I am feeling really low today. Despite the fact it’s a Bank holiday, the sun is shining, my shoulder injury is healing and I’ve been in my shorts and t-shirt, relaxing over lunch in our lovely garden.
Dismayed, Annoyed and Angry
So why am I down? Well, I woke up this morning, listened to the news and felt so depressed, downcast and demoralized. I haven’t felt like this since the day we flouted the United Nations and waged an illegal war in Iraq and later Afghanistan. For the first time in my life I feel quite ashamed to be British. To be a citizen of a country that gives the majority vote to UKIP and returns more UKIP MEP’s than any other party, makes me hang my head in shame. I am annoyed with the other three mainline parties that their inept, out of touch, arrogant and complacent attitude has paved the way for opportunism and a very shrewd political operator, Nigel Farage, to turn his “dream into reality”, which in my opinion unchecked will deliver a hellish nightmare for Britain and the rest of Europe in the coming years. He talks about creating, “an earthquake”. Well earthquakes are not generally good news for people or places. My Armenian daughter-in-law was pulled from the rubble of an earthquake that hit her country, killing over 60,000 people and destroying over half a million buildings in 1988. Losing their home and livelihood she, with her family had to migrate to Ukraine where they made a new life. The political earthquake that has taken place in the last week here in Britain will wreak havoc and damage people and communities.
I am becoming more disillusioned with the democratic political system here. This together with a poverty of good leadership across the political spectrum that has contributed to people feeling alienated from politics, discarded by the political elite, the ‘Westminster bubble’ of career minded politicians whose naivety, ineptitude and foolishness has led to an emerging crisis affecting how and who we are governed by in this country. It has left us with an electorate that sees no point engaging in politics, who feel so removed from decisions taken on their behalf, who fail to vote and whose opinions are informed by tabloid, gutter press headlines. Folks who, mistakenly assume that what is said or written by the media to be true. In reality, facts are replaced with fiction, ignorance, fear, selfishness and prejudice which fuels xenophobic racism. Please don’t tell me that the attitudes underlying UKIP are not racist, sexist, nationalist, sectarian and utterly in contrast to the values of the kingdom of God. I think Jesus would look over election results and weep, or moved with compassion demonstrate his righteous anger.
I am angry and I mean really angry at the media that have given inordinate amounts of time and space to what was just a little while ago, a minority voice. The media above all else has been the greatest party agent for UKIP in these local and European elections. UKIP representatives, (that is Mr. Farage and three or four others including the very dubious Neil Hamilton ~ have we forgotten his past political record?!) and it is only these select few who have any sense of coherence to their argument, who are given so much air time, appearing on nearly every Question Time, Any Answers or news coverage. News editors, programme producers and heads of policy, together with newspaper editors and their owners, have acted, in my mind, abysmally, seizing opportunities to grab headlines, entertain the viewers and have failed to do anything other than promote the rise of nationalism and anti-European attitudes.
We we live to regret this day
I think we will look back on these days and the consequences which they will trigger for Britain and for Europe as a Continent with regret and dismay. Any society that points too easily to its problems being caused by others fuels popularist but uninformed nationalism which leads in turn to racism and the alienation and hatred towards the stranger in their midst. I look with despair at the political map of Britain which sees nearly everywhere in England except London and the North East, bathed in UKIP colours. As someone born and brought up and now living back in the North East, I want to take my hat off and congratulate London for not succumbing to the lies that UKIP has beguiled the rest of Britain with. UKIP’s core message is that Britain has too many immigrants and can’t cope with too much diversity. Unlike Mr Farage’s experience on the commuter train, I actually enjoy the experience of being surrounded by people of different ethnic backgrounds, many of whom are legitimate British citizens. It gives me a foretaste of heaven which is where people of every tribe and nation will gather in unity. Thank you London, the most diverse place in Britain. Thank you, people of London for rejecting UKIP and rebuking such a claim that we can’t live with ethnic diversity. Londoners have proved themselves less susceptible to the conspiracy of disinformation that has beguiled those who voted UKIP elsewhere.
Disinformation and Disintegration
Back in early 2003, we were beguiled with what proved to be disinformation, i.e. lies, which took us into an illegal war and had profound consequences for the world ever since. Not only have we seen an escalation of violence, conflict and terrorism but the deployment of billions of pounds on armaments. Just think how such resources could have been used instead to feed the hungry, support economic sustainability in developing nations, contribute to health care, education and welfare across the globe.
