Ideological cross contamination

I may come up with a less psuedy title if I can think of one.

Most of the people or organisations I am involved with are interested in people being nice to each other in some way. The Lib Dems believe in a society where we balance the values of liberty, equality and community, and where no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance and conformity. [1] Which basically boils down to lets all get along and be nice to one another and encourage people to improve and grow. The Scout Association believes in encouraging the physical, spiritual and mental development of young people [2], and the ways it does this is by encouraging them to help others, be aware of the world around them, and to understand other cultures. This seems to boil down to more or less the same thing.

Sometimes I wonder though, whether I’m reading my own values into the stated values of both organisations and imagining stuff that isn’t there. It is true to say that there are many in both who don’t fully subscribe to the values of the organisations they are members of. Some Lib Dems who are really socialists not liberals, or indeed join the party because it’s nicer than the others. Some Scout Leaders are just in it for the outdoor activities and look down at those who provide a broader programme at the expense of the summer expedition to Mount Everest. In Scouting I will sometimes see leaders with a severe right wing outlook and wonder how they get on with the whole “helping others” ethos behind the movement that takes up most of their free time. And I wonder if my own view of what the association stands for is filtered by my own values.

A notable deviation from the official line of the Scout Association’s message of inclusiveness is that it doesn’t quite stretch to atheists, although it includes just about everyone else. And given this I’m sure that Britain being Britain there are one or two Scout Leaders and Commissioners who are culturally Christian, but are really closet atheists. Indeed there are probably many members of the association who told the right kind of truth in the warrant interview.

Because of my beliefs I often find I’m the one pushing the global and environmental side of the Scout Programme to make sure they are adequately represented. This has been dismissed as “hippy cr*p”[3] by some of the leaders I have worked with. Recently a quick review of the unit programmes locally showed that the programme our unit was running was a lot closer to the values and ideals of Scouting as promoted in the literature and training materials, than the programmes of the ambitious types in the district. And yet these ambitious types, with their unbalanced programmes, were the ones sneering at the quality of ours.

I tend to look on politics as service to community through other channels, and feel that gaining control of any public office is no good if you make no effort to help others through it. It does worry me to see people who lose focus on why they want to win in order to concentrate on winning. It jars with me when more extreme political types have bad things to say about Scouting when fundamentally it is trying to achieve similar ideals through different means. Yes, I can see that it’s fair that some have an image of Scouting as a white middle-class Christian club, even though that is not accurate. The truth is one in three members of the world Scout Movement is Muslim, and the representation in this country fares well when compared to the population as a whole. As a liberal I don’t believe there should be any law against having such prejudices, it’s what you do about them that really matters.

I often question whether I am confusing my sets of values when I hear an argument from a member of the movement beginning “I’m not racist, because…” or speak to Lib Dems who would rather take pictures of piles of litter to shame their opponents, than put on some gloves and clear it up.

It could be that for all the waffle the fundamental values of both organisations are quite generic Good Things that most people would subscribe to, and that many of us see more than is actually there. Both organistaions are in their own way a broad Church in which the members do their best to make the world a better place.

Oh hang it all I’ll just try and do the right thing.

[1] Preamble to the federal constitution
[2] Not a direct quote of POR
[3] The leader who said this is now a born again Christian. That’s probably not


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