The Lord and the Man

I was never a fan of Andrew Lloyd Weber. With Tim Rice there was a sharpness about his work, but on his own it lost the appeal for me. I think it was the creepiness of the “Phantom” that turned me off and any interest was finally dashed with the sickly slimy “Cats” that destroyed, for me T.S. Elliots, enchanting collection of poems. I still have the battered copy and can recite many of the poems by heart.  It is always a matter of personal taste of course and I know other folk who love what he does. I am also not a wholly committed fan of Van, the man, Morrison but I know many people who love him too and if I had the time and the inclination, I guess I could be converted.

But my admiration and respect for both of these men has grown in my estimation, when I hear how they have broken their self-imposed silence on all things political to challenge the status on the nightmare of lock-down and stand against Coronaphobia.  Lloyd Weber has been campaigning passionately to get theatres opened, highlighting the foolishness of the restrictions and Morrison has taken to releasing three songs without mincing his words. You can do that, of course, in a song, and he does.

No more lockdown/No more government overreach/No more fascist bullies/Disturbing our peace/ No more taking of our freedom and our God given rights/pretending it’s for our safety/when it’s really to enslave/ No more lockdown/No more threats/ No more imperial scientists making up crooked facts/ No more lockdown/No more pulling the wool over our eyes/No more celebrities telling us/ Telling us what we are supposed to feel

Granted it doesn’t look like a great lyric but the song isn’t out yet so the maybe the music will carry it.

He, like Lloyd Weber is simply speaking from his own sphere and for live music and theatre. Whether you think that is all that important or in any way a priority is a matter of opinion but they have every right and maybe duty to speak out when few in the “industry” do. In his defence Van Morrison said “I’m not telling people what to do or think, the government is doing a great job of that already. It’s about freedom of choice, I believe people should have the right to think for themselves.That doesn’t seem all that controversial, but the Northern Irish Health minister Robin Swann does. He describes Morrison’s intervention as “Dangerous”, instead, he suggests he should concentrate on singing songs about saving lives.

When a politician in government thinks that singing songs about freedom is dangerous, we should be worried. It maybe gives a pointer to where all this is heading.

Reluctant Anger

I often write angry letters and emails and never send them. A while back I remember getting my secretary to type a letter (immediately you know that really was a long time ago). I had scribbled it out in fury after been treated very badly. The indignation spilled out of me and I squeezed every bit of venom out of my pen. When she gave me the draft, she just looked at me and uncharacteristically offered some advice “That’s a really good letter” she said “It’s well written and totally justified .. and … you should bin it.”  It was a snatch of wisdom I haven’t forgotten. It is always a good practice to leave something you have written in a kind of quarantine for a while before you send it. Because, as we all know, it is too late afterwards. It can’t be unsent. 

I have been holding fire on a letter (one of many) to our first minister for over a week now and it was about to be dropped in the bin, but on hearing the daily briefing yesterday and hearing of the distress to a very good friend, I caught it just before it fell.

She is a dear friend and is quite distraught because she is prohibited from being at the funeral of a family member because of the ridiculous and wholly arbitrary cap of 20 persons. Because of these cruel regulations she is unable to be physically there to support her own daughter at this critical moment. The moment when a physical presence is so important.  It is so cruel and it is so unnecessary. It points up how serious this whole thing is and there is no end to the folly of it.

Anyway, this was my letter and I suppose, in journalist parlance, it is now an “open letter”

————————————————————————————————————————- 

Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon

Dear First Minister

LIFTING LOCK-DOWN

I am sorry to add to your inbox with yet another letter. I guess you may not have the time to reply or perhaps even read it, but I am writing out of sheer desperation and not a little anger when I see the continuing and needless destruction of so much of our national life in the fixation and obsession with this virus and the folly (for that is clearly what it is) of the continuing and re-introduction of lockdowns and all the associated restrictions on the business of living.

This is not about me or my family or my grandchildren but the health of our people, physical, psychological, mental, social and spiritual, which has been severely damaged by this obsession and the ugly business of the state interfering in our own personal lives, treating us like children and scolding us on our behaviour. I can tell you it is a painful and embarrassing business listening to the daily reprimands and the patronising and condescending encouragements to be subservient.

Is this what an independent Scotland is going to look like?  Will this be the new normal?

