As government becomes more technocratic and anonymous, and as recession and financial chaos makes people angry and suspicious towards the political class, the need to be seen to be “where people are” and to shape public mood through cultural activity large and small is here to stay, says Simon Barrow.
Last week, Jubilee Scotland organised a conversation on economic alternatives and motivating people for change at the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace. Here Simon Barrow revisits an earlier article he wrote for The Guardian on the real meaning of "jubilee".
The final standoff between St George’s Tron and the Church of Scotland has been several years coming, says Simon Barrow. The way it is handled will also be a signal of how the Kirk sees its future, and how the debate on same-sex relations may resonate in more reluctant corners of the church when it returns to the General Assembly next year.
The rejection of the Anglican Covenant by the Scottish Episcopal Church is another serious body blow for a measure which proponents say is about proper ecclesiastical order, but which detractors argue will impose narrow conformity on a denomination historically based on self-governance within its provinces. Simon Barrow looks to the background, history and significance of the latest manoeuvres.
In the wake of the 2012 local elections and other recent developments, we can see that local democracy in England is in a perilous state. Voter apathy shows that. Simon Barrow looks at the issue in its wider context, and suggests that deep change is required that goes well beyond single-fix 'solutions'.
Simon Barrow's speech on the need for an official government media inquiry, made to the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), meeting in Inverness from 23-25 April 2012. See notes and NUJ resolution below the text for further details.
At present the symbolism of the Royal Maundy service in York ritualises economic inequality, the subservience of the Church to the Crown, and the sanctification of an unjust order, says Simon Barrow. Maybe a ritual re-ordering of it could help remind Christians, and the Established church, that we are called to oppose injustice and who who "act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus" (Acts 17.7)?
Rowan Williams' archbishopric was and is far from perfect, says Simon Barrow. Of course. But if we too readily dismiss the attempts of humane, spiritual and thoughtful people like Dr Williams to point out that our difficulties are not just about someone else’s blockheadedness, we may be nearer the idiocratic realm and further from the hoped-for realm of God and of reason than we think.
The coalition can force its welfare changes through using procedural measures, minor concessions and ‘financial privilege’ to do so. But the long-term political fall-out from all of this could be immense, says Simon Barrow. The warfare over welfare has shown just how powerful citizens’ action and web-based crowd sourcing can be.
The Welfare Reform Bill debate has now given way to open warfare, says Simon Barrow. These latest battles are as much about the soul (or lack of it) of the coalition project as they are about money or the demographics of power. The government can command majorities in both Houses. But it is losing the argument, losing good will and storing up massive costs - financial and political - for the future.