Friday, May 28, 2010

Generosity versus Greed

How much effort and cash is expended by people to help themselves compared with helping others? This is a frightening question which many will shy away from asking. Many more will not want to hear the answer. The truth can be troubling, to say the least. Truth often is. Despite its outrageous propaganda Al Gore's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, was well named. Facts can be sledgehammers. Facts can make us squirm and sweat, even make us sick. Contestable? Debatable? Controversial? Yes to all three, but people react and respond to the truth differently, and regardless of whether you agree or not, truth is truth. Not liking something or not believing in it does not alter the reality of it. Some things are true and that's all there is to it.

Former British Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli is believed to have once said there are three kinds of lies: Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics. At the risk of being accused of using statistical acrobatics to support my case, I offer the following shocking facts.

The 2005 Boxing Day tsunami was arguably the worst natural disaster the modern world has ever seen. Australians responded to the cry for help from the people affected and by the organisations that moved to alleviate their suffering and begin the rebuilding process. Roughly $100 million dollars was raised by Australians alone.It was a fantastic effort and a wonderful display of generosity. In that same year however, gambling losses by Australians totalled $17.5 billion dollars. Read that sentence again. It's not a misprint. Here's more; total giving by Australians to non profit organisations in 2004, personal and corporate, was $11 billion dollars. Gambling losses in the following year were $17.5 billion.

Statistics from Giving Australia in 2005 showed that Australians donated 0.7% of GDP on a per capita basis. That puts us behind the Americans, the British and our friends across the Ditch. A more recent survey by Commsec showed that Australians spend more on gambling than they do on some bills. $2292 on gambling versus $1830 on gas and electricity bills, for example. Illuminating isn't it?

Why? That's the question. Why are Australians addicted to gambling? Hope. Most of us struggle a little financially, and whether our wallets are fat or emaciated, we would like a little more. The desperate need we feel for more, the belief we have that more money will solve our worries, that having more will make us complete, make us more content, that winning a fortune will rescue us from the prison of our boring jobs with their insufficient incomes, all translates into an addiction. Our hope is in gambling: the small chance that we will get lucky. The statistics say we spend more on this addiction (and I haven't even mentioned alcohol and cigarettes) than we do on helping others.

That's pretty sad, isn't it?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Throwing Stones

Everyone is talking about David Campbell: former Minister for Roads and Transport in New South Wales, and former heterosexual family man. Channel seven aired footage of Mr Campbell attending something called a "gay sauna" in Kensington, and as result of the publicity, the minister resigned. There was talk at the time that his crime was not that he visited such a place and thereby inadvertently outed himself as a homosexual, but that he drove himself there in his taxpayer funded ministerial car.

This story is embarrassing for a number of reasons.The private lives of public figures has always been a talking point, a thing of interest apparently. Quintillions of copies of women's gossip magazines are sold because people are interested in other people's private lives. That is an embarrassment to society. So much pleasure gained from the knowledge of the problems of complete strangers. It is also an embarrassment for David Campbell to be called a hypocrite and excluded from being able to fit under the family man umbrella because he is homosexual. That people think "homosexual" and "family" are mutually exclusive words is an embarrassment to those narrow minds. The journalist who broke the story should be embarrassed for an unforgivable intrusion into Campbell's private life, and further ashamed to have used the pathetic excuse that it was in the public interest for him to be outed.

I'm embarrassed that people much such a big deal about homosexuality. Furthermore, I'm embarrassed that people obsess about sexuality in general. I think it's an absolute tragedy that sex has been so debased and distorted by men and women over the years that it has lost much of its beauty and simplicity. I do believe that homosexuality is a symptom of that distortion but I don't believe in ridiculing people and destroying families for personal gain or pleasure. I don't think it's right that homosexuals are treated differently, in some cases cruelly, by homophobic people.I don't think what has happened to David Campbell is interesting at all or even remotely titillating. I think it's very sad and embarrassing.

