Liberalism is like living in a posh hotel, with no place to call home
This coming Monday, 19 September, is the feast day of Saint Theodore of Tarsus (602-690), one of my political heroes. Born in modern-day Turkey, he fled the approaching Muslim army and ended up as archbishop of Canterbury, where, among other things, he invented the parish system. If localism has a patron saint, he is a Turkish immigrant. For the parish system became not just the basic unit of ecclesiastical government, but also, for centuries, our basic unit of social togetherness. The whole idea of a priest and a parish was the very infrastructure of local community. With the shop and the pub, it came to define what we meant by the local. This was where roots were set, where generations were born and died, where the British values of social togetherness were nurtured. It was perhaps the single most important moral contribution of the church to British society. It’s where the “we” has precedence over the “I”.
But localism is now much derided. On a plane back from Israel last week, passing the time with in-flight entertainment, I am subjected to the most excruciating advertisement for Pullman hotels. The music pulsates. A young man is going for a run in Shanghai, off to some high-powered meeting, then returning to his hotel. The narrator sounds sexy and enticing. “No frontiers, no borders, no limits. You are the beautiful nomads. And our world is your playground.” I shuddered. What morally vacuous sentiments.