*** DEBUG START ***
*** DEBUG END ***

Painful reminder

07 June 2013

iStock

SOMETIMES, television takes a quantum step in significance, a particular programme being not just far better than the others in its genre, but of a different order of importance. The Iraq War (BBC2, Wednesday of last week) falls into this category.

There is something particularly painful in being reminded of a series of events in our recent past which most of us would prefer to class as history, but whose consequences are continuing to unfold. Yet it is a salutary pain - and, let us hope, cathartic in its depiction of egregious errors made then, the better to instruct us to avoid them in future.

The first episode followed the political and intelligence manoeuvrings that led up to the war. It felt like watching a train crash in slow motion. Of course, hindsight is of no value to the present, and has the fatal moral effect of encouraging personal self-righteousness; but, in this instance, millions of voices were raised to persuade their governments to draw back from armed conflict.

This account suggested that the United States and UK governments honestly believed that Iraq had secret stocks of weapons of mass destruction, and yet failed to give proper scrutiny to the flawed intelligence that led them to this conclusion. We saw evocative archive film, but the best thing was the extraordinary line-up of players willing to recall their part in the drama: Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Colin Powell, and Dick Cheney.

The most frightening aspect of the scenario was the power of momentum taking over from rational free choice: the build-up of troops and material on the borders of Iraq reached such a level that drawing back was not an option.

The myth of rational free choice was scrutinised by Human Swarm (Channel 4, Thursday of last week), an account of how every move of those who pay with credit cards, and use mobiles and social media, is electronically tracked, enabling our behaviour to be scrutinised at unthinkable levels of detail. The data is not just useful to scientists: it has even greater commercial value, and predictions of small changes in temperature now dictate the centralised stocking of supermarkets with barbecues, or snow shovels, as the case may be.

The programme's selling-point was the excited claim that the new data proves that we do not make anything like the autonomous free decisions that we like to think we do: we act far more like a swarm of bees, following inherent programming. But I was less and less convinced. The presenter, Jimmy Docherty, was amazed that, on a cold morning, more people longed for a cooked breakfast, or bought cartons of porridge; conversely, in hot weather, more people wanted to go to the seaside. It really was as hopeless as that. He has muddled up perfectly reasonable physiological responses with what matters - intellectual or moral choice.

Coinciding with the centenary of Emily Davison's death, Up The Women (BBC4, Thursdays) lampoons a rural branch of the suffrage movement. Distressingly distinguished women actors prostitute their talent in a succession of weak gags, each one signalled well in advance, and causing gales of laughter from an audience with far less autonomy than any swarm of bees.

Church Times Bookshop

Save money on books reviewed or featured in the Church Times. To get your reader discount:

> Click on the “Church Times Bookshop” link at the end of the review.

> Call 0845 017 6965 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm).

The reader discount is valid for two months after the review publication date. E&OE

Forthcoming Events

2 July 2022
Bringing Down the Mighty: Church, Theology and Structural Injustice
With Anthony Reddie, Azariah France-Williams, Mariama Ifode-Blease, Luke Larner, Will Moore, Stewart Rapley and Victoria Turner.

4-8 July 2022
HeartEdge Mission Summer School
From HeartEdge and St Augustine’s College of Theology.

More events

Clerical

Priest in Charge (Rector Designate)

London and Home Counties

Our suburban parish on the border between the London Borough of Croydon and the lovely Surrey countryside and with a spacious modern Rectory, is seeking a Priest-in-Charge (Rector Designate) to lead our church as we seek to fulfil our mission to proclaim Jesus, change lives and serve our community.   We are looking for a leader who, with energy and dynamism, who will develop the vision for the church to enable the children and families work to be a priority in order to grow the church both in numbers and spiritual maturity. In addition, the new person will care and tend for the existing ageing congregation many of whom have ¬faithfully served the church for many years.   The person we are looking for should have: strong communication skills, the ability to engage and encourage people across the age ranges and to convey the church’s mission, vision and priorities; a commitment to preach the Word of God in thoughtful and stimulating ways; an energy and dynamism probably more extrovert than introvert; a pastoral heart, showing empathy and good listening skills, the ability, willingness and experience to help us to develop and enjoy a variety of worship styles, including a wider range of musical worship and a deeper corporate prayer life -whilst recognising and valuing our heritage;   For further information and to apply, please click the 'apply for this job' button below.   For an informal conversation with the Archdeacon of Croydon, please contact the Archdeacon’s PA Kathleen.bailey@southwark.anglican.org to arrange a time for a phone conversation.   Closing Date: Sunday 12 June 2022 Parish Visit for shortlisted candidates: Monday 11 July 2022 Interviews: Monday 11 July 2022   Please note we have a policy in Southwark Diocese that to be appointed to an incumbent status post, a priest must have served a title in an Anglican church in the British Isles.   This post is subject to DBS enhanced disclosure

The Church Times Archive

Read reports from issues stretching back to 1863, search for your parish or see if any of the clergy you know get a mention.

FREE for Church Times subscribers.

Explore the archive

Welcome to the Church Times

​To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four* articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)

*Until the end of June: we’re doubling the number of free articles to eight, to celebrate the publication of our Platinum Jubilee double issue.