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Voice From the Back

Masters of deception
We are led to believe, by the media, that the men and women who make up the government are motivated by the highest moral standards of honesty and decency. So what are we to make of Robert Cooper, a senior British diplomat who wrote the following essay published by The Foreign Policy Centre and reported in the Observer (7 April)? “The postmodern world has to start to get used to double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But, when dealing with old-fashioned states outside the postmodern world continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself.”

State of the nation?
It is said that clear thinking leads to clear speaking. That clarity of thought is reflected in lucid communication. If that is so, what must the US President's thought process be like? Here he is reported by Newsweek (22 April) as he tries to communicate something or other. Your guess is as good as ours as to what he is on about: “And so, in my State of the – my State of the Union – or state – my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it, speech to the nation – I asked Americans to give 4,000 years – 4,000 hours over the next – the rest of your life – of service to America.” Eh?.

Arms and hypocrisy
The journalist Alex Bell recently gave an update on the British arms trade in the Herald (6 May): “One of those statistics that lodges in the mind and rarely gets revised is the one about Britain being the third largest exporter of arms in the world. Time to update it, as we're the second largest. In the last twenty years our arms industry has grown by a factor of 10. According to the Institute for Strategic Studies, revenues from the arms trade were more than $5 billion in 2000, or twice as much as France and Germany combined. They were around $500m in the mid-1970s . . . Don't forget that just as Tony Blair was trying to calm the border dispute in January between Pakistan and India, he was in Delhi trying to flog jets.” So what happened to that much vaunted “ethical foreign policy”?

The childhood destroyer
Capitalism has only one drive – make profits. In that ruthless drive the planet is poisoned by pollution, the rivers and lakes are turned into sewers and human life is stunted, broken and destroyed. Perhaps the greatest indictment of this Frankenstein society is the way it treats the old, the disabled and the most vulnerable group of all the world's children: “One child in eight has to do work that could harm them physically or mentally, the UN labour agency claimed. Some 246 million children are in unacceptable forms of child labour, with 179 million in hazardous mining, fishing and construction, says the ILO, but 8.4 million children are caught up in slavery, trafficking, forced recruitment for battle, prostitution, and pornography.” Herald (7 May)

Tory braveheart
The Scottish Parliament over the years has illustrated that it can be just as silly as Westminster when dealing with social problems. In a country that has all the usual features of capitalism – poverty, drug addiction and homelessness all this backwoodsman Tory could proffer to the parliament's deliberations was the following piece of nonsense: “A Tory MSP has lodged a motion in the Scottish Parliament, calling for William Wallace to be officially recognised as a “patriot” before the 700th anniversary of his death in August 1305. Phil Gallie, the Tory constitutional affairs spokesman, said the anniversary of Wallace's death was an opportunity to 'right wrong'.” Times (9 May)

God and mammon
According to a recent Church of Scotland report they are losing 17,000 punters a year and, unless this trend is dealt with, they could cease to exist by 2050. So concerned are they about the potential drop in income that the Moderator commissioned a journalist to produce a book entitled Outside Verdict; An Old Kirk in a New Scotland. The author proposes tithing members' salaries and flogging off manses and overseas churches:. The book states: “There are too many people in the kirk who refuse to think of it as a business, who think that because this money is being used for God's work, contemporary business practice need not apply.” Sunday Times (12 May). But isn't it also the business of the Church to tell gullible workers on a Sunday morning not to thirst after the material things of this world, to be content with their lot and look for their reward in the next world?