them?
// It is here that the danger lies: freedom of religion, speech, press, etc. can be taken away if the society is sufficiently ostracizing of certain views and actions. //
Yes, that’s it. The intent of any written constitution can be subverted by judges, whose interpretation of the law will stand. Of course, an unwritten constitution, depending as it does on precedent alone, is even more vulnerable. But in that sense – violability – there seems to me little difference between the two.
I would expect to see European democracies, based as they are on monarchies, sink into oligarchies more willingly and sooner than their American descendant, but the end might well be nearly the same.
This is, I think, not very far off Quentin’s set topic. He suggests that the periodic mass applauding of the National Health Service ordered or suggested and apparently enthusiastically taken up by the great majority of British subjects is a sacrament. Ignatius corrects that to sacramental, but the idea is surely the same: love channeled on command toward the Great Leader, the state.
“…A sacramental is a material object, thing or action (sacramentalia) set apart or blessed to manifest the respect due to the Sacraments and so to excite pious thoughts and to increase devotion to God….” wikipedia
So, in the case of the clapping, taken as a ‘sacramental action’ we can see that the clapping is, if you like, the blessing of a good. The blessing of a good moves Godward and produces thankfulness since all ‘good ‘ is provided for by God. The ‘great leader’ in this understanding is not the state but Christ.
Truth to tell I don’t think we would get the’ sacramental clapping’ proposal far past a serious theologian… though stranger things have happened!
I was under the impression that the American Supreme Court couldn’t be tied by any precedent. If they wish to alter a previous decision they are entitled to do it. I presumed that this was why the appointment of judges to the court can be political.
// I was under the impression that the American Supreme Court couldn’t be tied by any precedent. //
Well, since Supreme Court judges in America have the ultimate power their appointment is necessarily political. When the nine of you can declare black to be white and make it stick, you’re more powerful than the President (at least so long as you and the establishment are in sync). This cannot be what the Founders intended or hoped for, but reality changes everything. As for precedent, I suppose all judges everywhere consider precedent when deciding cases, but some consider it more than others. That’s the rub.
Those (like Edmund Burke) who sympathized with the Americans did not question the right of Parliament in Westminster to tax the colonies. Nor did they think it practicable or desirable for the Americans to be directly represented in Parliament. The principle was ‘no taxation without consent’.
They also questioned the wisdom of coercion. Putting down a rebellion was one thing, but, as Burke pointed out: ‘The use of force alone … may subdue for a moment, but does not remove the necessity of subduing again; and a nation is not governed which is perpetually to be conquered.’ Principle and expediency were not in conflict.
The issues could have been resolved without unleashing what amounted to civil war, as cooler heads on both sides of the Atlantic realized. Adam Smith suggested a form of imperial devolution which would allow the colonial assemblies to embody real local representation. The colonist Joseph Galloway proposed an American legislative council, its members chosen by the assemblies.
The prospect of America as a self-governing dominion of the British Empire makes for interesting counter-factual history. Slavery would have been abolished in 1833, and a second, far bloodier civil war in all probability would have been averted.
Not least, we would have been spared the Hollywood version of the American Revolution which is more myth than history.
I was amused by the various contributions suggesting that we in the UK are more compliant and less free than people in the USA. This is a long standing American delusion. Americans are a darned sight less free than their U.K. and EU cousins. In my various visits to The US, mostly Texas recently it must be said, I am rarely out of sight of a police car, constable, state trouper or whatever. Even a simple roadworks is usually accompanied by multiple vehicles of law-enforcement and their occupants armed to the teeth. Accompanying ones grandchildren through a leafy suburb to elementary school is like the aftermath of a war zone with blue and red flashing lights at road junctions.
My favourite hobby is going for a spontaneous country or mountain walk. In the US “hiking” is only allowed within areas set aside for the purpose on marked “trails”. Even then you have to check in at a ranger station, pay a fee, be told which trails are open, leave your ZIP code, and then check back at the ranger station as you leave.
So please, no more Land Of The Free abject nonsense!
// So please, no more Land Of The Free abject nonsense! //
America is a big and diverse place, Alasdair. I don’t recognize the picture you paint, but I’ll accept that you saw it.
