Friday, December 23, 2005

A Blogger's Christmas

The season of goodwill is upon us. It is not an easy time for a political blogger. All year we make sour comments on the world’s evils. They are many, but they are not the whole story.

Perhaps the least appropriate question posed on TV this Christmas, is “The Tsunami – where was God?” One does not have to be a practising Christian to answer that He was to be found in the kind hearts moved to help the victims. Nor does one have to be religious to feel that the Devil was in the heart of local officials who levied “taxes” of various kinds on the West’s generosity.

Our television news programmes have been as trivial as ever, but at least this week there was good news. The story of 700 "gay weddings" is touching, not only for the spirit of tolerance so different from my not-so-distant youth, but also for the evident craving to establish and celebrate stable, loving relationships. God bless them, every one.

There are three more democracies than there were this time last year; all in poor, benighted Africa, the spiritual home of pessimism. This gleam of hope should not be overlooked. Old, jaded democracies have politicians self-serving in inverse proportion to voter turnout, but there are new democracies emerging. We should pause a second from our critique to wish them well.

It is also very easy to be cynical about Iraq. George W. Bush has made many mistakes, that’s true. His planning was poor and his political analysis naive. However, the idea that it’s “all about oil” is self-evidently ridiculous. If the Allies wanted oil, they could have simply ended sanctions. Saddam Hussein would have sold to them as willingly as to the French and Russian “businessmen” happily circumventing the UN regime their leaders so stoutly "defended".

If there is any justice in this sad world, we should hope the valour of our troops and the good intentions that sent them to Iraq meet with a reward their political leaders’ incompetence does not deserve.

And if nothing else, the turn-out at Iraq's election should make all us old cynics ashamed. Iraqis evidently have more self-belief than the Guardianistas who thought them unready for a democracy that was "contrary to their traditions".

Of course there are some grounds for pessimism about the year to come. The quality of our mass media continues to be dispiriting. Analysis is as thin as it is partisan. Every story is spun to suit the supposed prejudices of the target audience. But the people are not as stupid as journalists or politicians think.

This week Mrs Paine served on an English jury. It was an excellent, cynicism-busting, experience. Twelve ordinary people, variously endowed with intelligence and wisdom, came together to do justice. They took it seriously. They did their best and justice was done, just as it has been for centuries. Those twelve random citizens were neither baying for blood, as Blunkett or the editor of the Daily Mail might expect, nor as anxious about the "causes of crime", as Blair or the editor of the Guardian might think. They just did their honest best. In 2006, our politicians could do worse than to follow their example. In the blessed spirit of Christmas, let’s hope they can succeed.

Merry Christmas to you all.

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