The dangers of political correctness

The Methodists pioneered the great temperance movements of the Victorian era – and were so successful at overcoming addiction to alcohol, especially among poor people who were being ruined by penny gin – that their  campaigns have had many imitators since. Even the Pioneers learned from the Methodists (and from the great Fr Mathew).

So it was perhaps surprising, for some observers in Britain, that a prominent Methodist preacher, the Rev. Paul Flowers – a former chairman of the Co-Op Bank – was filmed handing over £300 for a stash of cocaine and crystal meth: he had also boasted of using ketamine, cannabis and a club drug, GHB. In Methodist tradition, drugs are as anathemised as the demon alcohol.

In addition, Mr Flowers admitted to accessing gay porn and engaging the services of rent boys.

Who are we to judge? Everyone can make mistakes: everyone has the capacity to lose the run of themselves completely, especially once intoxicating substances are involved.

Toxic assets

However, Paul Flowers was also, as it turns out, a hopelessly incompetant bank chief and unfit for his position as head of the Co-Op Bank, which has strong ties with the Labour Party. Asked how much the Co-Op’s assets were by a treasury committee, he gave completely uninformed answers. The Co-Op Group is now in deep trouble, having acquired toxic assets under his leadership.

Corporate greed

And why was Paul Flowers appointed to be the steward of a great bank, and approved by the Financial Services Authority when he had virtually no qualifications for the job? The conclusion now is that he simply ticked the politically correct boxes. He had political cronies. He wrote articles about ‘ethical banking’. He proclaimed himself “against corporate greed”, in favour of “Fairtrade” and “Green Schools”. He had also been fined for committing an act of gross indecency in a public loo back in the 1980s, but the Methodist Church allowed him to continue in ministry because he had been “contrite”.

No, I am not judging him: but the Flowers case is a useful lesson about appointments in public life. It is a bad idea to hire people because they seem to hold the 'correct' views, or because they fulfil a gender quota, or because they are an example of equality in sexual orientation. Or indeed because they have political cronies. The only genuinely fair policy in jobs is that the candidate has the right qualifications and the right character.

The Co-Op Bank now has a £1.5 billion ‘black hole’, and working people will pay the price. Not what those old Methodists would have striven for.


Kiwis bond over Haka

Last Saturday was busy, so I only watched the Ireland-New Zealand match out of the corner of my eye. Ireland was leading handsomely when I momentarily attended to a household chore – just as the Kiwis overtook the home team and snatched victory from defeat. Calamity!

One ëwagí Tweeted, speaking in the voice of a child: ìDaddy, why does God hate Ireland!î

Itís not Godís fault, but some sports fans blame the weird but strangely effective war-dance that the All-Blacks perform before a match ñ the Haka.

Itís comical, but also blatently aggressive, and it must fire up the playersí fighting hormones, contributing to the teamís unbroken record of success.

But instead of denouncing the Haka, perhaps opponents should learn from the effective psychology that it represents. Itís a living tutorial in the powers of group bonding, in rather the same way that men on a battlefield will fight not just for their country, but for their comrades – their sense of brotherhood forged in common combat.

And with the New Zealandís team racial diversity, itís obvious that their bonding sessions prompt a warm racial harmony among ethnic whites, Maoris and guys of mixed race, and thatís surely another positive outcome of the fearsome Haka.


Selfies are modern self-portraits

In 2013, a new word was added to the Oxford Dictionaryís canon of correct and acceptable English: selfie. It means, as is evident, taking a photograph of yourself, usually via a mobile phone camera.

Selfies are particularly popular with young women, who then send them to each other via electronic transmission: sometimes they are silly and embarrassing, but they are, by definition, narcissistic. For that reason, some commentators have criticised the selfie as representing too much self-centredness and self-regard in a self-advancing age.

Yet it has been claimed that, Pope Francis himself has agreed to a photographic selfie.

In truth, the self-portrait has a long and honourable history.

The great artists from Da Vinci, Rembrandt and Van Dyke to Delacroix and Van Gogh produced selfies.

On the whole, the selfie is usually a harmless bit of fun, so long as it is kept in proportion ñ more than, say, 20 self-portraits might be veering towards a charge of vanity.