“Henry Welby, a notable recluse in Grub Street, 1794”
I wonder where the public expression of Great Eccentricity will flourish now that everyone and everythought in public life is managed, self-censored, censured, lawyered, spun, sold and commodified. This is neither a Rightist nor a Leftist observation, but a worry. From where will we derive the future prophets, poets, hermits, reformers, campaigners, jesters, holy fools, radicals, inventors, bards and brilliant, barking innovators?
I agree that democratically-elected politicians must both represent the electorate and uphold the laws of the land. It is for the polity, however, to uphold the proud and liberal customs of just putting up with mad aunties, the man who grows giant vegetables, the one-man-band, the professors who, for example, invented the clerihew and the spoonerism, as long as they do no harm to others.
I was listening to an old programme called Down Your Way, popular from 1946 to 1992 and was struck by how ordinary, individual and unforced the various working-folk were who were interviewed. Everyone then was a bit odd, it seemed, because they were being themselves and were proud ( not haughty) of themselves. They were completely unused to the need to ‘present’ themselves for the media. Those garrulous and dignified lady millworkers and chatty bus-conductors would have called us ‘touched’ for putting our lives, families, sexual proclivities, dinners and medical ailments on the Internet for all the world to see.
I do not agree with the right-wing local politician who has stated that the current stormy weather in Britain is caused by the passing of the laws to permit gay marriage. I don’t agree with pornography because it exploits humans, debases sexuality and wrecks relationships. I am not mad about street-preachers but they are kind of hard to avoid where I live – and I see them as fairly harmless and as folk committed to evangelisation – a state of affairs that used to be reasonably acceptable in these fair isles of ours. In our honoured sacred tradition, if you don’t like what someone is saying and doing, you politely avoid them, as long as they are not coming into your home and broadcasting their views at you, hurting you, your children or the defenceless. Someone sent round a photograph of hilarious rude topiary on social media. I unfollowed. C’est tout. And ‘Bof’, etcetera. No need to even pay that more than a second’s concern, surely?
We have been fighting stupidity and venality dressed up as prejudice and sectarianism etcetera etcetera etcetera ( ad infinitum…) for centuries and now the self-appointed masters of liberalism are the ones who are sometimes the most oppressive. Whither the Marquess of Bath, Speakers’ Corner or the Treason Tree? Would theoretical physics have been richer or poorer without Richard Feynman? Alan Bennett, anyone? Elizabeth Fry? Julian of Norwich? Lord Soper? Private Eye? Punch? Even The New Statesman, which recently published an article denigrating Pope Benedict XIV’s legacy, teaching and theology, because, apparently he had an ‘evil squinty grin’ and red shoes.
Speakers’ Corner – rights here.
I have been listening to the letters of Winston Churchill and his wife Clementine Churchill. I am far from being one of those who are besotted with Churchill’s memory, but the letters bring out the warm, odd humanity of the man who led a country through a dark time of war. Neither demagogue nor dictator, his thoroughly British muddles, his drunkenness, inability to manage to manage money and heart-felt love for wife and family are more endearing than the perfected humans we are coerced into being in what now passes for British public life.
Really… are the only eccentrics, loons and deviants to be those ‘permitted’ by our new humanist overlords and the social media police and paid for, directly or indirectly, from the public purse and the licence fee?
What has all that got to do with Catholicism? Well. One – we seek the continuation of our hard-won right to practise our Faith and to act as good citizens in relation to the State and to influence, as far as is permitted by the law of the land and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, laws which protect the rights and dignity of human persons. Both laws which restrict human flourishing and freedom and those which punish honest debate and the development of ‘the settled will’ of the people are unjust. Two – we have form.
I will leave you with one of our favourites: