Saturday, July 26, 2008

Looking For Reasons To Keep Faith In The UK

In Charles Dickens' classic story A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three Spirits in order to give him a more three-dimensional view of his life: the values of the past he had forsaken, the choices that remained available to him and the likely consequences of those choices.

Reading the news in the European press reminds me ever so much of being visited by the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, and being offered a glimpse into my, our, potential future... a world empty of hope, compassion and reason.
The stories out of the UK speak of a decaying nation, and it's increasingly challenging to believe that the institutions designed to serve as a candle's light in the darkness will remain untouched by the fog of despair blanketing today's not-so-Great Britain, like a shroud.

Every small flicker of light suggesting that the system still works seems offset by larger shadows promising that the system may be beyond salvation. It's hard to keep faith in the hope that, down the road, the story of these islands and their people will have a happy ending.

From reading the history of the British Isles I learned a lesson from a good teacher that, I believe, holds the key to turning things around: the most assured path to defeat would be to live without hope. Never give up, never surrender, so when people look at you for reassurance, you can honestly show them a sign that affirms, with sincerity, that you are still in the fight, committed to victory. A commitment fueled by that most powerful of secret weapons: hope.

Once we abandon this source of strength, what resources remain within ourselves to renew the amount of energy and commitment required to keep one's hand at the wheel, come what may? The hole left within us by a lack of hope soon causes much else to fall away, as well; when we stop believing in a better tomorrow, what reasons remain to live well today?

Why be civil, why be polite, why listen, why see, why learn, if there's to be no solution to our present-day problems?

Having accepted one loss, we leave ourselves open to allowing another, and another, until we live as empty shells, prisoners of the present, refusing to rise, preferring to fall, perhaps even welcoming a nihilist embrace of the nullity of death... for it seems a future not so different from our present, empty existence.

At a micro level, you can see such behavior exhibited through the UK commentors who come here and at other North American blogs, anonymously leaving their unrelated links in comment threads no matter the subject of the posts, links to doom and despair. I always wonder what the purpose of these actions are... what goal does it serve, except maybe to get me to lose my faith in order for them to continue justifying having lost theirs. Their comments are not even cries for help, since they never seem to return to see what aid might be forthcoming. Maybe they simply believe that we've already given up, as they have. They've given up so much they've even given up their very identity, not even bothering to call themselves "jack" or "tom"... whether it's their real name or not, it would at least create a sense of a person at the other end of the comment. A person to be helped. A person worth helping.

Or maybe they don't return because they think they're talking to an imbecile, since they're talking to a person straining to keep his faith in the UK, despite his following the same news that they are reading.

To live with faith is not to live as an imbecile. It does not involve steadfastly ignoring unpleasant truths and unwelcome news. To live in hope is not to live blindly, it's in fact the act of seeing as much as possible. It's looking at the world three-dimensionally, remembering the past, examining the present in order to imagine the future. As with Scrooge, it's a hard balancing act to sustain without the help of gifted teachers, maybe each with a particular specialty, dividing the challenge into smaller, bite-sized morsels so that the lesson may be more easily digested.

To live with faith is to somehow co-exist with doubts. For me, it's not really the macro stories that challenge my faith in the UK so much as it is the micro stories; somehow, in their simplicity, in their small scale, they seem to speak volumes about how much has been lost, how far the great have fallen...:
A painter and decorator and his wife have both received a £30 fines for smoking in their own van.

Gordon Williams, of Llanafan, near Aberystwyth, west Wales, and his wife Sue were on the way to buy tea bags when they were slapped with the fixed penalty fines under anti-smoking laws.
The married grandfather had just lit up when a council official approached him and dished out the on-the-spot fine. Mr Williams said it was justified to him by the accusation that his van was classed as a workplace.
He claims that he had, in fact, been working in the nearby village of Talybont that day and only ever used his van as transport.
"I was actually driving to Llanbadarn Fawr to get some tea bags from the garage, so how was I going to my place of work?" he said.
"I appreciate that a driver of a coach or a bus can't smoke at the wheel because, obviously, that is the law of the land.
"But this is insured as a private vehicle and I only use it to drive to wherever I will be working on any given day.
"Of course, there are tools and things in the van but a barrister would carry about documents in a briefcase in his own car, this is no different to my mind."
Have the people who used to send their Prime Minister box after box of free cigars, for him to smoke at ten Downing Street while he kept faith in the fight to preserve Great Britain, have they really come down to this..? Have they so quickly forgotten who, and where, they are?

Remember your past, be grateful for it, so that in that gratitude you can find a bounty of resources sufficient to light a new candle in your dark room, in order to see your way through to a future worth living in, on your precious stone, your "blessed plot". It's not living there that is supposed to ennoble you, it is by how you act that you ennoble where you live.

It's not called an act of faith, for nothing.


Makarios said...

Wonderful post! I love the way you write. Sadly not every one sees the journey ahead as one of failure and loss, of giving up and laying down. Some, in a bewildering fit of delusional thinking acutally see a future sans faith as an exiting proposition.

Don't give up. The darker the times, the brighter you shine. God will use you to rescue some and to seal the fate of others. Never give up. Keep your eyes on the prize. God bless you and may you enjoy Him forever.

Eowyn said...

I suggest Britons start engaging in guerrilla history. There is so much for that nation to be proud of. Shakespeare, Sir Isaac Newton, Churchill, the list is long. Parents should start secretly teaching their children to know and appreciate these titans, against the day that culture has been eradicated because someone is "offended" by it.

For some reason, William Blake also sprang to mind -- I think because he wrote so much that relied on a steadfast belief in God. I found this ("The Little Boy Found"):

The little boy lost in the lonely fen,
Led by the wandering light,
Began to cry, but God, ever nigh,
Appeared like his father, in white.

He kissed the child, and by the hand led,
And to his mother brought,
Who in sorrow pale, through the lonely dale,
The little boy weeping sought.


Just as there are no atheists in foxholes, I think that, in the end, many prodigal sons will return "home."

Charles Henry said...

Thank you. Keeping faith is a challenge always made easier when others offer encouragement by word and by example, so your taking the time to write is an act that is appreciated..!

Eowyn, I sure envy how you, Dag and Truepeers can always find a poem to best express an idea. I learn every week, it seems, how badly I missed out by never being introduced to poetry back in school. Maybe Covenant Zone should start a poetry appreciation series, so that people like me can get some pointers on how to fill this cultural hole in their education.

Regarding guerilla education in the British Isles, I wonder how homeschooling is faring there?

I know that in Germany, it is illegal for families to homeschool their kids. It is one of the laws enacted during their nazi regime that was never changed once the war ended.

But I don't know about the UK... whether the movement is as strong as it is here in North America.

Eowyn said...

"I know that in Germany, it is illegal for families to homeschool their kids. It is one of the laws enacted during their nazi regime that was never changed once the war ended.

"But I don't know about the UK... whether the movement is as strong as it is here in North America."

Well ... whether it's "illegal" or not, does not detract from whether it is necessary.

Really, it comes down to individuals, when you look at it.

truepeers said...

Good one CHarles.

Maybe you should send this official a pack of Canadian smokes along with a copy of this post!

Poetry? unlike brain surgery, you don't need to go to school to learn how; and that's really the whole point of it; just read and try writing some yourself. You will soon grasp what it's about.

Dag said...

Hiliare Belloc wrote some poetry even a step above this masterpiece, which I use as my motto at this blog:

"When I am dead, I hope it may be said: 'His sins were scarlet but his books were read." -Hilliare Belloc.

He's really a serious poet. I'm merely famous.