what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Serving

The Open Democracy website is an exemplary source of sensible voices which (in its own words) 
challenge the corporate media.  It seeks out and debates forms of democratic change…. delights in good ideas vigorously debated and argument backed by investigation…..opposes fundamentalisms, including market fundamentalism….

For some strange reason, however, it is not a site I often choose to access – and the same is true of the equally well-intentioned Social Europe. Perhaps I just find the writing too bland and predictable? I need something with more “oomph”.
As a result, I have overlooked one of the Open Democracy’s sub-sections entitled Scotland’s Future -
a platform for the best articles and essays which will cast light on the issues as they arise, and help people everywhere understand what's really being talked about. ….ensuring key voices in the Scottish debate can be heard outside Scotland; that the plurality of the conversation is heard; and that democrats from England, Wales, Northern Ireland and further afield who want to understand and discuss have a space to gather. Independence has profound implications for all of the Home Nations of the UK.

The editorship is shared between a Scot and.. Angle (?) and the site is currently running a series written by the Scot on “40 reasons for supporting Independence” (he’s reached the half-way mark)

One of the other pieces which caught my eye was written by an ex-Leader of the Iona Community John Harvey and his wife Molly whose contribution very much reflects the ethics and style of the Community 
At present, for example, the disgraceful attack on the most vulnerable of our fellow citizens, through the so-called 'welfare reforms', is something we can do very little about; this could change with independence. What it will also require, we believe, will be an increased acceptance of responsibility at a personal and a local community level to address the growing inequality in our society; a responsibility which we have seen grasped in a number of ways already through bodies like the Poverty Truth Commission
For too long, Scottish society has lurched between a dependency culture on the one hand and a scapegoating culture on the other.
The vote on September 18th will entail risks, whichever way the decision goes. We see it as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to take responsibility for ourselves, in this interdependent world, into our own hands; we believe that we have in Scotland both the personal and the corporate ability to attempt this with a reasonable degree of success.
We have to remember of course that even if we do get independence, we may not take this chance to make some difficult changes; but we believe that we have to take the risk. And we further believe that doing this will send an encouraging signal to other communities to follow suit, thus leading, hopefully, to a more appropriate sharing of power and responsibility all round, for the benefit of everyone living in these islands. 

The Iona Community is the radical wing of the Church of Scotland and I first encountered it in the 1960s – in the form of the young Minister of a church in the housing schemes of Greenock. (He became better known in later years as the Leader of the Community in his own right – and father of Douglas Alexander, currently Britain’s shadow Foreign Secretary). There's a nice celebration of the community in this book
I actually met my wife in the amazing abbey which graces the tiny Scottish island (off Mull, itself a Scottish island) and which is at the heart of the Iona Community. I was one of the invited speakers at a school on community development the Community was running and she was a community worker in Glasgow’s East End…  Anna came from a quaker background whose values are similar to those of the Iona Community.

As an agnostic for all my adult life, I respect these two organisations very much. They represent all that is decent and worthwhile in life…They honour the word “serve”
I was indeed  happy for almost a decade to be a “host” in the quaker-based Servas network which gave me the privilege of having foreign visitors in my home for a couple of days. There were only 3 requirements of them – that they (do a basic minimum to) help in the house; that they share some aspects of their lives; and that they stay no longer than a couple of nights without expressly being invited!

And during the first decade of my nomadic life (the 1990s) I made use of the Servas network in Sweden, Russia, Poland and Bulgaria. More about the quakers here ....I hope to invite them in future to my Transylvanian and Sofia bases.......

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