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24/05/2011

Counter-Cultural Christianity

Today, with the media still dominated by Ryan Giggs' alleged affair with a reality TV show contestant censorship campaign, I cannot help feel a little bit more pessimistic about the state of our nation.

We have so much to be concerned about in our society; we are involved in wars in foreign countries that leave our young men terribly maimed or but a distant yet ever-present memory to their loved ones left behind, we have a generation of adolescents (known as NEETs) growing up in a society that has effectively said 'university or nothing' (at the cost of skilled trade apprenticeships) before pricing out university for the working and lower middle classes, we have young men and women drinking themselves to an early grave each weekend, we have a small but significant minority of youth who in seeing the ills of mainstream society decide to ally themselves with extremism ("Tear it all down, and get rid of them...") and/or nihilistic gangs ("Live by the sword, thrive by the sword...").

We have so much to be concerned about in our politics; we have a half-democracy with an unelected head of state that props up a privileged elite (and renders us as subjects not citizens) and an unelected second Parliamentary chamber deciding on laws that govern the people, we have a political class mired in corruption that has caused widespread apathy for democracy and political discourse, we are submitting ourselves to an undemocratic continental superstate.

We have so much to be concerned about in our economy; we have a huge public spending deficit which now results in cuts to education, health, social services and urban renewal projects, we have giant financial corporations that continue to remain unaccountable for actions that have increased the financial burden on the ordinary taxpayer and triggered a recession, we have a growing underclass of unskilled, welfare-dependent people with no means of self-determination.

We have so much to be concerned about in the world; the Middle East is in turmoil, Bosnia is quietly falling apart, Kosovo remains violently divided, many African countries continue to experience crippling poverty, the Caucasus (scene of the Beslan school massacre) continues to bubble with hatred, Japan is struggling to contain a nuclear disaster, Pakistan is being torn apart by terrorism, Iran is imprisoning its heretics.

Yet despite all of this, our politicians, our media, our national conversation all seems to be lost in celebrity comings and goings.

Maybe their is some truth in the controversial ideas of American Marxist-cum-Radical-Conservative, James Burnham, who argued (something along the lines of) in his famous works The Managerial Revolution, The Suicide of the West and The Machiavellians (which I have admittedly not read page to page) that:
  • Capitalism in its truest sense - as a competitive, dynamic marketplace of entrepreneurs, innovators and grafters - will be replaced by 'managerialism', a system dominated by big business oligarchs and technocrats.
  • Politics will become increasingly closed and bureaucratic despite maintaining 'democratic habits' at surface level. Change within the political system will be limited to a circulation of elites. Movements for radical change will be ostracised, and those that do have some success, will adopt the power-hungry methods and compromised values of the elites - thus becoming the very thing they claim to oppose.
  • Liberalism as a progressive political ideology will become reduced to a vacuous guilt-ridden, contradictory set of positions held in reaction to perceived adversaries and past injustices (begging the question, "What's Left?").
  • Society's consciousness will become chained to the ebbs and flows of pop culture - bogged down in triviality - and in doing so, lose sight of its foundational values and mission.
Maybe I'm just having a bad day, maybe I'm suffering from pomposity, but as I reflect on the real issues of our times - and this national obsession with the love lives of overpaid footballers who typically earn more in a week than a nurse will in five years - I do see some truth  in these pessimistic narratives. I believe it is the duty of Christians (and by that I do include we of the liberal Christian traditions), where possible working with those of other paths of faith and philosophy, to bear witness to something more hopeful and constructive in our society - in both our words and actions, to become a positive counter-culture. Just as that man Jesus did.

    1 comment:

    Big Fly said...

    I love the use of Banksy, gives more mean and understanding to the rebel with the flowers. Almost "positive extremism"...

    Also found the piece by James Burnham to be very sobering.