Monday, February 28, 2011
Church of England shows some spine
Is this the first time in centuries?
The Archbishop of Canterbury has vowed he will never allow Church of England buildings to be used for gay weddings. Dr Rowan Williams told MPs that he would not bow to pressure to enable his churches to be used for same-sex unions.
His intervention comes as the Coalition consults on plans to allow civil partnerships between gays and lesbians to take place in religious settings for the first time. No church, mosque or synagogue will be forced to host the ceremonies - but some religious people are worried they could be open to discrimination suits if they do not open their doors to gay unions.
Some within the CofE have been calling on the Archbishop to move with the times and allow his churches to host gay weddings - pointing out that polls have shown that some two thirds of the British public would be in support.
But now Dr Williams, who was seen as a liberal when he took up his post, has indicated that on this issue he will ally himself with conservatives in the Church. He told MPs that the CofE believed marriage could only be a union between a man and a woman - and that he would not be changing course.
Challenged by Simon Kirby, the Tory MP for Brighton Kemptown, to explain what he would say to a same-sex couple wanting a church union, Dr Williams said he would not countenance weakening its teaching on marriage, and would not be dictated to by the Coalition.
Mr Kirby said the comments would alienate gay Christians and would make the Anglican Church look out of touch. 'I had hoped he might be more measured in his response and reflect on the cases for both sides of the argument more evenly, but he was very one-sided,' he said. 'Public opinion is moving faster than the Church on this issue and it is increasingly in danger of getting left behind.'
A consultation on allowing gays and lesbians to have civil partnership ceremonies in church will begin in April. It could even lead to gays getting full marriage rights.
Giles Fraser, canon chancellor at St Paul's cathedral, said the Church of England should be embracing gay equality in marriages. 'Gay relationships are perfectly capable of reflecting the love of God,' he said. 'Which is why the church should respond more imaginatively to the idea of same-sex blessings being celebrated in church.'
A spokesman for Lambeth Palace, the seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury, said: 'The Church still believes on the basis of Bible and tradition that marriage is between a man and a woman and does not accept that this needs to change. 'Civil partnerships now provide legal securities for same-sex couples but this does not, in itself, alter what we believe to be unique about marriage.'
Canon Glyn Webster, a senior member of the General Synod, said: 'It's only possible for a marriage to be between a man and a woman. I'm not saying there can't be loving relationships between people of the same sex, but that doesn't equate to marriage. 'I want the Church to keep to the policy of refusing to hold blessing services for same-sex couples.'
Why are British police so rude? Because they are trained to be
Last week the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published complaint statistics for 2009/10. And for senior officers – indeed for the public at large – they make uncomfortable reading.
For the second successive year the number of complaints increased by eight per cent, to record levels of almost 58,400, but within that headline figure there are trends that should give us all pause for thought. Almost 50 per cent of all allegations related to rudeness, incivility and neglect of duty.
Even the interim Chair of the IPCC, Len Jackson, felt compelled to comment that ‘the number of rude and late complaints ... will require forces to develop an open dialogue with the public’. That is Whitehall code for: ‘This has got to change!’
No one who cares about the maintenance of law and order in this country could view these figures with anything but concern – they expose worrying issues that we ignore at our peril. It is not a trivial point of manners but a reflection of the extent to which policing has changed for the worse in this country over the past 25 years.
I witnessed these changes as they began in the late Eighties and as they accelerated over the Nineties and the past decade. For 35 years, until I retired in 2001, I served in two forces and at the Home Office, at every rank from beat PC to Deputy Assistant Commissioner and HM Assistant Inspector of Constabulary.
I believe that we are now feeling the delayed impact of more than two decades of poor decision-making in policing.
Once upon a time the general public could confidently expect courtesy from their local constabulary. Particularly in the years following the Second World War, an easy accommodation emerged which had its roots in the continuing respect for authority figures that was the prevailing attitude of the time, and in recognition of the fact that civil society needed effective policing as crime rates soared.
This contract with the public lasted until the early Nineties when, under the dual pressure of economic and social change, a new generation of chief constables and commissioners, who saw policing as a ‘business’ rather than a vocation based upon service, decided that things had to change.
The new policing, enthusiastically supported by successive Home Secretaries, was about targets, response times and ‘measurable performance’, lifted straight from the MBA syllabuses of the best universities.
Beat patrols on foot in uniform were not part of this brave new world; unless effectiveness could be measured and converted into a ‘bottom line’ cost it was of no use, and had to be scrapped. Police discretion was submerged under a tsunami of directions, guidelines and data-gathering.
