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Thought for the weekend

Allen Sleith



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'We've entered the Harvest Season, although this year's celebrations in our churches will be strangely suppressed due to the pandemic.'

'We've entered the Harvest Season, although this year's celebrations in our churches will be strangely suppressed due to the pandemic.'

'We've entered the Harvest Season, although this year's celebrations in our churches will be strangely suppressed due to the pandemic.'

We've entered the Harvest Season, although this year's celebrations in our churches will be strangely suppressed due to the pandemic.

And, if you want to engage in a touch of nostalgia, you might want to hear in the inner ear that famous hymn often sung at this time of year, All Things Bright and Beautiful.

It probably strikes many as one of our most beloved, cheerful and buoyant hymns, a perennial favourite, the sort of inoffensive ditty to which most can sing along. Right? Well, in its full version, no.

Cecil F Alexander (1818-1895) actually penned a final verse that modern hymnals have long since dropped - and no wonder: "The rich man in his castle/the poor man at his gate/God made them high and lowly/and ordered their estate."

So, there you have it. Humans are assigned their predetermined lot by divine decree and, no matter what degree of injustice and misery, God made it so; rich and poor respectively are simply to suck it up. Ah, nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

I've recently finished a wonderful book called Caste: The Lies That Divide Us, by Isabel Wilkerson, which is better than any other at understanding the USA and especially its centuries of racial injustice.

And yet the thrust of her persuasive argument is that 'race', in and of itself, is a necessary, but insufficient, category for the phenomenon that has long been tearing America apart.

The more comprehensive dynamic is "caste", in which society is stratified in certain levels in a sort of cause-and-effect feedback loop: the supremacy of many and the misery of others. Crucially, she draws into her discussion similar, though distinct, parallels in India and Reich Germany.

Prepare to have your mind expanded, your heart break and your head slowly shake by her sublime combination of skilful, analytical dissection and raw, emotional testimony, as she documents the powerful and perennial grip that caste has held over these three societies and which is especially resurgent and volatile under Trump's repugnant regime.

And then think some more. Think and lament at how the Church is no safe haven from the grotesque features of caste either; some claiming a manipulative and vicious supremacy over others under the guise of various forms of vacuous authority that piously claim divine sanction.

Belfast Telegraph