in service of the
Along the evolutionary trail we have somewhat ambitiously called ourselves homo sapiens, or humans who are sapient – knowing or wise. The truth of the matter is tragically far from this: we seek to resolve difference through violence rather than dialogue; we give greater weight to possessing rather than being (our other species name); we assume winning to be an achievement of the individual rather than the community, thus imposing losing on others; we claim exceptionalness for our momentary place in history and we constantly appoint leaders who show absolutely no aptitude for the task.
In the Judaeo/Christian tradition wisdom is the foundational building block of life, the skeletal form which makes order possible, it precedes everything else in creation. Wisdom is chaos’ antidote. The pursuit of wisdom defines human vocation. But what is wisdom? I have often said wisdom is the understanding of how things work. Socrates is not so sure, he thought that understanding was possible, but that it is only known to the gods - let me come back to that. Socrates taught we are only as wise as the awareness of our ignorance. From a biblical perspective, as well as from a Greek sapient perspective, we can say that wisdom is knowing one’s place, a place which is always part of a far greater whole.
The context of this blog is twofold; first that in the common lectionary on Sundays we are currently reading from Proverbs, a key component of biblical wisdom literature, and secondly because so much has been happening of late which defies logic, let alone wisdom.
First to the wisdom literature. She (wisdom) is not defined, no definition would be sufficient, like the wind, she breaks through any human attempt for containment. My favourite literary flourish is from the Apocrypha, the Wisdom of Solomon 7:22ff
There is in her a spirit that is intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, mobile, clear, unpolluted, distinct, invulnerable, loving the good, keen, irresistible, beneficent, humane, steadfast, sure, free from anxiety, all-powerful, overseeing all, and penetrating through all spirits that are intelligent, pure, and altogether, subtle.
For wisdom is more mobile than any motion; because of her pureness she pervades and penetrates all thing.
For she is a breath of the power of God, and a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; therefore, nothing defiled enters her.
She is a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness.
Although she is but one she can do all thing, and while remaining in herself she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls……
Now, to refer back to Socrates and his notion that “only the gods can know how things truly work”; for the Christian community knowing, or the wisdom of God, has been made known to us in the person of Jesus - the incarnate wisdom of God. To be one of his followers is to be a follower of wisdom. Is wisdom clearly defined? No, of course it is not, it is laid before us in parabolic form through Jesus’ teaching and through his death and resurrection. The Parables of the Prodigal Son or the Good Samaritan, for example, are wisdom parables. So also is his death. The life-giving power of unconditional love through sacrifice is wisdom in its most confronting.
Given we know all this, how then is it that this ‘enlightened’ generation is so unwise? Well, there’s a question!
Perhaps it is that we are increasingly unaware, that understandings that were taken for granted in the building of western civilisation have been forgotten, rather than abandoned. Today it is easy to parody mock or otherwise belittle Christian faith and Christians generally, but would it be so easy if it were known that here lurks true wisdom. And is its disappearance into the fog of lost memory partly attributable to the fact that what now so popularly passes for Christianity is no more than simplistic, cheap, unintelligent jargon?
Perhaps it is because we have ceded wisdom’s place to technology. If it is possible to build it - we do, without asking is it needful or appropriate. Start up tech companies make instant billionaires, but their technology also enables POTUS to spew out bile and nonsense in equal measure and it enables trolls to bully the young and even the not so young at an unprecedented level.
Perhaps it is simply that the real enemy of wisdom has always been wealth or at least, as the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US, Bishop Curry, put it on the 7.30 report – “the unbridled desire for it”. We have reached a point in Australian political life when any attempt to question let alone bridle
the unbecoming desire for wealth, which brooks no regulation, is mocked as a ‘culture of envy’. No, it is not. The Royal Commission looking into the behaviour of banks, superannuation and insurance agencies has revealed a culture that no one would envy, a culture that values profit above ethical behaviour. Even our new Prime Minister in his attempt to sound ‘cool’ this week, produced a cringe worthy stunt that had his side of the house wave their hands every time a dollar bill of any nomination was mentioned as a Fatman Scoop social media post was played in the background.
This last week has seen some spectacular moments that have defied any connection to Wisdom.
· Bolton, the US secretary of State has sought to destroy credibility to the international criminal court. The US clearly believing it has a specialness that puts it above international law.
· In similar vein the US has sought to discredit and defund UNRWA, leaving Palestinian children without educational resources and leaving the space for extremists to fill the space with radicalising ideology.
· Serena Williams spat the dummy at the US open making out she was the victim and in a superhuman manner was standing for female rights, when in fact she was the one who owed the umpire, Naomi Osaka and the adoring public an apology
· Everything that has occurred before and after the curtain call of the muppet show, especially the shameful use of abusive tactics, have lacked any credible wisdom.
While all this wisdom-less activity prevails and the unbridled desire for wealth rushes headlong:
Wisdom cries out in the street: in the squares she raises her voice.
At the busiest corner she cries out: at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
How long O simple ones will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? (Prov. 1:20-22).
The Prime Minister: personal faith and public values
On 29th August the comedian, Tom Ballard, chose to parody the faith of the new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, on the Tonightly ABC series by contrasting his perceived lack of love or concern for refugees with his espoused love of Jesus. The ABC has come in for criticism for putting this sketch to air.
However, given belief shapes values, choices and actions, it is appropriate to examine Mr Morrison’s belief structure, with the reasonable assumption that this will play a part in shaping his preferred social and economic choices. This can be done with some objectivity through the statements of belief issued by the Church he attends, and through his own statements about belief and values. If, for example, the Church is one of many outlets for the populist ‘prosperity gospel’ then yes there are implications for the shape he may want to give to Australian social and economic policy. More of that later.
Mr Morrison is our first Prime Minister to be an active member of a Pentecostal Church. Horizon Church is part of “Australian Christian Churches” (formerly known as Assemblies of God), a movement of more than 1000 Australian Pentecostal churches in voluntary cooperation. Its website states: “Each church is self-governing but commits itself to work together with other churches in the movement for the purpose of mutual support and the spread of the gospel in Australia and the world”. Each of these Churches will be shaped by the charism and giftedness of their pastor. Common to all will be an emphasis on the individual and family life; on renewal through the Holy Spirit of which speaking in tongues is deemed to be an affirming sign; and on God’s desire for each to enjoy health and prosperity. The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), which has had considerable influence on conservative politics in Australia is open to all Christians, but is specifically an arm of the Pentecostal Churches. Its emphasis on gender and sexuality are well known. While no assumption can be made as to the extent to which Mr Morrison personally adopts these generic values (he voted against marriage equality), we do know a little of the values that shape Mr Morrison’s life, because he spoke of them in his maiden speech to parliament in 2008:
So what values do I derive from my faith? My answer comes from Jeremiah, chapter 9:24:
... I am the Lord who exercises loving-kindness, justice and righteousness on earth; for I delight in these things, declares the Lord.
