Sunday, February 10, 2008

Rowan Williams and the Mastery of Politics

The Archbishop of Canterbury is not feted for his deft political touch – nor would he want to be. He has been cursed, by fellow bloggers as well as by print journalists, with the most opprobrious epithet applicable to someone in public life: he’s ‘academic’. And academics, as we know, are out of touch and, worst of all, naïve. So much might be inferred from his reported reaction to the media coverage of his speech last week: he is said to be ‘shocked’ at the backlash. Frustrated, dismayed, perhaps, but surely not ‘shocked’ – that makes him sound wounded and repentant. But he’s got no reason to be queueing in line for the confessional.

Dr Williams has been caught by the unusual weather we’re having: after all, silly season is supposed to be months away from early February. If there had been other news for the journalists to waste words on, his speech would have struggled to win column-inches. As it is, the press-gang must have been straining to squeeze a sound-bite out of a text which, it is true enough, is rather wanting in a certain rhetorical elegance. But it clearly wanted to stir a wide debate – it’s just a pity it has not done so yet.

The headlines and the comment articles to date can hardly consitute an intelligent response to his lecture. But the furore itself will have its use: a speech which otherwise would be forgotten will attract more attention over a period of time and a debate may follow. It may be then that commentators come to terms with what the Archbishop was actually saying.

It seems to me that what Dr Williams was arguing was part of his wider critique of the West’s international policy following the 11th September bombings. It’s an interpretation that, in a softly-spoken matter, sets challenges for liberalism. There are, he emphasises, fundamental rights which no religious morality could trump – but, equally, we should not fool ourselves that those rights add up to a complete code of behaviour. Some rules of conduct are established for ourselves by the communities in which we participate; those rules should not be challenged by the state simply for the sake of having an all-encompassing universal law which would assume all individuals are alike. It is a plea for pluralism, and for a recognition of the limits of what western ‘liberal democracy’ can helpfully export to other cultures. It is argument for everyone being equal before the law, but not the same before it.

However brief a summary this is, it should be clear that, for liberals, what Dr Williams said is problematic – in the best possible sense. He is challenging us to think further about our liberalism in the new context we find ourselves. In suggesting the limits to liberal democracy, he is not denying it has benefits but rather asking us to define its identity more clearly than is usual.

Which all sounds grist for the scholarly seminar, rather than for the public arena. We might pause to wonder how depressing it is that the public arena is thought unsuitable for intellectual discussion. But we might also wonder why Dr Williams said what he did, when he did. It was a challenge not just to governments and to the chattering classes but also to his own church – in the run-up to the General Synod. His picture of pluralism is one in which, it could be argued, the curious position of the Church of England as the church of the state should be in doubt. Perhaps – just perhaps – if the Archbishop has happened to trigger a discussion which will eventually lead to consideration of disestablishment, that might not have been completely unintentional. Though, naturally, the artful politician would claim himself ‘shocked’ when matters turn out to take that course.


Multifuncional said...

Hello. This post is likeable, and your blog is very interesting, congratulations :-). I will add in my blogroll =). If possible gives a last there on my blog, it is about the Impressora e Multifuncional, I hope you enjoy. The address is A hug.

Anonymous said...

情趣用品,情趣,情色,成人,A片,自拍,情趣用品,情趣,色情,成人影片,色情影片,免費A片,情趣用品,情趣,成人網站,A片下載,日本AV,做愛,情趣用品,情趣,美女交友,A片,辣妹視訊,情色視訊,情趣用品,情趣,色情聊天室,聊天室,AV,成人電影,A片,情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣商品,情趣,情趣情色,A片,AIO,AV,日本AV,色情A片,AV女優,A漫,免費A片,A片下載,情色A片,哈啦聊天室,UT聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,色情聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080視訊聊天室,080聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,免費視訊聊天,上班族聊天室,080中部人聊天室,視訊聊天室,視訊聊天,成人聊天室,一夜情聊天室,辣妹視訊,情色視訊,成人,成人影片,成人光碟,成人影城,自拍情趣用品,A片,AIO,AV,AV女優,A漫,免費A片,日本AV,寄情築園小遊戲,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色文學,色情,色情遊戲,一葉情貼圖片區,色情網站,色情影片,微風成人, 嘟嘟成人網,成人,成人貼圖,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片,成人影片,UT聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,080視訊聊天室,視訊聊天室情趣用品,A片,aio,av,av女優,a漫,免費a片,aio交友愛情館,a片免費看,a片下載,本土自拍,自拍,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色文學,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,嘟嘟情人色網,一葉情貼圖片區,色情影片,情色網,色情網站,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片,成人貼圖,成人圖片區,成人小說,成人電影情趣用品,情趣,情趣商品,自拍,UT聊天室,聊天室,豆豆聊天室,哈啦聊天室,尋夢園聊天室,080聊天室,080苗栗人聊天室,H漫,A片,AV,AV女優,A漫,免費A片,愛情公寓,情色,情色貼圖,色情小說,情色小說,情色文學,色情,寄情築園小遊戲,色情遊戲,SEX,微風成人,嘟嘟成人網,成人,18成人,成人影城,成人圖片,成人貼圖,成人圖片區情趣用品,情趣用品,情趣,情趣,情趣商品,A片,A片,A片,A片,A片,A片