Event Report: Faith? Planet? Community? No’ better blues…

screamThe Catholic Church says despair is a mortal sin. On that basis, after three hours in Manchester Cathedral at a truly grotesque ‘Our Faith, Our Community, Our Planet‘ event, after I have burned on earth, then I will burn in hell. Hell, I expect, is something to do with being talked at for three hours in pious platitudes with intermittent pseudo-interactivity being promised and either badly delivered or not delivered at all.

Do you need to keep reading?
No

Has the host organisation Manchester Climate Change “Agency” improved in its event-design since last December’s atrocity?
No  (and today I heard some amusing tales from the AGM in July that they were calling a ‘conference’, but that’s another blog post.)

Did the co-organising input of various religious luminaries help it become an exercise in humility from people of the cloth?
No

Besides 15 minutes at the outset for eating food, was there any time during the following three hours for mingling, discussion, conversation or decompression?
No

Were people provided with name badges to help break the ice/nudge towards conversations?
No

Given that the event was about carbon footprints, did any of the organisers have the thought/spine to go for a meat-free buffet?
No

Was there soya milk for the vegetarians?
No

Is it petty to raise these issues?
No

Did the opening “five minute” speech stick to five minutes?
No

Did it add value?
No.

The villain in the 1962 Bond film was Doctor…
No

Did the organisers avoid the poisonous format of sage-on-the-stage?
No

Did they even try?
No

Did they avoid turning the people who attended, full of knowledge, hope, grace, into ego-fodder?
No

Did they even try?
No

Did they make any effort to facilitate discussions between people of same/different faiths, same/different locations?
No

Can anyone have any doubt about the extraordinary beauty of the voices of the “Pieces of Islam” singers.
No, a thousand times no.

Asides them, was there, before about 9pm (the event started at 6pm) a single voice that wasn’t male?
No

Were the organisers technologically competent to have a microphone set up for the speaker from Manchester Climate Change “Agency”
No

Did it detract, really?
No

Was there any mention of the original commitment, back in 2009,  to help create a ‘low carbon culture’?
No

Was there any mention of the failure to hold elections to the so-called “Steering” Group?
No

Was there any mention of the fact that this is not in fact a statutory body, accountable to anyone, or FoIAble, but in fact a community interest company?
No.

Was there any mention of flying, or of the airport, the biggest contributions – individually and at a city level – for Manchester
No.

Has the editor of MCFly taken any flight within the last 33 days?
No

Was the date of the deadly 2003 heatwave (not 2004) given accurately?
No.

Has the MCC”A” done anything to justify its existence?
No.

Was this event videoed/live-streamed for the benefit of those who couldn’t be there?
No

What is the computer password used by the ‘baddies’ in Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum?
No

Did the Catholic priest who spoke next explain how his (justifiable) concern about the population explosion (from 2 billion or so in the 50s to 7.3billion now) is congruent with the Vatican’s position on contraception?
No.

Can anyone reasonably argue with his advocacy of “respect, reverence, restraint, redistribution, responsibility, renewal and repentance”?
No

Given the absence of Andy Burnham and other worthies, because they are down in Brighton with the Corbynistas, was any explanation given of why this week, of all weeks, was chosen for an event at which Burnham might have been a useful attendee?
No

Did the irony police turn up to drag away all the speakers who told the flock about how much they thought dialogue mattered?
No

Is sitting at a table coming up with a sentence individually and then agglomerating it with other people’s sentences in any meaningful sense “interactive” or a “workshop”?
No.

Did the keynote speech tell anyone they didn’t already know?
No, probably.

Did the organisers have any plan for keeping the multiple “faith representatives” from going over what their allotted time was?
No

Did they all give coherent and non-embarrassing speeches?
No

Was there any non-male speaker?
No.

Is it petty to bring this up?
No.

Did we stay ahead of schedule and therefore have the promised “interactive workshop”?
No

What is the name of the major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century?
Noh

Was everyone still in the room by 8.30?
No

Would the session have been worth a bucket of warm spit if delivered as planned, given that people were to sit on tables and mostly hear adverts from various social enterprises and campaigning groups?
No

Did the ‘facilitator’ cut his random reflections on the year 1782 down, in the interests of time?
No

Does saying this is “hopefully the start of a process” mean that he simply isn’t aware that we’ve been “starting” this process since, um, 2009 (earlier in fact).
No.

