Monday, 25 January 2016

Politics and the vices

I have blogged about so-called structural violence and its attraction for Quakers, who need to be warned against the politics of envy.  Such politics springs from a confusion about the difference between socio-economic equality, on the one hand, and equality of souls, or spiritual equality, on the other. There may well be something in the argument that the more unequal a society is, the more dysfunctional it is and the unhappier its people, but there is more to Quakerism than being angry about socio-economic inequality, to take a striking and rather worrying phrase from BYM 2015. Quakers need to beware of the vices of wrath and pride (a vice to which your blogger is prone). For more on this I would refer readers to a recent book by an Anglican clergyman, Fraser Dyer, Who Are We To Judge?: Empathy and Discernment in a Critical Age (SPCK 2015).  Wise words on the same lines come from Thich Nhat Hanh, who says (Living Buddha, Living Christ pp 79-80) that  the rich may suffer as much as the poor, so when we take sides in the class war we misunderstand the will of God, which is that we should love one another. TNH goes on to say that any dualistic response motivated by anger will make the situation worse. Anger not only aggravates conflict, it also blinds us to what is really going on and where suffering is occurring. It hampers action because it leads us into the blame game where we are always looking to see who is responsible for a problem rather than working together to solve it. In the case of socio-economic inequality it leads many Quakers into a state of confusion and frustration, because they cannot understand what socio-economic equality can amount to, or how to go about achieving it, in our complex and ever-changing world.  One starting point would be to consider what historically has been the Quaker attitude to socio-economic inequality, and I have blogged about this separately.

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