I can't help but think of the famous woman caught in adultery who was brought before Jesus by self righteous, heartless hypocrites who demanded she be punished. They said the law demanded that she be stoned. Imagine that! Imagine if people threw rocks at adulterers today. Would we be able to find enough rocks? Anyway, Jesus' words to those men and to us today were words of grace and compassion for the woman and condemnation for the would be stone throwers. He said, "let him among you who is without sin, be the first to cast a stone."

Those with the ability to be honest with themselves are laying down those rocks right now. I can hear them falling to the ground. Mercy triumphs over judgement!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

There's Something About Tony

It really disturbs me when I think of how modern politics panders to the lowest common denominator in society. Ignorance and prejudice. Narrow minded, backward looking people who swallow soundbites of partial truths and propaganda because they are either too lazy to eat a whole meal or because they lack the capacity to chew and digest it.

There's something about Tony Abbott and his equally non credible mate, Joe Hockey, that resonates with ignorance. The media supports the ill informed opinions of the masses as people get worked up over issues which are in fact non issues. There are three I want to mention here: boat people, resources rent tax, and economic management.

Boat people? Does anybody seriously think that people smugglers pay attention to Australian immigration policy changes? They are engaged in illegal activity for the purpose of profit making. Do the disaffected residents of Afghanistan and Sri Lanka study Australian politics and decide whether to attempt to seek asylum here based on the latest policy re processing and detention? Hundreds of people are coming to Australia in boats because they are desperate, not for any other reason. Hundreds, that's all. Do you know how many people are in Australia illegally as a result of overstaying their visas? Tens of thousands. In 2005 there were an estimated 47,800 overstayers under the Howard government. In 2007/08, the number is believed to be about 14, 000. Why isn't that information in the news? Stop crapping on about boat people, Mr Abbott.

Thankfully, he has changed his tune. But now he's singing a pathetic little ditty called Great Big New tax. The so called resources super profit tax, apart from needing a shorter, more catchy name, is the latest attempt by Abbott and his vacuous shadow cabinet to make people question the economic credentials of the Labour government. Apparently the mining industry is terminally ill and needs palliative care. This Great Big New Tax (somebody please make him stop saying that because I'm losing my mind)will kill the mining industry instead of allowing it a pain free and dignified death. What a load of rubbish. This kind of tax was suggested by the Henry review, and endorsed in principle by the mining industry. This kind of resources rent tax, as it is technically called, has been operating for 25 years in Australia with the oil industry. We heard the same anguished cries back in 1985 when the Hawke labour government introduced a 40% super profits tax. Anybody crying now? As far as I know oil companies are still doing all right. The mining companies are in superb health and this tax won't hurt them. Another storm in a teacup, Mr Abbott.

Finally Tony Abbott wants us all to vote for him on the basis that Kevin Rudd can't be trusted to run the economy. Why can't we trust him? Because he changed his mind. God forbid! Do you mean to tell me, Mr Abbott, that politicians don't change their minds? He says the government spent billions during the Global Financial crisis so we can't believe them when they say they will spend much less now that the crisis has been averted. Ridiculous. The government did exactly what all the governments of the world did, and what governments should do in financial downturns. They should spend. As Mr Rudd has said, when the private sector's involvement in the economy shrinks the government's role must expand and when private sector investment fires up again, based as it is solely on confidence and speculation, then the government should reduce its role. Tony Abbott, if faced with the same situation would have done exactly the same thing.

There's something about Tony which irritates and worries me. He's a broken record of economic and moral conservatism without a vision for Australia's future, or any policies.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The End of the World

I have received some very disturbing news about the fate of our planet. We are doomed. This world will be destroyed. Life as we know it, will cease. There is no escape from the bitter reality of this truth. You can run from the past. You can run from your troubles. You can run from your enemies. But you can't run from the future.

One day it will all be over. I don't know how. It could be an unpronounceable Icelandic volcano or a nuclear war instigated by Iran or North Korea, or even India because we know what a war mongering nation they are. I don't know. Nobody knows.

I don't know when. I can't give you a date but it's probably not going to be in May 2012. Nobody knows the day or the hour. Nobody except the one who created it. The world will definitely end and no one can stop it.

Have you booked your ticket to the next world? There is only one way to guarantee your future. Surrender to the Lord of all eternity, the timeless King of Kings: Jesus Christ.