Rowan Williams on virtue and the riots

After venturing a little on virtue yesterday, I saw that the Archbishop of Canterbury did the same in the rather more important forum of the House of Lords debate on the riots. He put things rather well, focusing on seizing the moment to refocus on the need for an education system that teaches excellence not instrumentality, which ‘takes seriously the task of educating citizens – not consumers or cogs in an economic system, but citizens’. Some other key points:

… character involves not only an awareness of the connection between cause and effect in my own acts but a deepened sense of empathy with others and a deepened sense of our involvement together in a social project in which we all have to participate.

What we have seen is a breakdown not of society as such, but the breakdown of a sense of civic identity – shared identity and shared responsibility.

Then, noting the ‘generous, sacrificial and imaginative’ way that affected people have responded to the riots, he concludes:

People have discovered why community matters. They have discovered why solidarity is important. They have begun to discover those civic virtues that we have talked about in the abstract. In other words, this is a moment that we must seize; a moment when there is sufficient anger at the breakdown of civic solidarity; sufficient awareness of the resources that people have in helping and supporting one another; sufficient hope – in spite of everything – of what can be achieved.