Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More TV to discuss down the pub

Finally caught up with last weeks Ashes to Ashes, which seems to have got over a disjointed first episode and become rather good - not quite up to Life on Mars but close enough. After all, we know (don't we?) that she's in a coma this time... Intriguing to have a central character with a strong Sunday school background - her Bible memory verses from childhood prove crucial to solving a murder. Gene Hunt has his own rejoinder: "Anything you say will be taken down as evidence then ripped up and stuffed down your scrawny throat. Gene Hunt, Chapter 1 verse 2". Alongside all the Hunt-isms, the series has had some fascinating moments already: a brief snapshot of the birth of the yuppie Thatcherite dream in episode 2, and in the week that a man was jailed for murdering 5 prostitutes, a poignant reminder of how difficult it was, and still is, for rape victims to get justice.

Meanwhile The Last Enemy on Sunday night is perfect wind-down material after slaving away over a hot communion table. And it has Robert Carlyle. It's also trying to make a serious point about the surveillance society - the host page (see link) has various facts and figures about ID cards, CCTV and fingerprinting.

On PMQs today there was a question about extending the DNA database. Yes it's helped with criminal convictions, but there is a trade-off between quality of life and quantity of personal information held by the state, and the freedoms we are prepared to deny ourselves in pursuit of security. The suggestion in The Last Enemy is that the state can't be trusted with this information and power. Matt Wardman has a good post on the issue today. The 'surveillance society' debate is a distant cousin of the sharia debate, as both are linked in people's minds with militant Islam, and the need to be protected from it.

It would be good to see civil liberties/surveillance society issues addressed by some of the better minds in the church. However, I couldn't find anything on Rowan Williams or Tom Wrights website. The only thing on Ekklesia was 3 years old and was about a group representing the non-Christian faith groups in the UK. There is one, fairly brief, article on Theos, and a couple of their debate topics touch on the issue without addressing it directly. The Christians who do campaign on civil liberties issues seem to be mostly concerned with a few narrow issues around sexuality and reproduction - e.g. whether parents who don't think homosexuality is ok can be allowed to foster by their local councils.

There is a torrent of legislation at the moment affecting personal freedoms and identity: 42 day detention, DNA database, ID cards, ASBO's and youth justice; why are we all so quiet about it?

30 minutes later.... I take it all back. Well, most of it. There was a weighty report passed 235 votes to 2 at the Church of England General Synod a couple of weeks ago, arguing against the extension of detention without charge, and with substantial sections on law and liberty. It concludes:

In reflecting on these topics, Christian faith has no privileged insight which circumvents the hard work of analysis and moral deliberation. What it has is an understanding of human nature before God as embracing the best and the worst. On the one hand, it is aware of men and women created in the image of God, carrying a claim to just and respectful treatment which no so-called political necessity or security crisis can abolish. On the other, it is aware – supremely through the event of the crucifixion of the Lord of glory – of the destructive acts of which people are capable when driven by hatred, fear, self-righteousness and self-deception.


  1. But the Ashes to Ashes plot gap was pretty vast David. I know they let the apparent sex offender go for lack of evidence but hadn't we watched him pull a knife on a woman in the presence of four police officers. Surely that's an offence?

  2. But isn't it all a dream...?

    If we were doing plot holes we'd end with the Yorkshire coalfield, but I guess I've just been ignoring them!! Pretty much the same thing happened in episode 1, but the bloke got let off, otherwise it would have been a 10 minute episode. I still haven't worked out whether Ashes to Ashes is trying to make a point, or just get away with as much unreconstructed humour as it can put into Gene Hunt's mouth.