|Anatomising The Pope Some More
||[Sep. 16th, 2010|12:08 pm]
It was in code (at first I thought he was complaining about the standard of cleanliness at the airport) but when you take it in context it's fairly clear that what Cardinal Kasper was saying (with a sweet little smile) when he likened Britain to a Third World country was "Oh my God have you see how many ******* there are in London!" |
Kasper is in the Pope's inner circle- and his remark opens a window into the way it thinks. Perhaps "thinks" is the wrong word- because what is on display is not so much thought as emotional prejudice. This is a bunch of very old white males and their world view is eurocentric to the point of racism. The pope himself gave us an earlier glimpse of it in that speech at Regensburg in which he saw fit to quote a Byzantine Emperor on the evils of Islam. It's a mindset that Hilaire Belloc summed up in his epigram, "The faith is Europe and Europe is the faith".
The Pope and his people are late-late romantics- nostalgic for an air-brushed version of the Middle ages and ill-at-ease in the modern world. At heart they are still crusaders. The despised Third World (which happens to be the only place their Church is growing) is where the saracens live. Belloc's epigram was reactionary when he first made it 90 years ago. Even then it carried a taint of sadness and self pity.
2010-09-16 11:41 am (UTC)
I think that it's more likely that he meant the crowded transport - admittedly, people don't ride on the ouside of trains and buses yet - and the air of desperation around the general movements of the population
I have become so used to quiet country life that a recent visit to suburban buses and trains and shops was a considerable shock
From the quote I heard on Radio 4 and from what I read on the BBC's web site, the comment very much related to the number of non-white faces in the capital. It made me wonder whether his convenient attack of gout was merely a diplomatic excuse to explain his sudden removal from the tour group.
That's a possible- and charitable- interpretation, but the context of his remarks suggests he had our multicultural society in his sights.
Besides, he lives in Rome and- if my memory serves me right- the Roman traffic makes London's seem benign.
Sorry to cut and paste, but this is what I commented on the Guardian article covering the story:
"I'm trying to get this straight. Scenario A: Kaspar was making a statement about Heathrow's facilities, which may or may not be true (I've not been there recently), but is kind of rude coming from someone who was about to be a guest of this country; and the Vatican excused his rudeness by saying he meant something different - i.e. that there's a large racial mix there. Scenario B: Kaspar was making a statement about race all along, and not about Heathrow's facilities at all.
Well, it hardly seems worth remarking that at the world's busiest airport you can see people from many different countries, but 'Third World" seems a very odd way to make that point. Most Third World countries aren't particularly or obviously multiracial. Isn't it clear that what the Vatican really means is that there are a lot of black and brown people in Heathrow? And that for the Vatican (and for Kaspar - unless he was just being rude about the facilities after all) where black and brown faces belong is the Third World.
I'm having trouble deciding which of these many possible combinations of discourtesy, ineptitude and racism is the most likely, but none of them shows the Catholic church to any kind of advantage."
The remark was sufficiently cryptic to be open to multiple interpretations, but it had a certain "nudge-nudge, wink-wink" quality to it- as if suggesting "we're all racists here, aren't we?"
A further possibility is that- as a German of a certain age (just like the Pope)- the man is quite simply an Anglophobe.
I have said before myself that the third world starts at Terminal 3, but that was as much a commentary on the state of the facilities as it was on the colourful racial and cultural mix you see there.
However Cardinal Kaspar's comments were not about the airport, but London itself, and from his point of view the problem is that most of the "*******" are not, and never will be, Catholic.
People of Kasper's age- unless they happen to have thought the matter through and kept abreast of what is happening in the world- tend to be unthinkingly racist- and taken by surprise when younger people don't share their prejudice.
Also, with him- as you point out- there's going to be the added thing that white = Christian. I don't suppose- even now- that you see all that many non-white people in Rome.
2010-09-16 10:32 pm (UTC)
Oh God, is it the baggage-retrieval system again?
(Hm. Yes. Yes, in a sense it is...)