Tag Archives: European Union

July 26 2019 – “The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns” – Canon Paul Oestreicher [Church Times Letter – 26/07/2019]

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“The Synod navel-gazes while the nation burns”

From Canon Paul Oestreicher

Sir, — Reading your General Synod report (12 July) leaves me close to despair. While England is in a state of social, political, and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation, our still would-be National Church seems very largely occupied with its own affairs and its own guilt. Oblivious to the mortal dangers, we are busy doing repairs on our leaky vessel, as Britain runs on to the rocks, come Hallowe’en.

Allow me an interpolation from the year of my birth, in a small middle-class German town, in 1931. I know history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening. The mainly middle-class citizenry felt insecure, disillusioned with self-seeking party politicians at war with each other, and drawn towards a charismatic power-hungry unconventional leader, promising them whatever they wanted to hear.

In my region, his Brown Shirts were easily elected (think the Brexit Party) by those on right and left and by most churchgoers (the promised new order, a godsend), just as I was born. Two years later, Hitler took absolute power. Dissenters were traitors, (think Daily Mail). Who was to blame for all that was wrong? The Jews, of course, and bankers or Communists (think immigrants or Islam or Brussels).

Brexit is not, as — with some exceptions — our hierarchy leaves us free to think, a matter of personal opinion but a national tragedy. Brazen lies have traduced a small majority of citizens into seeking a divorce from the admittedly imperfect peace project that is the European Union.

To leave should, from the start, have been recognised as an economic, social, political, and not least spiritual disaster. See the rise in hate crimes. “Great Britain First” is a surrender of the values we have claimed to cherish, an open and welcoming society, tolerant of difference, committed to human rights, protecting minorities and cherishing the natural environment that sustains us.

To turn our back on Europe’s soul is to abandon a great part of our own heritage; for everything that is good and bad about Europe is good and bad about us. The self-centred cliques that are in the process of wrecking both of the political parties that have been the mainstay of British tradition is a calamity for which others cannot be blamed.

Last weekend, concerned citizens, alas without a recognisable church component, demonstrated against the imposition of an untrustworthy Prime Minister. The German churches failed to warn in time. Could not the small minority that the Church of England now is, still help to turn the tide?

PAUL OESTREICHER
Brighton

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Boris Johnson and a warning from history

I pray for our PM and hope that I am needlessly crying wolf, writes Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher, who fled the Nazis as a child. Plus letters from Professor Bob Brecher and Pat Kennedy
 1931: National socialist demonstration in Berlin. The banner reads ‘Only a strong Germany can provide employment to its people’. Photograph: Imagno/Getty Images

I was born in 1931 in the small German town of Meiningen, famous for its theatre, much like Stratford-upon-Avon. Its mainly middle-class citizens were deeply disillusioned, tired of the infighting of the political parties. Germany seemed to be in a state of social and moral disintegration, crying out for healing and reconciliation. People were drawn to a charismatic, unconventional power-hungry leader who read their minds and promised what they wanted to hear. I know history never quite repeats itself, but the analogies are frightening.

The single issue was the exceptionalism (Opinion, 29 July), the superiority of the German race. The good, mainly churchgoing citizens easily voted his Brown Shirts onto the regional council (think the Brexit party). Two years later they voted nationally in sufficient numbers to enable Hitler to seize total power. It was all perfectly legal, too late to effectively protest. Dissent was now treason (think the Daily Mail). My father’s parents were Jews. Outcasts now (think our non-Brits), a few years later we had no choice but to flee and my grandmother to take poison. I pray for our PM and hope that I am needlessly crying wolf.
Canon Dr Paul Oestreicher
Brighton

 

The Church of England’s ecumenical legacy in Europe is being airbrushed out of history by the totalitarian mindset of Brexiteers.
Dr Dorothea Greiner, German Bishop of Bayreuth and Chichester Cathedral’s Canon of Honour, is determined that legacy is not side-lined within the Diocese of Chichester and beyond.
The next Coburg Conference will be taking place in the Cathedral City this October, and the European delegates – including the Cathedral Chapter – will focus on the ecumenical vision of theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer and wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell, in the light of today’s political situation.
Richard W. Symonds
The Bell Society

May 27 2019 – The Brexit Party: “There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here” – Paddy Ashdown [1941-2018]

May 27 2019 – “There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here” – Paddy Ashdown [1941-2018]

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“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell argued, moral questions to be addressed here…Dietrich Bonhoeffer…said…’Responsible action must decide not just between right and wrong, but between right and right and wrong and wrong’.

“So it is, exactly, here. There are no blacks and whites, just choices between blacker blacks and whiter whites. There are no triumphal personal qualities, and no triumphant outcomes. Just flawed individuals, who, at a time of what Bonhoeffer referred to as ‘moral twilight’, felt compelled to do the right thing as they saw it…

“In reading this book you may be struck, as I was in writing it, by the similarities between what happened in the build-up to World War II and the age in which we now live. Then as now, nationalism and protectionism were on the rise, and democracies were seen to have failed; people hungered for the government of strong men; those who suffered most from the pain of economic collapse felt alienated and turned towards simplistic solutions and strident voices; public institutions, conventional politics and the old establishments were everywhere mistrusted and disbelieved; compromise was out of fashion; the centre collapsed in favour of the extremes; the normal order of things didn’t function; change – even revolution – was more appealing than the status quo; and ‘fake news’ built around the convincing untruth carried more weight in the public discourse than rational arguments and provable facts.

