There is a moment in Lawrence of Arabia where Lawrence has been abandoned by nearly everyone after the chaotic Arab council, he asks Sharif Ali “what about you Ali?” and Ali says “I shall stay here and learn about politics”. Lawrence tells him “it is a very low occupation”. Why do I have a feeling that when most people hear this, they quietly nod to themselves?
It’s not a new thing; there have been jokes and headlines about lying, scheming, thieving and duplicitous politicians since… well forever. Sadly its just become incredibly apparent that we have a problem, a very serious problem that looks almost terminal, and what is that problem, well I think its an integrity issue. People are saying one thing and doing another. We can all find short clips or quotes of our “representatives” saying one thing and then doing the opposite. To some degrees, we all do it, but at what stage do we hold those in positions of power and responsibility to account, and how do we do it?
When young men and women join the armed forces, and in particular the British Army, they are schooled in certain values and standards (selfless commitment, respect for others, loyalty, integrity, discipline, moral and physical courage), they become pillars for the soldier and are used as a sort of moral compass. This is important because when it comes to certain judgments, it can lead to life and death decisions.
Now these people are just ordinary men and women of our country and Commonwealth, not great mighty people, just ordinary people, perhaps poor, not brilliantly educated. They are taught these “Values & Standards” because the armed forces recognises that many of our soldiers in training do not always come from homes where objective moral standards are taught or learned (but that’s another conversation).
Service personnel are very representative of our society; they come from all walks of life, with many, many stories and reasons of how they ended up in uniform. Now, I am often told that the House of Commons is a house filled with men and women from all walks of life and back grounds, and the HoC information office tells us that “MPs have responsibilities to three main groups: their constituents, Parliament and their political party.”
This sounds awesome, almost fantastic that there are men and women willing to do such great things like representing little old me and my family, friends and neighbours, but in reality I honestly believe that this is now some sort of joke.
Why, because after all the promises, the words, the manifesto pledges and great speeches that Brexit means Brexit, that if we vote to leave, it means leaving the institution of the European Union, forging our own way in the world, governing ourselves, trading on our terms and on the mutually agreed terms with others. Now it seems it will be too difficult.
The main bulk of our representatives do not support the promises made. We have been told that we are incapable of taking responsibility for ourselves, that we need the EU to survive, that there is no other way than the way of the EU. Why? It’s because of self-interest, that’s why!
Mother Teresa once remarked (and I’m paraphrasing here), that the really poor people in the world are not the materially deprived, but the denizens of the intellectual classes in the affluent places who do not choose to know the truth and who do not want to know or abide by any norms (even divine ones), that they do not establish themselves.
Our political class have decided that they are not subject to the rules, promises and ways of good governance, they have said many times we can trust them with the affairs of state, with our care, with our freedoms and that they will listen to us, us who give them their legitimacy.
The very core of integrity is that you are what you say you are, that you will do what you say you will do, even if it hurts, even if it costs you!
Our service personal are held to account whenever they fail, whenever there is a break down in order or discipline. These little people, with little and who will amount to only small things are subject to such great powers that their small actions can make headline news, and in some cases even the House of Commons itself demands answers and expects justice.
Yet when our representatives who sit in this same house openly lie, distort and manipulate power to support their own agenda, which is now so obviously one rooted in power and wealth, in protecting it and its redistribution among their chosen friends and favourites, we must not just question their integrity, we must demand justice. They must be held to account.
The language of demonising all dissenters, the flagrant abuse of all who do not assent to their well thought out plan means one thing only; it is the solidification of power for an entity that does not love, serve or care for us. It is abundantly clear that a vast majority of our representatives do not serve us. They serve another. Their master, the voice they listen to does not belong to a developed organic culture, rooted in centuries of growth from its own land, drawn from its own people and their communal experience, their master’s voice is one of collectivisation and control, sold as freedom and prosperity. We have all heard this before. The question is this, if we are so free, why is it so difficult to do our own thing, and if we are so prosperous, why are still so many struggling, why are they demanding more from those who work so hard.
I am a catholic priest. I love my country, there’s no shame in it, even using patriotism as a pattern for the love which Catholics should bear toward the Church, Leo XIII teaches: “The natural law enjoins us to love devotedly and to defend the country in which we had birth, and in which we were brought up, so that every good citizen hesitates not to face death for his native land.” (Sapientiae Christianae), and in Au milieu des sollicitudes he tells us that patriotism, like love of the Catholic faith, is a duty “of paramount importance, and from which, in this life, no man can exempt himself.” My point here is if I and many like me can love our country and believe that we as a people, regardless of our differences can survive by ourselves in this world (as did previous generations), why can’t our representatives?
Maybe they hold that there is no source of meaning and value in the people and culture they represent except as sources of income, they no longer believe they should conform to objective norms like keeping their word, or honouring their agreements. Instead, these representatives and their friends, who happen to have intense common interests, have formed a bloc to promote their own interests, regardless of the welfare of other individuals and the wider community
They seem to lack any recognisable values and standards. All they’ve said and promised was just a lie, in fact, they are quite determined to control power, seek prestige and acquire wealth. Their word obviously means nothing, even when they want your vote, your money and your loyalty. Maybe they want us to be fractured, frightened and dependent on them like needy children, all fighting for a piece of the ever-shrinking cake.
So what are we going to do about it, are we going keep voting for the same old mob who tell us most earnestly that they are voting with their consciences, with the government or their party? When are they going to start honouring their promises, pledges and manifestos or have we gone beyond that now?
Rev Fr Charles-Edward P. Gosnell is a catholic priest. Follow him on twitter: @PaterIndomitus