Lorraine Cavanagh on the case of Shamima Begum: an unrepentant prodigalFebruary 20, 2019
Are we civilised? Should we be?March 2, 2019
According to one of the Oxford dictionaries, there is a possible link between madness and creativity, a truth born out by a few great artists but also by the political despots that history throws up from time to time. It seems that in leadership and art, there is a stark choice to be made when it comes to creativity, whatever form it takes.
The creator, like God, can make ‘weal or woe’. (Is.45:7) At the same time, life itself is seldom defined by these extremes. Most of it goes on in the middle ground. So it is the middle ground that we are ultimately returned to when crises subside, and it is in the middle ground that we have to re-shape and make sense of the everyday, having learned what we can from the immediate past.
The madness of Brexit, whatever the end result, will eventually have to subside. It will have to fit into this middle ground, or into the system that we call democracy. Whatever the outcome, we shall have to shape our lives according to what the system has made of it, and whether the system itself can be maintained as it is. But for younger people, it is not so much the democratic system that is likely to come under scrutiny. It is the people who operate it, who shape its future and ours, who will be judged, not only for what they said and did during this crisis, but for the extent to which they were true to their calling.
Their calling will amount to a question of integrity and accountability. Given the urgency of the issues at stake, and allowing for the Dickensian complexity of the Brexit debate, their integrity will be judged on the extent to which they were able to think their way into the good and then act on it. The truth of their calling will be defined by a unified working for the longer term ‘weal’ of future generations both here and in Europe, rather than the narrow and short-term interests of their parties. But would that it were so simple. The best people often have what to others seem like the most reprehensible political views and the most (for some) undesirable party has some of the best human beings among its numbers. So we are always looking for a unifier, in those who govern and in those whose views we cannot share. We are looking for a deeper good which we might call truth, or possibly God.
A comparable situation exists in the forum of American politics, although the Democrats have the advantage of a different kind of unifier, the broadly accepted paradox of the ‘woe’ embodied in Donald Trump. Some American Christians are known to think that Donald Trump, and all that he has done during his disastrous presidency, is an act of God. It will require a truly creative body politic to restore the nation’s ‘weal’ once he leaves the White House.
The real creativity driving the next American election will lie in harnessing the energy of love and righteous anger, a combination of the attributes of God, embodied to some extent in the thinking of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker and the fighting spirit of Nancy Pelosi, should she ever become president which is unlikely, as she could only assume this title by succession, not by election. Even so, Pelosi could arguably be the one to inspire other Democrat potential nominees to defeat the madness of Trump, heal its after-effects and recapture the spirit of justice and truth which ought to shape all democracies. In this respect she wields a particular kind of power. She can sway and influence for better or worse, but she cannot decide the future of a nation, or play a direct part in healing its madness. Only the will of the people who embody the system can do that.