Dear Mr. Brown,
You know, back when Mr. Blair finally left some of us had high hopes. You’d talked a lot of good talk over the years and some of the initial signs were even pretty good. But, as with all these things, it didn’t take long for the dream to die. Now everyone’s talking about crisis and the world just seems to grow a little more gloomy and a lot more doomed every day. I guess it’s in times like these that leaders really get tested. But I’m sure you’ve thought that already.
I’ve been out of the country a while, and I’m still finding my feet back in the UK. I don’t really feel qualified to comment on much that’s going on here. But I got another of those round robin e-mails asking for lobbying on some important issue or another and, today, I’m just disillusioned enough to care.
Apparently there’s some big meeting of European leaders happening this weekend, where you’re all going to gather and talk about how we can get more idiots to borrow more money they don’t have to buy more crap they don’t need because that’s what’ll put us on the path to economic recovery. I enjoy foreign travel as much as the next Prime Minister, but I’m not convinced that’s the way.
Among other things of late, I’ve spent some time in India, studying Gandhi. I know you respect leaders with the courage of their convictions, so you probably know much more of him than I do, but I found some of his values really struck a chord. He was all about building a new nation that wasn’t just independent of Empire, but which valued integrity, and where values he saw as traditionally Indian formed the basis for a society with lasting strength.
Personally, I tend to think that the morality of compassion for life and respect for the world in which we live has far more global roots. Sadly, politicians these days don’t seem to like to talk about morality. Maybe it’s because it’s too reminiscent of “values voters” and the “religious right”, ’cause Lord knows we don’t do God in the UK, or maybe it’s ’cause you’re all too afraid of the morality trap catching the proverbial residents of your wardrobes. But aren’t we all a little more grown up than that? Don’t we have a little more integrity?
Maybe it’s because it’s impossible to talk about morality whist at the same time asking for months of detention without trial? Maybe it’s the paying civil servants to sell arms for private companies? Maybe it’s the forcibly making people destitute as a tool of public policy? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s the rehabilitation of usurious practices that created this whole mess in the first place.
I guess it may not sit well with your calvinist background calling usury immoral, but a strong sense of morality was the one thing that some of us thought you had over your predecessor. Coupled with a little integrity, that could take you far. Maybe even the rest of us too. Take a look at who’s benefiting from all the stimulus packages, and ask who they’re helping. If it’s making the rich richer and the poor poorer, it’s probably immoral. And if you find yourself arguing that it’ll help the poor in the long term, that’s probably just the coward’s way out. Ask yourself why you really wanted this job.
Maybe you could start by putting a fraction of those rescue packages not in the hands of the institutions that failed us all, but with those who have creative solutions but no finance. Maybe people who have ways to make our way of life more sustainable in the long term. Maybe some of the new jobs could be creating renewable energy. Maybe you could put that as a challenge to some of these European leaders you’re meeting on Sunday.
Maybe I’m being too optimistic.