Ryeview – April 2009

We cannot all have the same beliefs

John Clark writes…

First published: April 2009 – Gazette & Herald

Our extravagant Home Secretary believes that we must have a society that accepts ‘common values’. Anyone who doesn’t accept these ‘common values’ is an extremist and therefore a threat and a potential terrorist.

There has been no published list of ‘common values’. What are the candidates?

  • The vast majority of the UK opposed going to war in Iraq. It is likely that the majority were right politically, legally and in any other ways.
  • The gap between the rich and the poor in Britain has widened rapidly in the last 12 years. Opinion polls show that people believe the gap is too wide and should be reduced. A redistribution of wealth is needed.
  • Another ‘common value’ is that throwing billions of years of stored carbon into the atmosphere in a few centuries is wrong. There is an urgent need for a reduction in greenhouse gases.

Marchers, protesting at the recent G20 gathering in London called for three things: jobs for all, redistribution of wealth and a zero carbon economy. These marchers were accused of not having a coherent view. Yet all these requests fitted the ‘common values’.

Common values appear to mean what we want them to mean. One being that we must have less Nuclear Weapons. North Korea is condemned for launching a rocket that could be used for delivering a nuclear weapon. Nothing is said against Pakistan, India or Israel. Thousands of USA or Russian missiles and nuclear warheads are not even mentioned.

The government does not have a good track record on any of the above; nor have we been told what these ‘common values’ include. Not even Democracy is a government common value. Pakistan was a military dictatorship yet was on ‘our side’ in terms of the war against terrorism. Hamas was democratically elected to power in Gaza. Britain cut off aid to Gaza because Hamas wanted to destroy Israel using military force. How does this ‘common value’ fit with Britain being the 2nd or 3rd biggest arms exporter in the world? Countries do not buy arms purely for peaceful uses.

Readers may be beginning to doubt Ms. Smith’s common value theory. Have ‘common values’ worked in the past? The sun revolves around the earth; the earth is flat; the British economy will collapse if we abolish the slave trade. Even the belief that a women’s place is in the kitchen didn’t make it to the end of the 20th Century but it had a good try.

The whole concept of ‘common values’ is flawed. Even being told what they are wouldn’t help. In a pluralistic society various groups and individuals have widely different beliefs, opinions and values. What is needed is to find ways of living together peacefully. Tolerance has a strong claim to be a ‘common value’. Here again the government doesn’t understand. It supports a police policy of zero tolerance. Change must come by influence and example. Terrorism and Extremism are not challenged by insisting that everyone has the same beliefs.

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