Friday, 29 March 2013

A Good Friday reflection - A year is a long time

A year is a long time. Ironically as I started to write this blog, my wife shouted to me that Actor Richard Griffiths has passed away. Last year we saw him in "The Sunshine Boys" with Danny DeVito. Life is a precious thread and we sometimes fail to appreciate the full beauty of the gifts we have. Last night, a group of my friends had a drink to celebrate the retirement of the person who has organised our Thursday night football for the past 14 years. He's reached 60 and feels that he can't physically cope with the aches and pains that inevitably follow a match.

During the course of the evening, I chatted to another friend, who retired a couple of years ago following a heart attack. He had read a recent blog where I discussed the psychological strain of coming to terms with a life threatening condition. He told me of his fears of not sitting in the hammock strung between the two apple trees in his garden, whilst watching his Grandchildren play. We have been friends since school. I was the youngest person in our year, he was the second youngest.

Long time readers of this blog will know that around this time last year I lost one of my best friends to cancer. This year, a friend has just lost her mother after a stroke and another couple of friends have seriously ill parents. Being of the Roman Catholic tradition, I attended the Good Friday service. For those not familiar with the story, it is largely based on the story of how Jesus met his death. The purpose of this blog is not to promote a particular faith, belief or creed, but I do find it interesting to explore some to the themes and see what lessons we can learn. The Good Friday story is one of betrayal, abandonment and death. The events start with a meal among friends, shared bread and wine. Before the sun has risen, one of those friends has committed an act of betrayal and the rest of the friends have largely abandoned the person they revered.

How many of us, when the chips are down would also behave in such a cowardly manner? How many of us would betray our friends for a few pieces of silver? How many of us would deny our friendship when things turn difficult? The services is probably one of the longest the church holds. It allows time for reflection. My mind slipped back to last Saturday and the Barnet Spring March. My intense pride at all of the people who didn't abandon their friends and didn't betray their principles, to opt to march in the snow and the freezing cold. I felt proud to be part of a group of people who were prepared to stand up for our principles.

I find myself increasingly saddened at the ever widening gulf between the people who run the Council and those on who's behalf they run it. Due to the popularity of this blog, I have found myself in a position where I am considered some sort of expert on all things Barnet. I received thousands of emails a week on the subject of various Barnet related issues. It may (or may not) shock readers to know that not every email I receive on the matter of Barnet is from people or organisations who are acting solely out of concern for the well being of the residents of the London Borough of Barnet.

There are some people who have drawn all manner of rather strange conclusions as to the purpose of this blog and the motivations of myself as main author. I find myself being asked what I am after, what is my end game and how much money I make from the blog. Am I on the take from any organisation? Am I in the pay of secret clandestine masters, who pull the strings?

The truth is quite mundane. I simply started blogging because I enjoyed it. The blog generates enough money via the advertising to almost pay for the internet bills. If someone paid me to write something I would most certainly do it, but I would put a disclaimer on the bottom of the page saying that I had been paid. I wouldn't write something I believed to be untrue. I have been asked, on occasion, to give my opinion of the certain issues to people who one may think I shouldn't be talking to. I give my opinion and I listen to what the other side have to say. If they wish to change my mind, they are welcome to try and do it via logic and reason. Sadly pound notes is not an inducement, because I am not someone with any great desire to be wealthy.

Another thing I reflected on during the service (yes I am sorry to admit my mind does wander at such times) is where we'll be next Easter. I anticipate it being a busy time for Barnet bloggers. The Council elections will be weeks away. Whatever has happened with the One Barnet Judicial review will presumably be history. We will know the outcome of the Brian Coleman trial. A year ago I could not have anticipated all of the events of the last year. I won't try to now.

There is one lesson I think we should all learn from the story of Easter, whether we are Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist or Athiest. The execution of Jesus by the Roman State and the clerical authorities was an attempt to destroy a point of view with which they disagreed. I am fundamentally opposed to the death penalty. When Jesus died, alone and broken, those authorities must have considered that to be the end of the matter. His followers had melted away or betrayed him. Their leader was strung up for all to see.

Whatever you may think of the story of Jesus, of the merits of his ideology or his divinity or lack of it, you could not possibly argue that his execution did those who authorised it any good whatsoever. Whenever I attend the Good Friday service, I always pray for victims of political repression and unjust legal systems. What I am going to finish off with is likely to be a very inflamitory statement. I am sure a lot of my readers will fundamentally diasagree with it, but it was perhaps the most important of all the random thoughts I had during the service.

This week, we saw a high profile case, where Abu Qatada was told he could not be extradited to Jordon, because of the state use of torture during interrogations. I loath and despise everything which Qatada's ideology stands for, but I realised just how grateful I was that our legal system defended his human rights. Whilst I would love to see him get deported, the fact that the law upholds the rights of someone so completely at odds with our system of government, shows our strength as a society. Qatada may smugly smile, but whilst he is able to sit there and ignorantly laugh at our system, we can take heart from the fact that our system is civilised enough to mean that no one will get unjustly executed. No one will get locked up because they have had a confession beaten out of them and no one is treated differently because they are at odds with the norms of society. However much you may be repulsed by Qatada, whilst he is being treated according to the law of the land, there is no chance at all that you won't be. Have a pleasant and peaceful evening

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