Standing on your own feet

Mar 3rd, 2008 | By | Category: Spirituality

Back in 1972, a historical drama series was made for British television. Filling a Sunday teatime slot, it was family viewing. It was set against the background of the 1685 rebellion of the Duke of Monmouth against the rule of James II in England. Monmouth’s rising became known in retrospect as the “pitchfork rebellion.” Much of his army were ill-equipped Somerset peasant farmers, they hadn’t a hope when faced with the army of King James at the Battle of Sedgemoor on 6th July 1685 and hundred were cut down. The battle was followed by the “Bloody Assizes” of Judge Jeffreys, in which more than 300 of Monmouth’s ragged band were condemned to death. The television series The Pretenders came as a shock to an eleven year old who had grown up on Disney stories and commando comics. For the first time there was a realisation that the good guys didn’t always win.

The series came to mind in discussions with a colleague who said to complain about something. “What’s the point of complaining?”

“So that someone will do something about it”.


“I don’t know. Someone.”

It is a familiar conversation. Most people believe that when something is not right, there should be someone there who will do something to put things right.

There has developed a mindset that there should be some government agency or statutory body to deal with every grievance. RTE Radio 1 fills airtime every lunchtime with people phoning in about wrongs and injustices. Joe Duffy, the presenter of the lunchtime Liveline programme, fields a stream of calls with a Job-like patience and a Solomon-like wisdom.

Yet there will always be a wide spectrum of human experience where unfairness and injustice are simply the order of the day. There is a fundamental inequality in the order of things – otherwise why would we not have all the same physical attributes and mental capabilities?

The old catechism, which was taught to Anglican young people for centuries, had about it a feeling of stoicism. There was a mood that whatever came along was the way things were and not to expect any fairness. One’s duty towards one’s neighbour included:

To be true and just in all my dealing: To bear no malice nor hatred in my heart: To keep my hands from picking and stealing, and my tongue from evilspeaking, lying, and slandering: To keep my body in temperance, soberness, and chastity: Not to covet nor desire other men’s goods; but to learn and labour truly to get mine own living, and to do my duty in that state of life, unto which it shall please God to call me.

No suggestion there that the good guys were going to win. No suggestion that complaining was going to change anything. No suggestion that anyone could be called upon other than oneself.

In an unfair world, the old catechism was perhaps not such a bad philosophy of life.

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  1. Extremely good point. If we all lived by that code, life would be much more pleasant for everyone. I try, honest I do . . .bodily temperance is a bit of an issue!

  2. Ian

    Slightly off the main subject, but did you go down to watch the filming of the Pretenders on the moor at the bottom of Turn Hill? I did, I think I went down with Max and Tim Croot. Some of the locals featured as extras in the ‘battle’.
    Talking of RTE 1 I am really upset at RTE’s decision to stop broadcasting on MW later this month, unfortunately my car radio only has FM and MW I shall miss listening to RTE 1 over here. I do have LW at home but herself thinks I am slightly mad wanting to listen to an Irish radio station.Its more fun than listening to our depressing news I tell her.

  3. Baino,

    ‘Temperance’ of course means moderation! (As in temperate climate)


    I went with my dad one time. We parked in a lane and watched across a field – it was very slow! I think Ron (?) Combes was in it.

  4. Yes Ian I’m sure Ron Coombes was in it, see your memory is just as sharp as mine. I do remember the filming to be long and drawn out for just a short piece of action. Do you know I think I actually watched some of the series at your house as we didn’t have a telly in them days.I used to be fascinated by your Dad rolling his own ciggies wondering why they didn’t come out of a packet like my ole mans. Dirty habit I have given it up for 4 years in May.

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