This Week's Comment from Network 7 News 

Edition 383 – October 30, 2004.  

 This weeks  was written by AWR's English Language Service Director, Victor Hulbert.  The full programme can be heard in Real Audio on our web-site.

National Costume~National Elections

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Congratulations to Kenya.  They’ve managed to do in 40 years what the English have never achieved.  The photo was there in Monday’s newspaper.  A national costume with an ankle length robe and long cloak for women while men get a shirt with slashed collar and a cape across one shoulder.  Since the Guardian Newspaper photo was in Black and White I went onto the web to find a colour picture of the costumes that come in the colours of the Kenyan National Flag – Red, Green and Black.   I was sadly disappointed.  The Guardian had no picture at all – nor did any of the Kenyan newspapers – and the small picture on the BBC website did it no service at all.  

Frustration! – although, maybe I shouldn’t get too excited as the national costume doesn’t seem to be too popular.  There are a couple of reasons for this.  Firstly, the cost – roughly three months wages for the majority of the population – secondly, the large trade in cheap second hand clothes from the west.  

A strange quirk, perhaps, that the average Kenyan prefers to dress in western clothes.  Patricia Mbela, one of the design team, believes there is another reason for the lack of enthusiasm.  She says that “that the British did such a good job on us that we’ve forgotten our culture and heritage”.  

So with that thought I pondered on my own national costume.  Within the British Isles, the Welsh have theirs, the Scots are proud of their kilts – but the English?  One joke that goes around is that England is what’s left when you take Scotland, Ireland and Wales away.  It has no real identity of its own – national costume or otherwise.  

Which is why identity is perhaps becoming such an issue.  I was up in Yorkshire last week.  Now there’s a place with an identity.  Some people know it for its literature – Jane Austen – or more recently, James Herriot.  Others know it for it’s cricket.  I love it for its beauty – from the rugged northern moors to the Dales with their granite built houses. A beautiful place – and a place where people have character.  “There’s Englishmen, and theirs Yorkshire men.”  They are a different breed, and it’s a skilful Yorkshire woman who can control and direct the life of her headstrong Yorkshire Husband!  

Yet the debate up there was on regional government.  There’s to be a referendum this week.  Should the North of England have it’s own parliament?  Views are divided with apathy being a big contender.   

A report I heard on the radio this morning thinks that could be the case the country over – and possibly a Europe wide distrust of politics and politicians leading to increasingly low turnouts on election days.  Watch out Tony Blair – it’s less than a year away!  

Only a few days away for George W Bush, and I’ve been amazed by the media frenzy this side of the Atlantic concerning the race to the Whitehouse.  It’s been interesting watching the debates – including the very political prayer letters I’m increasingly receiving from various US based Christian Groups.   

Well, I’m only one quarter American so don’t get the chance to vote for either Bush or Kerry – but I kind of like the advice my uncle in Washington State sent out, --- vote for the one whose wife you trust the most!  

Christians do have a responsibility in politics.  And for some it takes courage to stand up for that responsibility.  For instance, The Daily News in Harare tells me that, in the Mashonaland Central provincial region of Zimbabwe, religious leaders are being told, support the party, or move out.  A difficult choice – and yet Christians through the ages have made such choices – opposed slavery, campaigned for the vote for women, demonstrated against injustice – or for example, have become Mother Teresas.   

A campaign in one British Newspaper caused controversy not just in the USA, but across the world, as, tongue in cheek, it asked its readers to write letters to US citizens in Clark County, Ohio, to encourage them to vote.  I enjoyed reading the write up of that campaign but I can’t, and won’t tell you which way to vote in the US, Afghanistan, Kenya or anywhere else.  What I can encourage you to do is to use your democratic right, however small an action that may be, to influence your government, and your country, to make choices for good.  And do it on a broad range of issues.  Some Catholics in America argue – you can’t vote for Kerry because he is pro-abortion.  Yet, as Gary Leising of the Cincinnati Enquirer points out, you can’t exactly call George W Bush pro-life when he supports the death penalty – and I’m not even going to get into what Leising says on Iraq.  

Vote then, on a preponderance of issues.  Choose the candidate whose policies will make the world a better place.  Use that slip of paper to make a difference.  


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