Then 9/11 happened and it was decided that the police service was on the frontline in the ‘war on terror’. Almost overnight, we all changed from citizens to suspects. Terrorism legislation and spurious ‘officer safety’ policies led to the militarisation of policing and the greatest change in attitude that had taken place for a century.
Police officers, the majority quite young – the average age of an operational PC is under 24 – have been trained to believe that they are continually under physical threat and must therefore be continually on their guard. It is clear that a significant minority of officers see the public as their enemy and as a potential hazard to be dealt with aggressively.
There is no doubt that standards of behaviour and civility, across the whole of Britain, have changed for the worse over the past quarter century. Courtesy and good behaviour have been abandoned by many in our modern, ‘me’ society. It is clear that a significant minority of officers see the public as their enemy and as a potential hazard to be dealt with aggressively
The police are products of that society; they attend the same schools, live in the same communities and have the same attitudes and prejudices as the best and the worst of us. But police officers should be held to a different standard of behaviour.
This change in attitude has to be set alongside the simultaneous withdrawal from day-to-day street patrolling that has taken place.
Once all young officers would spend their first few years getting to know local communities and local people by patrolling designated beats, tightly supervised with disciplinary sanctions by their sergeants and inspectors. That has been abandoned. Now new recruits, fresh from training which emphasises the primacy of their own safety over that of the public, learn from those senior to them, who also know no better.
A concerned officer recently gave me this extract from a force training programme – the tone is chilling. It says: ‘What the public consider rude is usually just no-nonsense commands and attitude. Unfortunately, when you try to reason with people, they take advantage. Therefore, when you need immediate compliance, you must use stern, unambiguous commands that require no interpretation on the part of the person being talked to. Through experience you must learn to command and dominate ALL interactions.’ The emphatic block capitals were in the original training notes.
So it is hardly surprising that of the 58,399 alleg¬ations of misconduct recorded by the IPCC last year, 11,576 were of rudeness and incivility. It is also deeply worrying and one would expect that the senior leadership of the police would be as concerned as you or I.
The official response from Deputy Chief Constable John Feavyour of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), to his credit, acknowledges that a problem exists and encourages the public to complain if they consider that an officer’s conduct has been unsatisfactory so that ‘appropriate action’ can be taken. Sadly there is little evidence to show ‘appropriate action’, which should mean minor disciplinary sanction by middle managers, is ever effective.
I know from experience the default position for too many junior officers is to ‘close ranks’ and deny that anything improper has occurred.
The police have never been held in lower esteem than they are today but the situation is not irretrievable.
Firstly, there must be assertive leadership from those at the top. Most ACPO officers are educationally and socially quite different to their personnel yet they see it as their role to be cheerleaders for their officers rather than critical leaders. Supervision and the maintenance of discipline, lost arts among today’s sergeants and inspectors, need to be relearned.
Lastly, and most importantly, there should be a programme of return-to-uniform foot patrols for all officers during the formative years of their careers to rekindle the skills of talking to people and appreciation of the value of mutual respect.
We are all better served if our police are approachable and courteous rather than granite-faced bullies.
Many officers, throughout the UK, want nothing more than to do the best they can for the public they serve, and are often embarrassed and disgusted by the behaviour of boorish colleagues.
Insane fishing policy may go
A classic case of bureaucratic destructiveness
European fishermen may be banned from throwing a million ton of fish overboard every year to stay within EU quotas following a campaign by the television chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
Maria Damanaki, the EU fisheries minister, will unveil a proposal to ban the practice of “discards” which as arisen as a bizarre consequence of a quota system designed to conserve fish stocks by preventing over-fishing.
Officials are bowing to pressure for reform of Europe’s fishing industry after more than 650,000 people signed a petition calling for “discards” to be banned following a series of programmes publicising the issue on Channel 4.
Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Fish Fight series disclosed that around half of the fish caught in the North Sea are thrown back into the ocean dead because fishermen are afraid of exceeding their quotas.
His campaign to stop the bizarre "conservation" practice won the backing of celebrities such as Stephen Fry, Ricky Gervais, Jamie Oliver and Jeremy Paxman.
In his contribution to the campaign, Paxman wrote: “If this is conservation, then I’m the Mad Hatter.”
Under Europe’s landing quota system, fishermen are required to throw back any fish that are too young, overfished or for which they have no quota. In mixed fisheries, it can be impossible for fishermen to control the species that they catch in their nets.
The result is that thousands of tons of overfished cod are thrown back every year so fishermen can continue trawling for more prolific species such as haddock. The vast majority of the discarded fish die.
A study by the United Nations Agriculture Organisation estimated that 1.3 million tons of fish and other marine animals are thrown back every year – amounting to 13 per cent of all catches. Scotland’s fishermen alone throw away an estimated £40 million worth of fish each year.
