Having awoken this morning to the news that 25% of voters had allied themselves with UKIP I am not sure if I should worry about that fact or be thankful that 75% had not chosen to vote for them.
I cannot see into the hearts of those who chose to vote for the policies of UKIP. However, it is clear that the party's prime appeal is rooted in fear. As the opening lines of their website states:
These are anxious and troubled times. As crisis follows crisis, our politicians do nothing in the face of dangers rearing up all around us. …
Another wave of uncontrolled immigration comes from the EU (this time Bulgaria and Romania). …
Whilst Nigel Farage may claim that they are not just anti-Europe I have a sense that this, coupled with nationalistic fervour, is what attracts most voters. It is interesting that Farage seems to support Russian nationalism (no vote from Prince Charles, then!) and is allied to the European Freedom and Democracy group which includes other nationalist parties. Whilst patriotism is good, nationalism is to be feared – have that 25% who voted for UKIP really understood the consequences of nationalism? Clearly UKIP’ers have not considered the implications of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
As someone who grew up with the ‘European dream’ at the same time as forming as a Christian it deeply saddens me that the dreams and beliefs which I embraced are being rejected by so many. Whilst UKIP m might not have a complete Manifesto at present, some of the things they stand for are made clear on their website:
• Scrap all green taxes and wind turbine subsidies.
• Develop shale gas to reduce energy bills and free us from dependence on foreign oil and gas - place the tax revenues into a British Sovereign Wealth Fund.
• ... abolish inheritance tax. Inheritance tax brings in under £4bn - less than a third of what we spend on foreign aid. The super-rich avoid it, while modest property owners get caught by it. It hits people during a time of grief and UKIP will budget in its 2015 spending plans to completely abolish this unfair death tax.
• Make cuts to foreign aid that are real and rigorous.
• Remove the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.
And as if that weren't enough to set alarm bells ringing the homophobic and sexist ‘quacks’ of some of its supporters should be a deep cause for concern.
UKIP seems to provide a narrative that appeals to many people and I find myself looking for an alternative political narrative that encompasses what I understand as the Reign of God. Early socialism, emerging from a religious narrative, did that but I do not hear clearly one for our generation. What might one include?
Social justice; care for the vulnerable and marginalised; compassion and inclusivity; an appeal to the good in human nature; a desire for healing and wholeness; respect for the stranger; a sense that we are called beyond the margins of the self to embrace the Other. These are some of the things that might provide an alternative vision from which a narrative might emerge.
In his book Falling Upward – A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life Richard Rohr OFM points out that myths continue to exert enormous influence on us. But, with the relegation of the spiritual to the realm of the private, myth is ignored. But, being ignored, its power is far greater. A neglected aspect of UKIP’s influence is the unconscious way in which it works out of a myth of England ‘as-it-was’. Rohr goes on to observe:
‘In our formative years, we are so self-preoccupied that we are both overly defensive and overly offensive at the same time, with little time left for simply living, pure friendship, useless beauty, or moments of communion with nature or anything. Yet that kind of ego structuring is exactly what a young person partly needs to get through the ﬁrst twenty years or so, and what tribes need to survive. Maybe it is what humanity needed to get started. ‘‘Good fences make good neighbors,’’ Robert Frost said, but he also presumed that you don’t just build fences. You eventually need to cross beyond them too, to actually meet the neighbor.’ (Ch.1. p.3)
I thought our society had matured, but maybe it hasn't. Maybe UKIP appeals to those in the ‘first-half’ of life with its need to ‘protect your identity, defend it, prove it, or assert it.’ but ‘The very unfortunate result of this preoccupation with order, control, safety, pleasure, and certitude is that a high percentage of people never get to the contents of their own lives!’ (Ch. 1. p5/7) Maybe a large part of UKIP’s appeal is that the ‘First Half’ of life is so dominant, its myths so enticing and its power so controlling. So let me end with some more observations by Rohr which, I believe, speak into this social, political and, ultimately, spiritual dilemma. For, in the end, I believe the core of this shift towards the policies of UKIP is a spiritual crisis.
Human life is about more than building boundaries, protecting identities, creating tribes, and teaching impulse control if you get mirrored well early in life, you do not have to spend the rest of your life looking in Narcissus’s mirror or begging for the attention of others. … You have already been ‘‘attended to,’’ and now feel basically good—and always will. If you were properly mirrored when you were young, you are now free to mirror others and see yourself—honestly and helpfully. I can see why a number of saints spoke of prayer itself as simply receiving the ever-benevolent gaze of God, returning it in kind, mutually gazing, and ﬁnally recognizing that it is one single gaze received and bounced back. … If you get mirrored well early in life, you do not have to spend the rest of your life looking in Narcissus’s mirror or begging for the attention of others. You have already been ‘‘attended to,’’ and now feel basically good—and always will. If you were properly mirrored when you were young, you are now free to mirror others and see yourself—honestly and helpfully. I can see why a number of saints spoke of prayer itself as simply receiving the ever-benevolent gaze of God, returning it in kind, mutually gazing, and ﬁnally recognizing that it is one single gaze received and bounced back. (Ch.1)
Mature religions, and now some scientists, say that we are hardwired for the Big Picture, for transcendence, for ongoing growth, for union with ourselves and everything else. (Ch.9)
If change and growth are not programmed into your spirituality, if there are not serious warnings about the blinding nature of fear and fanaticism, your religion will always end up worshiping the status quo and protecting your present ego position and personal advantage—as if it were God! (Ch.1)