Wittering, Dithering & Whygo


Okay, that headline was a tortuous pun only the film critic Kim Newman will get, but it applies to the absurdities enveloping the 200 ‘Occupy London’ tents now gathered outside St Paul’s Cathedral in protest at, well, the state of capitalism. It’s a very vague brief for a protest, more a bit of a grumble than a call to action, and the response to it has been appropriately vague and dithery.

But it’s a protest with surprisingly big repercussions, with two ecclesiastical resignations so far. St Paul’s has been charging a tenner for admittance for years – something I’m totally against, given the wealth of the church, but when it closed its doors against the protestors it sparked outrage within the church.

Now the Bishop of London has executed a Reverse Ferret and decided that closing the cathedral doors sent the wrong message, while the Archbishop of Canterbury has come out (wait for it) in favour of the protests. So the camp will stay, possibly for months.

All of which reminds me of Anthony Trollope’s ‘The Warden’, which concerns a dithering parson and his decision to accept a minuscule stipend increase. Many are mystified that the protest is allowed to encamp there at all (my brother, a lovely man who is a little to the right of Mussolini, thinks they should all be tasered and dragged away. Then shot.) but the tent-dwellers are on church land and besides, we pride ourselves on living in a democracy where the right to protest is relatively well sanctioned.

My objection is that it’s such a namby-pamby protest to begin with. All it has managed to do is create a row in the church, not in the banks, which was never the desired effect.

Meanwhile, a far bigger story has slipped quietly under the radar; from December 5th gay couples will be allowed to marry in church. But once again, the Church of England has taken the dithery route by allowing an opt-out clause for its churches, which will simply lead to pressure groups and test cases. Some argue that there’s still a vague (that word again) difference in the definition of terminology – same sex couples already have pretty much the same rights as everyone else once they’re joined, but is it technically ‘marriage’? The term ‘civil partnership’ didn’t stick – I’ve not met anyone, straight or gay, who doesn’t use the term ‘married’.

But sometimes, perhaps, dithering is the right route. The public was made aware of the outdated attitudes of the church when it wanted to keep the doors of St Paul’s closed. And now another barrier to a democratic society has fallen. As far as the public is concerned (Daily Mail readers exempted, obviously), the church is liberalising, and the word ‘marriage’ is generally taken to mean the official recognition of commitment, whoever the participants are.

13 comments on “Wittering, Dithering & Whygo”

  1. Martha says:

    This ‘dithery’ as you call it protest has now spread around America and is set to start up in parts of Europe.

  2. Alexa says:

    Maybe dithery isn’t the right word Martha, but the Occupy movement has a big problem; no one knows exactly what they want. Likely because they don’t either. The total destruction of Capitalism? A change to “benevolent” capitalism (assuming such a thing is possible)? Everyone to live in huts and trade without money?

    Without a clear mandate I don’t think the movement will ultimately be successful. I resent a lot of the problems inherent in Capitalism, and would like to think there’s a better way but even I don’t fully support the Occupy movement (mainly as I don’t know what they want!)

    But hoorah for small progress in the Church of England re gay marriage. I’ll say this for them; they do at least discuss moral issues and try to do the right thing, even if it takes them a while to agree on what’s “right”.

  3. Steve Beat says:

    Unfortunately the protests we are seeing in America are not quite the same as the home-spune middle-class hippy ‘sit-in’ that is happening outside St. Pauls. Not only have they managed to target completely the wrong institution (a soft target if ever there was one) but they have polarized sentiment within that institution while the bankers (a few hundred yards down the road) look on in amused relief!

    The greatest irony is that the protestors are displaying banners with ‘What would jesus do?’ written on them. Well, Jesus wouldn’t be pottering about outside St. Pauls singing camp fire songs and handing out leaflets that’s for sure!

    On the issue of gay couple being ‘allowed’ to marry (who decides this stuff?) – I have to say that I was brought up in Scotland in the 60s, by nature you can’t get any more beligerantly hetrosexual than that…But as I have aged I have come to realize that what’s important is that people find a soul mate and love – and I don’t care if you are straight, gay or an Oompaloopma. It’s just a happier world when the people in it are happy.

