A knight to remember
I've just finished watching First Knight, that Hollywood take on the Arthur legend starring Seán Connery, Richard Gere and that woman that looks like a girl I used to fancy on the school bus. Much buckling of swashes, etc.
The film depicts Arthur as running a Camelot based on quite stunning levels of equality, democracy and active Christianity. Two thoughts wouldn't leave me:
1. People really are very squidgey. Watching Gere thrust his sword downwards into the prostrate body of yet another hapless opponent, it occurred to me that God really didn't intend us for warfare. I mean, if you wanted to design a human that would survive more than 1.8 nanoseconds of serious metal-to-metal combat, would you run off an amended tweak of the 'armadillo' concept or would you create something with all the resilience of a Sara Lee gateau?
2. Facing up to his autocratic nemesis, Arthur gave a memorable quotation, "God makes us strong for a short time so we can help each other", to which the nasty guy responds, "My God makes me strong so I can live my life the way I want to".
And there I think we have, in encapsulated form, the great philosophical clash of our age. One pervading society from top to bottom, one reflected in most social reforms in the western world over the last 50 years: I have the right to live my life as I see fit. In the North, I have to right to kill the unborn baby that'll interrupt my career, to divorce my wife simply by living apart for two years, even to marry another man, if I want. Whatever I think will make me happy. (It must be acknowledged that by adopting a much less 'progressive' stance Éire has not made many of the more detrimental social reforms seen in the UK, largely thanks to pressure from the arch-conservative Roman Catholic church in Ireland).
Until well into the 1950's, what dominated Britain and Ireland was a culture of duty to others, known rules of social engagement and the nuclear family as the very building blocks of society. Of course there was typhoid too, but couldn't we do with more selflessness today, more generosity of spirit and less "me, me, me"?
And so my Big challenge to all you politicians and party supporters in 2006 is ...
Don't stick the knife in at every opportunity, we're tired of it. Treat your opponents like respectable people. Do less finger-in-your-face and keep your palms up, not down. And have a happy new year. Thanks.