A Christmas Metaphor

Today is Christmas day, so I thought I would provide a metaphorical and
an anthropological perspective on the birth of Christ.

Christ was, as legend has it, born in Bethlehem in the first century.
Bethlehem is in modern day Palestine. Interestingly, Bethlehem is close to the region within the middle east known as the fertile crescent, where the agricultural revolution is thought to have begun.

What do the birth of Christ and the agricultural revolution have to do with one another?

Christ is known within the Christian tradition as the saviour of humanity. His birth represents renewal, abundance and unbounded sacrifice for all people.

On the other hand, the agricultural revolution took place at a time when
population pressure and the need for surplus were creating the necessities for mass farming.

Both Christ and agriculture can be seen through the same symbolic lens. Both events took place in a geographic region known as ‘the cradle of civilisation’ and both events are thought to have brought salvation and prosperity to us Earth-dwellers.

Christ is the symbolic representation of the agricultural revolution. 2000 years after his birth, we pay homage to him by celebrating at this time of year by eating good food with family and friends.

I am not religious in any way, but I do appreciate a good metaphor. I hope, by writing this, that I can shed light on a peaceful tradition that has been celebrated around the world for millennia. A tradition that does not necessarily imply the birth of a literal deity, but rather the birth of a metaphorical saviour who we can today thank for laying the foundation for today’s civilisation; namely, agriculture.

Political Thrill n’ Spills

It is going to be a messy week in Australian politics. Yet again, the nation is being held hostage by the ebbing and flowing dynamics prevalent within political parties.

Malcolm Turnbull is Australia’s 29th Prime Minister. He seized the reigns of the nation after staging a political coup against his political rival Tony Abbott, in 2015.  Abbott won the 2013 on the back of infighting within the Labour Party – which saw Julia Gillard make a surprise attack on Kevin Rudd’s leadership in 2010, before Rudd regained his Prime Ministership for a total of 53 days before losing the 2013 election to Mr Abbott.

Since Turnbull staged his political coup, Abbott (often associated with Australia’s conservative movement) has been on the political sidelines. Over the past three years he has often been a bee in Turnbull’s bonnet, creating controversy by doing as he likes – specifically by not acting in the best interest of his government or Prime Minister’s agenda. However, Turnbull has been able to weather the Abbott storms repeatedly for two reasons: first, Turnbull has proven himself to be a more flexible and adaptive politician than Tony Abbott, who ultimately lost his Prime Ministership due to his rigid and somewhat cold leadership style. Second, Turnbull has been a stable and reasonably popular Prime Minister. I will now speak a little more broadly regarding this second point.

Malcolm Turnbull is not the best Prime Minister Australia has had. But he is probably the best person to run the country given the underwhelming selection of leaders within Parliament House. Turnbull is the longest serving Prime Minister in the last decade and his leadership has brought about a general feeling of political stability within Australia. Australia was a laughing stock following the Labour Party’s infighting and then Abbott’s downfall. With four Prime Minister’s in five years, anyone would have been forgiven for pointing at Australia and saying “that’s how not to run a country.” Nonetheless, Turnbull has provided mild stability through tumultuous times.

With such a divided political spectrum, Turnbull has provided Australia with a centrist and indeed truly liberal Prime Minster while managing those from within his party who would seek to see him fail – namely Mr Abbott. However, it would seem that his political fortunes are turning, rapidly.

This week Turnbull has shown political weakness in appeasing the conservative faction within his party by doing a 180 degree turn. His ‘NEG’ (National Energy Guarantee) appears dead in the water. There was some beauty to the NEG in that it promised to lower energy prices while keeping to Australia’s Paris Climate Agreement commitments. All appeared to be going swimmingly when Turnbull’s party internally voted in favour of legislating the NEG.

Today, Turnbull has revealed he does not have the support to pass the bill, thus, he is pulling the plug, for the time being. To make matters worse, growing support for yet another leadership spill is building momentum.

If Australia has yet another leadership spill, then it shows there are serious problems in Australia’s democracy. If Australia’s democracy were functioning to ensure stability and good leadership had at least a chance to flourish, then there would be legislation forbidding Prime Ministerial coups via means of internal party politics. Australia is at the mercy of corporatist styled parties, and democracy is not a requisite within a corporation. This is a blight on Australian politics and on the people whom our parties are supposed to be working for.

It is for the reader to imagine how much credibility political parties in Australia deserve. The two-party system in Australia is faltering. If we want to maintain a truly democratic political system we need more transparency from the major parties, though somehow I feel this will not be forthcoming.

Can we maintain faith in the Catholic Church?

This question extends well beyond whether anyone considers secularism a social goal, whether faith in the Judaeo-Christian God is worth your time or whether spirituality should be institutionalised, more generally. Rather, the question of faith in the Catholic Church extends directly from the ongoing spate of court cases the institution is facing.

Today is a turning point. Archbishop Philip Wilson has been sentenced to 12 months detention following Newcastle Local Court decision, finding him guilty of covering up child sexual abuse in the 1970s. To date, Wilson is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of crimes relating to the sexual and or physical abuse of children. There are wide calls for the Pope to actively acknowledge and indeed condemn Wilson, on behalf of the Catholic Church.

Business, as usual, will not hold muster. Although most of the Catholic Church’s officials, throughout history, have behaved in accord with their spiritual oaths – the abuses of modern priests must not be overlooked particularly by those at top of the Catholic tree. It is essential that senior Catholic Church officials outwardly condemn Wilson if the church expects to limit the inevitable social damage that will manifest over coming years and decades. Accountability will be essential to the continuation of this ancient institution.

So, getting back to the question at hand, can we maintain the faith in the Catholic Church? This remains to be seen. Much will depend upon what happens over the coming months and years. In reality, it will be an uphill battle to repair the social damage that has been caused in the name of the church. Wilson is just one priest that has been found guilty and it so happens he is the most senior official convicted thus far. It is highly likely he will not be the most senior official to be found guilty, for long.  The world awaits the outcome of the court case of Cardinal George Pell, who is the institutions third most prominent figure.

Whether you should maintain faith in this institution is your choice. However, the sheer enormity and scope of the cover-ups the Catholic Church is responsible for, are alarming. The severity of this problem cannot be understated, the social recovery will take a long time. Whether the Catholic Church deserves our trust is a question that begs to be answered. The manner in which the institution deals with abuse survivors and the convicted priests will speak volumes.

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