From my faith I derive the values of loving-kindness, justice and righteousness, to act with compassion and kindness, acknowledging our common humanity and to consider the welfare of others; to fight for a fair go for everyone to fulfil their human potential and to remove whatever unjust obstacles stand in their way, including diminishing their personal responsibility for their own wellbeing; and to do what is right, to respect the rule of law, the sanctity of human life and the moral integrity of marriage and the family. We must recognise an unchanging and absolute standard of what is good and what is evil. Desmond Tutu put it this way:
... we expect Christians ... to be those who stand up for the truth, to stand up for justice, to stand on the side of the poor and the hungry, the homeless and the naked, and when that happens, then Christians will be trustworthy believable witnesses.
Given these are clues to the values that Mr Morrison holds dear, we have the right to be somewhat surprised by the stand, or lack of it, that he has taken on several issues. The first and most obvious being refugees and asylum seekers.
The first statement of belief of the Australian Christian Churches is: We believe that the Bible is God’s Word. It is accurate, authoritative and applicable to our everyday lives. On the matter of ‘strangers and aliens’ the bible is unequivocally clear – we are to welcome and embrace them. Now of course Australia cannot receive the approximately 68million displaced people in the world, 25million of whom are recognised as refugees (approximately 50% of the refugees come from South Sudan, Afghanistan and Syria). But it is a matter of national shame that we have mistreated so terribly those who have come to our shores. Those still incarcerated on Manus and Nauru are prisoners of a political ideology that has very little to do with the ongoing security of Australian borders. (If the asylum seekers were all released tomorrow, border force has demonstrably shown its capacity to stop people smuggler boats that may then try again to run the gauntlet, notwithstanding the little Vietnamese fishing boat that recently arrived). Given what we know about the unbearable suffering of these people, and given Mr Morrison claims to hold the values that he does (quoting Desmond Tutu), an almost unbridgeable gap is left between the words spoken and the action (or non-action) taken as one of the government’s most influential politicians.
Secondly, he says Christians are expected to stand up for truth. The world is facing climatic change on an unprecedented scale. For three decades we have known the link between human industrial activity, and climate change/global warming. Scientists during this period have not simply given us dire warnings about changes likely to occur in the future, but have given us encouraging information about what can be done to prevent the worst outcomes. That the Australian government has abjectly failed to produce a policy to address this truth is quite shocking. But to make it worse, those in the energy generating business have made it clear that the high cost of electricity is not related to new forms of generation, but the lack of policy necessary for confident investment. To blame renewable energy sources for the high cost of electricity is shamefully untrue. Until now Mr Morrison has shown no sign that he will support truth in this debate, truth that would simultaneously address cost and emissions.
Thirdly in using the quote from Desmond Tutu, Mr Morrison nails his colours to the mast of a preferential bias towards the poor and needy. This is of course is the bias of Jesus himself. Is this bias demonstrated in successive budgets over which Mr Morrison has had the responsibility of shaping? It is hard to see it. Pressure to make the new start allowance a more liveable safety net has been resisted. Generous provisions made to the already well off by the Howard/Costello government during the mining boom, like negative gearing, have been left intact. Penalty rates for the poorest paid, particularly in retail and hospitality have been lost. There is no evidence that the value upon which Mr Morrison claims Christians are to be judged is being implemented in his political decision making.
How then are we to make sense of this apparent credibility gap? Is it that deep down he is a devotee of the ‘prosperity gospel? It appears so. This gospel assumes that health and prosperity is a sign of God’s blessing and sickness or poverty a sign of divine disapproval – even punishment. The social and political implication of this gospel is that those who are poor only have themselves to blame: turn to God and your fortunes will turn around. This gospel does not give space for generosity to the poor, for this only encourages their laziness, or lack of personal responsibility. It is important to keep pressure on the poor and unemployed in order that they will sort out the problem which is essentially theirs. The prosperity gospel also seeks to remove any impediment to personal gain and prosperity. The goal of government is therefore not to regulate for the common good, but for the prosperity of the individual, even to the detriment of common good. The attitude of the conservatives in the present government on environmental issues is evidence enough of this stance.
All Australians should feel obligated to wish Mr Morrison well as our newest Prime Minister, on the other hand he should expect Australian Christians to vocalise their distress if the values he has espoused as a Christian, and which they support, are being ignored - which they appear to be.
Father of Lies 3
Alternative Facts and Fake News – the lubricant of conservative politics
We are spending an inordinate amount of money on ‘defence’ and ‘security’ to protect ourselves from an enemy without, but it is now clear that we face a far greater threat from the enemy within, revealed through ‘alternative facts and fake news’, the lubricant of conservative politics. In the disgraceful power struggle between so-called conservatives and liberals in federal politics we have seen a championing of the Trump brand and the heinous connection between evangelical Christianity and individual rights. A right-wing commentator has revealingly lamented that the trouble with Turnbull is that his natural home is within the ABC not Sky News! What more needs to be said about the extraordinarily destructive and binary world into which we have fallen.
‘Alternative facts’ first made its unwelcome intrusion into our vocabulary via a spokesperson for Trump, following his inauguration, to explain how he could claim it was the largest inauguration ever when photographic evidence clearly said otherwise. That the population at large can be led to accept ‘alternative facts’ as authentic, is a dangerous and undermining reality for democracy and the survival of civil society. There can of course be a variety of opinions, but facts are verifiable truths. But where does truth lie? Pilate asked: “what is truth”?
Funnily enough this issue was wrestled with in the Genesis creation narrative, the first chapters of the bible. The narrative begins with the naming of all humanity - Adam - from the Adamah - the earth. We are all relational beings, we live in relationship with the whole created order, not over it, or apart from it, but within it. The narrative then goes on to focus on the individual, (Adam of the garden), and the terrible mistake made when the individual decides he, or she, has rights above or inconsistent with the order of the whole. Our problems begin when, as individuals, we decide self-interested rights can prevail without cost to common order: wrong, harmony and equity upon which we all depend is then lost.
