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lighting the candle

We try to stay away from politics here, mainly because as far as I am concerned, it appears to be a lost cause. The public cynicism about our political class, in the USA or in the UK or Europe, is immense, growing – and well-deserved. Politics is perceived to be about politicians – spin and vested interests; the idea of the public good is debased into the belief peddled by politicians that it is best served by their being on office – whoever you vote for, the government gets in. Disillusion with the long period of Conservative rule ended it in 1997, with Mr Blair promising hope and a better Britain; disillusion with President Bush on 2008 ended with the election of a new President promising hope and a brighter America; who do you go to when those promising so much deliver so little? In the UK we settled first for a coalition and then a Conservative Government which is neither loved nor admired, but is grudgingly assumed to be better than the alternative; the USA may well end up settling for its first woman President on much the same principle – or lack thereof. So, here, the disillusioned who can still be persuaded to have one last illusion imagine Mr Corbyn might ‘do something’, on the not entirely fatuous ground that he is at least a bit different; so different that in a long parliamentary career he has achieved nothing. In the US, the ‘feel the Bern’ movement is much the same phenomenon with a similar object. In fact, I suspect, these are cries of despair – but that feels better, for many, than silent despair.

Politics has become about spin, about winning elections, about economic policies designed to ‘help hard working families’ which, mysteriously, help the very rich even more. A politics of materialism and consumerism lacks any vision of what the ‘good life’ might be; it lacks a vision of what politics is for – at least for those of us who are not professional politicians. Where is a better vision – or at least some vision – going to come from? The faith groups in our society are the only organisations with any vision of what a good life might be. Secularists who imagined that the virtues preached by Christianity could be had in a moral society without being underpinned by Christ’s message, have had a good run for their money; but I see nothing which suggests they were correct. As what Benedict XVI called the ‘dictatorship of relativism’ grips us, our society appears less and less to have any common moral code – indeed it appears to have dwindled to nothing more than don’t harm others (unless they are babies in the womb) and enjoy yourself if you can whilst you can. It is not from such thin stuff that any form of good life could be constructed. There is, here, neither moral vision nor uplift, nor any sense of what life could be – beyond a consumerist one.

Perhaps when Christians have quite finished their own internal arguments, there may still be some way they can contribute to a debate on the good society – assuming that there is still a democratic politics to influence by that time?