Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Signs of a broken politics?

I did not watch the recent televised debate between Mr Salmond and Mr Darling, in respect of the forthcoming referendum on independence for Scotland. "I'm weary listening to two grown men fighting" was a text comment I received part way through - but it was on Sky News as well, so there was apparently no escape! Listening to radio coverage during the following day, I gained the impression that commenters felt obliged to take it all seriously when, deep down, they knew it was such a ridiculous exhibition that it was embarrassing. Two Scots people interviewed on The World at One first used the word "performance" and, subsequently, "pantomime" to describe the debate; evaluation of the debate itself was almost exclusively in terms of who had "performed" best.

The behaviour of Mr Salmond and Mr Darling appears to me to have been appalling - and that is the comment that no-one seems to have wanted to make during yesterday's coverage. That it came from two politicians of national standing, without censure from fellow politicians, is surely a sign of a broken politics.

In the international sphere, we have also recently seen signs of a broken politics on the part of the United Kingdom. Navi Pillay, as she leaves her role as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, criticised the UN Security Council (my italics added):
"Greater responsiveness by this council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives," she told a meeting of the 15-member body.
She said that national interest had repeatedly taken precedence over human suffering and breaches of world peace.
And yet, in a situation where the Holy See's representative at the United Nations communicates the appeals of local Catholic bishops for international action to stop Islamic State violence against minorities and for an international presence to guarantee the right of Christians to return to their homes in Iraq rather than accepting that they will remain in exile, David Cameron's justification of the very limited British engagement on their behalf is articulated in terms of UK "national interest" accompanied by an insistence that there will be no "boots on the ground".

Current debates with regard to British membership of the European Union and with regard to immigration are couched in similar terms of "national interest".

And yet there is a different possibility in the political sphere, and it is a possibility that has been articulated to Parliamentarians in the United Kingdom. On 22nd June 2004, Chiara Lubich spoke to the title "Liberty, equality ... whatever happened to fraternity?" , describing the work of the Movement for Unity in Politics, a work of the Focolare movement.

But as we know well, if emphasis falls solely on liberty, it can easily become the privilege of the strongest. And as history confirms, emphasis solely on equality can result in mass collectivism. In reality, many peoples still do not benefit from the true meaning of liberty and equality….
How can these be acquired and brought to fruition? How can the history of our countries and of all humankind resume the journey toward its true destiny? We believe that the key lies in universal fraternity, in giving this its proper place among fundamental political categories.
Only if taken together can these three principles give rise to a political model capable of meeting the challenges of today’s world.

It is worth reading the whole, but towards the end of her talk, Chiara described the type of politics the movement attempts to achieve (my italics added):

The politicians I am speaking of choose to seek office as an act of love. It is a response to a genuine vocation, to a personal calling. Those who are believers discern the voice of God calling them through circumstances, while those with no religious affiliation respond to a human call, to a social need, to a city’s problems, to the sufferings of their people which speak to their conscience. In both cases, it is love that motivates them to act. And both find their home in the Movement for Unity in Politics.
The politicians for unity, having come to understand that politics at its root is love, realize that others too—even those who at times can be called their political opponents —may have also chosen politics as a vocation to love. They realize that every political group, every political choice can be a response to a social need and therefore is necessary in building up the common good. They are as interested in the others’ goals, including their political causes, as they are in their own, and thus criticism becomes constructive. They seek to live out the apparent contradiction of loving the other’s party as their own because they realize that the nation’s well-being requires everyone’s cooperation.
This, in outline, is the ideal of the Movement for Unity in Politics. And in my opinion it is a kind of politics worth living. It forms politicians capable of recognizing and serving the vision for their community, their town and nation, indeed for all humanity, because fraternity is God’s vision for the whole human family. This is the kind of genuine, authoritative politics that every country needs. In fact, with power comes strength but only love gives authority.

 We need a language in politics that looks out for the interest of the other, and not just our own interest. Such a language would completely re-cast a number of our contemporary political debates.

No comments: