Thursday, May 01, 2008

Mayoral musings

Today, London elects its new mayor.

Last night, as I hurried past the Houses of Parliament, through the heavy rain, one of the two men walking towards me, was one of the mayoral candidates. On this occasion, he was not electioneering and was merely deep in conversation with his companion. He appeared exhausted, bedraggled and very human. He had no umbrella and was merely becoming increasingly wet.

Recently, a friend who is ‘in the know’ remarked in a conversation that “Gordon Brown is a thoroughly decent person” but that “it’s not fair because the media does not give him a chance.”

Regardless of Party politics and policies, what is it about our society that automatically puts up someone in public life as one to be pilloried? Somehow there is a tendency to criticise, sometimes cruelly, sometimes unjustly, politicians and celebrities in a way that we would never dare with those who are in our immediate circle. It is almost as though, once an individual ‘goes public’, they lose their humanity and their right to a good name or to personal privacy. If, on the other hand, we are denied the right to criticise, then somebody, somewhere, is acting against ‘our right to free speech’.

When does our exercise of ‘free speech’ become merely a gross lack of charity?

Why do we sometimes allow the media to direct our thinking and acting, so that we, albeit unconsciously, assume their bias as our own without stopping to evaluate the reality of the situation? We speak of a ‘media bandwagon’, see the damage it does, and yet, somehow, fail to push that same media to use its power for good.

In a few minutes time, I will join the large number of people at the polling station. In one sense, it is free and fair. There has been an enormous effort made to portray each candidate in a balanced fashion, such that most voters can list all the good and the bad points of each candidate. I do not intend staying up tonight in order to hear the election results: they will, no doubt, be exhaustively covered by all the media tomorrow morning.

Yet, as I go to cast my own vote, my thoughts are turning back towards one very wet, very tired, mayoral candidate who, whatever his chances, has exhausted himself in the election process. The media did not portray a human being like the rest of us, trying his best to persuade the voting public. He will be covered in glory should he win, although his will be an unenviable responsibility, but, should he lose, who will be there to ease the disappointment and to inspire him to ‘keep on going’?

When does our exercise of ‘free speech’ become merely a gross lack of charity?

God bless,
Sr. Janet