Some short thoughts before a long night

By Jill Segger
December 11, 2019

On Thursday night, many of us will stay awake listening to the early declarations, the exit polls, the long tension of hope against the fear of despair: these will gradually resolve one or the other way before Friday's first light breaks.

It has been a terrible three years. Our politics is broken. The moral compass which until fairly recently, still pointed reasonably well to a cardinal point of rectitude, trimmed and ordered by the knowledge of shame and the ill-defined but generally understood code of conduct by which legislators and electorate guided themselves, is now so dysfunctional that even to try the words ‘honour’, ‘trust’ or ‘restraint’ seems quaint and naive.

We hold our politicians in contempt. We fear that no one – individually or corporately – is telling us the truth. Social media digs us deep and deeper into redoubts of abuse and hatred. We are readier to yell insult than to reflect and attempt the painful silence of discernment.

The division which has, to a significant extent, been created by the unscrupulous playing upon ignorance and fear, should give us pause. It is never too late to learn, though the delay in doing so may be about to bring us hard years. The system, and our understanding of the relationship between executive, legislature, judiciary and voters is in urgent need of overhaul.

Referendums – of which there will inevitably be more – must be better regulated, as must the ‘wild west’ of digital campaigning. If we are willing to let unexamined opinions master us and permit differences to grow into tyrants, rather than perceiving them as adjudicators and teachers, we can only become more angry and divided. That suits the interests of the self-seeking and callous elements of power. There is a great deal of work to be done in remaking our unwritten constitution – its ‘good chaps’ guidelines have been comprehensively destroyed, while a crazy voting system renders the votes of so many meaningless, and permits the incumbents of ‘safe’ seats to cock a snook at scrutiny and accountability.

There are personal responsibilities too, because we are not yet so far gone in the slide towards unchecked power that we cannot push back against its scouts and enablers. We must be agents of solidarity, looking after the weakest and being ever alert to each other’s needs. A Friend recently reminded me of these words from Galatians: “...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Indeed, there is not. Nor is there any power that can permanently keep us from these life-giving and transformative virtues.

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© Jill Segger is Associate Director of Ekklesia with particular involvement in editorial issues. She is a freelance writer who contributes to the Church Times, Catholic Herald, Tribune, Reform and The Friend, among other publications. She is the author of Words out of Silence published by Ekklesia in May 2019. The book is available here and here. Jill is an active Quaker. You can follow her on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.co/quakerpen

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.