A View From Afar, with Roger Ivan Hart

Author Emily Dietle

My focus is on state-church separation & social issues. I'm an avid reader, and feel that one of our most valuable tools is the free movement of information and ideas. | @emilyhasbooks

According to statistics, the vast majority who frequent this blog are from within the United States. Often, we Americans can become so steeped in our own media and local paradigms, that it becomes challenging to see a clear image of ourselves as a nation. In this blog series, you will be offered a ‘view from afar’ by atheists abroad, with their take on our politics and religious culture. Read the full series: Martin S. PribbleShelley SegalSylvia BroeckxTylzenRory Fenton, and Roger Ivan Hart.

This is the second in the ‘A View from Afar’ series, in which I present to you the views of Roger Ivan Hart. This retired “old codger” from Deal, UK is an avid reader, regular blogger, and tweets under the handle @rohart. Through his writing and local work, Roger is a bold campaigner for secularism.


Women’s Rights and the Hidden Agendas

When Emily suggested a post on how the election is seen from the UK, I did a quick search of Facebook and the Internet. I may be very interested in the US election, but is that generally the case for my fellow citizens? The more I searched, the more despondent I became. The election is being discussed in the media, but nothing is mentioned by my friends and relations. So I asked myself: 1) what are people in the UK discussing? And 2) what effect might the election have on British women?

The whole of the western world has undergone a period of banking incompetence that has left every country in turmoil. The banking crisis is often seen as starting in the US but people in the UK seem to accept that every major bank in every western country was involved in one way or another. In light of the UK government’s hard-hitting austerity measures the aftermath of the banking crisis seems to be the greatest concern in the UK.

We occasionally read of American Catholic bishops’ rantings about how religious freedom is being threatened by secularism and how abortion is a terrible sin – but they may as well be the murmurings of a Martian who has stumbled drunkenly on the Curiosity Rover. Religion and women’s rights are generally of far less concern in the UK, where approximately 20% of the population is non-religious and abortion is seen as a woman’s right and available on the National Health Service. Throughout the country, those who argue against abortion are seen at best as eccentric and at worst as hateful and intolerant. Consequently, they are a lot less vocal than in America.

What the UK seems to want to hear is how the president or the challenger are going to solve the world’s economic and banking crises, including how the US will tackle its huge debt. What we hear is that Obama is going to continue as before, doing a little bit here and a little bit there in world affairs but essentially concentrating on internal concerns like health reform. Romney says he will reduce the taxes of the rich in the hope that there will be a trickle down effect to the rest of society. The trouble with Romney’s solution is that we in the UK have heard it all before. We have also heard that the richest 5% of the world’s population have more money tucked away in foreign accounts and free of tax than ever before. Tax fairness is big news in the UK.

Politically, America is seen as being riven by warring right-wing Republicans and left-wing Democrats, with the two parties behaving like Europeans and on the point of coming to blows. (People in the UK have traditionally seen themselves as being more American than European.) Republicans are seen as being against government and women-hating, Democrats as fighting for the rights of women and raising taxes. Yet there is thought to be far less between the two parties than there is between the Conservative and Labour parties in the UK, where class is still of greater importance.

America is most definitely seen as having less influence in the world. Ever more UK imports come from China, while exports to the United States seem few and far between. (I picked up some of my grand-children’s toys … Made in America? Zero. They were all made in China. )

Politically, the machinations of the European Union, particularly in relation to immigration are of more concern than any decisions America may take.

For all the talk we used to hear of America supporting Israel, it seems increasingly that the greatest influence in the Middle East is an unchecked Iran. In Syria, Assad is seen murdering his people while an impotent America is seen to do nothing. Muslims see America as weak and talk of extending their influence from within the country. Meanwhile, Russia is flexing its muscles while America looks away, a situation the right is using to promote Romney. (People in the UK fear Russia is getting too much control of the world’s gas supply and look to America to stand up against them.)

Truth is, there is far greater concern over revelations that a pedophile was active within the establishment than there is over the election of the next president of the United States. America may find it hard to swallow but the presidential election campaign seems, for most people in the UK, an irrelevance. It’s as if no one cares who is elected.

For me, there lies within this brief glance over UK attitudes a huge concern. If Romney and Ryan are elected, women could be reduced to almost second-class citizenry by the religious right. The Republican candidate for president and his running mate seem to have been immensely successful in hiding their true agendas. It is time the UK population, especially women, woke up to the fact that the lives of women could soon be changed, not just in America but throughout the world, and perhaps for generations.

I have come to the conclusion that if the election was being held in the UK, Romney would win through sheer apathy and a desire for a change, no matter what that change may bring.