My particular responsibility, as an elder in our local church, is for the care of our people and the community around us. From the start we have obediently followed all the rules and the guidance and have shut up our building depriving the people from coming together to worship God, to pray together, to sing and to hear the Gospel  and all the unseen pastoral work that goes along with that, for almost half a year now. The damage that has been done and continues to be done to the lives of so many, some who are very vulnerable people, and to our society as a whole, is uncalculatable. It is difficult to put into words what a terrible thing this is. The trouble is that it is not seen. It does not register in hospital admissions or Covid positive cases. It does not directly impact on the economy. So, it is extremely galling that we are still under the burden of these quite ridiculous regulations.

Really, First Minister, if anyone actually thought about it for a moment, they would realise that it is wholly unjust and discriminatory and does not make sense at all. To allow pubs and cafes and restaurants to open almost as normal yet impose insane restrictions on churches is quite bizarre.  You can have a glass of wine and a pack of crisps in a pub but you cannot share in a communion service. Children can return to school but cannot go to Sunday School.

I wonder if anyone in your advisory team actually knows what happens in churches or how it works? The church is not a club of people with a niche interest, people who like and are helped by that kind of thing or a fringe group weirdly concerned with airy fairy spiritual things. People don’t go to church, like they would to dancing classes, yoga or meditation or because it works for them. It is something quite different. The church is the people gathered from all walks of life and backgrounds, languages and cultures to worship God. And It is a family. It is understandable that people who are not involved in church perhaps do not realise this. We are a family made up of old and young, singles, married, young families, internationals, professionals, tradespeople, unemployed, students, confident and vulnerable. It is anathema to expect our church family to que at the door, wear a mask, be shown to a seat, arbitrarily distance from others, not to talk, mingle, speak before during or after the service, not share a cup of tea not sing, to have their details recorded and to leave without the chance to share fellowship, problems, worries, struggles, happiness, joys and every human experience. We would be exchanging an atmosphere of welcome to one of suspicion, instead of inclusion, exclusion, instead of help and support, distance and cold detachment, instead of comfort, a cold glass of water.  It would be like treating people as lepers. People who might have a terrible disease and might infect us, or we them. We can’t do that. We can’t live in fear. We have to follow Jesus who touched lepers when no one else would.

Meeting like this, whatever you might call it, is not a Worship service. A family would not exist or function under these restrictions. It is like saying the pubs can reopen but no one is allowed to drink, or the shops, but you must not purchase anything.

Today, a dear friend of ours explained how she would not be allowed to be at a family funeral and not able to be present and support her grieving daughter at this most critical time, and all because of an arbitrary cap on numbers at funeral services. She is distraught. We can hardly believe it and are saddened and quite appalled.

Please, please, this has gone for far far too long. The risks are so negligible. What people lose over this time cannot be recovered. The lives of our people are so much more important than not losing face or doing another Uturn. Continuing with these restrictions is completely disproportionate to the risk . Please, please, lift all these restrictions now.

Yours most sincerely

Crawford Mackenzie

It’s time to Grow Up


At the beginning of this debacle, the contrarian libertarians were warning us that once a government gets a taste for extraordinary powers, in a declared emergency, they can be extremely reluctant to relinquish these powers, even when the emergency has long since passed. The many instances when this was shown to be the case seem to bear it out and I am beginning to think that they are right.  Power is a bit of a narcotic and those who are hooked on it seldom go into voluntary rehab or cold turkey. If you have prime television time each day to address a compliant nation and answer questions from a docile press, if you have a completely ineffective opposition, if you can ride any storm, any scandal, can undertake any number of u-turns with a mere blink of the eye and an apology, all of which in normal times would destroy a political career, why give it up? Who wouldn’t? 

