Our Cynicism

I think we had a reasonably good day at the Diocesan Synod last weekend. A large part of the day was given over to discussion about poverty, welfare reforms and the consequences of government policy.

The only thing that started to make me feel a little uncomfortable is something which has been getting to me in a number of gatherings recently – what feels like a disconnect between decent people and the political process.

I was co-facilitating the large group discussion on Saturday afternoon and was working pretty much to a script. I found some questions arising in me though that went neither asked nor answered.

I wanted to stop the discussion for a moment and ask, “How many people here feel they don’t trust politicians to make the right decisions?”

It isn’t possible to be certain but I suspect from what I was hearing discussed in other parts of the day, that it would be a quite a strong majority of the people there.

I’d have followed it up with a supplementary question, “How many of us have written to or contacted an MP or MSP in the last six months either about the topics under discussion or about anything else relating to government policy”.

Would as many hands have been raised?

All of which leads me to wonder whether the repeated scandals in our institutions seem so compelling to watch unfold because by watching them we feel that it all must be someone else’s fault. If the poor are hungry – it must be the fault of politicians. If I feel uncomfortable by the manner in which the media does its work it must be the fault of journalists. If the economy can’t look after our vulnerable it must be because of the bankers and not my low taxes.

I’m not saying that we should expect anything less than the highest standards in public life.

I am suspecting that in order to achieve them we need to be more than mere spectators.