I do think it likely that tradition carries forward into the mentality of a people. Your tradition and that of all Europeans – and, really, for that matter, of just about all the world’s densely populated regions – is one of authoritarianism. Ours is not.
“I do think it likely that tradition carries forward into the mentality of a people. Your tradition and that of all Europeans – and, really, for that matter, of just about all the world’s densely populated regions – is one of authoritarianism. Ours is not.”
I think it is pretty much certainly the case that we English simply do not recognise the true nature of our serfdom. This latter 25 years or so of my life I have accepted happily the suburban British lot and counted it privilege. I still do but have no illusions as to the nature of the cage, gilded or otherwise.
David, the America of the great wilderness freedoms described in the writings of John Muir and Henry David Thoreau no longer exists, except perhaps in Alaska. It remains part of the American identity and belief system though. National parks, state parks, national forests, state “wilderness” areas, greenways etc etc have brought all of that under the heavy hand of a bureaucracy who do not trust the public to roam freely and discover nature for themselves. John Muir, a Scot, was unwittingly part of that process.
Here in the U.K. however (or England as it’s still quaintly called by some) the outdoors was by and large owned by the hunting fishing and shooting landed gentry until well into the 20th century. Historical events like the Kinder Mass Trespass however gradually gained for the general public an inalienable “right to roam” over the vast majority of the country. The placing of any impediment to the right to roam is now against the law except where access causes damage or directly impacts the owners livelihood, reasonable expectation of privacy, or freedom to drive armoured vehicles and blow stuff up (ie Ministry of Defence).
These same freedoms apply pretty much to all European countries, including those formerly behind the iron curtain, and even much of the ex-USSR itself.
That is in the history of Europeans certainly. But here comes the bit that americans don’t get – America became the Land of the Free – but so did Europe! Admittedly in Europe it happened at different speeds and at different times and there were some spectacular backward steps, but the European freedom when it was achieved was freer and less self obsessed than the American one.
America is big, for sure. Diverse I’m not so sure. Certainly not by comparison with Europe. Can you explain, with examples, in what way the citizens of Germany (random example) are less free, and more subjected to authoritarianism than those of the US. I’m talking about the situation as it is today – not history.
I think it’s revealing that if you ask a British policeman what he does for a living he answers “policeman”. An American policeman will answer “law enforcement officer”. that speaks volumes.
// But here comes the bit that americans don’t get – America became the Land of the Free – but so did Europe! //
Yes, but America, the nation, was *born* free. Indians, Mexicans, pre-revolutionary immigrants, and colonists came to a land, but not a nation. This nation was *born* a republic.
Europeans have a vastly deeper and more varied history than do Americans. Because of that, I imagine – I can’t know – Europeans, when they consider their history, have a more nuanced understanding of themselves as a collective than do Americans. We take democracy for granted. Europeans – again, I can only guess – are aware that their ancestors lived under a bewildering variety of political regimes, of which democracy is only the most recent.
// I think it’s revealing that if you ask a British policeman what he does for a living he answers “policeman”. An American policeman will answer “law enforcement officer”. that speaks volumes. //
Or, maybe, “police officer”. It may be simply or mostly that American English tends more toward the utilitarian than does British English. (But I’ll grant you that that utilitarianism does say something about the underlying thought patterns.) And surely, women members of any British police organization would never today call themselves policemen. What term do British media use?
Police. Sometimes, if more detailed information is required they might qualify it with Metropolitan Police, or Police Scotland etc.
David, I think you’re a prisoner of your culture and educational system (like we all are I guess). According to the British educational system, and everyone else’s, the American colonies became independent in 1776, ( I think it was), but no claim of freedom of its peoples makes any sense before 1865.
Rarely out of sight of a police car, Alasdair? Try visiting South Carolina some time. All too often, I go for many miles on the highways without ever spotting one — but I do spot quite a few people going faster than the speed limit by 50kmph, and I never seem to see the same people being stopped further on.
Another example, close to my home, is in the appropriately named “malfunction junction” where two interstate highways cross in a cloverleaf pattern just after one of them has merged with the one I take home from work.
