Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer

Lenten Musings

a lot of snowdrops in sunlight filtered by tree shadows

The news is mostly terrible. It’s impossible to get your head around it. The behaviour of our government defies belief. And yet, and yet.

This is the third crisis in a very short time, and the biggest thing to come out of all of them is the universal demand that good should transcend evil and misfortune, that we should respond with generosity to a crisis, not defensiveness. It used to be said that the banking crisis proves that you can, after all, beat the market. When the chips are down, politics takes over. It wasn’t much help, since the politicians then sold us all to protect the market, but we saw what we saw. But through the covid pandemic, the climate crisis and now the war in Ukraine, we can see the almost universal demand that politics should be ethical, that truth, compassion and mutual respect should transcend the economy. Governments financed the covid response. Governments pledged to move to net zero. Governments (apart from ours) waived the usual restraints to welcome refugees and impose economic sanctions.

For a long time, the discourse about politics was that the only reality was the economy (jobs, houses, profits), and that wider concerns were at best unrealistic and self-indulgent. Lifehad to be lived by a pragmatic acceptance of the universality of selfishness, dishonesty and cruelty, and any pretence of ethical concerns was from naive sentimentality, or posturing narcissism. That time seems to have gone. I am reading the Papal Encyclical Fratelli Tutti for Lent and this quotation (from the previous encyclical Laudato Si‘) jumped out at me.

We have had enough of immorality and the mockery of ethics, goodness, faith and honesty. It is time to acknowledge that light-hearted superficiality has done us no good. Once the foundations of social life are corroded, what ensues are battles over conflicting interests’

Fratelli Tutti, page 51

Enough of that. People want to be good to each other, to treat each other fairly, and we want a politics that will give us that. From the people in Glasgow queueing round the block to support a Ukrainian baker opening on Sunday to raise funds for refugees, to the four thousand people arrested in Moscow for protesting against the war, we are demanding that our politicians think differently. From the people who are steadily getting reusable plastic out of their shopping, to the communities planting their verges with wildflowers, we assert that the earth is more than resources to make money. When we plan for our future, we want the poor, the sick, the marginalised to be remembered with respect and consideration.

Well, Lent is the time to be realistic. We don’t live up to our aspirations. We don’t always want to, if it gets difficult. And we can’t always agree about which issue is more important or how to go about tackling them. But this Lent is about saying that in spite of all that, we do still aspire to do better. We can’t be fobbed off with an ‘eat your cereal’ from the kind of person who buys and sells his political influence for a seat in the House of Lords. We do care about more than jobs, houses, what’s on television. We really want a world of love, justice, compassion, and we are more than ever willing to stand up and say so. I just hope our politicians are listening.

a celandine growing out of a lot of dried moss






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