Not Saussure

August 25, 2006

Take me to your leaders

Filed under: Community, Politics — notsaussure @ 11:53 pm

The Telegraph reports that

Among other measures, it [Ruth Kelly’s Commission on Integration and Cohesion] will discuss the drawing up of “community charters”, agreements signed by community leaders endorsing respect for democracy and the rejection of racism and violence. It will also consider requests from Muslim groups for Islamic festivals to be bank holidays.

Doubtless respect for democracy is a fine thing, but I’m a bit puzzled about asking community leaders, of all people, to endorse it. It’s not as if community leader is an elected office much of the time; from my observation, it’s quite frequently self-appointed.

Even when it is elected, I’m never sure what influence such people have on their ‘communities’. Presumably, my local councillors and MP count among my ‘community leaders’, but I’m not at sure how much influence they have on people (or even that most of local community know who their councillors are; I’m not at all sure I do, though I remember voting for them). Or do they mean my parish priest or the local vicar? The editor of the local newpaper, perhaps? Very worthy folks all, I’m sure, but I’m not convinced they have a great deal of influence on the community where I live.

Seriously, has anyone ever met many people in the UK from any background (other than members of religious order, perhaps) who identify themselves as member of a community that’s got a leader whom they follow? People regard themselves as coming from particular backgrounds and belonging to many different intersecting groups, certainly, because such is the nature of being a human being in a complex society, but I think it’s only the natives who have leaders — paramount chiefs or whatever — with whom the District Commissioner can sort out problems and be sure that the Chief will deliver.

And what of the suggestion that the Commission will consider requests from Muslim groups for Islamic festivals to be bank holidays? Is this there deliberately to wind up The Daily Mail, or is it a not-so-subtle way of indicating that the Commission isn’t really expected to acheive anything, since it’s going to waste time pretending to give serious consideration to something that’s not going to happen?

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