Monday, 5 November 2012

Please to Remember

Yes, it's Guy Fawkes' Night tonight; and Cranmer offers us his customarily thoughtful angle on what happened all those years ago that resulted in this annual event.

It's a good one, reminding us how the actions of a group of Catholics (along with a couple of Jesuit priests) led to a religion-based exclusion in a number of important areas of occupation of Catholics from the capital of England. The incident helped make it easy to add to a period of existing persecution of Catholics here at that time.

His Grace's closing paragraph sums it all up, as an ongoing lesson for us all...
"Today we celebrate our national freedom, and remember the many innocent observers who were caught in the fray. Never again must a foreign prince have authority in this Realm, and never again must religion be a tool of hatred, oppression and persecution."
It can be very difficult, when an authority figure or body is under pressure from a mass of outraged public who are demanding action, to avoid falling into one of the prepared (by the devil, usually) traps. In an attempt to satisfy the people that action has been taken to avoid a repetition of anything of similar nature, a common element that can be identified and therefore managed can be the only apparent way out of a situation.

Any deferral for wiser counsel to ultimately prevail will be attributed to dithering, cowardice or even of being secret complicit in the crime (or whatever it was) – and when one has political opponents they will use any such delay in any or all of those ways, and no doubt others as well, if they can devise them.

Such is human nature, and the ability of the unscrupulous and self-serving to manipulate others and events to suit their own ends. It is one of the reasons I am so hot on the trail of that aspect of political life, and why I expose it from time to time, to remind my readers that this is how some operate. I could make a full-time job of that side of things alone, but that would become tedious and, eventually, even boring – so I moderate that part of what I do here.

However, as an object lesson, the fallout from the Gunpowder Plot serves as a useful lesson from history that applies equally to today's world, and even to today's England or Britain.

We have seen how whole groups, able to be described in simple enough terms to be used as tabloid headlines (for example), have been tarred with a particular brush, even in recent years. Sometimes there is a broad correlation between the category/description and the problem/criminality, whereas in other cases there isn't.

We, as a species, need to mature enough to avoid the pitfalls of easy categorisation (if that's a word!) which we clearly haven't done so far. Because of the numbers game, and having to appeal to – and be understood by – the lowest common denominator in our society, simplistic solutions are an easy and attractive option.

As the Gunpowder Plot shows, though, simplistic extrapolation on the basis of (say) a religion is not, certainly in most cases if not all, the right approach, and can so easily lead to completely disproportionate and inappropriate consequences..

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the essence of today's lesson: be prepared to let wiser and cooler heads prevail without pressuring them when one's thinking is clouded by excessive emotion. Passionate feelings about something can be a useful tool when applied wisely, but all too often lead us all astray, especially in mob, party and other group situations.

We all need to be alert to the danger, and resist the pressures of others to head in a bad direction, especially at times of outrage...

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