It works, don’t fix it

I don’t know what it is about me (honestly, I don’t try it) but I seem to be perpetually swimming against the tide. Just when everyone seems to be leaning, swaying and swinging towards a yes vote I am becoming less and less convinced.

I was so looking forward to this debate, but it has been such a dreadful disappointment. I hate the slick TV commercials, I hate the promise of Nirvana that no one can believe in. I hate the dreadful warnings and the threats. I hate the celebrity endorsements.  Really, we don’t need to know how musicians, TV cooks   and dancers chose to vote. We can make up our own minds. But what we do need is leadership and of a kind that we have, so far, not seen.

Somehow I naively believed that out of it all would come some clear leadership, some visionary, some prophet, someone who would grab the attention of the people and fire their imagination, someone who would point a way beyond petty kale yard parochialism to a hitherto unseen horizon, a Vaclav Havel, a Jomo Kenyatta, a Mahatma Ghandi a Nelson Mandela an Aung San Suu Kyi. But no one we have, comes anywhere near the stature of these people. Inevitably it has become little more than a playground scrap following the same old predictable lines and no one seems to be able to rise above it. Some like Jim Sillars and Gordon Brown make an effort and hint at what could be, but others have let it slide into a grubby political game promising a paradise, issuing threats and knocking chunks off each other. When people like Nicola Sturgeon says “we have everything to play for” we know it is as a game.  The scary thing is that it is not a game.

So, while they are unlikely to listen, this is what I have to say.

To the Yes side: “Forget about politics and economics, monetary policy security, child care, the just and fair society that we all want etc etc.  You know and we know that it might not be possible to deliver on any of these. There are no guarantees. You might not be in power to do it. Focus on nationhood, inspire us, make us believe in it, and don’t promise anything, other than that it’s going to be hard. That was what Wallace (aka Mel) and Churchill did. Whatever you do, don’t give us sweeteners. We are not fools and we see through all of that as we have done before. Promises of a better world, simply by putting a cross in the right place never convinced anyone. But if I heard a speech that said “it’s going to be pretty tough, the economy might not go well for some time, it will takes us several years to sort all the things out and get it right, we may have difficulty working out who are our friends, It will take a lot of patience, you might find yourself worse off for some years and frustrated with us because we can’t do it all at once but… but, and here’s the thing,  it will be worth it.” Then I just might just be convinced.

To the no side: “Don’t say anything. Everything you have said, so far, has backfired spectacularly.  You don’t have to argue for the status quo. People know what it is. The other side need to do the explaining. It’s not perfect, it’s not all good, there are lots of flaws but it works, don’t fix it.

Crawford Mackenzie

The Servant

his hand

I heard a sermon once and it changed my life.  The time, location and circumstances have faded with the memory but the vision has remained clear. It was in the letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in Philippi, in the second chapter where he quotes a hymn:

Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us. Christ was humble. He obeyed God and even died on a cross. Then God gave Christ the highest place and honoured his name above all others. So at the name of Jesus everyone will bow down, those in heaven, on earth, and under the earth. And to the glory of God the Father everyone will openly agree, “Jesus Christ is Lord!”

It was a picture that was thrust into my mind and burned into my memory, of a hand that could have grasped, could have held on, but let go, willingly let go.  There were lots of questions: What kind of person would willingly let go of his right and come to this life where he would suffer be tortured and die?  For what purpose?  And what did it mean for me? The thought, uninvited, which broke into my ordered world, carried an unavoidable and unmistakable challenge. It was about attitude, about my attitude. Paul was saying: we should have the same attitude as Christ Jesus.

Many years later sitting with a group of international students, some believers and followers of Jesus, other unsure, while others Buddhists, Atheists, Hindus and various strands of religious background, we were thinking about Peter and the call from Jesus at the side of the lake to “come and follow me”. One of our international friends asked “If I decide to follow Jesus, will I have to give up everything too?” As usual I didn’t know how to answer the question, others stepped in to do that, but afterwards thinking about it, I knew. The answer had to be “Yes”. Yes it did mean giving up everything and yes it did mean not grasping what you thought was your right but letting go and giving it up.  It would look different for different people.  What it meant for others was not my business. I knew what it meant for me.

Now as almost everyone pitches in with their take on the life of Nelson Mandela, there is one thing that strikes me, more than anything else, about the man: his humility. How he seemed to continually stress that he was not a prophet or a king, but a servant. That is true greatness.

Crawford Mackenzie