Letters - 16 April 2021

From A different paradigm to Footnotes and footage

A different paradigm

During my lifetime our class structure combined with the capitalist ethos has dominated the functioning of society. Trade unions have been the prime agencies responding, opposing and highlighting the disadvantages and discrimination inherent in British life.   

The decline in trade unions and many recognised institutions has been replaced by a different paradigm. In recent years a more direct pattern responding to the many perceived and actual discriminations and disadvantages has led to new movements. Exclusion and inclusion take on a much more personal definition. Wide-ranging groups focusing on important, individual issues now take on the opposition mantle of protest to government, but are more widely challenging the actions and attitudes of society generally – climate change, ethnicities, genders, poverty, and disability and discrimination are some examples.

There are those who have not recognised or accepted change in society. There are still institutions, religious and secular, retaining and continuing their exclusive existence. They seem impervious to change. Conversely there are more welcoming institutions whatever one’s beliefs, gender or ethnic origin. Inclusion has generally become normal, although all is not as positive as one would like to believe.

Racism exists in wider society, not least in religious organisations, and has become a concern resulting in much soul-searching by leaders. Institutions may appear to be inclusive but experience for many is otherwise. As we have been made painfully aware, racist attitudes and behaviour in Britain Yearly Meeting need to be addressed and eliminated. Silence is not an answer.

I have believed from early days that cooperation rather than competition is a more effective way of solving problems. A priority for this approach is acceptance of people whatever their beliefs or opinions however different from my own. Religions have competed with others making unsubstantiated claims of superiority but now more nuanced opinions are recognised, accepting that one’s cultural environment cannot be dismissed in understanding difference.

Social, gender and racial movements have arisen bringing hopeful transformations in attitudes and actions so necessary for a more harmonious, understanding and fairer society. Society is far from at ease with itself.

Clearly exclusion or inclusion are inadequate to the problems we face. Pluralism – accepting that others too have opinions and have to be heard – is a more empathetical and practical approach. What sort of society do we want to create and live in for us and for those who follow?

Tom Jackson

Samaritans and Samaria

I don’t know about losing the plot, but Martyn Kelly’s reading of the parable of the good Samaritan has lost any sense of geography (2 April). The Samaritans did not occupy ‘part of the land we now recognise as Israel’. They occupied Samaria, which is part of present-day Palestine. The road from Jerusalem to Jericho, where the unfortunate traveller fell among thieves, is also in Palestine, not Israel. It is not the position of the UK government or the United Nations that Samaria should be part of modern-day Israel.

As for the priest and Levite, there is no indication in the gospels that Jesus recognised their ‘important public service’. Elsewhere Jesus has little time for rules and rituals. Neither priest nor Levite check whether the man is alive or dead, and neither bothers even to send help. In extremis the law would have allowed both to go to the aid of an injured man. They both ignore him, and it is clear that in doing that they have broken the second commandment. On the first two commandments, said Jesus, hang all the law and all the prophets, and there is not the slightest indication in this parable that Jesus is presenting priest and Levite as contributing to the greater good. On the contrary, they have withdrawn from doing good.

I find it hard to see how recognising the virtue of the good Samaritan and the failure of the other two makes anyone complacent in the manner described. Rather, do we not realise that we should accept the challenge of the good Samaritan, recognising that all too often we behave like the priest and Levite and ignore our neighbour? ‘Go and do thou likewise’, says Jesus of the Samaritan. He’s not interested in what the priest and Levite do.       
Helen Lewis

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