17 May, 2008

Baroness Cox

Baroness Cox; A Voice for the Voiceless
Andrew Boyd

A birthday present, this biography, because we enjoyed Baroness Cox’s speaking so much when she visited St. Mike’s last year. This is not a conventional biography (as, perhaps, Cox is not a conventional baroness), but more a look at three of the conflicts of the the world today and the work that Cox has done in alleviating some of the suffering they have caused. Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan; the Karen are a people in the eastern part of Burma; Sudan is split into several warring factions, one of which is the official government. In each of these places atrocities have been performed, by both sides; in each place, the people charged with keeping the peace, having the responsibility to all the peoples of the country, the government, have failed in that task, and have persecuted a minority; in each of these places Baroness Cox and the British branch of Christian Solidarity International, now Christian Solidarity Worldwide, after a split of the charity, have gone in to relieve some of the suffering of the persecuted people. Obviously, her care for the persecuted has lead to a great deal of criticism, not least by the persecutors, and the book reflects some of that, usually defending her from it, or pointing out the illogicality of it, or refuting it altogether; Boyd is certainly not an unbiased biographer.

Nevertheless, it is a well-written biography, annotated properly (though i hate end of chapter notes), with plenty of valid source material, which is essential for a programmatic study of a controversial person. The most interesting part of the book (the rest are horrific, not interesting) is the first, which is as near as the book gets to conventional biography, and which outlines the first portions of Cox’s life until she was made a baroness by Margaret Thatcher. I was astonished to read of the vitriol that existed in British society in the Sixties and, especially, the Seventies, aimed towards anyone who was perceived by the self-proclaimed revolutionaries as being a part of the old way; the portrayal of the students and Marxist teachers at the North London Polytech is of a part with the portrayal of the oppressors in the rest of the book, and clearly shows how self-important and -aggrandising groups can quickly lose their focus and turn from correcting wrongs (always their proclaimed goal) to perpetrating them.

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