Page 8, 25th June 2004

25th June 2004
Page 8
Page 8, 25th June 2004 — The EU is a body without a soul

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Organisations: European Union
People: Mary Kenny
Locations: London


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The EU is a body without a soul

Mary Kenny

So it has been decided that the European Constitution will definitely keep any mention of God or Christianity out of its text. The nearest allusion will be that the Constitution draws inspiration “from the cultural, religious and humanist inheritance of Europe”.

But if the EU omits God, it’s their loss, not God’s. The Almighty will prevail anyway. The EU may not.

The EU needs all the friends it can get, since it inspires so little affection from the people throughout the region. Everyone knows that there is a serious “democratic deficit” – that is, the bureaucrats who run the show are not responsible to the electorate, and mostly do what they please without reference to the people. The people feel cold about the EU, even where they derive benefits from its structures.

By contrast, the splendid football tournament that is being played out at present in Portugal movingly demonstrates that the hearts of ordinary men and women still beat for their own nation, not for the abstraction of the EU, and its political elite class.

The EU’s biggest problem is that it has no heart for the people, and offers little that touches their heart and soul and spirit. The political class who dictate the agenda being so removed from the people – do not understand that faith is one of the elements which does reach hearts and souls. The EU needs faith far more than faith needs the EU.

Acleric from Killarney, Co Kerry, Canon Lougheed, has written to the Irish Times to challenge the whole notion of tradition, calling it “the dictatorship of the dead”. Is tradition such a wonderful thing, he asks? And why should it be?

I do not know what age Canon Lougheed might be, but these are the questions one should ask at about the age of 18. A rising generation should certainly challenge tradition, and sometimes even do away with it.

I remember my sister saying, when she was a teenager, “why should cups have saucers anyway?” It seemed somehow a radical question at a time when polite and wellbred persons always served afternoon tea using cups and saucers. Unbeknownst to her, she had invented the mug. Indeed, the teadrinking tradition is an interesting metaphor of the evolution and abandonment of tradition. First you had tea made in a tea-pot. In Ireland, they would talk about “wetting” the tea, as that was what was literally done to the tea-leaves. The kettle was put on the hob: and the big brown Betty teapot was not only a refreshing drink — it was a symbol of hospitality and of something shared, something comforting. Old tea-leaves were employed in household tasks, being useful in cleaning wooden floors, thus making the cycle quite ecological.

Then, in an innovatory break with tradition, the tea-bag was invented. Housewives embraced the tea-bag because, in truth, it was less of a nuisance than the tea-leaf. To the tea specialist, a certain degree of flavour was lost, but most people preferred the convenience to perfection of taste. The teapot continued to be used for a time.

But all change begets more change, and presently, the tea-pot itself was disposed of. Tea began to be concocted by sticking a tea-bag in a mug. Even where it is more convenient to use a tea-pot – if you are making tea for six – people will now stick six tea-bags in six mugs, rather than use a tea-pot. In London, only classy establishments now provide tea-pots, and only classier ones still – Fortnum & Mason, Brown’s Hotel, the Ritz provide the champagne of teas: loose tea-leaves in a tea-pot.

The tea ceremony has declined from being a shared experience of community and hospitality to an individual drink of indifferent quality.

Only with the passage of time do you perceive how this gradually happens. And thus, in maturity you begin to understand that tradition usually exists for some very good purpose.

The Catholic bishops of England and Wales are recommending a ban on smacking or physical chastisement of children. Since every film you see nowadays featuring Catholic clergy shows them beating blue hell out of every child, perhaps this is a good PR move.

But what I find so awful is the way that some parents shout at their children, berating them with foul language and sometimes quite hideous insults. This seems to me much more damaging than a moderate smack.

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