The narrative then flows into the story of Cain and Abel. Like the Adam narrative, the story of Cain and Abel is not an obscure and childish pre-history folk tale, but a narrative about each one of us. We are all Abel, while Cain also lurks within each of us. ‘Abel’ takes us a step beyond ‘Adam’ in defining human nature. The name infers we are to be life focused -relational; we are not simply flesh and blood but share the spirit of the creator. “The wind blows where it chooses, you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Jn. 3:8).
‘Cain’s” etymology is connected to ‘Canaan’. Canaan in biblical narrative is about possession, control, manipulation, exactly what fake news or alternative facts are all about. This creation narrative concludes that when Cain takes over, Abel dies. Unfortunately there are many prevailing examples of the death of Abel in Australian national life, as well as in the tragic lives of many individuals. Alan Jones has recently visited western NSW with the message that foreign aid should stop and the money be redirected to drought affected farmers, as if these are alternatives. Peter Dutton continues to insist that holding refugees on Manus and Nauru despite the appalling damage being done to their physical and mental health, is a matter of pride in the security of our borders: as if somehow proven capacity to prevent unwanted maritime arrivals would then be lost. The Murdoch press gives print space to the view that climate science is a fiction and refuses to countenance any connection between the existential reality of extreme weather conditions all over the world and human induced global warming. Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells resigned this week from the ministry to put pressure on Turnbull on the basis that the coalition has swung too far to the left, without providing logical examples to justify her claim and despite the view of most Australians that the opposite is the truth.
This is the sad and frightening reality. Sheeplike we have followed the US pattern. How has it become possible that the controlling, manipulative and wrecking views, of Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, Alan Jones, Ray Hadley, Andrew Bolt, et al could become acceptable, even mainstream and be called ‘conservative’? Simple: they have nurtured a populist view that living in a self-interested bubble we can somehow be isolated from the problems that beset others. Conservatism has become the art of self-interest and disengagement, while at the same time claiming a Christian pedigree. Christianity is about relationships, engagement, about understanding and serving a good that is common. What now passes for conservatism is the very antithesis of Christianity and should be exposed as such.
Following the end of the Great War, Archbishop Randall Davidson of Canterbury called the 1920 Lambeth Conference. Europe had needlessly lost a whole generation. Loss of life was on an unimaginable scale. Brutality in the name of pride for king, empire or country was quite shocking. The Bishops, gathered at the conference, were understandably in a very sober mood. Their salutary refection on the war is as much, if not more relevant to-day than it was then: “national self-interest is more dangerous than individual self-interest”. The pigheaded pride and self-interest of European leaders had resulted in this utter devastation; needless devastation that because of the Treaty of Versailles would not be over until the end of WW2.
And yet, refusing to learn from history the ‘conservative’ element in politics is taking us down the same track. Erdogan in Turkey; Trump in America; Netanyahu in Israel; Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia; Dutton, Abbott and their entourage of media supporters in Australia are taking us down this most dangerous route on the lie that in a global world it is possible to follow national self-interest without doing great harm to the global best interest upon which the prosperity let alone survival of all humanity depends.
Fake news and alternative facts must be called out, as must those , like Trump, who use this tag to challenge reality that should be beyond challenge. Christians must also call out the conservative narrative for what it is. It is not a defence of Christianity, it is a misrepresentation of Christianity and a 21st century consequence of Enlightenment thinking that disavowed relevance to meta narrative and allowed for the possibility that right could be whatever an individual decides it to be.
Father of Lies 2
Timor L ’Este, Witness ‘K’ and Bernard Collaery
That Australia had cheated on East Timor, one of the poorest and newest countries in the world was revealed by Bob Carr and Mark Dreyfus in 2013, but it was not until Andrew Wilkie used parliamentary privilege, that we learned that those who have made this grubby secret known are to be prosecuted, rather than those who sanctioned the grubbiness. Apparently, ethics and morality apply everywhere except to economics and the making of money.
Lying between East Timor and Australia are considerable fossil fuel reserves. Australia was keen to secure most of these reserves within its territorial boundaries. To do this it was deemed necessary to draw a boundary, not midway between the two countries, but much closer to the East Timorese coast.
We now know that when negotiations were underway, in the time of the Howard government, and when Alexander Downer was foreign minister, officers of the Australian Secret Intelligence Services were passed off as aid workers to spy on members and officers of the Timorese government.
This information raises several issues:
· Under what criteria can East Timor be deemed a threat to Australian security? Why were ASIS officers deployed in these circumstances? Are ASIS officers regularly deployed in matters to do with trade and economics? Has ‘security’ been redefined, and if so is it the right of the Australian public to know this?
· Why was it thought ‘ok’ to unreasonably and unfairly take economic advantage of a very poor country? What Australian value is being employed to take from the world’s poorest to further advance the prosperity of world’s most wealthy? Was this the underlying reason why we used our Defence Forces to secure Timor’s independence in the first place?
· Why are Bernard Collaery and ‘Witness K’ now being prosecuted? We are told this has nothing to do with ‘politics’ but is the normal processing of justice through the courts. In other words, Collaery and ‘Witness K’ have committed a serious crime and therefore should be prosecuted. If this is the case, then there must be something wrong with the legal system. Why are whistle blowers guilty and not those who have manifestly done something unethical, in this case in the name of all Australians? Apply the pub test: it is those who ordered this unconscionable action against the Timorese, not Collaery and witness K, who should be before the courts. If ‘a fair go’ is the quintessential Australian value, this clandestine activity is its absolute antithesis.
· That Alexander Downer subsequently became a well remunerated advisor/consultant to Woodside petroleum has apparently not been denied. Directors of companies must declare any possible conflict of interest, why are so many politicians allowed to assume positions that are advantaged by their previous political lives?
· Why is it that both the Government and the Opposition are in lockstep in their reluctance for this matter to have a public hearing? One could reasonably have thought the Opposition would use this episode to score points off the government – apparently not.
So how do we make sense of it all? It is hard not to conclude that in the name of national economic or financial advantage, there are to be no moral restraints, no limits, no boundaries that cannot be crossed. Is there any difference in substance between this action and the actions of AMP and the banks, recently so shamefully exposed? I don’t think so. In the case of the banks, they had to be brought kicking and screaming to accept accountability; but in a global culture where money is king, will they behave differently in the future. While business is built upon financial incentives, - probably not.
