Wading through the chorus of objections to the House of Bishops’ letter reveals much of what is wrong with current political and media consensus.
The predictable response consisted of accusations of partisanship, of inaccuracy and of the fundamental inappropriateness of the Church speaking out on issues of politics and well-being.
What this response fails to take into consideration is the extreme set of circumstances that prompt otherwise apolitical organisations and practitioners to enter the political fray in the first place, possibly because those who criticise loudest are shielded from the harsh brutalities of life under austerity.
When you have the Church actively speaking out, doctors forming political parties (in the case of the National Health Action Party) and professional psychologists forming the Psychologists against Austerity pressure group, it is because there is a fundamental disjunct between the political classes and the lives of ordinary people.
Doctors and clerics can’t simply get PR companies to spin pleasing responses to the desperate people they see come through their doors. They have to help them.
In the last few years in West Sussex, we have seen a shambolic and profoundly damaging privatisation of the NHS, and one that wasn’t in any sense voted for.
We have seen scandals of mass organised tax evasion, repeatedly compromised political parties and confusing and hypocritical freedoms for the wealthy and well-connected, while those on lower incomes suffer with debt, stagnating incomes and try to shield themselves from the brutalities of austerity, in all its forms.
That the politically mediated mental health and physical health costs continue to grow has left medics, clerics and professionals with little choice but to intervene if they want to continue to be able to do the work that they were trained for and that they believe in.
The energy given to the denigration of the Church for speaking out would be better directed toward trying to make sense of why, in 2015, such traditionally apolitical institutions feel that such action is necessary.
Dr Carl Walker
National Health Action Party and Psychologists against Austerity co-founder
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