Advent Firesiders

Trump-it Blues (2016)

It is with a life transforming sense of melancholy that I sit down to write this year's annual reflections. There are, no doubt, a handful of readers who voted for Brexit and/or Donald J Trump for the soundest of reasons, having consulted their consciences, to whom I tender my apology: I do not think you were ignorant or selfish and I certainly do not think that as your opposite I occupy morally superior ground. For me, it is simply a matter of attachment.

All my life I have been attached to the solidity of fact, to the subtlety of text, to the civilising necessity of self restraint, to the efficacy of collaboration over competition and to the basic social rule of according equal concern and respect to all to which one might add the Christian equivalent, in the case of the last of these, of seeing Jesus in every sister and brother. My attachment, too, concerns the honoured place me and my kind occupied in society. Until the economic 'Big Bang' of 1987, the academics, the rationalists, the pro European economists and idealists, the champions of political correctness, were the establishment but not now. Everything I have fought for or merely stood for politically and socially all of my adult life, from European unity to gender and race equality, are in such ruin that they will not be mended in my lifetime. For the first time I can remember, death comes between me and cherished goals.

But why should it be otherwise? What entitlement do I have to something better? My feeling of entitlement is no better than that of the new establishment that has replaced my old, liberal establishment; and, at a broader level, has there ever been a generation approaching death that has not seen its best days behind it and catastrophe in front of it?

This year, therefore, I will come to the manger in a less comfortable frame of mind; I will have a sharper sense of Roman brutalism, of Jewish cultural alienation, of the perils of flight and exile, of the beauty of the shepherds' simplicity, of the duplicity of kings and the doubtful efficacy of their gifts. And I shall think more carefully about Christ incarnate and his vulnerable brothers and sisters in a desperate game with the various authorities in Calais. And I shall pray a little less often for things of which I know and more often for things of which I know nothing past the cold facts.

Could we have done better? Perhaps. But, ultimately, when one is part of the establishment one does not understand the meaning of failure, the futility in the cosmic context of human endeavour. And so I shall be a little more humble than in days of yore, wishing such humility might have been generated within me by the Holy Spirit rather than being forced upon me by my detractors.