Defeatism will not serve us well in grim times like these - Stuart Weir

As we enter into a new year it’s fair to say there is a fair amount of discouragement in Scotland. There are a number of reasons for this – a cost-of-living crisis, the lingering threat of Covid, immense pressure on public services, and continuing war in Europe to name just a few things. The circumstances of our country at this point in time, like many others, are grim.

As is often the case, Parliament dictates how people in Scotland feel as well. How and what it chooses to legislate manifests its values and priorities. And these are more than often against the priorities of the Scottish people. Especially when it comes to the area of social policy, directly impacting the day-to-day lives of citizens.

In recent years, the public has heard warning of a curb on free speech via the Hate Crime and Public Order Act, and controversial gender recognition reforms. This year, we are set to see a push to legalise the premature ending of people’s lives with assisted suicide, and a controversial attack on free expression and religion through sweeping ‘conversion practices’ plans.

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It would be easy to shrug our shoulders due to how powerless we feel in the face of political decisions in Edinburgh. However, I think our response should be different. I believe the words of D.H. Lawrence encapsulate how we should move ahead:

Stuart Weir, national director of CARE for Scotland.

“It is rather hard work: there is now no smooth road into the future: but we go round, or scramble over the obstacles. We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen in.”

This is no gain in a defeatist ‘whatever’. While resignation may be recognisably ‘Scottish’ these days, it will not serve us well going forward into 2023. Instead, we need a positively framed doggedness.

The organisation I represent came into being forty years ago because people were tired of being tired. They sprang into action after years of political inaction by the Christian church. People got together to cast a vision for society that they believed was a great improvement on the status quo.

We must learn to tell and retell stories of flourishing and wholesomeness which are borne from lived experience, both past and present. These will elicit inspiration and a way of life that is long forgot. We forge better, more robust relationships, even with those we disagree with. We learn to speak to those who appal us, maybe even discovering that such people are surprisingly likeable. Not cancelling and ignoring, which has gained ground through poor social media ethics.

Of course, living lives of hopefulness does not mean that we will be faced with ease. “Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be [yet another] time[s] when we must choose between what is easy and what is right”, said a sage school principal. By continual acts of benevolence, in resistance to the present order of things, can we foresee a truly Happy New Year.

Every time such acts are performed, snowdrops and bluebells will burst forth from the frozen ground. For there will be a day when “no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress” (Isaiah 65:19).

Stuart Weir is National Director of CARE for Scotland

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