‘Getting into a State’

There is behaviour so outrageous that one cannot even begin to see how the people undertaking it manage to justify it to themselves at all.

Israel has just persuaded itself that invading ships it does not own in international waters is, somehow, not piracy, and that shooting dead people on these boats is somehow not murder.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has somehow managed to persuade himself that it is totally fine to welcome into his church those persecuting gays and lesbians and calling for their country to leave the United Nations because that organisation supports civil rights for those in same-sex relationships. On the other hand, it is perfectly impossible to welcome dedicated and faithful Bishops who happen to be LGBT. Moreover he has, outrageously, single-handedly, and as an appointed leader, not even an elected Pope, managed to persuade himself that he can unilaterally ask countries supporting gay bishops to leave certain committees. Which is, as Jim Naughton points out in a deservedly-much-linked-to comment on Episcopal Cafe an action which trivialises and infantilises the whole communion.

What do these actions have in common? The participants have lost all touch with reality. They have lost that sense of groundedness, kindness and proportion which are in fact among the best gifts of our human nature. In fact, they ‘have got themselves into a State.’

It was a phrase of my mother’s. She would see a certain pattern of behaviour develop and say at once: ‘Joe Bloggs is getting into a State about this.’ It implied that Joe was not able to be contacted by those around him. He had shut off the world, and the voice of sanity, and his own feelings and thoughts were feeding themselves.

Groups of people are even worse. When not only you, but your close group, all see things in one way, it is much harder to take on board the broad view. If those you see every day tell you that – oh, beating a woman up, or molesting a child, or condemning people for a sexual orientation is totally fine, you can come to believe it. If you have a group around you, it is much much easier to shut out the cold, hard voice of truth.

And to some degree, we all do it. We convince ourselves that speeding, or over-eating, or -well tell me, what is your secret denial? Because nearly everybody has one! We convince ourselves that it is normal and acceptable and right and proper. And mostly these things do not do that much harm. They don’t lead to international piracy or to the perversion of a whole denomination from love to just the kind of petty miserable actions which Screwtape most loved. Do not be misled by the jokiness of this reference. I think both sets of actions are Evil in a very pure form.

But you can help, gentle reader. Make sure those around you know that either or both actions (and it will depend on which circles you move in) are wrong. Pour in the cold water of scrutiny on the foetid, self-referencing closed circle of the ‘state’. Call the bluff. Stand fast against the hysteria.

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4 responses to “‘Getting into a State’

  1. the blog post I haven’t had time to think about properly today is oddly synchronised with this. I shall try to write it tomorrow (but if I don’t, you can rejoice in the thought that it is because friends are coming to visit)

  2. rosemaryhannah

    I rejoice – I give thanks too.

    I wish I could have written about this better – and I should add that ‘a state’ is the total opposite of prayer, since the person in a state is as closed to God on that issue as she is to everything else.

  3. nice post mootles

  4. Stirring stuff, Rosemary, and needed to be said. On a comparable matter: amid all the hand-wringing and censoriousness about David Laws (and whatever one feels about whether he should have resigned), few people seemed to have noticed that the main reason for the situation arising in the first place was that he was inhibited from revealing he is gay. When will we learn to stop being obsessional about people’s sexuality?

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