With no deaths attributed to Covid-19 for three weeks, a few hundred people hospitalised and less than a handful in intensive care, the emergency, in Scotland at least, has truly passed. That fact is indisputable, still our government  are extremely reluctant to let go of their recently acquired power.  And this is demonstrated in the daily briefings, the constant updating, the changing of advice, telling us what we are not and what we are allowed to do, scolding footballers and party goers and threatening the rest of us with stricter measures in a form of collective punishment, if those naughty boys don’t behave. It is excruciatingly painful to watch. But this, it seems is the “New Normal” that sinister phrase that has been slipped into the conversation. This is what they meant. In it we will no longer be free but have the intimate details of our lives, our personal hygiene and habits, intimate relationships and social intercourse, forever scrutinised and directed by a government obsessed and intoxicated with its own sense of destiny.   After a meeting the other day (for legal reasons, I am not permitted to say whether it was carried out under strict social distancing measures or whether the participants were wearing mask or whether contact details were recorded)  my client in weary exasperation and in the confusion over whether a handshake was right or not, grabbed mine and said “Awh….. grow up!” That was exactly how I felt. It is time to grow up.

The “lock-down” was imposed, you might remember, to protect the NHS from being overwhelmed.  It turned out not to be overwhelmed and the vast overflow facilities, which epidemiologist say were quite the wrong thing anyway, were largely unused and mothballed. We have probably forgotten that. I spoke to a trauma surgeon and heard second hand from a consultant friend this week and both commented on how little they do-  two days a week at most and otherwise they are idle. One was so bored he started on a major building project on his house single handed. “I have to do something” he said.  Whether the lock-down had anything to do with saving the NHS is actually debatable. It is more likely it was saved by shifting older people to care homes and by cancelling just about every non immediate procedure. We now know the horrendous cost of that policy in the lives of people left to die in care homes and the heavy backlog of postponed cases that the our health service now has to deal with. For some it will be too late.  

The crisis, if it was as big as it was made out to be, has passed, but it has been replaced with another crisis, this time, a concocted one – the “second wave”. The way the government and the media have scampered about leaping on any tit-bit of data that would give credence to this alarm is almost comical. Great play is made over localised spikes in cases, but little is said or revealed about how many of those, who were tested positive, were requiring intensive care, or were hospitalised or were in fact exhibiting any symptoms at all. What is also seldom compared is the rate of testing and how this affects the increase in cases. And there is the whole question about how accurate testing is with so many false positives and false negatives. That information is hard to find and I think I know why. It doesn’t fit the narrative.

All of this, conveniently keeps the thing on the boil. More importantly, it keeps the population in a measure of constant fear and allows ministers to continue to interfere in our private and social lives. How people simply accept this with hardly any protest is quite beyond my understanding.

The moving of the goalposts, the inability to forecast an end, the forever “coming-out-of- lock-down” process must be one of the most depressing things to watch, but it is more than that, it is the slow boiling of the frog, it is the silent choking of our society, it is the insidious disabling of our human associations.  And the point of it all?  Well you tell me.

I guess that time only will tell whether the cynics were in fact right, but it looks like they were and we can be sure that those in power will milk this one for all its worth, even if it ends up tipping us over the edge.

Crawford Mackenzie

In Silence

It’s barely a five minutes walk from our cosy apartment in the Lanes by the harbour, where the waves of the North sea lap against the stone walls of the houses and boatsheds, the cobbled jetties, piers and little bays of rock and sand out to the knab that outrageous rock promontory that stands sentinel at the edge of the harbour. It is early morning and the soft wind is blowing in off the sea with that daily freshness that instantly reaches the heart and the head and things seem so much clearer.

The sun has risen over Bressey and glints across the water as the tirricks dance over the waves before pouncing to pick up an errant piltek and return with it for breakfast. The track takes a line just above the shore past the graveyard on the eastern slope and rises to its highest point where I stop and gaze across the wall, down over the cliff and far out to the southern horizon. The cliff face is terrifying. I tried once to go down across the rock to find a good place to fish, but soon lost my confidence, was frozen with fright and realising I could never trust myself to a caste and made a careful retreat to safer ground. Today I stand behind a solid masonry wall and watch the Fulmars performing their aerobatic displays. Like spitfires, effortlessly tilting and turning, they zoom in fast past the nest on the cliff to rise again into the wind. On the sharp dark rocks below, a line of shags with wings at ease stand erect. In conversation? Possibly. At a suitable distance apart, but on the same rock, a small group of black guillemots study the waves, as one fluttering with its white flashes speeds over to join them. Across the water, the gannets seem to fall over themselves as they find a shoal of mackerel. Like giant planes they glide over the waves then turn and dive headlong into the water disappearing in a white streak of foam. The soft wind caresses the long grass and wild flowers on the edge of the slope, sea campion, kattikloo, lammas flooer and sweet william all dancing to the same tune while the sea pinks shimmer on the edge of the slope. The smell of the sea breeze mixed with the grasses is intoxicating. It could be the finest of wines, it takes your breath away and transports you to another place and time. There is almost too much to take in. Nothing remains the same, in sun or rain in gales and stillness, the sea is constantly moving and every creature seem thrilled to the unspeakable joy of living.

