The cumulative progress of science in my time has been astonishing and continues to accelerate; but our moral/ethical progress does not accumulate – it starts anew with each generation. A few centuries BC, there occurred a religious revolution, pivotal to the spiritual development of humanity – (sometimes called the Axial age). This was the period of the Buddha, Confucius, Lao Tzu, Socrates, Aeschylus etc. Most of the ‘wisdom’ I reference in my life dates from that era: Aeschylus’ summation of life’s key mission: ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world’ – nails it for me.
Reading this quote in times of great cynicism, my mind conjures Boris Johnson standing in the Commons, his mocking smile – ‘I’ve never heard such humbug in my life’. Moral progress keeps stalling because there are always going to be leaders whose primary concern is not for a better, gentler world, but for their own power and survival. The generation which follows this prime minister will inherit a moral void.
It would be easy to become disheartened by the arrogance and impunity of present UK politics, but a blessing of old age is progressive disengagement from the outer world. Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote a beautiful poem about this state of mind: “I have desired to go where springs not fail, to fields where flies no sharp and sided hail, and a few lilies blow. I have asked to be where no storms come, where the green swell is in the havens dumb, and out of the swing of the sea”.
I was on the Glasgow demonstration in Feb 2003 against the invasion of Iraq – but I don’t easily take to the streets in protest – rarely feel sufficiently alienated from the dynamics of our democracy; but the Tory Conference this week rang alarm bells, that this could change. My concern is that Boris Johnson’s ‘light entertainment’ approach, wilfully ignores some serious problems – yet no one can lay a glove on his popularity ratings – certainly not the Labour Party. Regardless of left or right policies, our democracy depends on checks and balances – if either side becomes unassailable, democratic processes break down, and citizens have to take to the streets – even me. Once again John Crace ‘nails’ it.
This article in The Atlantic by Tom McTague, asks ‘Is Boris Johnson a Liar? ‘— one of the most insightful I’ve read.
Paul Gray was CEO of NHS Scotland from 2013-19 – I met him a few times and was impressed. This week, he posted a blog on the Reform Scotland website (not long) which should not be missed by anyone concerned about out future healthcare. Some of his suggestions are controversial – but I’m holding my nose and considering.
One of the reasons I ‘gave up’ on Keir Starmer was his passive silence about the Brexit disaster – but I think that is changing. This Guardian editorial thinks, like myself, that the continued disruption of our supply chains will re-open the debate on our dependence on a working relationship with the EU.
The latest revelations from the Pandora Papers are not surprising – but the taxes avoided by the rich are paid by us – which is unfair. This Conversation piece asks if we should be going after the lawyers and accountants who enable tax evasion – creating a new international institution to stamp it out.
We Scots need to acknowledge that we have deep-rooted, generational poverty in our country, which manifests in many ways – including world record drug deaths. The independent annual report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has been published: Poverty in Scotland 2021; If you don’t want to read the full 50 pages, here are seven short bullet points, ‘what you need to know’.
The ‘I’ newspaper reported on Tuesday that 23 Charity leaders in England have written to the Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries, complaining about her predecessor Oliver Dowden.
“Charities exist for the important purpose of serving the public good, a fixed test set out in statute, which differs from the political agenda of the Government of the day. Reflecting this reality, legislation is explicit that it should not be influenced by the Secretary of State. We believe Mr Dowden’s comments showed his ambition to direct and control the work of the Charity Commission to achieve political ends. I am sure you can see, as the British public can, there is a huge risk to our way of life if politicians hire a Chair to explicitly pursue a political agenda. We call upon you, as the Culture Secretary, to make clear your vision for a strong civil society, correctly regulated but free of Ministerial influence.”