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Friday, December 24, 2010

A very Merry (White) Christmas

A very happy Christmas to everyone.

Well, it's finally happened. For the first time in exactly forty years, most of the UK has a proper white Christmas. I know for many readers in the USA, Canada and in northern and eastern Europe, a white Christmas is no big deal, but in Britain, (particularly in England), it really is something. We no longer have to dream of a white Christmas, like Bing Crosby, we've actually got one. Great stuff!

Coincidentally, back in 1970, the last time we had a proper white Christmas, we also had a new Conservative government in power, though one which was very different to today’s Con-Dem coalition. In fact you could say that its highly appropriate that given that we’ve got a government which wants to take us back to the darkest days of the 19th century, we’ve got a cold and snowy Dickensian Christmas to go with it. Ebenezer Scrooge lives on.... and he’s to be found at Number 11, Downing Street, living under the name of 'George Osborne'.

Meanwhile, the coalition’s latest extreme neoliberal measure- to sell off ALL of England’s publicly owned forests.

As usual, our Christmas sermon comes from the great Christian Socialist George Lansbury. I‘m sure that if George were alive today, he‘d be playing a prominent role in the protests against this truly appalling government.

Keep in mind the fact that the Son of Man, the Christ who lived and was executed by the government of His day, was a great leader, and leader of the common people. It was his great message of Love and Brotherhood which brought him to his death. He knew the poor of the earth were oppressed by the rich and wealthy, and in scathing terms denounced the money changers and all those who defiled the Temple and brought suffering to starving humanity.

George Lansbury, 1926.

UPDATE: You can hear me discussing the 'Winners and Losers' of 2010 on BBC Radio Five Live , here. (the discussion starts at 1hr 24 and a half minutes into the programme.)


Chris H said...

More of a nightmare this past week or so with this snow!

Good to see George's words again, he'd certainly b protesting but I do wonder if he'd feel at home, or even be welcome in today's Labour Party.

Czarny Kot said...

Merry Christmas all.

Poland has been a winter wonderland for the last month or so but the temperature has risen just in time for a dirty, slushy Christmas.

Oh well.

PS: My wife was talking about an article she read in a Polish magazine about the privatisation of all of Poland's forests. I'll look it up..

John said...

Merry Christmas everyone! I am also enjoying the snow this Christmas. Great quote by George Lansbury as well.

Gregor said...

Merry Christmas Neil

As for your quote, I’m sure it won’t be too long before a Mid-West answer to Ivan Karimazov’s Grand Inquisitor comes along to sigh patronisingly that a couple of rich blokes get good mention so we can forget about the whole beatitudes thing and just feel great about being middle class and therefore morally superior.

But I genuinely do feel that the message of the Gospels is relevant like never before: which ironically is bad news both for neo-liberal Christians and for neo-liberal secularists.

Something that really strikes me, curiously, is how much more intelligent and open minded ordinary atheists/ agnostics are compared to the noisy saddoes who nominate themselves the voicepieces of British secularism., who rant about ‘the religious’ (the mirror image of McCarthyite rants on ‘the godless’) and affect to be cracked up every time Hitchens compares belief to North Korea

My secular friends of my age (late 20s) listen with a lot of respect to my arguments that mainstream secular liberalism is mainly about white middle class men telling poor (cough, cough) swarthy people that they are having too many children. Just look at the ‘protest the pope’ coalition: more white and middle class than UKIP. One of their chief messages: the Pope encourages too many poor, dark people to have too many kids (incidentally, when has a secularist/environmentalist ever criticised Sweden for encouraging people to have kids?). Look at Human Rights Watch’s attack on Argentina for letting too many women ‘become’ pregnant. Supported by the liberal wing of Te Graun:

The self-righteous atheist vicars have taken off from the Malthusian platform that the self-righteous Anglican squires left.

Given that I am proud, even bullish, member of a church which is frequently called ‘reactionary’ etc. etc. it might seem strange that I find so much to agree with average real liberal leftists, but I see no irony. In Greece there has long been strong agreement between the Orthodox conservatives and the social democratic left: from patriotism to Serbia to Iraq to Civil Liberties. Conversely their social liberals and economic right wingers are all too eager to form their own coalition.

Unlike their self-appointed spokesmen, my secular friends realise they can’t keep kicking daddy’s shins or pummelling ‘the religious’ strawman to make a better world: we have profound secularisation; we have profound wealth inequality; we have profound social problems; we have some vile foreign policies; we have the most right wing government in modern history.

And my Eastern Orthodox Church is going strong right now. Which I think is both an argument against theological liberalism and ‘conservatism’ as it is usually defined. Orthodoxy is the church of the people: it has rebounded in Russia and Romania. Anglicanism is the church of Malthus: its pews are empty. The Southern Baptist Church has many prominent figures who support neo-conservatism. It can barely keep its American members even with immigration incentives and spending a fortune in evangelisation.

Scotland’s Roman Catholic leader is a proud patriot and theological conservative. Both of these came across in his moral courage in supporting the compassionate treatment of Al Megrahi. He has won a lot of respect for this.

Many developing world leaders are respectful of faith. For all the liberal criticisms of The Vatican, the Pope doesn’t think that developing nations reproducing themselves is a crime in itself. The Russians overthrew tyranny to discover that they were hated more than ever. Pat Buchanan wrote that ‘Orthodox Russia should be our friend’. More ‘liberal’ westerners (like Timothy Garton Ash) couldn’t disagree more.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Neil. I always feel rather strange at Christmas; during all religious festivals, for that matter. After having lapsed shortly after my Confirmation as an Anglican, I can't bring myself to return to Christianity. Yet, I see the yawning chasm in secular liberalism, its social atomism, its hypocrisy and the violence that lies all too near its surface of human rights rhetoric. It impoverished the western world forever when it shifted its purpose from the teleological and dialectical 'good/evil' dyad to the non-teleological and non-dialectical - in fact virtually static - 'rights/harm' dyad, a shift expressed most clearly in the works of Mill. When I reflect upon my own position I feel quite stranded, so for the most part I forget about myself and turn outward to structures, processes and politics, and the fate of others who are caught up in them ... which is more interesting, anyway.

- questionnaire

jock mctrousers said...

Merry Christmas to all. Not white after all, in London anyway. Where's the snow when you need it?