Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Annual Theos Lecture 2011

General Lord Richard Dannatt last night delivered the Annual Theos Lecture, entitled “The Battle for Hearts and Minds: Morality and Warfare Today”.

The lecture was a mixture of practical aspects of military ventures as well as reflections on how changes in society have affected the attitude of the men and women who serve in the armed forces, referred to by Dannatt as the “raw material”.

The lecture was littered with references to recent alarming activity including the summer riots, the phone hacking crisis and MP’s expenses scandal to name but a few. Dannatt contended that the public outrage at these incidences was based on moral objections, even more so than legal or financial grievances.

This is interesting given that if you only read the tabloids, you would think that 90% of society was involved in all these wanton activities, not opposing them. Dannatt noted that the decline in moral standards is something that the army cannot accept but it is not the job of the military to enforce morality in society at large. This would lead us down a very slippery slope.

Lord Dannatt also spoke of good leadership qualities and the way in which these should be cultivated. He believed that it is farcical to say people are either born natural leaders or not, although of course there are certain innate tendencies that can be of great help. This was a thought provoking point for those interns wishing to enter public life.

This internship, in fact, epitomises many of the ways the Church is able to have a positive influence on young people, especially those entering public service. The “social and economic liberalism” blamed by Dannatt for the descent of moral standards can be combated in many ways by a holistic approach to the individual, such as this internship provides. Not only are we expected to take on professional responsibilities, but to explore ethics at an academic level at Heythrop and develop a better understanding of ourselves in relation to our faith through spiritual direction.

After the lecture we descended into a beautiful marble reception room and spoke at length to the Bishop of the Armed Forces, Richard Moth, pictured with us below. We also met Caroline Wyatt, the BBC’s long-standing Defence Correspondent, who had chaired the question and answer session following the lecture.

Attending all these after-work lectures has had the indirect effect of making us all experts on canapés. The ones on offer last night were the best yet, with a selection of sweet and savoury mini delicacies. How will the canapés at the CAFOD memorial lecture next week compare...?

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