This is the point where I abandon the camera and sketch book. Here, as in all of the nature, there is something that cannot be captured. It cannot be preserved in a bottle or a can or defined on a painting or live-on in a poem. True, we try and the artist and poets have so often opened our eyes and helped us see what we would otherwise be blind to.  The romantics, despite their bad reviews, have given us a way of looking at the world and we are richer for that. I am thinking of Keats and his “Ode to Autumn” that I learned at school and has stayed with me ever since.  The way the sounds and the rhythm and the colours come together gives you the taste of the apples, the smell the flowers, the bleat of the lambs and feel the weight of the bounty. It helped me see that season in a new light.

This morning, I read David’s Psalm 65 and it is pouring through my mind, as I stand here in wonder.  It is set in a very different time and land, possibly parched and dry, and so it is full of the blessings of water. You can almost hear it gurgle, drip and flood as it fills the furrows. You see the valleys filled with grain, the slopes with sheep and the rich produce that weighs down the cart wheels. What makes David’s song different from Keats, is that beyond all the wonder of the world he sees the hand of the creator, constantly and intimately involved in refreshing, renewing, recreating, restoring in this great living work of art. But it is not an abstract vague or distant entity, a mother nature, but a personal God who can be known, who speaks and who listens.  The first four verses alone tell us so much of this God. He hears our prayers, he takes away our sin, he chooses and calls and draws us near to his place where there is complete satisfaction, fulfilment and joy.  It is an astonishing song, but it is also intriguing as the literal translation of the first verse reads. “Praise waits, in silence, for you, O Lord”  I was curious about the idea of praise waiting in silence and wondered if it said something about how we approach God. Perhaps, before responding in heartfelt gratitude, in exuberant unrestrained praise, our first attitude should be one of total reverence, waiting for him in silence.

That’s how I feel this morning, when overcome with the wonder all around me but today eclipsed by the unspeakable joy of having just seen the miracle of a new life and held her in my arms, this fragile, and to my eyes, perfect creature, her tiny lips creased into a smile, and her eyes closed in carefree abandon.

“Praise waits, for you, in silence Lord”.

Crawford Mackenzie

A Heartfelt Plea

I wrote to my MSP and to the First Minister again this morning. I doubt if I will get a response or if my letters will actually be read. In the past, the best I have had is a bland acknowledgment and a referral to the relevant spokesperson who responded by suggesting I take a look at the government’s web site. I have a terrible feeling I am wasting my time, but it helps me release some steam, for there is plenty of that to be released.

From the beginning I have felt that the lockdown was a terrible mistake and I was so disappointed that when the Scottish Government had the opportunity, as the issue was one of health, to steer a different course, in the end, we seem to have slavishly followed Westminster in its panic over Covid-19, for panic it certainly was. Any difference between the administrations was only cosmetic, over timing or extent and that doesn’t augur well for an Independent Scotland, if we are going to end up meekly following in line with Westminster.

But it happened, we are where we are, and we have to live with it, and I can’t express how totally depressing it is to sense that there is still no end in sight. The deadly slow pace of the lifting of all these extraordinary measures is excruciatingly painful and with each passing day gradually sapping the life out of our communities, in almost every area. This is not about me. my family or my close friends, but about our society and how we can mitigate the terrible harm that we have done by imposing this horrible lock-down.

I had a long and difficult conversation yesterday with someone who is part of a pastoral group in our local church. While we come together as a congregation for worship services in our church building, we also have pastoral groups, and this works in various levels, for study and prayer and for practical support. The groups include all ages married, with families, old folk and a number of single adults. Some have serious mental and other health issues and depend very much on the regular support which these group gives. I was moved and challenged with the conversation. Although I had suspected that the sudden loss of this precious opportunity of meeting together would have serious consequences, I hadn’t fully realised what it would cost for the most weak and vulnerable. The whole conversation seemed to be a desperate cry for help and at the end, I was left with her plea  “Please, can you do something, can you do something..”