In the case of these energy reserves, like the banks, our national government could not help itself. Dealing with a gullible, new and impoverished nation, nothing could be easier. Like the banks, it is clear that our government feels no shame. When dealing with economic advantage, morality does not come into it. Those involved, especially Mr Downer, appear proud of what they did. Nothing is going to change in what is obviously now considered a matter of ‘national security’. Human dignity has come to be defined in economic terms rather than economics being but one of the factors that serves human dignity and worth. We clearly have a cultural problem.
Will we have any guarantee that those who act in our name in government will not behave in this manner in the future? If the prosecution against the whistle blowers is any guide - no. It is likely we will act like this again – given the chance.
So, committed are we to the absolute supremacy of economic advantage we are happy to sign trade agreements which potentially allow corporations to sue the government if national policies are enacted which restrict their global operations, even if these operations are judged to be socially or environmentally, detrimental.
The underlying lie is that economic growth is for ever desirable or even possible in a finite world. This is of course a contradiction, it isn’t, and it can’t.
What happened between Australia and Timor is now being played out on a much larger stage with the combatants being the most powerful nations on earth, The US, China, Russia, Iran the European Union etc. When an unjust advantage is sought, the ripple effect stretches all the way to the edge of the pond. Proper trade is based upon an exchange which is mutually advantageous. The future of humankind on planet earth resides in mutuality, not competitive advantage. If we are survive, let alone prosper, our actions must serve good that is common.
It is said that Margaret Thatcher’s bedside table was adorned with the Bible and the thoughts of Friedrick Hayek. Hayek espoused the supremacy of the individual and spoke of social justice as a ‘mirage’. Since Thatcher, neo-liberalism has become the ubiquitous and politically unchallenged standard. It has endowed us with a legacy that is intellectually bare, but remains politically dominant. Whether individualism be national or personal, it must be immersed in the mutually of interdependence if the 21st century is not going to be a disaster for human beings and diverse nonhuman life upon which we all depend.
1. Israeli State Law
In John 8: 44 Jesus is in dispute with religious authorities whom, he claims, purport to be descendants of a revered personage, or revered period of history, yet whose behaviour and testimony is entirely at odds with that stated authority. In a series of four blogs I want to highlight contemporary situations which are entirely out of step with the authority claimed to justify them. This passage highlights the reality that no edifice can be built and survive on untruth – an edifice so built is doomed for destruction.
On the 19th July the Israeli Knesset passed the ‘Nation State Law’. Israel has no constitution but special laws like this have constitutional status. In some respects, there is nothing surprising in this law, it continues a trend which has been clear for some time. The law states that Israel is a Jewish State and that Jerusalem its undivided capital. (Trump has already acceded this point by moving his embassy to Jerusalem). Instead of there being two recognised languages, Hebrew and Arabic, Hebrew is given heightened status. Settlements are declared to be an Israeli value. Where settlements might be built is left unclear. A section which would have required the judiciary to act in favour of Jewishness over democracy was excised.
The Israeli president and the Israeli opposition have expressed dismay about the passing of the law claiming it will hurt Israel and its reputation. Why so?
There are many reasons. First, one fifth of Israeli citizenry are indigenous Palestinian Arabs. They already suffer endless levels of discrimination from lost professional opportunity, to access for home ownership, to citizenship protection. Arabs whose living status is East Jerusalem, for example, have conditional residency which can be lost at any time. This law makes it clear that Israeli citizenship has entrenched inequality at law. Western values are that a nation state must provide equal status to all its citizens. How can we say, as our prime minister often does, that Israel and Australia share the same values? (In Australia we are painfully aware we have equal status at law, but in practice the indigenous population do not experience equal rights, falling behind on many well-rehearsed benchmarks).
Second, the formal declaration that Jerusalem is Israel’s undivided capital makes the two-state solution, the bipartisan position of Australian foreign policy, null and void. The loss of East Jerusalem to Palestine is not just symbolic, it is to lose upwards of one quarter of what is already a very impoverished economy. To state without definition that growing Jewish settlements is a national value, is in fact to entrench the building of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories which Israel refuses to recognise as occupied but rather ‘disputed’. This law makes clear Israel will never allow a genuine two-state solution, its version looks more and more like a series of ghettos or Bantustans around Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron etc. The PA under the leadership of Mahmoud Abbas has long recognised the right of Israel to exist. The recognition of Israel as a Jewish state which means accepting Arabs will be forever second-class citizens is of course unacceptable, and yet this is held against him as being ‘opposed to peace’.
Third, this law sets Jewishness and democracy against each other. The Arab members of the Knesset are not Israeli citizens in the same way that applies to Jewish members of the Knesset. While the most insidious clauses in the law were removed, it is nevertheless clear that the intention is for Jewishness to prevail over genuine democracy. Because Israel is making it clear that it will never allow a genuine two-state solution it means that much if not all the occupied territories will remain indefinitely under Israeli control. In the name of ‘security’ Palestinians are denied access. Practical apartheid applies. Apartheid and democracy cannot occupy the same space. For Netanyahu to claim that Israel is the only genuine democracy in the Middle East is a lie, it is not a democracy in the way western countries understand democracy.
In his rush to crow over the passing of the law Benjamin Netanyahu claims it fulfils what was begun by Theodore Herzl. In his younger years Herzl perceived anti-Semitism in Austria as a social problem that could be addressed if Jews integrated and were less isolated. This changed when he moved to France and found anti-Semitism deeply entrenched, of which the Dreyfus affair was a shocking but notable example. He became convinced that Jews needed their own homeland and wrote his ‘Jewish State’ in 1896. He went on to lead the first Zionist congress in Munich.
There was and remains strong opposition to Zionism amongst Jews. The Haskalah movement in the late 18th and early 19th centuries favoured integration of Jews and movement out of their isolation. It was known as the ‘Jewish Enlightenment’. Orthodox Jews and rabbis in the 19th century argued that God does not call them into a materialist, militarist state like other nations: that the creation of such a state would require violence being perpetrated against others, and that its maintenance would require the perpetuation of such violence. They argued that the most aggressive Zionists purposely provoked anti-Semitism in order that they might present themselves as its saviour.
