Letters - 6 May 2022

From Rattling sabres to BYM has said

Rattling sabres

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been problematic for Quakers and pacifists generally. We know enough of Russia to reckon that lying low and hoping for truth to emerge would have got the Ukrainians nowhere. How can we preach any nonviolent response?

There is one concept that can help us, not only for this conflict but worldwide. This is: power corrupts. The strong man principle is a disaster for humanity, virtually wherever it has been applied.

I have sometimes felt a bit shy about promoting our British system of ‘her majesty’s loyal opposition’, with a salary for its leader. But the idea of always having two parties with some policies in common and some of them distinct is attractive because by alternating, the excesses of both can be corrected over time. Coalitions of shifting compositions can have similar benefits, as we try to see in the Council of the European Union.

What matters is that the range of possible points of view should be visible to the public. That is democracy. And proportional representation is a good way to promote it.

Even in China, until the appointment of Xi Jianpiang as president, the ‘cadre principle’ went some way towards this.

The party would give its chairman a certain run for his money and then decide on another leader to succeed him. (I don’t think they were ready for the ‘her’ concept.)

I get my background for all this from Corruptible, a recent book by Brian Klaas (look him up on the web). His main thesis is that psychopaths, those who lack empathy with the humanity of other people, tend to seek power and may well win it, perhaps with calculated charm.

They may then lack the capacity to exercise that power productively. They will not shrink from banning dissent and from direct electoral fraud.

If we as Quakers have a message now it is to marshal our truth testimony. See the advertisement on the back of the 15 April Friend.

Richard Seebohm

BYM has said

Your headline on 22 April reports that ‘Quakers are dismayed by energy strategy’. The item reveals that ‘BYM [Britain Yearly Meeting] has said it is dismayed’. Further down it adds: ‘BYM said there is no role for oil or gas in a safe future’ (palpable exaggeration and nonsense), and finishes up with ‘BYM’ pointing out a couple of other things.

Who is this BYM? To my mind, BYM can only say something when it is in session. Is it the Quaker trustees or their clerk who are ‘dismayed’?

Is Meeting for Sufferings up in arms? Is it the clerk of BYM who sees ‘no future role for oil or gas’? Is it the recording clerk telling us what ‘BYM has said’? Or is it just a media desk in Friends House?

These statements allegedly by ‘BYM’ appear almost every week in the Friend and are deeply misleading.

Peter Moss

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