Friday, 3 February 2017

A grief

I feel as though I have lost England.

All my life long I have loved England, really and deeply, as though England were a person as well as a place. The sheep and cows on the hillsides, the woods and heaths, the fields of barley and beans, the rivers and ocean bounds, the craggy moors. And I have loved the stolid English people, cautious and quiet, their dry humour and conservative ways.

I have loved our Queen, sustaining and championing the work of so many artists and artisans, growing her beautiful organic garden with its bees, right in the heart of London, speaking out for the Christian faith and the importance of family life. I have loved Prince Charles, advocating for tribal peoples, for wilderness, for traditional crafts and architecture, and Earth-friendly farming.

But something has changed in me since our Prime Minister Theresa May came to power.

For a long time, I have felt growing dismay at the socio-political development of our national life. It began for me with the Iraq War. With such hope and joy I listened to Tony Blair’s speech when he was elected Prime Minister – he was a compelling orator. I felt horrified and ashamed when, despite thousands and thousands of people protesting all over Europe, he bullied through his alliance with US powers and took Britain into that doomed, inadvisable and unjust conflict. Its bloody outworking and legacy are to our lasting shame.

When David Cameron was elected Prime Minister, I felt deeply disappointed. Mine has always been a Labour vote – not for myself, because my own values are similar to traditional Conservative ways, but for the poor and vulnerable in our society. To my mind, the work of government should be directed towards creating and maintaining peace and stability; you cannot do that without lifting people out of poverty, offering permanent help to the frail, caring for the sick and aged and the little children in their families.

Cameron’s time in office took my disappointment down into something altogether darker and deeper – not so much because of him, because I perceive him as a weak and malleable individual, but because of George Osborne his chancellor. Under Osborne’s financial leadership, Britain was run not as a nation but as a business. Those in power (the rich, and central political figures) were its shareholders creaming off the profits, while the people and the land were its human resources and stock of commodities. That administration did not love Great Britain. They were there to take what they could while they could, and they did not care who suffered as a result.

When Cameron’s government secured the vote to bomb poor, battered Aleppo – the jets waiting on the runway as the vote was taken – and George Osborne chortled “Britain’s got its mojo back,” as the bombs fell on the children who play in the rubble, I thought we had surely reached our nadir.

Then, on the back of a campaign distinguished by nothing more worthwhile than blatant, transparent lying, we had the Brexit vote. And then we got Theresa May.

With Amber Rudd watching over environmental affairs, we can expect our precious and ancient hills and hollows to be fracked mercilessly, the waters poisoned and the bones of the land broken. We can expect the badgers to be slaughtered without pity. We are seeing our newly rising sustainable energy industries down-graded and disregarded, and a colossal nuclear installation agreed for our coast, despite the increasing turbulence and rising sea levels coming as the climate changes. Japan also has nuclear installations on their coastline (as we do already, too) and every day shows why that’s a bad idea.

The UN is calling UK treatment of its sick and disabled a humanitarian crisis under Theresa May’s watch. The health service is being systematically dismantled. Regulations are in place to deport all overseas nationals who earn less than £35K pa – so that would be all the chefs and staff of the little Italian and Turkish and Indian restaurants, all the Polish builders and plumbers, many of the care assistants in our nursing homes, much of our staff in hospitals – and so many other areas of work. It will tear up our beautifully diverse society by the roots, creating mayhem.

Meanwhile, under the savage and relentless cuts in government support to the poor, disabled, chronically sick and vulnerable, homelessness and poverty are steadily increasing, family life is de-stabilising, and wealth is transferring away from the increasing numbers in poverty to the rich élite. The trickle-up approach to economics.

And what can we yet find money to buy? Nuclear missiles.

This morning, I noticed something in myself that has been happening for a while without my really being aware. I have stopped loving our monarchy.

I have always delighted in the monarchy – its dignity and gravitas, the splendour of state occasions, the standards of excellence, the focus of national life. I loved our Queen and felt so proud of her.

But, it’s one thing to love pomp and ceremony while the people are fed and housed, the children cared for, the refugee welcomed, the vulnerable supported and the sick treated – it’s quite another when all that is tossed aside. Wealth and status become ugly and shameful when homeless people die of cold in the streets and old people die on trolleys in hospital corridors. Monarchy is no longer something lovely when the land is sold to be poisoned and destroyed for comparatively worthless money. There is no amount of money can sustain and nurture us better than the living Earth – and to think it can is not even an illusion, it’s just stupid.

Theresa May and the rapacious cabal around her have done this for me: they have taken my Queen and turned her into a rich old woman in a hat. They have stamped on my England. They have taken the land of the free and turned it into a stock cupboard. And to whom do they look for their next fix of money, money, money? Donald Trump. May God in his mercy defend us from our government. Whatever can we do?


gretchen said...

oh, pen, your thoughts and feelings about your beloved country echo mine across the ocean. with our new president (truly cannot utter his name in polite company) gun restrictions are being removed, healthcare dismantled, environmental regulations devastated (the way is being cleared for the pipelines), muslims banned, hispanics deported, women's rights trampled . . . i could go on and on and this in only two weeks. i am grieving for my country that i love. grief is truly the word. we are very sad over here and i know that you are too. we'll pray for each other and for both our countries.

because i have some disabilities, i can't go on marches or be an activist in the way that some can, not to mention being an introvert and contemplative. do you have any thoughts on the power of a contemplative life in the midst of chaos? i'm struggling with feeling so useless and, when i go to pray, i generally just end up in tears. advice? thoughts?