As the last of the “feeder lanes” in malfunction junction feeds in during rush hour, the lane next theirs — the one from which I exit only about 100 meters further down — frequently comes to a standstill because this lane ends there, while most drivers on it need to go one lane further over from the “feeder” lane. These drivers typically come to a standstill, hoping that eventually someone in that lane will let them in.
Gaps develop between successive drivers like this, and this is when some drivers in the “feeder ” lane zoom ahead, up to about 90 miles per hour, in a 55mph zone, to get well ahead of the game. And I’ve never seen them stopped for speeding, because there are no police cars in sight.
Firstly, I know Charleston is a beautiful city and I should visit, so God willing I might some day.
I’m familiar with a similar feeder lane situation to what you describe. I find myself having to enter and leave the Interstate 10, Katy Freeway at the point where it is 28 lanes wide including ramps and “frontage roads”. That’s very frightening, as my home is a 3 hour drive from the nearest 6 lane road.
Every mile there’s a sign “This highway is patrolled by Ted Heeps”. I never got to the bottom of who Ted is or was, but it seems like he might be the electronic surveillance system which allows a patrol car to appear seemingly from nowhere within seconds of any situation occurring, like a brush falling off a truck.
At the opposite end of the policing spectrum, the local schools, the Katy ISD, have their very own police constabulary who are very visible and hyperactive during morning and evening student movement. The “lollypop ladies” ie road crossing wardens (“Hey kids and grandpas, y’all have a wonderful day now”) often have a uniformed officer watching from 50 feet away.
// Every mile there’s a sign “This highway is patrolled by Ted Heeps”. //
He seems to be a local policeman-cum-politician, up for re-election this year. Those may be campaign signs:
// http://www.harriscountytx.gov/Government/Law-Enforcement/Harris-County-Constable-Precincts //
Alasdair, I think you may have questioned whether there’s diversity among Americans. If you’re living in Texas, you’re living in a very different place, indeed, from Ohio, where I live. Lyndon Johnson, our thirty-sixth president, was a Texan, and it showed.
God is Love (1 John 4:8). I don’t think that implies that the converse is true. I don’t think it means that all love, is God, is of God, or is pleasing to God.
// God is Love (1 John 4:8). I don’t think that implies that the converse is true. I don’t think it means that all love, is God, is of God, or is pleasing to God. //
Interesting observation. I imagine you’d get a lot of argument on it from many folk in the past several generations, who seem to believe that if it feels good, it is good, and if it is good, it’s love. Of course, to think that way requires a little fuzzy logic, but the modern mind seems to regard logic as something that belongs strictly to the physical world. And maybe it is. Who can say?
1 John 4:8 reads “Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love”. And I think the verse needs to be taken as a whole. It is a very strong statement of revelation.
Without love, it seems, we seek God in vain.
God’s name may be always on our lips, and we may proclaim God’s existence and providence in beautiful words, but if we do not have love, we are far away from the true God.
The God we proclaim is an idol. Something of our own making.
And only a little further, on the same theme 1 John 4:16, “Those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them”.
Notice he does not say, those who abide in God abide in love, no, it is the other way round “Those who abide in love, abide in God and God abides in them”.
So if we do everything in love, we are objectively in God – banging bid lids in our love for those who protect becomes a perfect manifesting of God abiding- not just a teeny weeny bit of God, like a sacramental, but the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no more than that.
// Notice he does not say, those who abide in God abide in love, no, it is the other way round “Those who abide in love, abide in God and God abides in them”.
So if we do everything in love, we are objectively in God – banging bid lids in our love for those who protect becomes a perfect manifesting of God abiding- not just a teeny weeny bit of God, like a sacramental, but the presence of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is no more than that. //
Aren’t you assuming in what you write that your readers are all in agreement with you on the definition of the word “love”?
Just experienced it.
To get anywhere with this we would need to know what we mean’t by ‘Love’ I think its pretty far fetched to say that clapping on the doorstep is ‘Love’.Nothing against clapping on the doorstep though, I did it several times along with everyone else …and Aquinas tells us that
“To love is to will the good of another” See CCC1765/6
// To get anywhere with this we would need to know what we mean’t by ‘Love’ I think its pretty far fetched to say that clapping on the doorstep is ‘Love’.Nothing against clapping on the doorstep though, I did it several times along with everyone else …and Aquinas tells us that
“To love is to will the good of another” See CCC1765/6 //
// 1765 There are many passions. The most fundamental passion is love, aroused by the attraction of the good. Love causes a desire for the absent good and the hope of obtaining it; this movement finds completion in the pleasure and joy of the good possessed. The apprehension of evil causes hatred, aversion, and fear of the impending evil; this movement ends in sadness at some present evil, or in the anger that resists it.
