On the need to be seen to be doing something

There's a fine line between doing something because you believe it to be a good thing to do and doing something because of the need to be seen to be doing something. It is easy to decide to do something because your friends are doing it and you do not to want to be left out. It is easy to be pressurised into a particular action because not to act in that way can make you seem weak, uncaring, naive or a traitor to the group.

The propaganda used on both sides for recruitment into the military during the 1st World War relied heavily on the need of potential recruits to be seen to be doing their bit and avoid the stigma of being called cowardly or unpatriotic.

I am wondering how the need to be seen to be doing something may influence decisions made today in 2 particular areas:

  1. Climate Change
  2. Syria

1. Climate Change

There was an impressive turnout of world leaders at the opening of the Climate Change conference in Paris at the start of this week. Given the global importance of climate change and the increasing scientific evidence of human contribution to the threats posed by this, it was surely politically expedient for national leaders to be seen to be there, at least for the photo call. I am not accusing any particular leader of only acting out of the need to be seen to be doing something about climate change. I am pleased so many were there, but suspect the need to be seen to turn up may have played a part for some. The real work of the conference is being done by the various committees meeting in Paris over the next few days to attempt to reach some international agreements and achievable goals. And then will come the challenges of implementing agreements, particularly where national interests (e.g. increased economic growth) appear to compete with global interests of caring for God's earth and for the welfare of all across international boundaries.

If you are a praying person and care about this issue you could in secret pray this prayer:
"Gracious God, Creator of All, we raise our hearts in grateful praise for all the beauty that surrounds us. May we learn to respect all as a sacred gift and do what we can to repair the damage we have caused through our consumerism, greed and carelessness. Grant us an ecological conversion so that we can leave our next generation with a future full of hope where there is enough for all. We ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen"

2. Syria

Today MPs in the UK House of Commons are debating the question of whether or not to join the US, Russia, France and others in bombing so-called Islamic State strongholds within Syria. A vote will be taken tonight.

One of the things that concerns me is the way that public opinion in the UK seems to have shifted since the recent Paris massacre towards our involvement in military intervention in Syria. Everyone wants to be seen to be doing something, whether that is publicly lighting a candle, posting a prayer on social media, or calling for increased internal security or external military action. The civil war in Syria has been going on for years and Syria has been subject to bombing for a long time, creating millions of refugees fleeing for their lives.

I am not a pacifist, but I am not convinced by Cameron's arguments. I cannot see any evidence that adding a UK contribution to bombing within Syria is likely to make a positive difference in defeating 'IS'. You can destroy buildings, weapons. infrastructure and people (including children) by bombing. You cannot destroy an evil ideology that knows no international boundaries that way. You may create more recruits to an evil cause. 

Someone (I've forgotten who) once said that bombing 'Islamic State' supporters is like hitting a dandelion seed-head with a golf club. It's an effective way to assist the seed scattering that leads to more growth of what you may not want. As for accusing those in the UK who are opposed to taking part in air strikes in Syria of being 'terrorist sympathisers', that's what triggered my post today. We are back to 1st World War propaganda which fed people's need to be seen to be doing something if you don't want to be seen to be weak, uncaring, or siding with the enemy.

I am not a military strategist and this conflict is one in which there are no obvious 'right' answers to what needs to be done to make things better and bring about a just peace in Syria. I hope that those who vote in the UK House of Commons today will make their decisions based on carefully thought out conviction, not unduly swayed by the pressure to be seen on the international stage as 'doing something'.

How to pray? Only one prayer to the God who cares for all seems to fit:
"Thy Kingdom come,
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven."

You can find the whole prayer and without being seen by anyone, you can pray along with it here:


  1. Well said, Nancy. You speak for me and many others.

    1. Thanks. Just wondering whether Cameron has yet apologised for calling those who support Corbyn's view 'terrorist sympathisers' especially as opinion polls show that may be almost half the UK population.

    2. I don't think so. he has been asked to do so at least 8 times from all sides of the House.

  2. Hi Nancy,

    Thank you for the prayer for climate change - because this is possibly the greatest failure of our politicians to act on in the past 50 years, since scientists started to warn of the implications of our over use of fossil fuels and our squandering of the worlds resources. It isn't a simple problem to resolve, particularly as it's the developing world that is suffering the worst effects it, while we live in our cocoon, denying any responsibility. The evidence is, as you say, a stark reality for us to face, and if we truly care for God's creation, we should all be praying hard that we will all take personal responsibility for our impact on the environment, let alone governments.

    As for Syria. As a former soldier, who engaged in war, in obedience to orders, twice in my lifetime, and towards the end of that career, saw the impact of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, particularly while caring for the families of those killed or wounded in those conflicts, which turned me from an unquestioning unreflective Officer, to one whose personal belief set was completely pacifist, views that I still hold today.

    I don't believe that our intervention in Syria will stop with bombing. The inevitable consequence of our actions, will be the need to deploy troops to take and to hold ground and to destroy the enemy (IS) in their strongholds, while trying to rebuild a country. We don't have the troops or resources to undertake such a major operation on our own, it would need general mobilisation and the government won't do that - they don't have the political will to do so.

    The government have ignored the advice of senior, serving generals, who told them this, before the parliamentary vote, but in their wisdom, went ahead anyway. The cynicism is breath taking. Not one of them will be required to deploy and to fight. They will be secure in their parliamentary bubble, while others do their bidding, with all of the risks entailed. If they were required to go and fight - they'd not be so quick to vote for others to do it on their behalf.

    My cynicism extends to the media - who seem to keen on a good war as it makes for good circulation of their output - one day they will learn their stupidity, but only after many lives on both sides are lost.


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