I went to see The Long Road at the Soho Theatre on Tuesday night. It's a new play by Shelagh Stephenson based on her experience of working with Synergy Theatre and The Forgiveness Project in some of the UK's toughest gaols. It's been directed by Synergy founder (and brother of Jonny) Esther Baker, and follows the story of a family grieving the loss of their son, needlessly stabbed to death at a bus stop, and their move towards meeting the killer.
The people who know best say she's done a fantastic job:
"Esther Baker’s impeccably acted production confirms the play’s suggestion that restorative justice is far from a soft option."****’
Sarah Hemming, The Financial Times
"Rare and remarkable, this is drama that cries out for attention, and richly rewards it... The acting is tremendous."
Charles Spencer, The Telegraph
And she has. When a play leaves with questions about your own life and attitudes towards living it, and challenges you to re-think, you know it's proper theatre. What the hell would I do if it was my son who was stabbed to death? I'm afraid to even peer into that abyss, and hope I never have to, but for those in and around the criminal justice system, that's what they have to do. And what society demands they do in response to that does affect us all.
If you're in town, go and see it. With great talks around the issues before each Tuesday performance. On til 5th June.
And a recent report has found that, despite record investment, youth crime has continued to rise. "The government's record on youth crime and tackling the multiple needs of children caught up in the youth justice system is less impressive than many would have expected."
And no one suggested there might be a connection.
I am depressed.
No need to ask about the reasons - it's our good old friend National Security. Just a wild guess, but I suspect it would get raided every time a crime occurred, to see if there was anything incriminating out there... and that would mean our everyday PC Plod fumbling around with data... and that would inevitably mean abuse of the system.
This from a government whose track-record on data protection has been terrible.
Oppose this now. Spread the word and raise awareness. Phone your MP. Email them. Write to them. And, if you can, get some of that 'this message will self-destruct' paper from the movies.
PS - hello lackey in MI5 trawling through suspect material. Yes I am planning to assassinate Bush, and Brown, and I have links with Al Queda, and Osama's hiding out at my house. NOW. Perhaps I'm just over-reacting having watched a Bourne movie last night...
I've been reading some Yeats recently. In his short play, Calvary, Jesus is confronted by Judas as he walks with his cross:
Judas: I betrayed you because you seemed all powerful.
Jesus: My Father,
Even if now I were to whisper it,
Would break the world in his miraculous fury
To set me free.
Judas: And there is not one man in the wide world who is not in your power?
Jesus: My Father put all men into my hands.
Judas: That was the very thought that drove me wild.
I could not bear to think that you had but to whistle
And I must do; but after that I thought,
'Whatever man betrays Him will be free';
And life grew bearable again. And now
Is there a secret left that I do not know,
Knowing that if a man betrays a God
He is the stronger of the two?
It's a strange play, from a strange poet, but this passage seems to encompass all the problems of free will and divine omnipotence so beautifully. I've yet to read Pete's new book - funny, my complimentary copy just doesn't seem to be forthcoming (the measly git) - but I wonder if we can see some of that fidelity in Judas' thoughts here: subverting God, precisely because God 'seemed all powerful'... and in that bizarre power-struggle of free will and knowledge, God allowing himself to be subverted. As I write in Signs of Emergence, I think Judas has been wrongly tarred by Christianity, and actually can serve as a very helpful, if troubled, mirror onto our own misconstructions of God and God's power.
Thanks so much to Shane and his people for sending me a copy of his new book, written with Chris Haw, Jesus for President. It's gorgeous to look at and hold, fabulously designed, and perfectly balanced between seriousness and playfulness... starting with the title. Why can't every Christian book be like this? I just hope people get it, and read it thoroughly as they think about the coming US elections.
Worst case scenario: Shane gets asked to be Obama's advisor on something. As Campolo is quoted in the book: "Mixing the church and state is like mixing ice cream and cow manure . It may not do much to the manure, but it sure messes up the ice cream." Stay pure and creamy Shane!
A bill regarding the use of human embryos is currently passing through parliament at the moment, and, naturally, causing a huge amount of debate. One piece on the BBC caught my ear the other morning - a Bishop was asked what he thought about the creation of so-called 'saviour siblings': human beings created for the sole purpose of saving another. And I thought, this is going to be interesting, how is a Christian going to respond to that?
He didn't go there of course, but it remains a difficult area of theology: is Jesus just a 'saviour sibling'?
At a recent education conference I was at, one of the big-wigs at Intel gave a keynote about the future of technology and education. He talked about Moore's law, and some of the probable developments in educational tools, and also about the effect connectivity is having / will have on our lives.
Holding up his Smartphone, he gushed 'look at this thing! Who a couple of years ago would have thought that I would be able to have 300 emails waiting for me on a mobile device this size!'
And I thought, 'who the hell would want to have thought that?'
But it was one comment that interested me in particular. 'If it's on Google,' he said, 'why teach it?' And I just thought that displayed perhaps the poorest understanding of education, and technology's place within it, I have ever heard.
Just yesterday, as I sat reading in the evening light, the laptop shut, kids in bed after a day in the park, I pondered this.
Books and people make me a better person, I thought; the internet does not.
I think this is something to do with space and time. It is not internet access people need to be educated.
It is space and time to think and read and talk to people, and to be guided by a teacher. One cannot educate children by loading them with a smartcard pre-loaded with information. One might as well say 'If it's in the Bible, why preach it?' But that's a whole different can of worms.
Sir: After a decade in which the electorate have been treated like idiots; when alternative political visions became a thing of the past and voting became a choice between different sets of accountants or fund managers; when a prime minister takes us into a catastrophic war based on lies, and is not held accountable, when the terrible results of the most obscene and idiotic schemes of greedy financiers are called a "credit squeeze", the people of London elect a celebrated fool.
This is either a fascinating piece of knowing irony or it is the completion of something far more disturbing.
Hear, hear, Mr Curtis of Nottingham, though, despite irony permeating every bloody area of life and sapping its blood, I increasingly fear it is the latter that is true.
I recall something from a review of a work by Kundera:
"In a world where everyone, in order to attract attention, turns somersaults, the man who stands on his own feet will be taken for an acrobat."
We need these tricksters, with their feet firmly on the ground.