Mrs Damanaki’s proposal suggests that all catches should be landed and counted against quota. It is believed to be backed by Richard Benyon, Britain’s fishing minister, as well as the Danish, German, French and Belgian ministers.
But the policy is understood to be opposed by Spain and other southern European countries because the reforms could mean fishermen would have to stop fishing when they have reached their quota for a particular species to avoid catching it accidentally.
There are also concerns over the possible enforcement measures, which could include installing CCTV on all vessels or employing observers to ensure fishermen do not discard fish illegally.
But Henrik Hoegh, the Danish food minister, welcomed the proposed changes. "Fish is a common property and a common concern and society now wants a say," he said.
Libyans failed by Leftist orientalism
David Burchell says that Leftist hatred of their own society led them to underestimate the suffering of ordinary people in Muslim societies -- and failed to provide such people with a model to aspire to
SEVENTY years ago my father, along with 14,000 other Australians of the Ninth Division, was domiciled in the sleepy Libyan coastal town of Tobruk, where all year round the sky shone a fierce blue, the earth glowed red, and the ferocious heat of day and numbing cold of night seemed drawn from some other planet, where the seasons spin by in a single day.
Over the last week Tobruk and its neighbouring cities have been at war again - only this time it is the Libyans themselves who have been driving out the tinpot fascist and his functionaries, while instead of Stukas it has been Muammar Gaddafi's superannuated Sukhois dispatching terror from the skies. Yet the Libyan people are striving to free themselves without any moral succour from us, and without any obvious positive models to follow, so the crowds on the streets are far clearer about what they oppose than what they wish to create. And, once again, we are partly to blame.
The wartime generation was compelled by its narrowness of sympathy to pretend that the native populations whose territories they desolated didn't really exist, or that their lives were inconsequential. We, by contrast, fancy ourselves creatures of global sympathy and unlimited compassion - and so, far from wishing other peoples out of existence, we prefer to invent foreign peoples of our own imagining, to whom we entrust the task of assuming our fantasies and justifying our fears.
Nowadays the late American literary critic Edward Said passes for a moral authority on the historical relations of the Arab and Western worlds, and every single month a multitude of clever, ambitious, wind-sniffing young academic researchers pay homage to his memory. Said fitted himself perfectly to the needs of our era: though his entire adult life was spent in Manhattan, he purported to present the authentic voice of Arab victimhood to an intelligentsia yearning to reject everything their own countries stood for, as an act of spiritual self-purification.
Like his soulmate Noam Chomsky, Said presented a political perspective of almost child-like simplicity: the West, in its domineering ignorance, was forever doomed to "other" the Orient, and to treat it as its inferior, even while Said and his disciples blissfully "othered" the Middle East themselves, as a sepulchre of Arab suffering, in a mirror-image of those they deplored.
Said's acolytes are probably less familiar with the articles he wrote over many years for the Egyptian state press - articles devoid of the criticism of any existing Arab government; (least of all Mubarak's); and which reduce all the problems of the Arab world to the actions of those two familiar pantomime villains, the US and Israel. You will not be surprised to hear that Said had nothing whatever to say about Libya's absurd Mussolini imitator, Gaddafi - except to heap abuse upon the US when it responded to the colonel's various terrorist provocations.
Said reserved special contempt for brave Arabs who criticised the region's political, economic and social backwardness. As he wrote, in his customary lachrymose tones, in Egyptian state weekly Al-Ahram in 2003: 'I recall the lifeless cadences of their sentences for, with nothing positive to say about their people, they simply regurgitate the tired American formulas: we lack democracy; we haven't challenged Islam enough, we need to drive away the spectre of Arab nationalism.'
These ideals Said found aesthetically repugnant, since they offered the possibility that the Arab world - that shimmering ideal about which he knew so little and spoke so much - might become more like us. Instead, like any good Orientalist, he wanted the Arab world to remain pre-modern, atavistic, romantic - a figure out of his own fervid imaginings. You can search Said's articles in vain for the words now on the lips of young people across the region: democracy, freedom, women's rights. Instead, like earlier colonialist bromides they are souvenirs of pure social and political reaction.
What seems obvious about the young Libyans in the streets of Tobruk, Benghazi and Tripoli - like young Iranians and Egyptians, and quite possibly many Syrians and Saudis too - is that they no longer want any truck with those miserable self-serving fantasies of Arab victimhood and Zionist sorcery. Instead, they merely want to live - as Said was lucky enough to do - in a "normal" country, where their persons will be treated with dignity and their views with respect. But about how to create such a country, beyond toppling statues and setting fire to police stations, they have been left almost totally in the dark - partly through the agency of their own rulers, and partly by us.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.