The last couple of years have seen some of the most momentous events and upheavals for a long time. ‘Brexit’ and ‘Trump’ are words that stand for two phenomena that continue to dominate our headlines and promise to do so for the foreseeable future. While each is distinct, indeed unique, both have at least this much in common — a despising of so-called ‘elites’ and a denial of life’s complexity.
By sheer force of will-power, and the single-minded (shall we say simplistic?) notion that people with expertise, knowledge and experience in business, academia and journalism are best ignored or otherwise undermined, these two political juggernauts seek to smash every other perspective out of the way. That’s not to say that those who voted otherwise or think differently are completely right or beyond critique but for many people, myself included, the seemingly shambolic nature of so many policies associated with each in turn only serves to confirm one’s worst fears.
In the classic 1960 film Inherit the Wind many of the local townsfolk of Hillsboro, USA express their cherished viewpoint on a contentious issue by marching through the streets singing “Give me that old-time religion, it’s good enough for me”.
But ultimately, a combination of nostalgia, insularity and a suspicious refusal to acknowledge new perspectives didn’t prevail. The old-time religion and politics then, as now, aren’t a fitting response to the new reality of a larger, interdependent world.
In similar vein, the theologian, PT Forsyth once mused: “Are there not two distinct classes of mind? The one finds in what is given just what is given, and he is impatient of anything beyond ... the other tends always to divine in the given the not yet given. The second truth, the rest of the truth, the hidden truth, the dark twin, is the weighty, fascinating pole of it.
“The idea latent, the subtle illusion, the mockery of the face-value, the slow result, the subversive effect, the irony of providence, the absurdities of God stronger than all the wisdom of men, the mighty futility of the Cross — these are the things that appeal to such a mind, rather than the obvious which smites you in the face.”