Blog

I’ve never consulted a geneticist to ask; but I suspect creative writing must be in my family genes somehow. My grandfather was an accomplished author and journalist; his father was owner-editor of a newspaper; and my daughter is a Media & Communications professional. I wrote poetry as a child, then stopped entirely (probably with the male machoism of puberty). The writing gift has been rekindled spontaneously in the past decade or so, which I attribute to God’s Spirit.

This blog is thus far the chief outlet for my scribal passions, apart from letter writing to newspapers. Many submitted letters appear here, whether published in print or not. (Commonly the latter – that’s life for us letter writers, generally.)

My social or political comments are mainly targetted at a general audience, occasionally with reference to the interface between faith and society.

My blog also includes sermon texts and devotional reflections. These are intended mainly for Christian readers.

Jesus and Anzac

I’m just back from a half-day’s Anzac Day commemoration here in Cooma. Part 1 – the Anzac Service at the Cooma Cenotaph. Part 2 – the semi-formal lunch at the Cooma Ex-Serviceman’s Club, complete with post-lunch two-up in the presence of a passive and smiling police inspector. Another welcome cultural experience for this still fairly green country town pastor.

It was my lot to be the ‘Anzac Chaplain’ for 2014. This consisted of delivering the ‘Anzac Oration’ during the service, and saying grace before the subsequent lunch .. oh, and a seat at the high table too.

Some random reflections …

  • probably about 1000 attended the service. Not too shabby in a town of 8000. A fine opportunity for further public exposure, which is pretty important in rural ministry.
  • a privilege to address the Anzac theme so closely in the shadow of Easter. Gold, when one considers the shrinking scope for pointing largely non-church Australians to the gospel of Jesus in a public way. Praying that some people were given cause to consider Jesus as the preeminent exemplar of humility and self-giving in his Cross.
  • thankful that in a country community the church and clergy are still at some level embraced as central to the community. For how much longer? Who knows … but may we use the resulting opportunities, such as this one, well.
  • perplexed by christendom’s death throes. ‘Chaplain’ kind of says it really. That and the fact that the traditional RSL Anzac service is basically a liturgy of Christian hymns and prayers (albeit with a little doubtful theology here and there), but in language Christians don’t use anymore and with the ‘chaplain’ as an invited guest for a single part. Not whinging at the latter, please understand, but certainly much pondering.
  • wondering … Is there a possibility of recovering a more central role in this event (given it’s tacitly ‘Christian’ nature)? Or is it better to let it gradually die and seek other entry points?

Say “No” to all domestic abuse

Fairfax’s “Shine a light” campaign on domestic violence is an exemplary instance of harnessing the power of a major media organisation for social good. Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh’s public leadership for the same cause is equally welcome and commendable. (“Former Queensland premier Anna Bligh on how we can stop domestic violence“, CT, 19/4). Any success by either promises immeasurable benefits to our common life for generations.

However it would be regrettable if such efforts were to focus on physical violence to the exclusion of mental, emotional, sexual or other forms of abuse mainly perpetrated against women and children, in homes across the country. Whether or not the victim ever suffers physical harm, all forms of domestic abuse arise from one (most usually male) person’s ingrained sense of entitlement to control and dominate those closest to them. All such domination deprives the victim of their personhood, with the same ripple effect of destroyed lives and relationships, often for generations.

Say ‘No’ to all domestic abuse.

Too much spark

The only truly surprising thing about the excessive revelry of New Year’s Eve indulgence in Fitzroy North’s Edinburgh Gardens, is that it wasn’t replicated in a dozen other neighbourhoods. Are we really surprised that scores of marauding, tanked up partygoers would gather, carouse to excess, urinate, defaecate, graffiti, and leave oceans of detritus for others to clean?

The merrymakers were merely having a ‘good time’ as portrayed by our cultural exemplars. Our political leaders lack any will to sever the marketing nexus between alcohol and sport. Our civic leaders invest our taxes and rates in the never-ending annual quest for pyrotechnic supremacy. We provide free transport for the paralytic. And then the evening news leaves us in no doubt that the wildest are the winners. What can we do but clean up the mess yet again?

