Saturday, March 27, 2010

Fingers to the Bone

Are you working too hard? Many people are. A caller to a talkback radio station boasted he had worked everyday for three years, getting up at 4am and arriving home between 11pm and 1am each night. Having recently taken a month long break he said he was now back in the groove and had reached another 106 days consecutive days of labour.

The radio announcer, himself also employed for seven days a week albeit with shorter hours than the caller, was very impressed and praised this 50 year chef by calling him an inspiration.

A slightly inebriated businessman caught a taxi home from the pub one night and was lamenting the break down of his marriage. He warned the taxi driver with these words. 'I worked my guts out for seven days a week year after year to provide for my family, to give them everything they ever wanted. But mate,' he said, 'All they ever wanted was more of me.'

The taxi driver had already determined not to let work dominate his life, but perhaps the businessman and the chef should have a chat.

Work has become a god to many people. There is a difference between working to live and living to work. When a man spends the majority of his waking hours for most of his life doing a job which he doesn't enjoy but feels he has to do in order to live, then he is a slave.

There are many slaves in our society who need to receive Jesus' offer of freedom, rest and abundant life.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Prisoner Of Obscurity

Natalie Tran. Have you heard that name? What? You haven't? You must have been living in a cave in Kathmandau. Natalie Tran is the most watched Australian on YouTube. In fact she has made it on to the top 20 most watched YouTube videos in the world. In the world, I said. Guess how many hits we are talking about here? Go on, guess. 224 million hits worldwide. 224 million.

I'm at a loss for words which is really bad when you a writer. Check out the story and her video or just the video at (copy and paste the URL into your browser) and come back here.

So Natalie draws a six pack on herself with a black marker and it's entertaining.I'm not sure if this makes me despair for the future of rational humanity or just insanely jealous. Popularity is like a disease and I want to catch it. The thing is I don't know how. I am apparently inoculated against it by qualities like averageness and blend in with everyone and everything else-ness. I am a prisoner of obscurity. My video had an unbelievable number of hits. I forget the exact number but it was somewhere under twenty. It was supposed to help sell my book. I talk about the book and my writing influences, and it's pretty interesting but 224 million people have watched Natalie Tran draw a six pack on herself with a black marker.

I draw two conclusions. I have virtually no hope, and I have virtually no idea of what appeals to people who like to watch Natalie Tran draw on herself. Okay she's way better looking than me but I bet I could kill her at Scrabble. And apart from the fact that it does not feature an attractive young lady in a bikini top and shorts, my video is an infinitely superior product.

YouTubers of the world. Enjoy your grabs of the mundane and the insane by all means but please at least consider buying my book. You too, Natalie Tran.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Honour Among Thieves

What was truly frightening about the Godfather, and the many gangster films which followed it, was the fact the mafia did not believe society's laws applied to them. Using extortion, intimidation, and extreme violence they said, 'we will do what we want to do.'

They were not a lawless group of people however. They merely adhered to their own laws and their own standards. They had their own morality regardless of its legality. The argument goes, just because something is illegal does not make it immoral. A whole book could be written on the immoral acts of history which were legal. Of course the judgement on what was immoral would be the author's point of view. Does that mean, therefore, that morals are only a matter of opinion? Who sets the standard?

All the social problems and crimes which occur in our world result from different standards; standards which do not measure up to the ultimate standard of goodness.

How many arguments, how many actions have been perpetrated by people believing their behaviour was okay or justified in the circumstances? In one family swearing and drunkenness is acceptable, in another it is not. Punching a man is okay if he throws the first punch. Working for cash to avoid tax is acceptable to many while others feel it is dishonest. These are examples of relative morality and relative morality is a conflict causing plague in society and in the world.

Surely the basis for society's morals must be an absolute standard. Surely it must be God's revelation of his Character and His will for us which is in the Bible. Even those who feel certain laws don't apply to them, like the mafia will be judged in the end by their Maker. Who can decide what is truly good apart from one who is perfect?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Quick! Call the Doctor

Everybody knows the Australian health system is sick. In fact it's terminally ill. State governments have struggled for many years to cope with funding what is the single biggest expense in their budgets. We can't brush off the troubling reality that our public hospitals are doubled over under the strain of caring for the sick and injured in society. Understaffed and under resourced, they battle on but the war is being lost. Somebody needs to do something. We need a saviour.

In strides Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who said during the election campaign in 2007 that he would launch a federal take over of our bedraggled and inefficient state health systems. Many cheered. Hope was renewed. Those who wish to dispose of state governments entirely, enthusiastically applauded the first step on the road to the removal of an unnecessary tier of government. However, three years have passed and nothing has changed.

The government held an inquiry, but nothing has happened yet. Critics complain about the lack of action. The opposition rolls out the cliches about elected prime ministers not keeping their promises, and cynics tell everyone that they told them so. The government announces other exciting developements to try to distract the masses from the perceived lack of action in some areas.

There are two important points to be made here. Firstly, three years is not enough time for an elected government to implement the reforms for which they were given a mandate by the voters. Year 1: keeping as many of the easier promises as possible and making excuses for the ones they break. Year 2: action and genuine reform begins. Year 3: preparation for the next election. That is, reminding the electorate of what they have done, and making some new promises for the next term if elected.

Four year fixed terms would help remove or at least lessen this problem. We have them for the NSW state government. Let's introduce them for the feds.

Secondly, fixing the health system is not like you or I changing our health insurance provider. Mr Rudd has already admitted that he and his government have underestimated the complexity of the issues. They needed all they time they have taken, and they will need a lot more. Our Prime Minster is not a magician. There is no magic wand to wave over our public hospitals. There is no quick fix. To hear members of the opposition say he is taking too long, makes me sick. They should shut up and jump behind the public hospitals reform agenda and push it with all the strength they possess.

Politics is an invasive species. It permeates every aspect of a our lives, public and private. It is a weed which chokes the plants of progress and reform, and it should not play a role in the ongoing drama of our public health system. Mr Rudd says he will fix it and I believe he will, given the time to do it properly, and cooperation.