At my daughter’s school they had an assembly this week on Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May as examples of strong women. It seemed to me another example of the death of a passionate and vibrant culture of political ideology in conversation and sometimes conflict, in favour of the new hegemony of identity politics; gender, race and sexuality replacing economics as the only arbiters of political judgement (and a cynical version of identity politics too – as if those women could be role models for my daughters!) Its hard not to think that the Marxists were right when they said that the economic base was the thing! But the politics of inequality have been endlessly parodied as ‘old left’, hopelessly old fashioned in the new world of economic technocrats supported by a cursory nod towards identity politics.
There has been some stuff in the press recently about the death of the political party. Certainly the whole notion of ‘the Left’ as a place of sanctuary, of integrity and of engagement with real divisions – i.e. the need to lift people out of real poverty, feels lost. Post Trump and Post Brexit I wonder how we recapture a real conversation about social inequality, about what it means to build an inclusive and compassionate society?
I am tribally Left and I am still suspicious of people who want to have a different kind of conversation in this new world. Surely it still has to be a conversation about social inequality first and foremost but which goes on to talk about social inclusion and the joys of multiculturalism?
It does feel like there is the beginnings of a desire for a debate about these important issues. For me the church can be a place where we try to explore some of these issues on the ground, in the community. But the local church too has got lost in identity politics and refuses to embrace the bigger vision of the Kingdom of God redeemed by the death and resurrection of Christ. How can we return to studying the virtues if our only guide is a desire to include. Beyond inclusion is the need for a holistic vision of Christian community which is still able to talk about sin, about judgement, about repentance.
Last week my friend complained that now we were in Eastertide he was missing his daily dose of Jeremiah. I know what he means, but we lost Jeremiah a long time ago when we replaced the communal need to repent and turn to holy living with an insipid wish to be nice.
Gender, race and sexuality matter but social inequality has to be the defining issue of this election.