Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Blair, belief, community and politics

The BBC and ePolitix both have some coverage of Blair's talk for faithworks (more info and webcast). I've just finished Bertrand Russell's collection of essays along the theme of religion and society, so I guess I'm in the frame of mind to take an interest in these things more than usual.

Instinctually, it seems that Blair's passion for belief-based communities is two things, both probably equally cyncial. First, obvious lip service to the crows he's been invited to speak in front of. But second, if his views are to be taken seriously when applied to the political sphere, then they also strike me as a way of acknowledging that our communities are falling apart, that what held them together before was religion, and that the easiest way to return some of this social cohesion is through religion again. My disclaimer today is that I've only read the news articles, who obviously may paint their own layer on top of whatever he said, but hey, it makes it interesting ;)

Frankly, I find it irritating that the problem of social cohesion is being "palmed off" to voluntary groups. When so much effort is being made by the government to actively disrupt (IMHO) traditional methods of social cohesion - I am of the opinion that ASBOs are a petty, isolationist measure and should be replaced - to suggest that the fabric of our society should be upheld by under-staffed, under-resourced organisations is pithy. The government seems far more ready to lock people up (under the pretense of being "heavy on crime", but really just after a short-term solution to please the impressionable voters) than to take a serious look at the problem - probably because it would require them to take a serious look at themselves at the same time.

Furthermore, I find it depressing to think that the forefront of socio-political thinking rests in belief-oriented structures. Have we really not improved our philosophy to the point where communities exist for their own reason, rather than for some externally-enforced ethic? It's fatalism like this that makes me wonder quite what we do every day in the "real" world, and quite how we rate our ideas of "success" and "progress". Often it seems that the political body has lost all sight of the "individual" (and consequently community) in favour of the larger scale - the concept of "self" has been swept aside by "global issues" and "market efficiency".

Blair seems to keep his faith out of his politics, but maybe this explains why - he has faith in his faith to yet weave some magic. It has its own power, and the church still wields it over society, just as the government does. Still, it could be worse, we could have Bush.