28 February 2006

American Icons

I am basking in the warm glow of a couple of really good reviews of the RSNO’s concert last weekend. Garry Walker conducted in his usual lively fashion. The chorus’s contribution was John Adams’s On the Transmigration of Souls, a desperately bleak piece commissioned to commemorate the victims of the Twin Towers. According to the Scotsman, this was ‘one of the most eclectic, imaginative and excellently performed RSNO shows in recent memory’.

Even the reviewer in the local rag (The [Glasgow] Herald), who can usually find something critical to say when every other reviewer is lauding us, gave us a thoroughly positive review. Of Transmigration he said,

Even in John Adams's ethereal and anguished 9/11 memorial, On the Transmigration of Souls, which could have been ghoulish, a spellbinding sense of atmosphere was generated by the RSNO, its chorus, junior chorus and Adams's montage of a soundscape, as time seemed suspended in a multi-layered composition that had a strangely powerful emotional effect.

18 February 2006

Glorifying terrorism

It seems that Tony Blair is hell bent on making the glorifying of terrorism a criminal act. I find this a profoundly worrying attack on free speech; far more worrying than the recent intemperate response on the part of a small minority to the publication of certain cartoons.

It worries me because the definition of terrorism in the bill is disturbingly broad. We all think we know what terrorism is. How many of us would regard serious damage to property or electronic systems in order to advance a political, religious or ideological cause as acts of terrorism? But that is what the bill does. If it becomes law, peace campaigners who attack military installations, environmental activists who destroy fields of GM crops or socially concerned hackers could be labelled as terrorists.

I admire Daniel and Philip Berrigan. I think their attacks on American nuclear installations are a shining example of prophetic action. Furthermore, men and women who seek to emulate them are to be admired and encouraged. There you are, I have just glorified terrorism (at least, as defined by the Terrorism Bill).

Let’s go a bit further. One of my heroes is a man who found himself deeply out of sympathy with the democratically elected government of his country. Realizing that the government would not be swayed from what he regarded as its barbarous policies by reason, he became involved in a plot to murder the head of the government. I believe he was right to do so and I would encourage anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to consider seriously his example. There you are, I have just glorified terrorism again. Oh, by the way, the man was Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the plot was against Adolf Hitler.

Perhaps I should just add, for the sake of clarification, that violence is never right. However, there are situations (such as in Nazi Germany) where it is the lesser evil.

Actually the Bonhoeffer example is not a good one. I read somewhere that the law won’t generally apply to acts of terror that took place more than twenty years ago. There will, however, be a list of older events the ‘glorification’ of which will still be an offence. It will be interesting to see what the Home Secretary puts on that!

05 February 2006

Habemus papam

White smoke was seen rising from St Mary’s Cathedral this morning. We have a new provost at last! Kelvin Holdsworth, who is presently based in Bridge of Allan, will take up office on 31st May. His first Sunday with us will be Pentecost Sunday; I can’t think of a more appropriate day for him to begin.

Kelvin is another blogger. If you are interested, you can find his blog here.

His appointment comes as a great relief to me because, as a member of St Mary’s Vestry, I have been heavily involved in the appointment process – late-night (and sometimes fractious) meetings to thrash out details of parish profiles, job descriptions, personal specifications, etc.; poring over seemingly endless drafts of the relevant documentation; agonizing over how to ensure that the process remained one of discernment rather than degenerating into a beauty contest.

The fact that our decision to invite Kelvin was unanimous is, I think, a good indication that we got the process about right. In fact, given the diversity of opinions and personalities among Vestry members, that we were able to reach a consensus rapidly and without bloodshed (metaphorical, of course) is little short of miraculous.