Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Though the ecological disaster is relatively new, all other aspects of the global situation today are as they were in the nineteenth century when the global elite first began to emerge. A way of dealing with the resulting dilemmas was pioneered by the Clapham Circle (led by William Wilberforce) - though that was then reversed by the efforts of the global elite from the 1880s, though more spectacularly from the end of the Second World War and even more spectacularly from the 1980s. That is why the global situation today is relatively similar to what it was when the Clapham Circle was prompted to act.

The members of the Clapham Circle were certainly not perfect - and their lack of perfection is over-enthusiastically attacked by their detractors. One wonders why.

Of course, all lack of perfection should be kept clearly in mind. But not to the extent that it clouds our view, so that we see nothing of the good they did.

Those positive things, in the case of the Clapham Circle include:
- the ability of a (very) few members of the then-emerging global elite to be sensitised to the needs of some of the most oppressed people of their times,
- to enable them to work with grass-roots organisations,
- to study the complex issues so as to master them and in order to identify what needed to be done,
- to be realistic enough to know that they could not do everything that needed doing,
- yet to not allow that to discourage them from setting two incredible goals: that of changing the whole economic basis of society through history, and that of bringing about a moral and humanistic transformation of one of the most powerful but also one of the most corrupt countries that the world had seen till then.

Even more incredibly, they largely succeeded in accomplishing both goals.

So we have a lot to learn from them. Till now, most humanitarin organisations concerned about global issues (such as the UN Global Compact) have only words to show, instead of any real achievements.

Though of course even mere words can have large effects - and I am sure that the combined effect of such words is somehow behind the combined donation of US$98 billion by Buffet and Gates to development-related causes.

We may all therefore be encouraged to go on with our words (the Clapham Circle did use a lot of words too, and Wilberforce wrote one book which was probably the key to transforming the whole moral and humanitarian climate of England then).

But let us also seek to supplement, as the Clapham Circle did with such astounding but little-appreciated sacrifice, our words with some real action. Sphere: Related Content

1 comment:

_ivan said...

I have heard rumours of this Clapham Sect - but never from educational institutions (I study theology) and the public sphere. Why are they never highlighted if they were so influential?