Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rowan Williams Won't You Please Shut Up

The immediate past-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, had a distinctive style of writing while he was Archbishop that is hard to describe. Sonorous, mind numbing, and in the end always inconclusive, I found him to be an exasperating read.

Now that he is retired from his High Priest gig, Rowan Williams still can find an occasional audience to bore to death. His most recent opinion piece, "Mass democracy has failed – it's time to seek a humane alternative" in The New Statesman is classic Rowan Williams. In it he goes after the things that he perceives that were behind the election of Donald Trump,
"This election represents a divorce between the electoral process and the business of political decision-making. It is the ersatz politics of mass theatre, in which what matters most is the declaration of victory."
"The politics of mass democracy has failed. It has been narrowed down to a mechanism for managing large-scale interests in response to explicit and implicit lobbying by fabulously well-resourced commercial and financial concerns (ironically, one of the things that Trump has undertaken to change). The 2008 financial crisis sent a tremor through that world but failed to change its workings. The effect has been a growing assumption that what goes on in public political debate does not represent any voices other than the privileged and self-interested. And so, for significant parts of a population, 'theatrical' politics comes to look like the only option: a dramatic articulation of the problems of powerlessness, for which the exact details of economic or social reality are irrelevant. This delivers people into the hands of another kind of dishonest politics: the fact-free manipulation of emotion by populist adventurers."
Never short of words, but always short of solutions, Williams concludes with more questions than answers,
"Naught for our comfort; but at least an opportunity to ask how politics can be set free from the deadly polarity between empty theatrics and corrupt, complacent pluto­cracy. What will it take to reacquaint people with control over their communities, shared and realistic values, patience with difference and confidence in their capacity for intelligent negotiation? It’s the opposite of what Trump has appealed to. The question is whether the appalling clarity of this opposition can wake us up to work harder for the authentic and humane politics that seems in such short supply."
As Archbishop, Rowan Williams worked to pacify the growing unrest in the Anglican Communion using what he considered to be an "authentic and humane" politic that in the end caused more harm than good. The fractures in the Anglican Communion are deeper than ever and part of the blame has to fall on him and his methods to "reacquaint people with their shared and realistic values" in the Church (the Indaba approach). His long, tortured, indecisive  letters left "we the people" dangling, and the polarities in the Church were left unresolved. His use of the dialectical method's ability to resolve issues was not an appropriate way to handle the marked theological differences that we have in the Anglican Communion, but he persisted in pursuing that approach in spite of nothing positive ever coming from it. Applying that same failed approach to what he calls the failure of "mass democracy" is not going to change American politics, a political battle field which has always been scruffy, mud-slinging, nasty, dog eat dog, and will probably always ruffle Williams' feathers.

He couldn't solve the problems in his own backyard, so he should keep his bloody nose out of ours,

After wasting my time reading his latest piece, I came away wishing he would just go away and shut up.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous8:35 AM

    I think Rowan Williams could have said all of this in two sentences (not that he would ever do that). "I don't like the American political circus or the outcome. I think they should use Indaba to choose their leaders."