I was stung by the plea and sat down to work out, as best I could within the current regulations, to see if there was some way that our pastoral groups could return.  The more I studied the rules and guidance, I realised that it would not and could not work in any meaningful way because it came up against the brick wall, the curse of “social distancing”. I really do think it is a curse, as it is totally against human nature and is slowly blighting our lives.

So my plea was simple, to end this horrible imposition and to do it now.  To release this muzzle which is destroying the very fabric of our society, turning us into an unfriendly nation full of distrust and suspicion of the “other” and causing terrible harm to the most vulnerable.

I am not holding my breath.

Crawford Mackenzie

Up close and personal

The utter stupidity of the idiotic continuation of the “social distancing” mantra is laid bare each day and it is hard to believe that this can continue for very much longer. After a five hours masked train journey in almost deserted carriages, the sleepy Yorkshire town, I visited with my client, was like normal, with lively closed packed pubs and restaurants, open inside and out and not a mask in sight. Something has to give, before the whole thing ends in total farce.

One of the most revealing things is the importance given to certain activities over others. This was clear from the beginning of the lock-down fiasco,when the retail outlets considered essential, not only included food and medication, but bike shops, pet shops and off licences. It had, as others have said before, all the marks of a prison regime, so food, medicine, a time in the exercise yard and a blind eye turned to alcohol and drugs to keep the lid on the thing, was the way to go. But it has also been clear in the areas where the best efforts are made to bring things back to a level of normality. The economy of course was first, getting people back to work, which may not be easy as we think. But then there was sport and the continuation of the English premier league which could not be allowed to fail. Then the pubs and restaurants, hair dressers and tattoo artists and most recently the tourism industry, with special financial help. Today I read that, under new guidelines, actors, apparently, can now be filmed kissing in intimate scenes where touching will be allowed. The relaxation was introduced after it became clear that social distancing filming would ruin such scenes. So, there we have it. The two-dimensional fantasy world, it turns out, is more important that the real world of relationships between real people, real families, real friends, real communities.

In our local church we have been agonising, for some time now, over when and how we can return to meeting together, to worship God and sing and pray and share fellowship, uncluttered by all the rules and regulations. The loss of this life-giving activity is sorely felt and we may not know for some time what the cost of this deprivation on the lives of so many will be. The technological innovations have, of course, helped but nothing replaces incarnation.  How can you welcome, share, empathise, listen, get near, encourage, challenge, show sympathy,concern and all the things that go in a living fellowship of people, at two metres distance? How can you feel one when you are divided? How can you feel together when you are physically separated   It is very divisive subject, as there are some who, with every good reason, are extremely anxious and others who are quite sceptical about the whole thing.  The issue is not over cleanliness, hand sanitising, deep cleaning of premises, surfaces, books etc but over this horrible anti-social prohibition.

Now I know that it is unlikely that a secular government would see or know this. Why should they? “People of faith” as they call them are seen as a wee bit odd anyway and it is unlikely that they would have any idea of what goes on a church. But the church’s passivity over it is disappointing as it is troubling.

Crawford Mackenzie


[1] Which should properly be called the English premier league as there was a premier league in Scotland before the English one.

Masked

When I was quite small my mother told me, in the melodramatic way she would often speak about such things, to make sure the bedroom window was open when you slept, otherwise, she said, you might die in the night. I didn’t want to die in the night so, ever since, I’ve made sure the window was open even just a little. Now our bedroom window is only closed when horizontal snow is blowing in. For a long time the window was broken,anyway, so we couldn’t shut it. My mother’s advice at the time was a wee bit over the top as we lived, for most of our young lives, in old manse buildings where the draughts at times would resemble Atlantic storms. If we happened to die in the night it would not be due to lack of oxygen.

