If ever there was an example of a community blind to the dissonance that underlies some of the corporate magic designed to deflect attention away from the appalling actions of the company, then the Rochester Dickens Carols has to be it.
Each year the BAE Systems Brass Band play at the outdoor carol service in front of the cathedral led by someone from the Bishop’s team. BAE are a major local employer with a brass band so it might seem natural that they provide the musical accompaniment, except they are hardly a neutral player when it comes to some of the things that people sing at Christmas.
“Peace on earth and mercy mild” sings the third line of Hark the Herald Angels Sing. “Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!” starts the third verse of the same carol. This was the opening carol last night played by BAE to an audience of around 1000.
BAE Systems is the world’s third largest manufacturer of arms. 94% of its business is military. It sells to the US and Saudi Arabia among others. It recently stated that “BAE Systems has a large order backlog generated by a well-balanced portfolio of businesses serving the needs of customers in many of the world’s larger accessible markets”. It deals in war and death, a market bolstered by the conflicts in places such as Syria and Yemen. It’s CEO describes himself as a pragmatist and described the conflicts as a “call to arms”.
BAE Systems are invited each year to trumpet peace on earth and to welcome the prince of peace while the Bishop turns a blind eye to the war that it is supporting. Many of the people listening to the music are made to think that BAE are a good company that is supporting peace.
This is dark magic at work.