Wise monkeys or vicious beasts? Abuse, cruelty and free speech
Our animal natures are in a constant state of tension between the personal and the communal. We have instincts which drive us to gratify ourselves, to dominate for food, status and mates. And then we have the pull towards the good of the tribe, pack or troop and the protection and support it offers.
At the end of this month (July 2013), a small change will take place which will make not the tiniest ripple in the political fabric of our country. In fact, it will go completely unnoticed beyond my family and immediate circle of friends. That it represents a significant change in my life, is in that sense, neither here nor there.
Posh boys or bad governance? Invective versus dialogue
“Two arrogant posh boys who don't know the price of milk” Nadine Dorries' opinion of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor gave every appearance of welling up from a deep reservoir of personal peeve. But last week, a Conservative MP expressed an almost identical opinion to me.
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has said reports that GCHQ are gathering intelligence from phones and online sites should not concern people who have nothing to hide. Hague's refusal – on security grounds of course – to either confirm or deny the UK's links with the US Prism secret surveillance programme is a source of further disquiet.
The sacrament of the teapot: resolving conflict in York
“I'll get you a nice cup of tea.” There can be few people in these islands – particularly in England – who have not heard these words at a time of distress. In shock or bereavement many of us will have smiled through our tears at being gently offered the national sacrament of solidarity.
Small circles and unarmed forces at the National Memorial Arboretum
War memorials and Quakers do not always get on. The kind of memorialising which is strong on military ceremony and pride does not sit well with us and we tend to avoid it. But we hold it important to remember all people killed in war, civilians as well as combatants. “This is the use of memory – for liberation” TS Eliot wrote in Little Gidding. And if we are to be liberated from bitterness, hatred and the propensity to pass conflict down the generations, we must remember well.
Last Saturday (27 April) demonstrators gathered for a protest march at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire from where drone attacks on Afghanistan are now controlled. On 7 May, the Drones Quilt – a project initiated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation – will be handed in at Downing Street. Between these two events, I heard a moving ministry from a Friend who had participated in making a square for the quilt.
The Department for Education and Skills appears to be channelling for some of Charles Dicken's more grotesque characters. Gradgrind Gove has long been preaching his gospel of 'facts' and rote learning. Now he has decided that children and teachers are not working hard enough and has called for longer school days and shorter holidays. His sidekick M'Choakumchild Truss, not to be outdone in ensuring that our youngest citizens should not be permitted to slack, has this week criticised nurseries which allow toddlers to “run around with no sense of purpose.”