Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Don’t let politics dominate life - like Communism did

Britain is, or was, an island of associations and clubs. The French have no equivalent voluntary sector so they cannot easily pursue activities like community projects. My grandparents' generation were people who had engrossing hobbies possibly because they were not brought up with TV.  They had lived through two World Wars but they knew how to relax.
  • My grandfather was a fine carpenter, spending hours in his shed, whittling away, building fantasy toy castles. 
  • My grandmother relaxed by playing Chopin, doing daily scales in her eighties. 
What is less well known is that, at the same time, in Eastern Europe under Communism, vast numbers of people had no hobbies because politics dominated their lives. You were seen as a valid person only if you were completely focused on politics, to the exclusion of all else. The irony was that Communism promised that the State would soon ‘wither away’. Instead, it completely dominated and controlled those who lived under it, impoverishing the human spirit.

Today, liberalism seems just as dominant as Communism.  It is also focused on what is modern, on creating constant change and on ‘evolution’. People seem wired up to its latest progressive step and on reflecting it, in their speech, and opinions.

Life is not a linear development, or an evolution. It is more like a cycle - a series of swings of the pendulum. "There is nothing new under the sun" says Ecclesiastes. All life is also integrally connected to the past which cannot be wiped out, as modernity seeks to do. Nor does human nature change. One must rise above it all - or get suffocated by 'now'.

That’s why I am switching off the stressful 24 hours news and watching it once a day.  I'm focusing more on hobbies: reading books, making music, poetry, drawing, watercolours, learning about buildings and paintings, crafts, sewing, electric cycling, making curtains and cushions, cooking, gardening, decorating, bird watching, observing nature. The products of some of these activities last beyond our single life. We need to put a higher value on the things of the spirit.

Such is the pressure from lack of ‘me-time’ (for working women), saving money, heavy caring responsibilities and work, that 24 hour social media and TV is all we have time for. So one must make a conscious space (a table? a shed?) and time to pursue real hobbies and voluntary work (and read the Bible and pray).

These are the things that individuals can do to bring value and harmony to homes and communities and deliver the skills and achievements that bring us joy, not the constant conflict and social fragmentation that politics does - even for observers.

We must march to our own inner tune - not that of the media, or state. 


  1. True, I agree. Politics and the State can become a very powerful idol. People often think that their well-being and life itself depend on its provisions and expect from it a parental role. Dominanting powers (at local, national and supra-national level) promote this kind of thinking because it suits them. Individual "private" responsibility is discouraged, but this is how things should work. Statalism of all kinds (whether socialist or liberal) is the enemy we have to fight. "Hobbies" in this context is just another name for personal creativity and independence powers would rather stifle. On the other hand unbalanced "hobbies" can also be a distraction, like entertainment (sport or otherwise) that powers use to keep people busy and out of the way so that they will not "disturb" them. So everything must be kept in the right balance. A last thought: spirituality, or better, engaging with God (the Biblical way) cannot be considered "a hobby". It must be rather our overarching commitment which inspires and protects all our or activities. We have to refuse idols (false gods) but embrace the true and living God.

  2. I did not mean to indicate it is a hobby - just that one must set aside time in an over busy life to spend time with God just as one has a duty to "re-create" oneself, to have energy to serve Him and others. Without this, we drain ourselves dry. "Man cannot live by bread alone".

  3. I agree. One of the reasons I have largely exited social media. Lots of time for baking, tapestry, bird watching and learning the electronic keyboard. And also retiring to bed at a sensible hour!

  4. Yes - you are right. The simpler life is very attractive and I am studying it now.

  5. Yes - you are right. The simpler life is very attractive and I am studying it now.