In school I remember the rather potted science lesson that we needed oxygen to breath and we expelled the burned-up oxygen, the carbon dioxide. Through the beauty of nature the plants did the opposite which made for a good balance. Inevitably it is more complicated than that but the principle is still intact. Anyhow, I knew, soon enough, that there would be plenty oxygen even in a small bedroom to see me through the night, but the need for fresh air was vital and the lack of it very unsettling.  I know I shouldn’t be, but I am always surprised when I get over the door and the fresh air hits me and my mood and temperament and the feeling in my gut can change so quickly and I am thinking  “So that was what was wrong.” I noticed this especially amongst children who can be cooked up in at home, bad tempered and unbearably irritable but immediately out in the fresh air all of that changes and they can become different poeple.

So I knew, when the call came to stay home and save lives, that it was quite wrong, that it was thoroughly bad health advice and a horrible imposition to force on an otherwise healthy population. To quarantine the healthy must be one of the most foolish things for any government to do. But they did it. No doubt, they will admit to this and other mistakes, in time, as they are already doing. They will fall back on the useful crutch of saying they were following the best scientific advice at the time, or as Matt Hancock bizarrely claimed, the guidance was “really strongly interpreted”, but by then the damage will be done.

Now we are faced with the next phase of governmental insanity with the compulsory wearing of face masks in shops and public transport. Now we are mandated to breath in our own carbon dioxide, just what my mother warned me about. It is true that fresh air will be pulled through the mask but it is inevitable that a  good deal of the air we breath in a mask will be recycled carbon dioxide. It is effectively breathing poison, liable to make you light-headed or dizzy and even sick.   We know that standard medical masks can barely filter out coronavirus yet to use a mask made from an old shirt or sock, or a scarf or a buff, or whatever seems to be ok. It doesn’t make any sense.  The effectiveness of these coverings has never been tested nor could it be. There is so many variables and so many ways in which a mask could be used or misused – touching it, taking it off to drink or use the phone, not sterilising it properly before reuse, and a thousand other things that we see people do all the time. It is totally absurd, but we have to go along with it.

Tomorrow, I leave early for a nine-hour return train journey. I am not looking forward to it. I used to love long train journeys but this looks to be singularly unpleasant. I can feel the claustrophobia already. Now, I am not a rebel and always try my best to obey the law and not step over the line, But, if I do lapse and someone picks me up, I reserve the right to roll my eyes. That is one part of my face they will still be able to see.

Crawford Mackenzie

Fresh Air and Sunshine

It is strange, but now sadly predictable, that in the critical heat of a crisis, common sense is always the first to leave. Watching it all unfold before your eyes is so frustrating, especially when someone comes along with the results of research which seems to prove what your grannie could have told you long ago.  

Today we had the results from a study in a scientific journal, the “Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology”, which find, surprise, surprise, that sunlight can kill the virus in about 30 minutes and being cooked up inside isn’t a great idea.

“Forcing people to remain indoors may have increased contagion among same household dwellers and among patients and personnel inside the same hospital or geriatric facilities.  In contrast, healthy people outdoors, receiving sunlight could have been exposed to a lower viral dose with more chances for mounting an efficient immune response.”

Now I cannot pretend for a minute that I know anything about the subject and there will be other scientist, especially those who favoured the lock-down method of combating the virus, who would take the opposing view, but when the science is not at all clear, I guess it is best to go with common sense.

One thing I do know a bit about is building. Yesterday I read about a study carried out by the Ministry of Housing responsible for building regulations in England. It came up with the finding, again surprise, surprise, that living in a hermetically sealed environment can seriously damage your health. Now I remember being at a seminar when the new regulations over air leakage in new buildings in Scotland were introduced. These define how air tight a new home should be, with strict tests to ensure that a building is compliant. I felt uneasy about it at the time and couldn’t see how this sat easily with the other important requirement, that a dwelling should be properly ventilated. Now we learn that there are serious risks to health directly associate with this regulation. It causes overheating in houses leaving people “stewing in their beds” with consequential “loss of productivity, domestic abuse and even deaths”. The push towards air tightness was driven, of course, by the need to be energy efficient and this is understandable, but the side effect doesn’t seem to have been properly considered.

It is astonishing how the focus on one specific objective seems to create a blindness to other equally important factors. The virus is racing through the population so we lock people in their homes to prevent its spread, not having considered that maybe that action might actually make matters worse. Air leakage from dwellings contributes to heat loss, energy inefficiency and ultimately global warming so we hermetically seal our homes, not having considered that maybe the consequential loss of ventilation might be a really bad thing.

