Mercifully, we live in a free country

They were chatting on Radio 4 this morning about funding cuts to the BBC World Service and the potentially tragic choices – eg between Russian and Arabic – that may need to be made. 

I don’t think I’ve ever really listened to the World Service but it conjures up refined images of tea and Empire, or, on the other hand, despotic regimes where people huddle round an old radio seeking The Truth. Perhaps I’m not the only one who has that slightly misguided impression because the conversation moved on to the World Service’s role in the propagation of ‘British Values’ and the ethics and feasibility of saving it through some DFID money that’s currently ring-fenced for aid only.

It was in this warm fuzzy context of history, values and Britishness that Moussa Koussa’s recent World Service interview came up, and I wonder if it was this context which shaped the reporter’s next comment:

“Mercifully, we live in a free country.”

I don’t think I’ve noticed that word in a journalistic radio slot before. Probably quite unintentional on his part, it nonetheless strikes me because it conveys a sense that all we have in good ol’ Britain is not necessarily something we deserve. It fuses the barrier between ‘us’ over here and ‘them’ over there, and – whatever our thoughts on the concept of ‘free country’ – implies that the tyranny and struggles facing so many around the world could just have easily ended up here.

I head off to work with these thoughts in my head, knowing that at some point today I’ll look all these questions directly in the eye again. I head off to work aware that a lot of stuff doesn’t make sense but seeking, as ever, to trust in the one whose mercies are, indeed, new every morning.



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