The phrase in the title is a favourite of my boss – Hilary Salt – if you read this on holiday in California –
Nothing convinces me more that experts are not to be trusted than my being called a pension expert. I am called an expert because I am active on social media but the bright-thinking is elsewhere. At best I am good at articulating other people’s ideas in a way that makes sense to those who read these blogs, at worst, I regurgitate ill-considered thinking without the perspective to disagree.
Experts are not to be trusted and as Neil Young said of Heart of Gold”, if this blog puts me in the middle of the road, I’ll head for the ditch, you meet nicer people there.
You meet nicer people at the Wesleyan Chapel in City Road. Yesterday’s sermon from an irascible Lesley Griffiths focussed on intolerance, xenophobia and exclusivity. We thought back 88 years to the birth of Martin Luther King and forwards to the inauguration of a new president. We thought about our motivation for Brexit , was it “smart” to turn our back on people wanting to come in? My guess was that about 50% of the 300 people in the chapel had been born in the UK, but that the majority of those who were second generation immigrants.
Jesus was a Jew, so was Simon who was an expert in Jewish law, Simon welcomed the infant Jesus as saviour to the Jews but he added “and for all mankind”. Within 40 years, Paul, Peter and the other early evangelists were being hunted out of Israel by experts who would not have the messianic message adulterated. For the experts , Jesus was a Jew for the Jews; an exclusive saviour.
I am not for exclusion, not in terms of this country’s borders, nor to good quality welfare, nor to private pensions. I do not see why ordinary people like Brian (the man I met over Christmas in a homeless shelter), should be homeless in a society which has so much. I do not see why we should have a crisis in the NHS. In all these things I am for a state that includes those who are down on their luck, whether they come from Syria or Shoreditch.
That does not make me an expert, it makes me sound very foolish, as I am sure that any expert reading the text of Lesley Griffiths’ sermon would call that good man. I am sure that that was how the experts that ran Jewish society considered Peter, Paul and the early evangelists. There’s was a counter-expertise, an overflowing of the spirit of charity and common humanity that seeks in include and not exclude.
But I must balance my hatred for the exclusivity of experts against my pride in Britain and in our welfare system, our NHS and “yes” our pensions!
I believe in the positive , life affirming spirit of ecumenical and diverse humanity which underpins the Wesleyan chapel. I cannot understand faith properly but I can see that the focus of this great positive power is the radical teaching and actions of a man who at times was even angrier than Lord Griffiths.
My pride for Britain is not dimmed by our taking ourselves outside of the influence of Europe, an influence that was not healthy for our commonweal. I did not vote to leave but now we are leaving, I intend to play a small part in making our leaving work for Britain.
My vision for this working is the “field of folk” that appears to Piers Plowman in a dream. In that field, people of different backgrounds , skills and economic conditions work together to a common good. It is an entirely inclusive vision that accepted medieval society for what it was and sort to make it better. That William Langland’s vision was held heretical, I am not surprised, he was no expert – he was a poet, a visionary. I am a salesman.
I do not claim a line of succession from Langland or from Blake. I sit in the pew and am inspired by Lesley Griffiths, I think of my father and my grandfather, Ken Waights, Russell- Shearer and Donald Soper – the great Methodists who influenced my childhood and now returning to my thinking after 30 years.
This is a time of great change and a time to hold on to old certainties.
I wave goodbye to Michelle and Barack Obama hoping that they can do as much good out of office as they did “in”. I look to the coming months and years with fear and hope. I hope that those good people who I know surround Theresa May are right and that she is the person who will lead us with a rod of social justice.
I hope that in the areas of welfare, health and pensions we include not exclude those just getting by (as well as those like Brian). But I believe we will do this by working hard and well and improving our productivity. I hope we will not bury our talent in the ground but invest it so we can bring more talent to the party. I look forward to a pension system that provides for everyone , a system we are moving towards.
In all this I am no expert, merely someone who after writing over 2500 of such blogs, is beginning to know what he wants! I do not want to be considered “expert”.