I genuinely wonder how this happens. Is it because people become so locked into their own professionally specialised bubble that they can’t see the wood for the trees.  Is it because the way politics works, the immediate threat or issue, the one the media has locked on to, has to be the one we fixated on and it gets all the attention and resources? Or is it quite simply that, somewhere along the line, we have lost that virtue that we used to call common sense?

Crawford Mackenzie

https://crawfordmackenzie.net/2019/01/21/losing-the-sense/

Just three links

Posting links to other people’s thoughts seems a lazy way of doing things but now and again someone says something which expresses exactly how you feel, which seems so spot on and puts into words what you were thinking but were somehow unable to say. Sometimes they even appear in the main stream media.

Here are three such pieces, published in the past few days, one which I came upon myself, but the others which I have to thank David and Rachel for pointing them out to me.

The first is Jonathan Sumption on what we are doing to our children https://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2020/06/12/damaging-generation-children/ ,

The second is Helen Coffey on what we are doing to our church family https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/coronavirus-life-after-lockdown-things-we-miss-church-christian-faith-a9550606.html

The third is Neil Mackay on what we are doing to our humanity https://www.heraldscotland.com/news/18510141.opinion-neil-mackay-inventing-post-covid-scotland-stripped-humanity/

Crawford Mackenzie

This is what history looks like

It was something Douglas Murray said. He of the “The Strange Death of Europe” and “The Madness of crowds” and one of the few people who seem to have a handle on where we are.  It was in the course of an interview, when he was describing a story from Tolstoy’s “The death of Ivan Ilych” when the judge thought he was dying and remembered being on a train, convinced it was going one way, when it was always going the other way. “How on earth could something like this happen”, he was thinking, followed by the realisation that it was happening.  It seemed to sum up the way Murray wasfeeling about our present crisis. There was no end and no limit to the absurdity, the irony and the crazy happenings. The thought that “This can’t be happening. This is not what happens” quickly followed by a second thought “Yes this is what happens, this is history, this is what history looks like.” 

It was also something that David Starkey said about history. We think history changes gradually and morphs smoothly into different phases. He said it didn’t. Things slowly build up and then explode. History pivots on one small event. A bullet takes the life of a Duke and the World is catapulted into a war when million are slain. A plane flies into a tower and hundreds of thousands die in a land far away. A cartoon is published in a newspaper and gunmen are on the rampage. A mobile phone video is released and statues are thrown into the sea. History it seemed, turns on a pin and in the case of the current crisis, in a matter of a few days, over a weekend, when the nightmare of lockdown was birthed.

We have seen the build-up, for a long time now. This was best explained for me in the two most incisive studies that I have read on the subject: “Dominion” by Tom Holland which showed how we have what we have and “The strange death of Europe” which showed how we are throwing it all away. The dismantling of marriage and the dismembering of the family, the relativity of truth, the fluidity of reality, the replacing the real with the material, the worship of the gods of health and wellbeing instead of the one true God. David Robertson in “The wee flea” has at the same time consistently shown that by destroying the root we eventually destroy the fruit. In one of his more recent and devastatingly pertinent posts (https://theweeflea.com/2020/06/09/a-free-peoples-suicide-the-end-of-law-and-order-in-the-west/) he suggests that law and order itself is on the point of collapse.   

So with each day as the news become more and more bizarre, it is genuinely quite hard to believe if it is all true, if this is actually happening. Whether it is the sudden obsession with statues, the police kneeling before protestors, the laws clamping down on individual’s liberties but winking at thousands on the march. the insanity of social distancing in schools, or the prime minister mumbling about bubbles. And I was recalling a conversation with one of my siblings recently, when we were wondering about the world and the seismic changes that have taken place in recent years. Could our parents have possibly imagined that this was at all possible? No, they simply would not have believed it.  Truth be told, I would not have believed it either. I would have thought “this is not what happens” but now I realise, when I recognise the sound outside my window, the sound of our world crumbling, I realise “Yes, this is what happens”. This, it turns out, is what history looks like.

And I imagine a history class in a future era where the pupils are studying “The rise and fall of Western Civilisation”. The reasons for the fall were clearly documented and now very obvious but the curious thing is what actually tipped it over the edge. It was a tiny invisible organism that travelled from the East.

Crawford Mackenzie