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Roger Warren Evans
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1114 20 September 2005
A new fallacy stalks our Press. It is that in "understanding the causes of terrorism", there is a special role for Christian church-leaders in working with their Muslim counterparts. Religion, so the reasoning goes, should talk unto religion. Last Sunday I attended, in Swansea's Guildhall, a civic service organised by the Swansea Interfaith Forum, which allied church and synagogue, chapel and mosque, Hinduism and Buddhism. It was a bland, insignificant event - even for the hundreds who came.
For the truth is that the underlying problem is political, not religious. I reject the idea that "the problem" lies with religious extremism itself, whether Islamic, Christian or Jewish. The political issue lies rather with the creation of a political and social order which can accommodate the most diverse combination of individual views, beliefs, obsessions, conspiracies. Can we create un cadre neutre (to extend le pouvoir neutre model of Montesquieu) which can neutralise the destructiveness of all extremism, wherever it comes from? That is the question.
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1115 19 September 2005
New Orleans has spawned great agonies, for everyone, over the proper scope of the public realm. The hurricane has erupted into great political debate, about socialism, about inequality, about an impoverished public realm. In the States, it has generated real personal anguish for many, not least Michael Moore.
But those agonies mesh with the European debate about the scope of "Rhineland" model of the Welfare State and the lighter Anglo-Social model. Also with the anxious searching of Liu Kaiyang, the young Chinese Communist diplomat whom I met last month at the Chinese Embassy in London.
And in the UK, we seem smug about the relative "success" of our own model, carved out by Thatcher and Blair. Now: I do not wholly "disapprove" of that model: I think that it much to commend it, and Gordon Brown has much to be proud of. But it suffers two deep-running faultlines, which should wipe any smiles on British faces.
First: Our model fails to address two central fears of everyday life -
(1) Old age - the awful insecurity of old age, and worries about old age - the state pensions promise is still not determined, and it is the sheet-anchor of everyone's sense of personal security.
(2) Unemployment - our State also fails to address the other great fear of everyone's lives, namely unemployment - for millions of people in the UK, unemployment means poverty, and new thinking is needed to address these anxieties.
Secondly: we are steadily losing our sense of fair play, of equality before the law, of the primacy of civil liberties and their permeation of the entire quality of life. We are becoming a less tolerant, more authoritarian society. That process is being fuelled by the paranoia of professional politicians, who fear the loss of personal power above all else. They are prepared to sacrifice our liberties for the preservation of their power.
The War on Terrorism and the War on Drugs seem to justify draconic measures which will surely change our liberal society beyond recognition. The jury system is threatened. The independence of the judiciary is threatened. Freedom of speech is threatened, with or without the awful crime of "glorifying" terrorism. Even our adherence to the European Convention of Human Rights is being questioned. Police forces are expanding in size, and their powers of intervention being increased.