Saturday, December 17, 2005

working together for victory 

I found strength this week in the President’s Symbol Of Office. Or rather, from a quote from it. A copy of the Areopagitica (by John Milton) is presented to each LibDem President on taking office. And amongst other things the book talks about how dictatorships can delude themselves over the supposed weaknesses of democratic debate:

“The adversary again applauds, and waits the hour: when they have branched
themselves out, saith he, small enough into parties and partitions, then will be our time. Fool! he sees not the firm root, out of which we all grow, though into branches: nor will beware until he see our small divided maniples cutting through at every angle of his ill-united and unwieldy brigade.

And that we are to hope better of all these supposed sects and schisms, and that we
shall not need that solicitude, honest perhaps, though over-timorous, of them that vex in this behalf, but shall laugh in the end at those malicious applauders of our

So this comfort we can take, who perhaps are inclined to “fret, and out of (our) own weakness are in agony, lest these divisions and subdivisions will undo us.”

Let us look ahead to the next stage of the Policy Review process, which includes the one-day conference in London in January, sure now to be billed by the eager press with its showbusiness values as a ‘new crunch day for Kennedy’?

Well we can all accept the discipline of tending not only our branches but our firm root, and take on the discipline of actually listening to what each of us are saying rather than queuing up impatiently to have our own say. Concentrate on learning and building rather than on jockeying (or blogging, or briefing) for positions. Recognise that we are humans with human frailties, strengths and weaknesses, and we have to draw on the strengths that come with our weaknesses (as well perhaps as guarding against the weaknesses that are a consequence of our strengths).

So two final thoughts for our review process. One more from Aeopagitica:

"Behold now this vast city: a city of refuge, the mansion house of liberty,
encompassed and surrounded with his protection; the shop of war hath not there
more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed justice in defence of beleaguered truth, than there be pens and heads there,
sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and ideas
wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty, the approaching
Reformation: others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement."
Let us look therefore, as Milton said to a “lively and cheerful presage of our happy success and victory.”

And the second, if you will pardon it, from the ‘Advices and Queries’ of the Religious Society of Friends (The Quakers) (amended slightly to remove explicitly religious invocations). This may not quite what we can always manage in a General Election campaign (especially the hurtful criticism bit) but as a guide for internal Party debate and growth it may well be helpful.

"Each of us has a particular experience… and each must find the way to be true to it. When words are strange or disturbing to you, try to sense where they come from and what has nourished the lives of others. Listen patiently and seek the truth which other people's opinions may contain for you. Avoid hurtful criticism and provocative language. Do not allow the strength of your convictions to betray you into making statements or allegations that are unfair or untrue. Think it possible that you may be mistaken."

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