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08 July 2003

The best lack all conviction

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."

No, I haven't converted to a millenarian sect. My vision is no more apocalyptic than it ever was. But these words from Yeats's "The Second Coming" keep coming back to me. The two stories I have been tracking the most intensely - the upcoming trials at Guantanamo Bay, and the looming schism in Christianity (it's not just the Anglican church, although that's the one on the boil at the moment) over the Godliness, or maybe even the human-ness of homosexuals, have both appeared in headlines today at crisis point.

There is a thread that connects the stories, and that thread is two men, very alike in their positions in the world, and very, very alike in the fury and disappointment and betrayal that their former supporters are now feeling. Those two men are Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Both men have revealed themselves as weak and mistaken and the tools of a joined up force embodied in, at present, the US administration of George W. Bush (aka the Smirking Chimp, aka aWol, aka the Shrub Who Stole the Presidency) and the world-wide dangerous cult of Christian right-wing evangelism.

Here is the story of MPs' (both leftist Labour and opposition parties!) fury at the PM for caving in entirely to Bush & Co. over the two British detainees at Guantanamo facing military "trials". Here is the story of liberal Anglicans' pain about the Archbishop caving in entirely to evangelical pressure, even to the point of forcing the resignation of Canon Jeffrey Johns from his appointment to the post of suffragan bishop. Note the similarity. Note the fact that both Blair and Williams have been eloquent champions of such lofty ideals as democracy, radical Christianity, tolerance, uncompromising defence of human rights, and most tellingly, "speaking truth to power". The best lack all convictions. . .

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