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Painting a lie on the side of a bus and driving it around the country would have seemed perfectly normal in those days”.

~ Paddy Ashdown [“Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1939-1944” – Collins 2018 – Introduction and Page 301]

 

LAST TWITTER ENTRIES – 2018

This Brexit shambles exposes how far the Conservatives Party has degenerated. For all her faults, Mrs May remains the only adult in the room. At the top, the rest are just a bunch of self obsessed pygmies, charlatans and incompetents who should not be allowed to run a whelk stall
A good PM she is most emphatically not. But listening – and more specifically – watching Theresa May’s speech today, there are three qualities not even her worst enemies would deny her. Duty, Determination and Desperation.

May statement at 2.30. Undermined by her Party at home, humiliated by her friends in Europe, the PM has no credibility left. She should resign. And as a woman of duty, I think she will.

 9 Jul 2018 

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And so our beloved country is once again held to ransom by squabbles in a Tory Party who give rats in a sack a bad name

May 25 2019 – “Today’s disturbing echoes of the build up to the second world war” – Guardian – Letters 

Bernie Evans and Michael Meadowcroft respond to Martin Kettle’s article on the alarming similarities of Weimar Germany and Brexit Britain
Chancellor Adolf Hitler in Berlin on 24 March 1933

Chancellor Adolf Hitler in Berlin on 24 March 1933. ‘Hitler’s rise initially was through democratic votes in general elections, with the Nazis becoming the biggest party in the Reichstag after the July 1932 election,’ writes Bernie Evans. Photograph: Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images

Letters

As Martin Kettle says (Brexit Britain and Weimar Germany are perilously alike, 16 May), there exist in the UK at the moment far too many similarities with Weimar Germany for comfort. It is easy to see parallels in the falling out of love with parliament, the lack of cooperation between parties and the far right’s repeated message of national betrayal, and to link them with a possible surge in support for a rightwing autocracy.

It is worth mentioning, however, that Adolf Hitler’s rise initially was through democratic votes in general elections, with the Nazis becoming the biggest party in the Reichstag after the July 1932 election. It was after the November election of that year when they actually lost ground, when it was decided to offer Hitler the chancellorship, leading to the Enabling Act and the destruction of opposition parties.

Divisions on the left, with the inevitable lack of viable policies to challenge the promise of a strong Germany coming from Hitler, were an important factor in the rise of fascism, and must not be repeated here. The Labour leadership has a duty to provide a united opposition to the threat from the right; if Labour loses the support of its remain voters and their votes are shared around smaller parties, a significant and dangerous similarity could be created, with terrible consequences.
Bernie Evans
Liverpool

 Martin Kettle points to today’s echoes of 1920s and 1930s Germany. He is far from the only observer to make the point: in his final book, containing riveting biographical essays on individuals who stood up to Hitler, the late Paddy Ashdown wrote: “In reading this book you may be struck, as I was in writing it, by the similarities between what happened in the build-up to World War II and the age in which we now live. Then as now, nationalism and protectionism were on the rise and democracies were seen to have failed, people hungered for the government of strong men; those who suffered most from the pain of economic collapse felt alienated and turned towards simplistic solutions and strident voices … ‘fake news’ built around the convincing untruth carried more weight in the public discourse than rational arguments and provable facts.”Paddy comments wryly: “Painting a lie on the side of a bus and driving it around the country would have seemed perfectly normal in those days.”

Teaching the uncomfortable facts of history is crucially important and we neglect it at our peril.
Michael Meadowcroft
Leeds

Michael Meadowcroft concludes, after quoting from Paddy Ashdown’s last book before his death “Nein! Standing Up To Hitler 1935-1944” (‘Today’s disturbing echoes of the buildup to the second world war’, Letters, May 19):
 
“Teaching the uncomfortable facts of history is crucially important and we neglect it at our peril”
 
Also tucked away on page 301 of “Nein!” – not referenced in the extensive Index –  is this prescient ‘gem of thought’ by the former Intelligence Officer and Liberal Democrat leader:
 
“There are also, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Bishop Bell, moral questions to be addressed here”
~ Richard W. Symonds
Ralph Lloyd-Jones of Nottingham is seriously mistaken in thinking George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four “was intended as a warning of what would become of Britain under socialists” (‘Orwell’s Dystopia is with us today’, Observer Letters, May 26).
As Orwell himself said in June 1949 – ‘Statement on Nineteen Eighty-Four’ – seven months before his untimely death aged 46 :
“But danger lies also in the acceptance of a totalitarian outlook by intellectuals of all colours. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you” [underlining in original Statement].
~ Richard W. Symonds
“Orwell perhaps lacked poetry, but, looking at our modern world of ideologies and wars, he echoes the message of Wilfred Owen, the greatest poet of the First World War: ‘All a poet can do today is to warn’. 1984 remains, by and large, a necessary warning”
~ Stephen Spender
“Brexit? We are being swept up, and swept away, in a wave of nationalistic fervour and hysteria. We have been there before. Let history speak: There is no happy ending. As Orwell said: ‘Don’t let it happen. It depends on you'”
~ Richard W. Symonds

 

“The NHS will last as long as there are folk left with faith to fight for it”