Sunday, 10 October 2010

Costume Drama & The Common Good

Building a new Catholic society for the Common Good?
Lots of people enjoy a costume drama. I suppose with so much bad language, crudity, anti-family messages and meaningless Eastenders-style shouting, many people are eager for a little more culture, history and genuine dialogue, however flawed it may be.

Thus it was I thought I'd look in on ITV's latest offering, Downton Abbey.

The setting will be familiar to anyone who knows Upstairs Downstairs, with a smattering of Lark Rise to Candleford.

It was the name of the series that caught my eye, and prompted an impromptu history lesson to my children.

I think spin has been around for a long time. It's a sad thing, but when most people tend to be conservative (with a small c) and traditional in their beliefs, it's often a small minority that push for radical change and 'new ways' that people feel uncomfortable with.

In modern times we can think of the war in Iraq, that so many people thought was wrong, yet spin and a few people with the levers of power pushed a whole nation into an unjust war.

In history we think of course of the Reformation. In Henry VIII's day even after he invented the Anglican church most people still went to Mass, believed in the Actual Presence of Our Lord, believed in the seven Sacraments and so on (realistically thinking Henry's changes would be a passing fad).

It was after years of spin and propaganda that the English and Welsh were gradually turned against Catholicism, and even then a brave minority - the recusants - held out despite incredible anti-Catholic penal laws.

So what has this got to do with a costume drama on ITV?

Well the very name Downton Abbey had me telling my children how at the time the Reformation would have been sold to 'the people' as the greedy, rich monks sitting on so much land and property - and how it would all be taken off them to the benefit of 'the people,' so how could they oppose it?

Just as Communism would later be sold on a promise of freeing 'the people' whilst everything was grabbed by the Party few and the people were put into worse slavery, so the Reformation was sold to 'the people' in terms of 'freedom' only for the land and property to be grabbed by a rich few and the people put into a worse slavery, culminating in the factories and slums as more land was enclosed.

As I told my children, the monasteries were open to the people, they gave succour to travellers and the ill. People went there for their spiritual needs. They helped the local economy by hiring workers and selling goods. They often let their tenants live on the land and/or farm the land for little more than peppercorn rents (I believe it was Cobbett who showed how the rents increased once the monasteries were shut).

In short what was open land, accessible to many, farmed by many, to the sustenance of many, became the enclosed lands for the play and profit of a very few.

The promise of 'freedom' and of closing the corrupt (sic) monasteries for the benefit of the people was a lie, just like the promises of freedom under Communism was a lie, just like the promises of a 'War on Terror' for freedom was a lie.

One might even say that the Abortion Act (1967) was also passed on a promise of a very few in urgent medical need etc. only for the floodgates to be opened and abortion on demand for the flimsiest reasons was the result.

Spin is nothing new. We as Catholics know that we have been lied to for many centuries from the closing of the monasteries, to the enclosing of the land, to the slums and factories and the false hope offered by the Communists, to the proponents of abortion today.

Only Catholicism has the answers, a return to sound morality, a putting the family and the Common Good first and as the Papal encyclicals have said, the atheism and materialism of Communism, the love of money and greed of unfettered Capitalism offer no real hope for people searching for the Truth and justice.

And all that from an ITV costume drama! Must be another Sunday evening in our house ;-)

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