Reader Writes - February 2019

One of our little New Year rites is to bicycle up to Titley Pool with a flask of tea and some biscuits. Once comfortably seated in the hide you can gently open the screens and survey the lake unseen, and observe what colder weather might have brought in. It was a bit late in the afternoon so everything was very settled and quiet. Sipping tea we could see the usual mallard, teal, tufted ducks, coots and swans. Then suddenly a pair of large and hungry cormorants landed and quickly started fishing, diving gracefully on their deadly hunt. But why are there cormorants all this way inland? Shouldn’t they stick to coasts where they are supposed to be rather than stealing our fish? In the stillness I had to admire the large flock of Canada geese gently cruising in formation ready to roost; they are certainly aliens without proper reason to be honking noisily so far from “home”. Finally I was really delighted to see a perfect and exotic drake Mandarin duck looking a little shy but very at home.

Taking a moment to think ecologically, you have to marvel at the wholeness of natural systems. Our bird populations in this country are always in flux; great escalators of birds are joining us or leaving us in concert with the weather and the season. Titley Pool fills with teal and tufties when the weather gets hard. The robins in our garden right now could have come from Scandinavia like the fieldfares and redwings shredding the berries in the hedge. Research endlessly reveals how complex and how mobile populations are. And they are not always benign. Ash dieback is a very unwelcome consequence of global trade; bee keepers are on alert to spot the Asian hornet, arch scoffer of honey bees. So in nature migration is breath-taking but it is complex.

As soon as we focus on human migration we are no longer at ease with a holistic perspective. Of the tens of millions of our fellow men displaced by war, none would choose to abandon their homes and families and communities if they were safe there and if they could earn their daily bread. Fleeing war, drought and religious fundamentalism is endemic in global society. We, the comfortable and secure, cannot ignore the towering reality of human migration. We might even, in a moment of reflection, ask if our own security is not complexly bound up with the misfortunes of others. Anti-immigration projects, whether fetishizing visas and permits or ethically dubious walls, are repudiated by the vibrancy and gifts of a multicultural society. Whether in nature or human nature we all benefit from diversity; and empathy towards that diversity gives a rich return.

Jesus himself radically repudiated social and racial exclusivism. His learning and his standing as a teacher would have made him a Pharisee. Instead he announced the Kingdom of God, breaking in and releasing the prisoners. His ministry was a scandalous overturning of the religious tables. The Pharisee preoccupation with racial purity, with gender, with rules, was violently challenged. Jesus embraced the Gentile demoniac, he touched the dead, he let a distraught woman anoint his feet, he held the leper, he defended the humiliated woman accused of adultery. God gives us the dignity of belonging; if we follow in his steps, we must do the same for others.

Robert MacCurrach

Rob MacCurrach Comment