Thought for the Day - Rev Lucy Winkett - 23/10/2012
When Rio Ferdinand and his brother Anton refused to wear the anti racism campaign kick it out t shirts this weekend, they were making their own protest. Their managers took different views of their behaviour: Alex Ferguson from Manchester United said that his player would be “dealt with”. But the Queen’s Park Rangers manager Mark Hughes said his players could do what they wanted and he made another telling comment on the subject too: “you’ll never get rid of racism totally in football”. When I read what he’d said, it seemed to me a thoroughly depressing thought.
In his book Riot City, the historian Clive Bloom has noted that the largest public protests in political history have been in this generation; the countryside march in 2002 and the march against the war in Iraq in 2003. This weekend saw another march in London and other cities organised by the Trades Union Congress. In the capital, it drew over 100,000 people, reported to be about half that of a similar march in 2011.
It seems to me that, irrespective of which political party is involved, there is being articulated a public pessimism about how change happens. If it’s impossible to rid football of racism, should the campaign be pursued? If marches in recent years on different subjects under different governments have not made a measurable difference to policy, what meaning do they have in contemporary society? Anthropologists and historians often put into words what the rest of us sense but have not expressed. One of the most influential was the cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead who famously commented, after a lifetime of studying societies as disparate as New Guinea and the United States; Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.
Christian theologians would argue something similar, but with an added dimension. The small group of men and women that Jesus of Nazareth gathered were of every political persuasion and background. Simon the Zealot, a revolutionary, was in the same group as Matthew the tax collector, a collaborator with occupying Rome. Mary Magdalene and Peter, the fiery brothers James and John; these people, with no training and very little cohesion in the end, did change the world.
It’s when life is hard that the balance between realism and cynicism is at its most fragile. It’s hard to hope that things can change when there seems so much evidence to the contrary. And how much change we want will depend on personal circumstance and experience. But Christians will suggest that a fruitful discussion of the common good will include the sense that human souls are mysterious, capable of both spectacular generosity and searing evil. And that human beings are capable too of a stubborn and enduring hope, believing that things do not have to be as they are.
Available since: Tue 23 Oct 2012
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