Be all that as it may, there is no indication that Herzl would approve Netanyahu’s version of a Zionist state. Herzl undoubtedly believed in the virtue and values of Judaism. He clearly believed that Jews needed their own state, free of anti-Semitism, free to live their culture traditions and religion. However it is reasonable to assume he would believe those virtues and values to be strong enough to embrace diversity and equality, indeed to demand it. Netanyahu’s version of Jewishness appears to be a bonsaied version of a grand tradition. A version that is not confident enough to stand on its values and virtues. A version that has to maintain itself through military violence rather than the power of a civilised democracy. A version that needs to expand, not on the development of its own resources, but through the stealing the resources of others.
Netanyahu’s version is a lie. The Jewish tradition, culture, religion is rich enough and strong enough to live in company with others indeed in the Abrahamic tradition this was deemed to be its blessing. Common humanity overrides ethnic purity, indeed insistence on ethnic purity contradicts history. Common citizenship on planet earth overrides any national citizenship. A new political force needs to emerge which combines Palestinian and Israelis and which clearly believes that neither is a threat to the other, rather the reverse, that each will be forever enriched by journeying together.
Last week we were confronted with domestic violence in the most tragic of circumstances as a NSW father became the brutal killer of his two teenage children. Most Australians will have found this news inexplicable. How could a father submerge natural feelings of paternal care and responsibility in an ocean of anger and bitterness to enable such a terrible act? If the chief role of Government is to ‘keep its citizens safe’, as politicians from the Prime Minister down constantly remind us to justify the enormous spending on national defence; is enough being done to combat what is a far greater threat to citizen safety?
Marriage breakdown is as common as it is understandable. People grow apart. Circumstances change, and folk find they have less in common. Pressures such as financial stress, disability suffered by one member of the family, a crisis of some kind, poverty; there are as many contributing reasons as there are breakdowns. But breakdowns should not lead to enmity, let alone violence. Common decency and respect should prevail. So why is violence so prevalent, why do so many (primarily women and children) suffer abuse?
Violence is a misdirected expression of power, the need for which grows exponentially as the inner integrity and self-worth of a person decline. It should be impossible for a healthy, integrated human being to succumb to acts of domestic violence. A healthy human being does not need to ‘own’ or ‘control’ another human being. A healthy human being’s sense of self worth is fed through mutuality, not control. So how do so many become so unwell that violence becomes a tool in the expression of longed for self-worth.
I would like to venture some reasons.
First, we have become a society in which ‘gold and silver’ are deemed to be the prize, whereas in many ancient civilisations, including indigenous dreaming, wisdom is the prize. Wisdom is the virtue derived from understanding how things work. In the Jewish and Christian traditions wisdom is the energy which holds all things together. Wisdom is to be found through observance of the natural order and how it works. Wisdom is found not in things themselves, but in the space between them. Thus, wisdom manifests itself in honour trust and respect. Because ‘gold and silver’ are the prize, our society does not honour and respect the natural order, inclusive of individual human beings, for we are part of that order.
An ancient definition of wisdom is ‘the capacity to cope’. Various situations, including poverty, contribute to dysfunction. Government and government policy need to be far more empathetic to consequences that contribute to and flow from social dysfunction.
Institutional religion has long since lost any authority to be wisdom in and to the western world. Institutions have thought their institution to be the prize, as the royal commission into institutional child abuse and the matter of the Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide have demonstrated. Also, religions have become far too interested in their doctrines and insufficiently focused on wisdom. And yet there is no greater source of wisdom than understanding that Jesus is the wisdom of God. Love, service, equality, sacrifice, this is how things work, this is where blessing lies, this is our destiny. Much debate has rattled around proposals emanating from the Ramsay Centre about understanding Western Civilisation. Perhaps a benefactor can be found who will dedicate resources into wisdom and where this might be found in an increasingly polarised, competitive and binary world. We must find a way for children not simply to be educated, but to be immersed in wisdom. We know that actions, or potential actions in adulthood, very often have their genesis in childhood.
Second, as much as we do not wish to admit it, there remains residual and institutional inequality between men and women. It demonstrates itself in unequal pay for the same work, in positions of power being held disproportionately by men, by women remaining poorly represented in government etc. Senator Leynhelm’s offensive use of language in the Senate is a shrill reminder that some men consider it appropriate to belittle women on the basis that being offensive should have no gender barrier. His words give justification to likeminded men to treat their partners with the same disrespect. As has been correctly pointed out, it is women who are raped and murdered, not men.
To my great embarrassment I must acknowledge that significant elements in the Anglican Church, especially the Diocese of Sydney, teach that women should ‘submit’ to their husbands. Those who defend this teaching try to do so on the spurious ground that women are submitting to ‘love and care’. The sad and painful reality is that many clergy wives, let alone lay wives, are abused by men who see it as their right to control their partners.
There is no place in our society for any teaching or action that imputes less value or dignity to the contribution of women.
Third, the use of ‘recreational drugs’ has to become culturally unacceptable. We cannot rely on law enforcement to do this for us. There must be a growing culture, especially amongst the young, of non-use. It is obvious that too many acts of violence occur when a person is under the influence of one or a cocktail of these drugs. No parent should set an example of their use to children. Government could invest far more money in a programme like the anti-smoking campaign. Government must also be better guided by experts in the field, less influenced by populist demands and less reliant on law enforcement to develop strategies of amelioration.
No one should experience an act of violence perpetrated against them in their life time. Many do. Increasingly those who suffer bullying do so because of social media, another area which deserves far more attention from government. For children, the most likely place they will experience violence is at home or from what should be a trusted and known adult. For women it is their partner, or estranged partner. We appropriately have a culture in which the privacy of another’s home is sacrosanct. However, such is the gravity of the problem we face that it is no longer acceptable for a neighbour, friend or family member to remain silent when suspicion of violence has become obvious. Silence is not neutrality, it is to side with the perpetrator. We have a culture of hating ‘dobbers’. But we should be wise enough to understand the difference between not interfering in a matter of minor consequence and taking responsibility for the very life and security of another.
re to edit.
Aspiration appears to be the new buzz word in Australian politics. It is being used to convey the idea that the foremost aspiration of most Australians is greater financial security. If it is not it should be. It is almost certainly the case that many do aspire to the presumed security of substantial wealth, but the strength and security of Australian civil society is dependent upon very different aspirations from most of its citizens.
We heard it said by the Prime Minister in parliament that a sixty something aged care worker in Devonport should be aspiring for a better paid position. Wrong, he or she should be able to expect that the position currently held is fairly and appropriately remunerated. Unless a significant number of citizens aspire to be exceptional aged care workers, the future will ultimately be very bleak for all members of the population when they reach frail old age.
