Weekly Column

Looking for a stable

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Two great events overshadow what has by any standards been a turbulent year. The sad death of that great stabiliser, that symbol of so much that is Great about Britain, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the accession of King Charles III marks off 2022 in our history books. And a vicious land war within the borders of Europe of a kind we hoped - and promised - never to allow again carries with it all kinds of threats for the safe and prosperous future of the whole world.A Global Recession, commodity prices through the roof as a result of shortages; interest rates and inflation soaring; the unaffordable cost of living; energy bills forcing a choice between eating and heating; climate change making itself felt in all kinds of weather abnormalities; these and so many other urgent and imminent crises make 2022 the most turbulent of years. With all of that as background, we in the UK saw three Prime Ministers, countless Chancellors and Ministers; I have lost track of how many Budgets. And the end result in what should be the Season of goodwill and festive cheer is a rash of the most bitter of industrial disputes and strikes as public sector workers and others seek to boost their incomes commensurate with inflation.Every single aspect of the year’s turbulence (and domestic turbulence which was its fore-runner- Brexit, Boris, Covid, leadership battles, Truss) is capable of sharply differing analysis and opinion. We all feel strongly on some (or often all) of the above; and many of us are ready to express our views (as my email inbox proves). I very much welcome that. No one, no party, no international body or force has any kind of monopoly of correctness nor truly occupies the moral high ground seeking a solution to these problems. Only by discussion, by debate, can we try to find some kind of consensus; some kind of correct or acceptable outcome. Thesis and Antithesis produce Synthesis.These Aristotelian arguments and debates are (sometimes) better informed by one or more of a variety of philosophical principles. Are we ideologues or pragmatists? Do we spend our way out of trouble; or should we seek low taxes and economic growth? Should we disarm, as the pacifist appeasers would have it; or re-arm so that we can support the brave Ukrainians in their historic battle with the evil Putin regime? Does our innate belief in a liberal western democracy mean that we cannot talk to others of a different view- Saudi Arabia, Iran, the Taliban, China, North Korea? Is ‘Jaw jaw jaw’ really possible, or are we doomed to ‘war, war, war’?These thoughts and doubts and worries swirl around us like freezing fog as we wish each other a “Merry, Happy, Jolly, Peaceful, Prosperous Christmas and New Year”, or even more fatuously “Happy Holidays.” Yet when the sea is running; when the world is in turmoil; when we really cannot argue that we know what’s best, nor campaign for any kind of clear and decisive outcome; surely when the world is truly in turmoil, that’s the very time when we need a rock of stability; some certainties to which to tie our storm-tossed little coracles.We all have our own personal lodestars to help us through the storms. But for me it’s the reality of the birth of Christ in the stable; of all of the important symbols and tales of Christmas. It’s a 2000-year-old guide to all that is good and stable, and holy and mystical in the world. It’s a way to lift ourselves above the mundane and the wicked, to banish the rotten and miserable, and fix our sights on something which is truly, universally, greater than all of us.So I do wish you all a very Happy and Jolly Christmas; I hope you have a lovely time with friends and family, that you sing a few carols, enjoy the King’s speech, have the odd tipple or two. But even more important, I hope we can find that Stable and peaceful New Year.

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James Gray
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December 21, 2022