1766 “To love is to will the good of another.”41 All other affections have their source in this first movement of the human heart toward the good. Only the good can be loved.42 Passions “are evil if love is evil and good if it is good.”43 //
This rests on what’s meant by “good”. And it skirts the problem of how to think and what to do when there are multiple people involved. The footnotes in 1766 point to Aquinas and Augustine. Perhaps they discuss what’s meant by “good”. But, of course, since they didn’t write in modern English, they may not help us a great deal. Natural language is a bottomless bog.
Just noticed that in 1766 there’s the phrase “if love is evil”. Hmmm.
“Just noticed that in 1766 there’s the phrase “if love is evil”. Hmmm.”
Spend a day with me in prison and that phrase would become very clear indeed. It’s the principal reason I tend to get a bit unhappy around the undisciplined use of the word ‘love’
Definitions of the good abound. I’m thinking mainly along these lines:
“Aquinas follows Aristotle in thinking that an act is good or bad depending on whether it contributes to or deters us from our proper human end—the telos or final goal at which all human actions aim. That telos is eudaimonia, or happiness, where “happiness” is understood in terms of completion, perfection, or well-being.” Internet encyclopedia of Philosophy..Moral philosophy
‘Love’ and ‘good’ must have some kind of standard which points towards the absolute for them to retain any coherence, otherwise we are in the swamp of the private world.
“Yes, but America, the nation, was *born* free. Indians, Mexicans, pre-revolutionary immigrants, and colonists came to a land, but not a nation. This nation was *born* a republic.”
Does that include African Americans?
When you talk about European ancestors, you are talking about the same ancestors of American people. We share our history. The Enslaving of Africans was a European venture and Africans in Africa co-operated with the enslavement of their enemies. We all have guilty pasts.
American democracy is very selective. Ask the people of the Marshall Islands what they think of American democracy and American colonialists who have taken over their country.
By the way I am not a left-wing agitator. I just find the hypocrisy of American democracy irritating to say the least.
I love visiting America, it’s a great country. Houston Texas is the friendliest, most polite large city I’ve ever visited. “Hey folks, where y’all from” etc. But as Geordie says, their hardwired view of their history, and their lack of understanding of ours is indeed irritating.
Hey America!! I have a great affection for America and for Americans. I once did the epic hitchhike ‘way across the USA’ from Mexico across the Mid West and up to Canada. I also had the pleasure of working with Americans during during the five years I spent in China, Southern Baptists with strong views mainly. My own view is that British people by and large cannot fathom America especially well.Hardly surprising given geography and culture. I remember very well a brief conversation, in a remote Mid West settlement, a young man sprawled on his verandah in the sun.
Him ” Hiya, where y’all from?
Him: “Yeah, somewhere in Paris isn’t it”
It was quite a powerful moment that, in my understanding. Hard for us Brits to come up against the truth that, for many Americans, we are a not especially significant little country somewhere over the sea..read a bit about it briefly at school but that was a long time ago now.
The Eastern seaboard, as I recall was more nuanced and ‘European’ than the West but chiefly I remember the sheer vast expanse of the land..how strange to live in a place that seems as large as the earth but is neither a country or a continent. As for Houston, my chief memory of Houston was a hot night and a police officer hitting a vagrant with a baton. I think our views of other cultures generally reflect the misunderstandings of our own.
I suppose that this conversational thread is dead, now that we’ve moved on to Quentin’s more recent topic, but I’ve just come across an interview with the historian David Starkey that I think very much belongs here.
Very interesting, thank you. I took me a while to getting around to view it. I particularly warmed to David Starkey’s comment that a revival of technical education and manufacturing is absolutely essential. That has been obvious for decades. But if there is anyone to whom it wasn’t obvious, then surely it is now blindingly obvious after the Covid-19 procurement panic.