Society expresses relative value through the remuneration it offers its diverse workforce. It is hard to imagine a more important profession than teaching. We need our most able young men and women to aspire to be teachers, not hedge fund managers or defamation lawyers. Australia is slipping behind on one of the most important benchmarks of a healthy civil society – education. Based on remuneration alone, it is unlikely that the most talented will aspire to be teachers in the future. Relative remuneration indicates the teaching profession is not highly valued, at least not in comparison with those who work, often with the most meagre of qualifications, in the finance industry.
It used to be the case that some professions were called ‘vocations’ to indicate that motivation for the chosen path was service, not financial reward. Nurses, ambulance officers, many medical professionals, carers of various descriptions, youth and children’s workers, were all thought to be vocations.
It is a sad commentary on Australian political life that aspiration is associated by our political leaders with the size of the house, the depth of the bank balance or the breadth of the investment portfolio.
Society first needs men and women to aspire to be the very best fathers or mothers, grandfathers or grandmothers, husbands or wives, spouses, neighbours, friends, that they can possibly be. It is a truism to say: “in adversity your job will not save you, your family will”.
Secondly society needs men and women to aspire to professions that benefit the common good. It is not hard to make some jobs quite lucrative while at the same time contributing little if anything to the common good of others. Clearly many financial advisors have made a lot of money at the expense of others.
There is little if any evidence that wealth adds anything to personal wellbeing or happiness. So why would anyone simply aspire to be wealthier? Obviously, those who are poor, those for whom the necessities of life are a struggle, aspire to be lifted out of their poverty and society has an obligation to assist them on this path. But there is likely to be no measurable difference to the happiness or contentment of someone on a middle income to someone on a high income, in fact there is evidence the trend is in the opposite direction.
Happiness or contentment is not fed by wealth, but by other more personal factors:
· Strong bonds of affection within the immediate family
· Being engaged in activity that is meaningful
· An attitude of gratefulness
· Knowing a worthwhile contribution is being made
· Knowing that enough is enough
If our politicians strive to deliver policies on the false assumption that greater wealth is the primary aspiration of most, or indeed that it is the most important aspiration, they will deliver a society that is even more self-focussed, discontent, and far more likely to suffer the fate of humpty -dumpty who, facing an inevitable fall, could not be put back together again because the vision that put him on the wall in the first place turned out to be an illusion.
There can be little doubt that religious practice is on the back foot in Australia and therefore some people of faith and their religious leaders feel under siege. This perception was exacerbated by the overwhelming vote in favour of marriage equality in November 2017 and its subsequent passing into law. But is religious freedom in Australia really under threat and if so what is the cause and remedy?
Following the marriage equality vote, the Government commissioned a ‘Religious Freedom Review’, appointing a panel with Philp Ruddick as chair. While the panel delivered it report to the government on 18th May 2018, we are led to believe its contents may not be made public for some time.
There are several reasons why religion generally and Christianity in particular are finding themselves with less and less relevance, sometimes interpreted as a loss of freedom, within Australian society.
· The most obvious reason is that the behaviour of some religious adherents, including leadership, has scandalised the community generally and brought opprobrium to the faith. For Christianity this has not only been the appalling breach of trust in relation to children in the Church’s care, but equally appallingly the obvious priority given by the Church to its reputation, over the needs and rights of the victims of this abuse. It is true that this abuse has extended well beyond the Church to almost every form of institutional care of children; it is also true that a child is far more likely to be abused by a trusted member of their own family than a person representing an institution, but neither of these realities lessen the guilt of the Church and some of its members.
For Islam the opprobrium has related to the way violence has been perpetrated in the name of the religion, and within Australia, the way young have been radicalised. It is therefore very significant that the newly elected Grand Mufti, Dr Abdel Aziem Al Afifi, has made it his priority to address this issue.
· It is considered by many in civil society inappropriate for views held by people of faith on issues of personal morality to be seemingly imposed in any way on the wider community. Euthanasia, abortion, and sexual practice, other than that which is clearly abusive, is simply a matter of personal choice, and all fall into this category. It will be interesting to see how the panel has addressed this issue, which one might assume has been at the heart of its work. There are good reasons why the virtues of ‘traditional marriage’ can and should be promoted without demeaning other partnerships. There are good reasons why abortion should always remain a contentious issue, for alongside the justifiable reasons why abortion can and should be supported, there are other reasons, partly related to the length of the pregnancy and partly related to value seemingly given to parental lifestyle over the value of an unborn life that should be contested. There are good reasons why euthanasia should become a topic of open debate, but there also needs to be a broadening of the education of the general public so that the benefits and limits (such as they may be) of palliative care are better understood.
The work the panel has done to address these issues will be a matter of considerable interest. The Anglican Church, is currently retaining the ‘freedom’ to demand its licensed officiants only preside over ‘traditional marriages’ as a matter of Church teaching. Many Anglican clergy would strongly disagree with this position, but if they wish to retain their authority under Anglican licence, they must comply. On the other hand welcoming LGBTQI members, according respect and dignity, providing all normal civil courtesies should be assumed and non-controversial.
· Some of the strongest requests for protection of ‘religious freedom’ are likely to have come from the conservative wings of faith. It is these wings who make it easy for the likes of Dawkins and Hitchens to parody, even ridicule, belief. Rather than people of religion being protected in their rights to believe and teach whatever they wish to believe and teach, I would argue the wider community, especially children, should be protected from exposure to nonsense from those whom they are led to believe are trustworthy. A creationist view of history should not be accorded a place in any school curriculum, religious or secular, as an alternative to science. Truth cannot be divided. Observable data confines a short view of history to the world of fantasy. No one should be allowed into a child’s classroom contesting science based on a literal scriptural interpretation. In like manner an interpretation of the Koran which encourages violence or even disrespect to another human being has no place in a liberal democratic society and deserves no protection. No one should be allowed into a class room who might encourage children to believe that persons are more or less acceptable on the basis of sexual orientation.
