As a seasonal thought, and a reminder that the Christian religion can be a force for good despite its abuse by Bush, Palin and their ilk, I wanted to share with you my favourite carol.
It came upon the midnight clear,
That glorious song of old,
From angels bending near the earth,
To touch their harps of gold:
“Peace on the earth, goodwill to men,
From heaven’s all-gracious King.”
The world in solemn stillness lay,
To hear the angels sing.
Still through the cloven skies they come,
With peaceful wings unfurled,
And still their heavenly music floats
O’er all the weary world;
Above its sad and lowly plains,
They bend on hovering wing,
And ever o’er its Babel sounds
The blessed angels sing.
Yet with the woes of sin and strife
The world has suffered long;
Beneath the angel-strain have rolled
Two thousand years of wrong;
And man, at war with man, hears not
The love-song which they bring;
O hush the noise, ye men of strife,
And hear the angels sing.
And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
come swiftly on the wing.
O rest beside the weary road,
And hear the angels sing!
For lo!, the days are hastening on,
By prophet bards foretold,
When with the ever-circling years
Comes round the age of gold
When peace shall over all the earth
Its ancient splendors fling,
And the whole world give back the song
Which now the angels sing.
It was a poem before it was a carol, and it is worth savouring it as a poem. It is actually American – and interestingly in the US nowadays the great third stanza, which to me sums up the best ideals of the religion in which I was raised, is often omitted.
A week ago the Archbishop of Canterbury also reminded me that there can be much good in his tradition, with his strong comments on the economic crisis. His analogy of an addict returning to his drug, for the proposed government programmes for recovery, was extremely apt in so many ways.
Not the least worrying is the emphasis on reducing interest rates, and in the case of the UK government positively compelling banks in which they have a majority stake to start lending again. As a solution to a problem so evidently caused in large part by a colossal credit bubble, that is crazy. In particular, the desire to prop up the UK housing market is completely misplaced. My cramped, rented flat in Shepherds Bush is “worth” £350,000. There are over a thousand such flats just in Sinclair Road and Sinclair Gardens, and just in my own little corner of Shepherds Bush there are at least ten thousand of them. To buy a £350,000 house, even if you have £100,000 cash for a deposit, you should in rational lending be earning £75,000 a year. But the majority of households in this area have well less than half that income.
Your house is worth half what you thought it was last year. Live with it. Attempts to put patches on a bubble are stupid.