Did the fact that the last three short speeches were from women make up for the appalling maleness of this wretched evening?
No.

Did people who came to this event come away from it with any new metaphors they can use?
No

Did a significant number of people come away with (m)any new connections, other people who they could work with in future?
No.

Was this event – in not having time for the actual meat of the matter – any different from a laughable FN4M at MERCi in 2009 or 2010?
No.

Did I spend three hours of my life wisely?
No

Will The Wife be happy I wasn’t under the cat instead?
No

Will The Cat be happy I wasn’t under the cat instead?
No

Was writing this worth the time?
No

Was reading this worth the time?
No

Did you take my warning at the outset seriously?
No

Do the organisers have the capacity or willingness to learn?
No.

The answer to that last question renders the following moot.

Alternative speech/intro.

Hi everyone.
Welcome to the Cathedral. Thank you for coming. I want do do a straw poll. Given that we – as individuals, and our governments, have known about climate change since 1988 – stick your hand up if you think we’ve done a sterling job so far, and that whatever Bearded Sky God you happen to believe in will give you a two thumbs up?
(no hands go up).
Good!
Now, next question – who thinks that keeping on doing the same as we have been doing is going to get us back in our BSG’s good books?
(no hands go up).
Great! Then, here’s the thing. We were going to deliver a bunch of worthy speeches by worthy people. But instead, we got those people to be humble – as all their religions tell them to be- and instead film what they were going to say tonight. If you’re interested, you can watch them all on our website.
Instead of you being empty vessels to be filled with knowledge, what we’re going to do in the next three hours, is get YOU telling US and each other what you are already doing. What verses from your BSG’s books inspire you to action, keep you going in the dark days, get you feeling compassion for other humans, other creatures,and acting on that compassion? What books, songs, psalms, parables, koans you name it, would you like to share. How does Yahweh, Jesus, Chthulu or the Flying Spaghetti Monster help you to challenge the suicidal ecocidal trajectory of this damn-fool species?
What skills and knowledge do you have that you’d like to share with other people? What skills and knowledge do you need to be a better warrior to defend your BSG’s creation? Stuff like that.

We’re going to get you into various groups over the course of the evening – based on your particular faiths, and then based on where you live, and then based on what you care most about.
We’ve got loads of facilitators who will help you in this. But this only works if you choose to be active. That doesn’t mean always talking. You might listen for 90 per cent of the time, or more. You might choose to sit in silence and think, and perhaps write something. But this space is going to be open for us to tackle big questions for the next three hours.

Are our individual places of worship exemplary spaces, from an environmental perspective? If so, how did they get that way? What advice could be given to others? If not, what is lacking?

Do our religious leaders give enough of the right kinds of sermons, speeches, whatever your BSG has you call them? If so, how did that come to pass? Are those speeches available online for others to see? If not, what can be done?

What are the gaps between our own religious beliefs and our practices? At an individual level, at a community level. How do we, in the spirit of compassion, help ourselves and each others plug those gaps?

I mentioned earlier that climate change as an issue goes back to 1988. In September 1993 a “Global Forum” conference was held here in Manchester. A series of shiny promises was made. They were not kept. In 2009 a new series of shiny promises were made. They have not been kept. So how do we as believers in various BSGs act in the “polis”? How do we challenge political leaders not just to MAKE promises, but to keep them? How do we ensure that slippery bureaucrats don’t just hide behind words and create organisations that cannot be held to scrutiny, held to account? How do we use the nourishment from eating pie in the sky to build muscles for working here on Earth?

Big questions, but this is a big building, and we have three hours. So, first, turn to the person next to you…

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About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
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4 Responses to Event Report: Faith? Planet? Community? No’ better blues…

  1. Allan Wort says:

    Have I read anything this month more accurate, exemplary or worthwhile about the Manchester scene?

    No.

    Thank you.

  2. Laura Collier says:

    Can I just let you know I went to a Momentum workshop last weekend where the seats were set out in groups of 6 from the outset and we all had name badges and we were prompted to explain why we were there to each other (in the group) and there was a rule about not speaking twice until everyone else had spoken once and strict time limits all the way through the morning. It totally worked at getting us to talk to eachother, finding points of common interest, galvanising intention and keeping up energy. I didn’t even mind hanging around a little for the group photo at the end.

  3. Thanks Laura. Where was that workshop? Is that now the norm in Momentum? Interesting if so… All best

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