Up the poll

Is there no end to the prevailing obsession with polls? When for the past 3 years our senses have been numbed and our reasoning capacities neutered by almost daily electoral horoscopes, I suppose one shouldn’t pause at a front page ‘EXCLUSIVE … Age poll’ about the Federal Labor leadership ballot. But after the gangrenous impact of polling paranoia on the late government, is democracy now truly served by further forecasts of a ‘cliffhanger’ in a ballot limited to Labor members? Will our respect for our nation’s parliament grow by speculating on the roles the factions will play in the ballot, who might swap sides, and which side Mr Rudd is ‘expected’ to take? Enough of this fatuity.

Hanging with the Greens

So its official. Asylum seekers are now the sacrificial lambs, to be offered up by both would-be governments to appease the rednecks who now hold the balance of power in voterland. All thanks to the electoral atom bomb of the 2001 ‘Tampa Election’, reeking damage long past its purposeful deployment.

The one remaining slender hope for the desperate emigres of Afghanistan, Sri Lanka and Iran in 2013 and probably for years or decades to come, would be another hung parliament in which the Greens use their balance of power to extract a return to a hospitality of compassion, generosity and good sense, from a minority government.

Are faces too human?

I can’t say I’ve ever taken much notice of the relative content of The Age’s print and online editions. But I’m intrigued by the non-appearance in print of an online article by Daniel Street, dated 9th July. The assigned headline “Listening, caring Rudd has always been here to help” is de rigueur. But the content recounts firsthand the human face of the Prime Minister one rarely if ever sees.

As one who was closely associated with Mr Rudd at university, none of the qualities of humanity and compassion, as well as vision and discipline, come as even remotely surprising. However the comments to the online article underscore the disconnect between Street’s honest observations and the immutable judgement of the commentariat.

So I ask: What is it with the culture of today’s media, that any hint of humanness in the most senior politicians is so clinically filtered from the public gaze? Is it just the good ol’ tall poppy syndrome? Or is it some ideological determination to retain politics and politicians as objects of entertainment? If a nation cannot respect its leaders, the nation loses.

Go on, shock me. Publish this letter.

Boats and votes

The new Rudd Government’s emerging asylum seeker policy will be a thing of horror to many Australians, but unfortunately not the ‘right’ ones. What we’re now seeing is the long term impact on our culture of the Howard government’s demonising of asylum seekers, using them as electoral fodder, thereby appealing to the basest instincts and prejudices of a sector of the population.

Fast forward a few years, and we have a Labor Prime Minister who on earlier indications may have developed a policy enshrining decency and compassion, now perpetuating a thoroughly entrenched fortress mentality to appease voters in western Sydney.

The well of Australian multiculturalism has plainly been poisoned. And on these indications the erstwhile Australian spirit of generosity to the stranger, mortally wounded in a matter of months by the 2001 ‘Tampa election’ campaign, will likely take a generation or more to resuscitate, if indeed it ever rises again. For living as we now do in an age of unprecedented political disillusionment and disengagement, with serial hung parliaments a likely consequence, expediency will trump principle in the name of electoral survival. In this cold civil war, swing seat xenophobia will win and the world’s most vulnerable will lose.

If this is so, then the only hope for justice will lie in the moral formation of the next generation.

Dishonourable mentions

Your Editorial of 22nd June called on then Prime Minister Julia Gillard to stand aside from her office “so that vigorous, policy-driven democratic debate can flourish once again,” and to allow the party to “present a compelling, united and inspiring voice”. Prior to his re-election last night (26/6) as leader of the Federal parliamentary Labor party (and subsequent return to the Prime Ministership), Kevin Rudd pledged himself to invest his full energy in party unity, without recriminations or paybacks.

In light of all this can you explain to your readers how a front page headline such as “Rudd’s Revenge” (27/6) contributes to the restoration of intelligent democratic engagement in this country?

Quality time

Your leading editorial of Saturday 8th June is right to call our political leaders back to matters of substance, but short on collective self-awareness. The standard and style of current day political commentary are at the very least complicit in the petty soap opera that now plays out on Capital Hill.

The personas of Gillard, Abbott, and their alleged internal rivals, that we the voting public see are in no small part constructed by those who beam them to us daily. The politicians themselves know this, as do the throngs of their media teams. Why then should we be surprised if policy takes a back seat to posturing? The science of politics has become the art of rap-dancing on a minefield. The story sells; characters are cheap and expendable.

In the antediluvian days when reporting of fact trumped opinion, the media’s role in the equation was on the whole constructive in the higher cause of informed democracy. Now we’re commonly left guessing where reality ends and speculation begins.

Yes, politicians please get on with debate. And journos, please get on with reporting.