Friday, February 08, 2008

Rowan Williams should advise the government on ID cards

William Heath thinks people should read the text of the speech that Rowan Williams has been so heavily critcised over because he is prepared to talk in public about difficult subjects and with a deep understanding of the complexities of the real world.


People diss Rowan Williams but he spelt out years ago why customer was such an unsatisfactory term for the active participant in “services” such as health or education.

Now he spells out, in his widely-misunderstood (has anyone READ the original text?) speech on Sharia, why the spiritual grounding of our ID System plans is as offensive as Islamic primitivism:

The danger arises not only when there is an assumption on the religious side that membership of the community (belonging to the umma or the Church or whatever) is the only significant category, so that participation in other kinds of socio-political arrangement is a kind of betrayal. It also occurs when secular government assumes a monopoly in terms of defining public and political identity. There is a position – not at all unfamiliar in contemporary discussion – which says that to be a citizen is essentially and simply to be under the rule of the uniform law of a sovereign state, in such a way that any other relations, commitments or protocols of behaviour belong exclusively to the realm of the private and of individual choice. As I have maintained in several other contexts, this is a very unsatisfactory account of political reality in modern societies; but it is also a problematic basis for thinking of the legal category of citizenship and the nature of human interdependence.

Go Beardie! I’m wholly unrepentant in my long-held view that he would make the best possible keynote speaker for a major gathering of the public-sector “transformation” community. Tell me: who else in any position of authority is articulate at this level, and thinks it’s important to work from basic principles and beliefs as we re-engineer and codify the relationship between people and they state? Not over[paid Touche Accentroid Young, nor dazed and confused Sir Bonar and Sir Wally, nor the egomanic great clunking fist.

We can’t even broach this conversation in the public media without the Sun screaming treason and some Kirsty or Johannes Humphrissimus Maximus Interromptor interrupting everyone half way through their first sentence. It is, to quote a phrase, far from ideal."

Well said.

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