· It should always be the case that people of faith, especially Christian faith, will speak and stand for justice; be it in relation to refugees, indigenous people, the environment, children, the poor etc. Vested interests will always attempt to minimise this voice, using money or slogans: ‘do-gooders’, ‘greenies’, ‘socialists’, ‘happy clappers’, etc. but the right, indeed responsibility, as followers of Jesus to speak and act in this way needs no protection: the responsibility should simply be taken and exercised. There have been numerous attempts over the years to ‘shut me up’. Most famously when the then Premier of Queensland ordered me out of his State on the front page of the Courier Mail, and far less publicly when a Prime Minister called me in for a dressing down following a speech I had made. People of religion need no protection of freedom to speak for justice and righteousness, indeed the more this might appear to be supressed the more the right and duty should be exercised. The great sadness is that the capacity of politicians to publicly declare their faith appears to bear no correlation to their likelihood to stand up for matters of justice and equity. Which leads me to the final point.
· “You cannot love God and mammon” (Mtt: 6.24). Without dispute mammon is miles ahead. The only political value is economic. This is unfortunately underlined by almost every utterance that proceeds from the mouths, especially the important mouths, ‘on the hill’. Virtually no value is currently being accorded to environmental or ecological issues. Recent announcements that great tracts of land are to be bulldozed inland of the Great Barrier Reef and $400 million is to be given to a foundation run by business people with no expertise in the field and no expressions of interest called for from other entities is enough proof of this statement – if any were needed.
As John Hewson has said, the NDIS is being used as an endless supply of jobs for private contractors that are rushing to the latest gravy train in the same way that others had run to the pink bat gravy train. The shameless refusal of government to increase ‘job-start’ allowance is another example. So many more could be recited. The government’s refusal to appropriately fund a regulator with teeth for the banking industry etc. And then there is the spectacle of our previous Deputy Prime Minster selling his story for $150,000 and putting the money into a family trust to avoid tax.
Alexander Downer once asked me at a Government House reception “and can’t the rich be saved”. (To this day I am unsure what I had said or done to provoke the question). The answer is: of course, yes! We are no more or less worthy, rich or poor. The difference is that the wealthy face a question which the poor will never face “what are you going to do with it”?
In Australia people of religion must be very wary of asking for any further ‘freedoms’. The greatest and most secure freedom will arise from a recognition that people of faith make such a contribution to the wellbeing of society that the thought of their absence is inconceivable. We are currently a long way from that point.
Nakba, Gaza and Jerusalem
Today, 15th May, marks 70 years of the Nakba- catastrophe for the Palestinian people. Unlike most commemorations of historic events, this is different, the Nakba is an ongoing catastrophe with its suffering as real today as it was 70 years ago. Palestinians continue to live as refugees, they continue to have their land and livelihood confiscated, and they continue to be treated as if they are ‘non-people’ by those who fall over themselves to carry favour with Israel’s extreme right-wing government. In light of this, what does the world expect Palestinians to do?
In particular, what does the world expect Gazans to do? 1.84 million live on this tiny strip of land that is punitively blockaded. Much of Gaza’s infrastructure remains damaged or in ruins by Israeli airstrikes. Roughly half the population suffers from what the UN calls “food insecurity” and 90% of Gaza’s water is unfit for human consumption. Beaches are polluted with untreated sewerage and fishermen are shot for sailing too far from shore. Much of the arable land is in the buffer zone wherein Palestinians can be shot on sight.
On March 30, 30,000 Gazans established five protest camps on the edge of the buffer zone demanding a return to their homes in Israel. Wary of Israeli retaliation, they have confined their protest to a non-violent and mostly symbolic ‘March of Return’. Israel’s response has been to try and crush the demonstrations while keeping the death toll below a level that would provoke international condemnation. Although the UN reported last week that 2,017 protesters have been shot with live ammunition, only 47 had been killed to that point. Medics in Gaza reported an unusually high number of amputations caused by an “exploding bullet” that pulverises bone, tissue and arteries.
Yesterday, Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinians on the Gaza border as the United States opened its embassy to Israel in Jerusalem, a move that has fuelled Palestinian anger and drawn foreign criticism for undermining peace efforts. It was the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since the Gaza conflict in 2014.
Palestinian Health Ministry officials said at least 55 people were killed and more than 2,200 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas, or other means during protests on the border.
It is of course true that Palestinians have been badly let down by the infighting of their political leadership and worse, Hamas’ policy of firing rockets has been disastrously counter-productive. But it is also true that the policy of Israel has been to ensure that Palestine and Palestinian leadership remains dysfunctional by thwarting any real capacity to deliver meaningful services to their people. Hamas, the PA, the PL0, Fatah all scramble for legitimacy in a context of contrived disempowerment.
Added to this, and most crucially, Israel and its allies must accept the reality that the relentless colonisation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, has virtually closed the door on any possibility of a two-state solution. For Australia to stay with a ‘two-state’ solution as its official policy and yet do absolutely nothing to achieve it through its conversations with Israel, or its voting at the UN, is political double speak of the worst kind. When in March Netanyahu announced that in no circumstance would Israel relinquish control of the land West of the Jordan, there was complete silence from the Australian government.
‘Facts on the ground’ demand that the whole international community insist on basic human rights for all in an area of land that for all intents and purposes is now, not only controlled by a single authority – Israel, but which it is determined will remain in its control in perpetuity. By moving its embassy to Jerusalem the US has endorsed that control. It is no good Trump saying he is open to a ‘peace’ process for Palestinians and Israelis, moving his embassy has made clear that Israel is, and from his perspective always will be, a sovereign state from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
The scandal of the US move is not the move itself, but that it has been made without seemingly to recognise the implications or own the consequences. Through the move the US is agreeing with Israel that it has control of all the territory which it has long since ceased to recognise as ‘occupied’ and has preferred to call ‘disputed’. If Israel is now, as Netanyahu claims, and apparently Trump agrees, ‘Greater Israel’, then the consequences are enormous. In these circumstances, unless Israel wants to abandon any legitimate claim to democracy and unless it wishes to avoid the opprobrium of being the only western aligned country that has intentionally established an apartheid regime; the consequences of moving the embassy must be to insist that Israel immediately grant equal and unrestricted rights not only to Israeli Arabs, but equal and unrestricted rights to all Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza.
By moving its embassy, the US has significantly changed the goal posts in terms of what it must mean for Israel to behave as a responsible sovereign state within the international community. Palestinians and Israelis can of course live in harmony with one another. The adversarial binary forms of identity that have become more and more entrenched since 1947 do not need to prevail, indeed they are the major stumbling block in a desire for peace and security for all.
