DAVID GEE, we are told, is an activist and writer, living on a boat in Oxford. His short book is a secular sermon lamenting the sorry state of the world, and “digging” — his word — for hope and the “subterranean streams that give it life”.
Much of it is taken up with identifying what is wrong, describing a great deal of human activity as forms of violence.
He condemns corporate capitalism as economic violence against the poor. He can see no benefit to the poor from this form of economic organisation, no recognition that it might have brought millions out of poverty. War and conflict is always violence against the most vulnerable. There is no acceptance that there might be military action that prevents some worse situation developing or that rights a wrong. Humanity is also so often doing violence to the planet.
And we are all complicit in this depressing story. In the many small decisions that we make in our ordinary lives, we are often indifferent to the injustices perpetrated daily in our name by governments and big corporations. In recent times, that has included the Iraq war, the treatment of the Palestinians, the spoliation of the environment, and so on. This bleak assessment runs through each of the eight short chapters, principally as assertion: there is little analysis or reasoned argument.
Yet there can be hope.
Hope should not be confused with optimism. There is little to be optimistic about. Hope consists of being clear about the things that matter and patiently pursuing them — small acts of kindness and generosity that are their own reward — and he gives examples of people who, despite the odds, have done this. This is how we can all face the future. “Hope is work, but it is also a song.”
Dr Alan Billings is the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire. His most recent book is Lost Church: Why we must find it again (SPCK, 2013).
Hope’s Work: Facing the future in an age of crises
Church Times Bookshop £9