The Three Graces of Politics
Faith, Hope and Charity
By James Luchte
Jonathan Jones reminded us recently through “probably a wildly inappropriate pre-feminist art historical reference”, in his article, “Something new is happening in British politics. This image captures it.” (Guardian, 17 April 2015), of the resemblance of the embrace between the party leaders of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and Green Party, Leanne Wood, Natalie Bennett and Nicola Sturgeon, respectively and the Three Graces.
The Three Graces are commonly known as faith, hope and charity, but have the tangible meanings of trust, confidence, and love or solidarity, a symbolism common to many religions and tendencies of thinking.
Indeed, Jonathan’s suggestion is quite apt, and can demonstrate the importance of humanities (crassly cut out of the Coalition’s Tory budget) in the context of political reality. We already know what Burns, Mary and Percy Shelley, Dickens has taught us, and Camus, Joyce, Ginsberg and Dylan Thomas, as contributors to the ethos of a culture which engages in political economic and social questioning from differing perspectives.
This embrace of three progressive leaders, amidst an era of constant crisis, allows us, by coincidence, it would seem, to remember the Three Graces and their significance to the meaning of the New Politics – one of trust, well-being, and social solidarity.
These Graces, or Virtues, in this light, are politically speaking, the characteristics of a healthy society, with some resemblance to Plato’s own tripartite schema in his Republic, and I will consider each of them in turn.
In early Greek thought, the Three Graces were named Aglaea, brightness, Euphrosyne, joyfulness, and Thalia, bloom, and were either, in the spirit of ancient myth-poetic diversity and generational contestation, daughters first of Helios and Aegle and later of Zeus and Hera.
Faith/Aglaea: Trust, Brightness, openness, transparency.
Hope/Euphrosyne: Confidence, Joyfulness
Charity/Thalia: Love and blooming, creativity.
Faith: Trust, Openness, and Transparency
Faith would characterise a society in which trust, openness and transparency would be the order of the day, of a society in which government and corporate institutions were under the direct scrutiny of the public. We have become aware of the cage that we are in – the cage of surveillance which was revealed by Edward Snowden. Indeed, such is the toxicity of the USA in the current period that even Angela Merkel, the gatekeeper of the IMF in the Eurozone, has begun to turn away from an ally who continuously spied upon her, without her knowledge or consent, for years.
The situation in Greece is symptomatic that there has been a significant shift in the European narrative of the “economic reality” away from that of Austerity toward that of Expenditure and Investment. Openness in a society, transparency and citizen agency and access give rise to a community of trust and creativity.
Democracy is not something we can take for granted. It is a very fleeting, and for us, recent experience that we could have faith in our social system with the introduction of National Insurance and the NHS. Public goods contribute to the health of a democracy and their privatisation is an attack upon democracy and an act of theft. A society of transparency would prevent the very possibility of such threats to the democratic community.
Hope: Confidence and Joyfulness
Hope would characterise a society in which each citizen is confident in his or her socio-economic situation and in which citizens can expect a reasonable and affirmative quality of life of well-being. A society of hope would be one, at the very least, of fair, smart and clean political economic development, with the characteristics of a Living Wage, affordable housing, generous public social services, renewable energy, accessible and free legal aid, and trade unionism with the legal power to act on a level playing field with respect to industrial disputes. Such a society of hope would prioritise a re-balancing and evening-up of development across regions and the empowerment of employees and communities vis-à-vis global corporations.
There is a horrendous amount of unnecessary poverty, suffering, neglect and exploitation in the world – and these many negative realities we experience are the result of a political choice, indeed, of a vast network of decisions which has brought us to our current situation. A society of hope would work for the fulfilment of the needs and desires of the people, all the people, and would create the political economic infrastructure that would maintain and facilitate the indefinite endurance of the democratic community, its well-being, and its capacity to experience joy.
Charity: Love and Creativity
Charity would characterise a society in which love would not be a dirty or laughable word, in which the natural compassion that a healthy human being feels to those in distress can find expression and fulfilment in the satisfaction of the needs and desires of the people.
It is clear that the barbaric agenda of Neo-Liberal economics has been exposed for what it is – the wholesale dismantlement and liquidation of the public sector, across Europe and the world. Such an application of creative chaos to our communities and citizens has been exposed as the criminal and aggressive attack upon the poor and vulnerable, as for instance in the policies and procedures of Iain Duncan Smith in the DWP which are being investigated by the United Nations
Thousands have died and have committed suicide due to the Kafka-esque regime disseminated as “Welfare Reform.” But, this is no “reform” but is merely an old Reagan and Thatcher tactic, documented by Noam Chomsky, 1) destroy public institutions from within; 2) claim they are not working and require reform; 3) Privatisation is presented as the solution, and the Neo-Liberal fantasy proceeds upon its path of plunder, theft, and destruction.
Yet, the entire paradigm of this discussion, that of monetarism and Neo-Liberalism, is just that a paradigm, a construct (Shelley might say, A Mask of Anarchy), and one that has been devastatingly refuted, deconstructed, with the mass realisation that the politics of Austerity is the crisis itself, that it is a con, an illusion.
All of the evidence clearly demonstrates that Austerity economics is a fraud!
As the icing on the cake of the shift from the narrative of austerity to that of public investment and expenditure, Paul Krugman, the Noble Prize winning US economist, joined into the UK and European discussions with his “The Austerity Delusion,” Austerity economics has become a bankrupt narrative, consigned to the dustbin of history.
The New Politics for a New Society
We must remember that we, as citizens, have the power to alter the end of the story. Since our eyes are open, there is no need to perform the same insane act, again and again, with the same futile results.
In the circumstance of an Establishment in denial, we must vote for the parties of the Anti-Austerity UK Alliance, which offer the only real alternative – the SNP, Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales and The Green Party.
The more MPs that can be won will correlate directly with the capacity of leverage in the next parliament – in the various struggles: ending austerity, scrapping trident, ending tuition fees, rejecting TTIP and fracking, renationalising the railways, keeping the NHS public, workers’ rights, honouring the respective Vows to the Nations and addressing grievances, and, well overdue, Constitutional Reform.
In this way, the three graces symbolise the narrative and existential shift that is underway in the creation of a new society and a New Politics.