summer of love

Summer is usually the silly season when MPs in swimming trunks become newsworthy but not the summer of love 2014. One of the consequences of avoiding writing a Phd is that I’ve spent a lot of time in the gym watching Fox news and started to notice a pattern in some of the hard core news items repeated on satellite.


Muslim fathers taking the dangerous journey across the Turkish Syrian border to reclaim their Jihadi sons. Challenging fundamentalism in the name of love and hopes for an ordinary life in Europe.


Sharon Wall, a skilled care worker stabbed by a 61 year old psychiatric patient in Gloucestershire. A 16 year old boy charged with killing his teacher Ann Maguire. Vulnerable people turning on the people that care for them.


The introduction to parliament of emergency surveillance laws, a paranoid and clumsy system that we can only hope is overwhelmed by the shear volume of porn and TOWIE they will have to sift through.


Possibly feeding in to the heart-crushing experience of being dumped by the Canadian Poet earlier that day this cluster of news items brought on an attack of the paranoias. Leviathan whispering “he’s behind you”. Poverty and broken systems returns us to a state of man against (wo)man. Love is dead.


Then Judge Lady Butler-Sloss arrives on screen. Initially feeling sorry for this ghost like figure with a name that sounds like a slur and not  being prone to slagging off other women I listen intently to the debate about her suitability of inquiring into the systematic cover up of child abuse in the UK’s institutions. This is a cool character, not easily inflamed by familial love for a long dead brother or love for anything at all. A well curated navy blue turtle neck screaming “there is no life under here”.


A brave man, Phil Johnson exposes her not taking legal action against Bishop Peter Ball (whose case finally comes to court in November) motivated by her ‘care’ for the church.


The penny starts dropping, love-of-the-Church, hatred-of-the-press.


One of her credentials is that she ran the inquiry into the Cleveland child abuse scandal. She explains that her selection was merely a process of elimination, with only 3 senior women judges at that time and the other two couldn’t make it. Nice pragmatic answer but then she says something very important, that the other reason she was selected was because the case involved “radical social workers Marxist Leninist feminine…feminisms..feminists”.


It might have been the fact that I’d been on the cross trainer for more than 5 minutes but at this point I start to develop tunnel vision and feel a minor stroke coming on.


How could anyone looking at state responses to child abuse, much of it linked to social care and penal systems not be able to think about class and power?


At such times of political complexity I turn to Christopher Hitchins. From Islam to cancer he bothered to know as much as he could and then form his opinions. I didn’t always agree with him and my toes curled at the roller coaster ride of his live debates after a tad too much Rioja. But the lovely loving thing about Hitchins is that he cared enough about the subject to actually find out what it was all about, not ideologically beaten down to a script or being blind to uncomfortable facts.


There is a profound relationship between love and knowledge. To remain ignorant while righteously banging on is an act of hatred. To be content to pass judgement or kill off a world you cant be bothered to understand is just hateful.


By taking the time to learn about the world we express our love for it. In the words of the Erich Fromm, love involves caring enough to learn about the world. It involves being able to respect the world enough to see it as it really is. Love means then being responsive to it, allowing what we’ve learned to influence our reactions to it. And then love involves knowledge, letting ourselves learn from our experience within it.


This attempt to love the world through knowledge is indeed time consuming. Can’t be done with 5 minutes on twitter or writing a weekly blog. So I’m off for the summer to learn something about solidarity and internationalism.  Potentially a fast track to a diet of pizza and Jeremy Kyle to numb the paranoid anxieties that the last 15 years of my working life were a bit of a waste of time.


But I’m hoping for more, a true summer of love and wish you the same.

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