I fear that we will live to see and regret what we’ve done in Britain in succumbing to the lies of UKIP and the propaganda of a right wing anti-European press. The European Parliament will now be dominated by people intent on disintegration and dismantling its powers. We are going to be represented, by nationalists, underpinned by racist, sectarian attitudes, the majority of whom are anti-European, whose policies, I would argue are anti-Christian. A protesting bunch of anti-European protagonists whose intent is to dismantle what has been established to combat such nationalist, racist tendencies.
I’m not oblivious to the problems that exist within the European Union or that immigration is one, (although by no means the major one), facing Britain at this time . However I fear that what we have done here in Britain has giving legitimacy to UKIP, even as a protest vote against the inept, stale and uninspiring other parties, but in so doing we have paved the way for something far more threatening than the influx of immigrants, the vast majority of whom contribute positively to our economy (fact, not fiction!) Immigration has “beneficial” economic effects and cutting the number of foreign workers in the UK will make it harder for the Government to clear its deficit, the Treasury’s own economic forecasters have said. The Office for Budget Responsibility told MPs that immigration has a positive impact on the public finances. Robert Chote, head of the OBR, said that immigration “does tend to produce a more beneficial picture” for the Government’s finances: “Because they’re more likely to be working age, they’re more likely to be paying taxes and less likely to have relatively large sums of money spent on them for education, for long-term care, for healthcare, for pension expenditure,” Mr Chote was expanding on the OBR’s long-standing assessment that Britain needs a steady flow of migrant labour to fund public services in the coming decades. Fact, not fiction from an official source.
Good Christian Foundations
The founding of the European Union was formed in large measure in the hearts and minds of Christians, whose vision was to see peace founded on the reconciliation of nations following the Second World War. Konrad Adenaeur in a speech in 1946 in Cologne said, Europe will only be possible if a community of European people is restored, in which every population will provide its own irreplaceable, unique contribution to the economy and to European culture, thought, poetry and Western creativity. The idea that the unity of Europe was a pre-requisite of long lasting peace was key to the founding documents of European integration in 1950. As one of its other founders, Jean Monnet, said, As long as Europe remains divided it will be weak and a constant source of conflict. Nationalism and protectionism were seen as one of the main contributory factors responsible for economic rivalries and a major contributing factor that had led to the Second World War. In one of the founding documents of the European Union, it states, We have learned that nations, far from being able to provide for themselves, stand by one another; and that the best way to serve one’s country is to guarantee the co-operation of others thanks to reciprocal work together and by the pooling of resources.
Unity, not Uniformity: Peace not War
The founding fathers of the European Union were united by a commitment to democracy. Their Christian democracy was an invitation to rise above everything nationalist, with the desire to eliminate the conflicts which are caused by such divisions. They were not looking for uniformity but unity. These founding fathers were the pioneers and developers of European unity. Each of them under the leadership of the Christian, Robert Schuman, all shared the same experience of war, the negative and the adverse effects of protectionism and nationalism.
As I’ve said previously, one of the greatest blessings of the European Union for which it was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 “for over six decades contribution to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe”, something that you will never hear acknowledged by UKIP, the party that we Britons, have overwhelmingly just voted for. God have mercy upon us!
Related Other News
Whilst the European elections and more especially UKIP’s “earthquake” dominated almost all of the BBC’s news coverage this morning, it’s important to remember other happenings in the world. Nationalism, the dominance of the strong over the weak, together with corruption, injustice, threatening behaviours and bullying have all contributed to the troubles in the Ukraine and the emergence of civil war which is now leading to an increasing loss of life. Another example of how nationalist, separatist attitudes and policies lead to internal conflict and war with neighbouring countries. Yesterday’s election of Ukraine’s new President, Petro Poroshenko will hopefully lead to meaningful dialogue with Russian leaders.
One of the things that continues to get bashed by anti-European sympathisers is the European Court of Human Rights. It’s seen as an infringement on an individual nation’s sovereignty and the right to self governance. Well I for one am thankful for any court of law that defends human rights and can only wish that such a court existed in other parts of the world. I recoiled in horror at the news that came to me through other Community Companions and Amnesty about the plight of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a young mother who was condemned to death by hanging at a Sudanese court after she refused to recant her Christian faith. She is eight months pregnant with her second child and has also been sentenced to a flogging of 100 lashes for “adultery”, that is, for being married to a Christian man. Currently in jail with her two year old son, these sentences will be carried out after her baby is born.
