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Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Flinders Ranges

Euro - kangaroo with four wheel drive - Arkaroola

Leaving the bitumen ...

The degradation of language

In the 1940's in a discussion on Telling the Truth Bonhoeffer commented:
In place of genuine words we now have chatter. Words no longer have any weight. There is too much talk. When the boundaries of various words are erased, however, when words become rootless and homeless, then the word loses truth, and this almost necessarily gives rise to the lie. When the various conventions of life are no longer mutually observed, then words become untrue. (Collected Works Vol 16 pp.624-625)

What would he say to day in the world of talkback and spin?

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Discipleship and Resurrection

Craig Hovey has produced a remarkable challenging reading of Mark's Gospel in To Share in the Body: A Theology of Martyrdom for Today's Church, Brazos Press, 2008

One quote from his discussion of the resurrection and discipleship in the Gospel will have to suffice.

Like the Emmaus disciples, the church is constantly tempted to make Jesus "stay with us", to possess him and control his movements. He vanishes because he had intended to go further: as for the women at the empty tomb in Mark. He was going ahead into Galilee, and "thee you will see him." He will not be seen by a sight that grasps, but only by a vision that crosses the space between the disciple and Jesus with the movement of following. The church faces this temptation when it attempts to prove to the world that the resurrection has happened, when it builds a case for it on apologetic grounds, when it construes a logical case for its belief. The problem is not only that such efforts may fail to convince anybody. Indeed, the attempt tow win the argument on logical or juridical grounds is meant to fail, a point exemplified by the fact that women are entrusted to ber witness. The reliabiity of their testimony is disabled by their gender in that patriarchical milieu. And yet it is the women who are promised to see Jesus in Galilee, who had not abandoned Jesus at the cross, and who, Mark explains, had followed and served Jesus in Galilee (15:40-41). These unlikely witnesses are undermined in their authority for the same reason that Peter will amaze the crowds at Pentecost: the proclamation of the gospel does not rely on the gender or education of the witnesses. After all, a gospel proclaimed by women and uneducated fishermen is a social sign of a cosmic reversal that the gospel heralds. (p.127)

Some pensioners may be doing it tough ...

No doubt that pensioners are not at the top of the income distribution charts. The question as to whether they are the most disadvantaged group in Australia is entirely another issue. The lack of willingness by the media to be tactless enough to ask that question is not a contribution to informed debate.

To get one view on the priority needs facing what really is overall a wealthy community it's worth taking a look at the Catholic Church's Social Justice Sunday Statement for 2008.
Who are our sisters and brothers in need?

In a prosperous Australia, we are called to recognise that ‘the needs of the poor are more important than the wants of the rich’. Some particular groups still endure great poverty and inequality. We are again called to hear the voice of the poor and to act with generous hearts.

The statement identifies:
  • Indigenous families and communities
  • Families in distress and the working poor
  • Refugees and Asylum seekers
  • People who are homeless

The pensioners that need priority attention will be those who do not have a home paid off and are dependent on the private rental market. They will need help not so much because they are pensioners but because they are subject to the pressures of the housing market.

If the pensioners are doing it tough those on disability pensions and income support longterm will be doing it even tougher - their rate of payment is significantly lower.

The danger of the focus on the claims of pensioners is that those with even greater needs but with quieter voices will get overlooked.

The subversiveness of the local

Holidays in the outback means time to do some reading of novels. This year in the Finders Ranges I had Wendell Berry for company - in this case his collection of stories of the town and surrounding countryside of Port William in Kentucky, That Distant Land.

Berry is a wonderful story teller - he loves the land and the people where he lives and brings them to life as characters against the wider social forces that have changed the practice of farming and community life over the past century.

He is a lover of place and the stories celebrate the willingness of people to challenge those wider forces in the name of friendship and out of respect for their relationship to the land on which they work. In the story Fidelity" a dying man is 'recovered' from hospital to enable him to die on his own land with a wonderful episode in which the policeman sent to investigate what has happened finds his assumptions challenged in a wonderful dialogue that subverts our assumptions about the authority of medical institutions and the demands for friendship.

Kentucky might seem a long way from the worn, spare landscapes of Arkaroola and Wilpena Pound but it struck me that Berry's attention to the local and his sense of responsbility for, and connection to the land would place him in sympathy with the Indigenous people who stewarded the limited resources in a demanding environment and recognised their connection to the land.

The achievement of the first people of this land is underlined by the abandoned stone houses across the Willochra Plain north of Quorn. In two waves in the later half of the 19th century the settlers tried to impose European agriculture on an environment that required a sober recognition of limits.

While the recognition of the culture and the founding stories of the first people is recognised across the region, nowhere could I find any acknowledgement of the history ofdispossession and conflict that must have taken place. The silence was deafening.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Battle for Australia - getting our bearings

The declaration of a day to celebrate the Battle for Australia caught me a bit unawares. I am confused about what is being celebrated and he significance of the date chosen.

There is I understand major stoush going on about the historical issues at stake with Peter Stanley from the Australian War Memorial, the institution most clearly associated most clearly with the civil religion flame associated with Anzac Day denying that Australia was in any danger of being invaded by the Japanese, squaring off against the received wisdom.

Beyond that the title for the event is unfortunate - the Indigenous community might have been under the illusion that in the spirit of the apology the battle which they undoubtedly fought was being finally acknowledged.

And the language of sacrifice continues to be used in a way that occludes the reality of war. Some people did sacrifice their lives to save that of their friends on some occasions. Mostly war was and is about people killing other people. Increasingly war is about a casualty ratio of civilians to military of around ten to one.