It is true that some Palestinians teach and maintain hatred towards Jews, the fact that they have suffered so much does not justify this self-defeating stance. But it is more than equally true that many Jews teach and foster hatred towards Palestinians. This is not just a feature of the ideologically driven illegal settlements, but a casual walk through the Jewish quarter of the Old City will hardly be possible without verbal insults being hurled from Jewish children and adults alike. The move of the US embassy just adds to this false triumphalism “Trump makes Israel great again”. Israel will never be great in any enduring sense if its triumphalism is built upon, even dependent upon, the subjugation, humiliation and destruction of another people. Hatred of the other must be called out for what it is, xenophobia, and Israel will rightly remain despised if this xenophobia remains entrenched. It is entrenched as long as the Israeli army protects its perpetrators with Israeli citizenship, while locking up Palestinian children who throw stones out of their frustration.
For their part the Palestinians are not going away. The fact that despite everything they are still there is a triumph in itself.
Gazans cannot be kept caged for ever.
Palestinians on the West Bank will not go away
The US, in its eagerness to meet the expectations of its Republican power base and pay a dividend to its Zionist benefactors, will need to face the legitimate political consequences of its embassy move, or fall to the standard of Israel’s abandonment of democracy and its cavalier application of universal human rights under international law.
The Banking Royal Commission
The scandals being uncovered by the banking royal commission are appalling, but should we be surprised? The financial sector not only comprises a significant component of the national economy but sets the standards by which the daily transactions of life are conducted in Australian society. The sad reality is that profit and ‘success’, so lauded in the finance industry over other values, has become the normal standard in almost all boardrooms and in so much that passes for commercial transaction in day to day life.
The commission into Child Sexual Abuse aside, the politically motivated royal commissions of recent times have been ‘Much ado about Nothing’, but not this one. The findings have been quite horrifying. But are we, or should we, be surprised? Much that is being revealed has been around in anecdotal narrative for some time. In stark contrast, those of us who are old enough will remember a time when the Commonwealth Bank was publicly owned, and no matter which bank enjoyed our loyalty, the bank manager was revered. We trusted the bank to be there to serve us in good times and bad. Why has the culture done a U-turn?
We now instinctively know we, the customers, are no more, but no less, than a pawn of the bank’s wealth accumulation strategy and that the banks exist to serve their shareholders.
But is this simply a problem of the banks or of the finance industry more generally? I put it to you that it is the latter, and that the banking royal commission is acting as a lightning rod into the parlous state of civil society, a state all of us have fallen into.
Allow me to set the scene:
- Profit is everything, the rewards for having produced an outstanding balance sheet are considerable. The bonus system carries within it an irresistible inducement to act unethically. Results which exceed the rate of inflation by a considerable margin are not necessarily the result of productivity or hard work, they have often been the result of someone else’s loss. Hedge Funds operate on the basis that there is money to be made from other’s ill judgement. Hedge Funds do not produce, they harvest capital from one source, capturing it to another vault.
- Winning is everything. We are all recovering from the national shame of a ball tampering episode. How could it have come to this? Not at all hard to explain. Winning is everything and the financial rewards for doing so are monumental. It was hypocritical of politicians, including the Prime Minister, to engage in the shame game when all that is exemplified from parliament is their own version of ball tampering for political self-interest.
- Taxation robs resources from the private sector into the public arena and therefore can be legitimately avoided at all costs. It is an indisputable reality that millions, probably billions, are invested every year in tax avoidance. We know that many large companies have so arranged their affairs that they pay no tax at all and yet are looking forward to a reduction in the rate of ‘company tax’. Taxation should be embraced as the incontestable obligation of all to contribute to the common good of a harmonious and just society. We are currently far from this position.
- Private ownership is good, public ownership is bad. We have made essential services captive to ‘for profit’ enterprises. Essential services should not have legitimate expenses minimised and profit maximised for profit hungry private enterprises. Gaols should not be places in which rehabilitation is compromised, or refugee compounds places where health, education, and general care fall below the standard acceptable within the general Australian population. We appear to have reached a point in Australian political life where nothing remains in public hands as a matter of principle. When I lived in Canberra many public servants were made redundant under the Howard purges. The ones in my street left with a redundancy package on Friday and renewed their old job on Monday on a private contract at a higher rate. Quite apart from the loss of corporate memory there are very good reasons why many key areas of Australian life ar more appropriately and effectively administered by the public service. Privatising ‘poles and wires’ has not contributed to cheaper electricity – quite the contrary.
- Independent regulation is bad, self-regulation is good. This extraordinary situation is promoted most strongly on the right of politics, and most fully by Libertarians like Senator Leyonhjelm. Libertarians believe that any interference or restriction placed upon the affairs of individuals is an unwarranted intrusion into their lives. Society is made up of individuals, so they argue, who must be allowed to get on with their lives and in so doing contribute to society as a whole. The false premise of this position is that the complexity and interrelatedness of life means of necessity we are all accountable to one another for the common good. The failure of the regulator to do its job in the banking industry is obvious, almost criminally obvious, for all to see. However the monumental failure of regulation has been in the environmental area. Future generations should bring a class action against the present crop of politicians for this failure. The French President, Mr Macron, now visiting Australia, has appealed to both sides of politics to get over their party political gamesmanship on this matter, reminding them there is no planet B. It should come as no surprise that those who have opposed proper oversight of climate responsibility are the same as those who have opposed investigation of the banking industry.
- The wealthy are self-motivated and hard-working, the poor only have themselves to blame. This explanation, perhaps justification, for inequity is one of the greatest threats to the future of an harmonious civil society. Racial prejudice and the capacity to scapegoat, is closely connected. That more than a quarter of the prison population is indigenous, that mental health is a great contributor to homelessness and gaol, that the poor go through gestapo like interrogation to justify claims whilst politicians and senior bureaucrats stretch the rules to embrace theirs; all these and many other facts are indicators that winner takes all, and the loser can simply stand aside.
Considering these realities, a civil movement is called for, to which people in their millions might associate their name, which says “enough, turn around, we are going the wrong way”. This movement could begin within communities of faith, but does not need to. It needs to be led by respected figures such as the economist Allan Fels, and the Chief Scientist Alan Finkel. It needs to stand outside conventional politics, certainly not to be captured by any party. It is a cause for which the name Monash could be attributed. It is a movement which should attract well motivated philanthropists such as Dick Smith.
Above all, we need a movement which ordinary Australians can embrace. Stay on the track we are on and the faults of our current society will be exaggerated in the next generation, stand up and a different path will take us to a platform where mutual trust and service for the good of each other within civil society will once more become a possibility, if not the norm.