Refusing to lie down and allow racism and bigotry to destroy what is good about British society, which will be seriously undermined by the likes of UKIP, I thank God that these things wouldn’t happen now in Britain. (Of course our history reveals that such abhorrent acts of violence and brutality have featured in our bloody history). I’m not sure what, other than prayer and a letter to our local MP and the Foreign Office might do, but Amnesty is also encouraging us to join their urgent call upon the Sudanese authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally. You can do so by texting “SAVE2” to 70505 with your first and last name to sign Amnesty’s global petition. Please, I urge you to do so.
As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, For every thing there is a season and living as I do in the British countryside I am very aware of the physical seasons. A mild winter gave way to a pleasant spring and now we are experiencing the advent of summer with longer, warmer days.
I have to confess that the idea of going on a Dawn Chorus Walk had its drawbacks, i.e. getting up at 3.30 am, mindful that once completed it was still only 6.00 am and a full day of meetings, writing and an evening commitment beckoned. However, accompanying my wife, we made our way up to Wooler Common, a mile from our house and joined the party of eight to listen to the dawn chorus, observing the birds of the air summon a new day’s dawning. It was in truth worth every minute. Shirley is quite knowledgeable on ornithology (and lots of other things!) but I, appreciative of birdsong am less acquainted with the names and sounds of birds. After waking to the news of UKIP’s success in the local government elections, I was feeling pretty gloomy but a walk, even in what felt like the middle of the night, listening to birdsong was a real pick-me-up. In the space of two hours, we saw or heard the following:
Dunnock, black-cap, wren, blackbird, wood pigeon, chiffchaff, song thrush, dove, cold tit, guinea fowl, yellow hammer, chaffinch, cuckoo, pheasant, robin, curlew, willow warbler, goldcrest, buzzard, partridge, mallard, peregrine falcon, siskin, blue tit, pied wagtale, white throat, jackdaw, linnet, lark.
The Lark Ascending
I think my favourite sound that morning, in equal first place was the cuckoo and the willow warbler. My favourite sight, a toss up between the falcon for its sheer speed through the air and the lark hovering above our heads. When I first met Shirley she introduced me to Ralph Vaughan William’s, The Lark Ascending. It is in my Desert Island Discs as one of my favourite pieces of music and is one of the nation’s favourite pieces of classical music. To hear a lark sing is to rejoice in the coming of spring. I learned recently something that has fascinated me that the lark never sings the same thing twice. They can amazingly sing any one of two hundred separate notes or consonants per second. It is always composing unique variations. When the psalmist declares “New every morning”, it resonates and resembles the sheer beauty and amazing creativity of the lark.
The story of The Lark Ascending’s composition is perhaps less well known. Many assume that it is written by Vaughan Williams to signal the coming of spring, evoking nostalgia for an English countryside, pastoral scene which draws inspiration from George Meredith’s poem, The Lark Ascending. The context, however, for his writing the music is a very different scene. He began to compose this amazing piece of music standing on the cliffs above Margate on the Kent coast, watching naval exercises prior to the outbreak of World War One. The music carries a sense of loss and foreboding, anticipating a difficult time ahead.
And I am back to where I started; despairing yet not without hope, the birds have lifted my spirit. The political landscape is gloomy, the clouds of nationalism are gathering but up there too is the song of the lark and as Shelley put it in his poem To A Skylark:
“……. Better than all measures of delightful sound,
better than all treasures that in books are found,
thy skill to poet were,
thou scorner of the ground!
Teach me half the gladness that thy brain must know,
such harmonious madness from my lips would flow.
The world should listen then,
as I am listening now.”
It is 10.00 pm and the sun is setting over the Cheviots here in Northumberland. The day has ended better than it began. The political landscape remains. The fragility of the world remains. The lives of millions remains vulnerable, not by choice but by circumstance. But I have every confidence that tomorrow the day will dawn with a chorus and in the words of the Psalmist: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning.
Till the morning, The peace of all peace, be yours and mine this night.