More Thoughts (around transparency, freedom and the news)

Since the last writing, this has followed on in the news: Bishop Sorry for Sexual Misconduct and it seems to have been followed up in close detail, though it seems likely to be some time before any new information is forthcoming, awaiting the new pope and a Vatican Enquiry.

I’ve had a few thoughts that occur to me since last posting. It is interesting that since the by-election in Eastleigh, the other ‘sexual misconduct’ story seems to have vanished from the news headlines. I wonder if that is simply because there has been no new information or detail to keep it fresh, or whether it was only really considered important as a byline to a political scenario. Will the complaints of those women now be considered ‘less important’ now that the headlines subside?

Another one follows on from a discussion with a couple of friends about various scenarios. One of which was regarding the Nazi concentration camps, how did people get to a point where they did such things? Another was regarding why I considered some religious groups ‘cults’ (or rather “weird and controlling,” as well as heretical regarding central orthodox christian teaching).

While I was looking for some information I remembered seeing about specific features of cults, I came across this: The Heresy of Mind Control. Although it is very specifically focused on an american context, it did seem that the key features it mentions are applicable in many contexts. They come from the work of an american psychiatrist Robert Jay Lifton into (what he describes as) “thought reform.” Interestingly, it seems that much of his research stemmed from looking from looking at the psychology of “how did people do that?” at various situations in history, largely extremes of war, social upheaval and genocide.

Entirely through a separate channel, I came across some similar discussions regarding the particular involvement of doctors within the Nazi genocide. CMF: Doctors & Nazis.¬† Interestingly, this takes these concerns, particularly about milieu control, to the author’s concern regarding the development of a ‘slippery slope’ from voluntary euthanasia to involuntary, to increasing killings of people with little/ no ability to protest. The more concerning thing seemed to me to be that this was not linked to a hypothetical concern of, ‘what if this happened in the UK,’ although doubtless that is there in the background. I came across the link, as it was referenced in an article analysing current data from Belgium, following on from changes in legislation regarding euthanasia.

I thought that this idea of ‘milieu control’ also linked quite well to this report: The Lies We Tell Ourselves. I think it makes a good case for the role of investigation and truth seeking in challenging damaging lies that ‘bear false witness’ against our neighbours. I thought the breaking of the horsemeat scandal also fitted into this category, showing the myths we hide behind regarding our food. On this theme, I came across a well thought out blog on the topic: Horses with No Names, advocating the centrality of compassion to changing things for the better.

Other topics in the news in the last couple of days have made me think that there are many areas where hard truths and awkward questions need to be asked, and where entirely different strategies need to be forged:

  • ¬†Fracking… I mean seriously, WTF (standing for what the frack, obviously) is up with that! Hence I was rather impressed by this imaginative Greenpeace Fracking Protest.
  • A few little nasty addendems being proposed to the (already disastrous) Health and Social Care Bill, with some attempts by medical professionals to highlight the damaging effect of Privatising the NHS.
  • Secret Courts… I’m not sure I really need to say more.
  • And something that doesn’t seem to be in the news, which really ought to be, Climate Change. Where are the cohesive plans to tackle it? Seriously, is there not some way of locking all the countries’ leaders in one room and refusing to let them out until they come up with a decent, co-operative, well-thought out plan of action?

But I’m not going to end there, with a grumble and a whimper. Because facing up to reality also means facing up to the positive, beautiful, and often un-reported glimpses of compassion in the world. So this week, I have also been reading the letters and papers of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (from the time of his improsonment). I have lost track of the number of times I have thought ‘I want to remember that’ of some little comment in these. And it has led me to (a wikipedia based) look at others from this era: Martin Niemoller, Karl Barth, The Confessing Church, The Barmen Declaration, Franz Kaufmann… One name that I would love to find more out about is that of a Berlin Deaconness called Marga Meusel… just needs someone to translate the German wikipedia page.

I have seen two positive stories of animals in the news: Walrus in Orkney and Lifesaving Dog in Poland.

And I want to end on a note, that whilst strictly fiction, is also based on realities of experience that I recognise (it’s based on the memoirs of Jennifer Worth): Call the Midwife. There’s no hiding from harsh reality, there’s no pretending there’s no snobbery, poverty, racism, untimely illness and death, no hiding from betrayals and fearfulness… and yet, there’s still, in the middle of all these other realities, faith, hope and love. And the greatest of these is Love.