Pen Wilcock said...

"A contemplative life in the midst of chaos" - will come back and blog on that, Gretchen - thank you!

Bill posted (I'm cutting and pasting here to keep his contact details private):

"Your post today broke my heart, or perhaps more accurately, so resonated with me emotionally that my heart opened up even more along the fault lines that have developed over the past few months in response to the political and social situation here in the US. I have seen and heard so much hatefulness from people I considered "basically decent" recently.

The part of your post that really grabbed my attention was the paragraph where you mention that you vote Labour, not so much in your own interests as in the interest of those in a more vulnerable position than yourself, if I understood you correctly. This brought me up so strongly because so much of the rhetoric and its translation into action floating around the ether here in the US has been centered in unabashed self-interest, not even under the guise of "enlightened self-interest."

All this to say that your blog post holds great meaning (and feeling) for me. I am thankful for the way you are able to frame and respond to the spiritual/moral/political crises afflicting both the U.K. and the US currently.

In appreciation for your work--past and present."

Thank you, Bill - I'll email you.

Julie B. said...

I cannot watch the news anymore. Each headline is more upsetting. I care deeply about what's happening, but I don't know what to do other than cry out to Jesus. I am prolife, so wouldn't be welcome in the women's marches, not that I would march anyway. I have always looked at your beautiful country as a haven. I offer my prayers and love from far away. xo

Pen Wilcock said...


PepperReed said...

All these Friends speak my mind. Thank you for sharing, my heart and my sorrow is with you. It may seem like a light at the end of a very loooonnnnggg tunnel, but we WILL know Peace, we will BE Peace as best we can to those who need it.

Pen Wilcock said...

Amen. What Thich Nhat Hanh says - "Peace is every step."

Suze said...

Alas I feel for England and the world. Our politicians have made it clear that taking a pension is a mark of poverty. Excuse me, but much of society does not have the lurks and perks or the salaries and pensions politicians gain. As you write the little people do so much, every single day and receive little. People without security and faith in their leaders became unsettled and that is a dangerous place for the population to be. I dread the effects of some choices voters have made but have to live with these choices too.

I pray that God remains in control of my heart so I can feel some peace. I just wish I knew how our world is supposed to be a safe place with nuclear power, fracking, war etc.

Thank you for sharing your concerns. It is fantastic to read other people's opinions and not have a war of words over it too. God bless.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes - to converse and live in peace with diversity is blessed - to try to understand.

Anonymous said...

I agree with so much you have written here Pen, but cannot help but speak up for the Queen. She is nearly ninety one,and still carrying a huge workload, but she has to observe everything that is happening, but cannot interfere, or even voice an opinion.All she can hope to do is drop in the odd wise word here and there. The same goes for Prince Charles. Imagine not being able to express your thoughts, or if you do, then all manner of criticism is heaped on you. It must be a huge strain to live like that.
What is happening both at home and abroad is horrendous. I have very little faith in politicians of any description. All I can hope to do is to live my own life with love and compassion and hopefully I can make a difference somewhere.
God bless us all
Stella x

Pen Wilcock said...

Thank you, Stella. I entirely concur with what you say about the Queen, and Prince Charles. I think you didn't quite get what I meant. I didn't intend to convey disappointment in the conduct of either the Queen or the Prince of Wales, or to imply that they haven't spoken out as they should. The principles informing their choices and attitudes are in harmony with those determining my own. What I mean is that the affluence, the gorgeousness, the palaces and gold coaches, the racehorses and servants - while I can celebrate and delight in these most joyously all the while our ordinary people of small means are housed and fed and cared for in sickness and old age, the joy of it turns to ashes when that wealth and splendour perpetuates in stark contrast to the misery of refugees sleeping on the Calais streets, the children who could have come here safely now betrayed and turned back. It's not the Queen's doing, but the enormity of such destitution eclipses - extinguishes - national pride.

Anonymous said...

Hello again Pen,
Sorry I got the wrong end of the stick!

Pen Wilcock said...



Nearly Martha said...

These do feel like dark days. I add to this a sense of frustration in the church (and I include myself in the disappointment) We seem silent and at a loss. Fighting over positions on this and that internally. Struggling to pin down what we believe. There are exceptional individuals and churches but as "The Church" we seem to be missing it again. I remember what Phillip Yancey wrote about the beginning of Aids crisis in San Francisco. Paraphrasing - he said that the church may not have agreed with people's lifestyles etc but if only, instead of just freezing, they had rolled their sleeves up and served in the hospices, and wiped people's brows and gave them cups of water.Then people would have seen who we serve and I think we could have found peace that way instead of just thrashing around. That's how it feels now to be honest. We feel out of step.

Pen Wilcock said...

Yes - John Pavlowitz just posted something very similar on his blog. An absolute barrage of posts! This, for example

As Shakespeare put it, "The times are out of joint."

Nearly Martha said...

Thanks for the pointer to him. I like the way he writes

Pen Wilcock said...



Anonymous said...

I wish I could argue against you here Pen but I can't. I don't feel Teresa May has done anything specifically any more reprehensible to be honest - I think she is more a conduit for more of the same.

You have to wonder exactly what is discussed in the Bildersberg meetings and other such world elite discussions? - it isn't much in the way of helping the people, the country or the world - that we can believe.


Pen Wilcock said...

Testing times.