Monday 17 August 2015



We are used to politicians and other public figures getting into trouble over their behaviour and anyone in public life is vulnerable to lurid and probably over-stated reports in the media - particularly in the 'silly season'. Now a tennis player has provided a springboard for the ever-readable Will Hutton to write (preach?) about the inner voice of restraint weakening in our society along with the well-documented decline in ethics in finance and business:
The inner voice that checks any of us in our naked pursuit of what we want seems ever weaker, he wrote on Sunday.
Not everyone will subscribe to Hutton's view that the 'wider philosophy of libertarian capitalism' is where our worst instincts find a home, but they may be less likely to disagree when he says: 
Modern life does not need to be so reluctant to embrace shame, duty and purpose - or be a place where individualistic self-preoccupation and lack of respect for others ride so high.
And if we agree, then what is it that has driven or even created this sad state of affairs? If not politics and the way our society is organised, then is it technology or globalisation or what?  Or maybe the 'gaps left behind' by a steady erosion of faith in the last few decades, as Madeleine Bunting - 'no longer a practising Christian' - made us wonder in her wide-ranging and articulate series of The Essay on Radio 3 last week. She talked on separate evenings about 'glory', 'sin', 'salvation', and patience, and one of the things she seemed to deplore  is the misplaced emphasis of the churches over the centuries on a Christian critique of human nature (mainly, she suggested, with the desire to manipulate society for imperialistic institutions' own ends). There was always less attention to 'structural sin', or our 'collective responsibility for social and economic systems which exploit and oppress people'. And now?

As Will Hutton argues for 'a better public space', we at Wychwood Circle will focus in September on ethics in film, theatre and media, thanks to Professor Martyn Percy who, amongst many other attributes, is adviser to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) and previously worked with the Advertising Standards Authority. As Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, he doesn't have too far to come but we are fortunate that he has made time for us at the start of the new academic year. 

Wychwood Library, Sept 6th at 7.00 pm:  'Ethics in public life - film, theatre and media' - a talk and discussion led by the Very Reverend Professor Martyn Percy.  As always, anyone is welcome, whatever their views. 

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