The Cathedral Close in Winchester is a refuge of calm within the busy City. Massive buttressed walls block out the noise whilst its various blind entrances defeat most of the tourist mob.
Every December, the peace is suspended with the arrival of the popular Christmas market. A row of beach-huts posing as chalet-stores surrounds the Close with trinkets for sale. If Disney World chose to recreate Winchester Cathedral for its American customers, this is how it would look.
In the Middle Ages, the Cathedral authorities in Winchester disapproved of markets so much that they were banished beyond the City walls. The annual fair was held on the windswept slopes of St.Giles’ Hill which overlook my house. There’s just a hint of muddled institutional values in today’s embrace of commercialism within the hallowed precinct.
It’s certainly been a muddled week for values enshrined in international development. Both Bush and Brown were pictured with Hamid Karzai even as their cherished ideal of democracy in Afghanistan looks likely to be sacrificed if there is to be any hope of disengagement.
Barely days after world leaders fell over themselves to pay due obeisance to the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they were nowhere to be found when Ban Ki-moon called for reinforcements in the DRC. The greatest abuse of human rights to occur during those 60 years, the genocide in Rwanda, haunts the events unfolding in Eastern Congo.
As for the precious values of open market economics, the muddle has descended into farce. The disgraced $50 billion pyramid salesman, Bernard Madoff, broke ranks from his peers with an honest turn of phrase: “it’s all just one big lie”.
Bankers have been deservedly lampooned in Christmas pantomimes. I wonder if any of the scripts have borrowed Scrooge’s prophetic grumble in A Christmas Carol: “what’s Christmas time….. but a time for paying bills without money.” Never mind the bills; we’re badly in need of the robust values of Christmas to shore up our wobbling ideologies.
this article was first published by OneWorld UK