    (…As I have grown older I have even started to enjoy musicals! Who’d have thunk it!)

  4. Martha says:

    ‘Well, Jesus wouldn’t be pottering about outside St. Pauls singing camp fire songs and handing out leaflets that’s for sure!’
    Sorry Steve – How do we know that. Sounds like just the kind of thing the Jesus I know would be doing.

    I concede, I’m a pragmatic anarchist. To me, that they don’t have a clearly worked out and cleverly displayed program of objectives is the Occupy… wherever’s greatest strength. We just need to see what develops.

  5. madmary says:

    Steve, happy to see you enjoy musicals at last. I think Jesus would be breaking up the gift shop and the tills that take the money from visitors. I’m not a believer but that’s the sort of thing he used to do isn’t it?

    Actually I don’t think it matters that the aim of the protesters is vague. It’s enough that they are there and just making it known that we the great unwashed are NOT HAPPY! And if they get that huge and wealthy institution on their side there might be a chance of some pressure being put on those with whom the Church invests.

    I love that they are there. If I had time I’d love to spend a few days with them. I refuse however to sing happy clappy songs around a camp fire. At that I draw a very strong line. And anyone doing it should be tasered and taken out and shot. Oh wait!


  6. Helen Martin says:

    Why do you say the Church of England is rich? People stay away in droves for whatever reason, leaving the Church with buildings they are not allowed to sell or tear down and have difficulty maintaining. If the tourists want to see the buildings, then let them pay. You don’t have to pay if you’re attending a service, although the offering plate is passed, of course. Then there are salaries for people working in low income areas where the offering doesn’t come close to covering the costs. I was startled by the charge, but understood, as I also understood at York Minster. The music in both sanctuaries was wonderful and the preaching wasn’t bad, either.

  7. Alan G says:

    I think “Occupy” just got out of hand. I respect the idea, albeit inchoate, and I definitely like that it has drawn attention to St. Pauls and the extortionate entry charges.

    Helen – I agree that the Church of England has to count the pennies – but not to the extent of charging for entry. That is just wrong and against the whole ethic. Not only should one not have to pay to enter a house of God – one should not be extorted to do so.

    Anyway – wasn’t there some guy, wrote some books, we could be discussing?

  8. Martha says:

    In the meantime, ‘Human mic announcing port is shut down for the evening! Success of strike. #OccupyOakland’

    Wonderful photos on Twitter of the marchers. My grandson was in the middle of it which of course made his mother crazy. That’s my boy

  9. M. vd Wel says:

    These protests have arrived in The Hague(Netherlands) as well, a few weeks ago. They just do it a little differently. Instead of setting up camp in the middle of a square, or anywhere that makes sense, they put up their tents in a remote corner of a muddy field. It’s near the city centre, sure, but nobody notices them, let alone are bothered by them.

  10. Sparro says:

    They are not dithering; they are expressing distaste at a system on which they (we) have no control. Think of it as an art instillation. It’s difficult to be more positive, and I feel plonking themselves down as a 21st century sit-in without walls is going to be more expressive than a predictable shouty march with plackards, which tends to attract hangers-on with their own agenda, often of the rent-an-anarchist persuasion. Also, the authorities have devised ways of controlling marches by rather viscious means. A ‘tent-in’ on Church grounds would have the police scratching their heads; it has also attracted Ecclesiastical authority which, at best, is going to at least consider what the demonstrators are endeavouring to express and have open and reasoned negotiations.
    And the entire ‘piece’ has rather medieval qualities, I feel.

  11. Alan G says:

    “Viscious means”. Love that idea! A typo – but a felicitously nice one.

  12. Alan G says:

    Oh – London suddenly populated with people covered in a gluey-type substance, groaning…

    I need help here Chris…

  13. Martha says:

    I think you’re doing fine, Alan. I’ll bet the police wish they could.

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