Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Abandon hope, all citizens who enter the red portal

Last Saturday, Wauchope Uniting Church hosted a seminar on climate change. We thought of this as being a community service, as most of the information on the topic is filtered through the lens of Sydney shock jocks, and the dominant local force in politics, the National Party. We decided to provide a less ‘in your face’ lens, in the form of Rev. Dr David Reichardt, ecotheologist, Mr Harry Creamer, the President of Climate Change Australia, Hastings branch, and Mr Steve Lockhart, eco builder and the coordinator of Climate Change Australia, Hastings branch. David presented the climate change slideshow developed by Al Gore, Harry spoke about why carbon pricing helped reduce emissions, and Steve spoke about how individuals could reduce their own emissions.

Our seminar went very well, despite my qualms about the potential impact on the church community, who are not all climate change believers. We had a good roll up from the congregation, the wider Presbytery, and a few from the community. There were a number of comments that we thought showed the seminar was a success. The first was that the local speakers were invited to present their stuff to other community groups. This is indeed a positive outcome. The second measure of success is that David Reichardt suggestion that action on climate change was like an insurance policy, where it was better to be prepared than unprepared for potential disaster, hit a chord with some of our more skeptically minded attendees. They could see the sense of this and it seems to have given them a new attitude towards climate change action.

In the course of the seminar, I became aware that the National Party was holding their annual conference over this past weekend. The National Party website is normally somewhere that I have no wish to go. But given we were talking about climate change, and given they were meeting, I ventured into this foreign territory and typed “National Party Australia annual conference” into Google. I thought I would see what they had to say on the topic.

At first I thought I was at the wrong site. A great big red banner appeared, urging me to Say No! and help stop the carbon tax. I was invited to give cash, sign a petition and find out more. Where was I? Instead of the National Party website, here I was, lost in cyberspace with a fiery red portal, inviting me to enter. It was a risk, it was anonymous, it was dangerously bright red in colour, and may have been beckoning me downward to hell.

I initially couldn’t work out what to do. Did I have to actually give money, sign a petition or get information to get beyond the blood-curdlingly colored portal? I finally notice a little black arrow beneath the red banner, saying ‘skip’ in microscopic letters. I duly entered. It was only then I found myself where I initially expected to be - the National Party website.

The National Party had decided to broadcast their conference live, which I understand is a first for a political party. When I read their news, I wondered why they had bothered. It reminded me of the Monty Python skit where old blokes reminiscing about their childhoods tried to present the most negative picture possible.

What I found is that they seem to hate Julia Gillard with a passion. As for climate change, it is clearly a Labor lie forced onto an unsuspecting public who need to be properly educated as to the dual evils of believing in climate change or a carbon tax. I also learned that Julia Gillard scurried from the parliament with her ministers in a convoy of incompetence, that desperate Labor had resorted to making up good news, that the Gillard government was incompetent, and that the Coalition was traveling to NZ to inspect apples. And the dairy industry was threatened by the carbon tax, which would ruin them. Unlike the free regulation of the industry introduced by the Coalition when in Government, of course.

To sum up, the National Party believe that:

The Gillard government has not heeded the warnings from the people a year ago. It has descended into a leaderless rabble, and the arrogance, waste, mismanagement and incompetence continues. Now it is mired in the smell of corruption.

I tried their policy link. They do have some, and some are not bad, as they want regional Australia to get a fair share and a fair go. But every page also had a diatribe against the Labor Party. Why not just state the policy? Many were Coalition Policies, and they indeed have a climate change policy. And the link failed when I tried to read the Border policy.

I also discovered that
The Nationals support and encourage greater participation by women in all aspects of the Party. The Party recognises that in order for our nation to achieve its full economic, social and political potential, women must have equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process. The Nationals are dedicated to making our democracy as inclusive as possible.

Mmmmmm. Must be why the local Member always ignores me and addresses John when we write to him. And why he failed to welcome me – and many other women – to the electorate. Good thing the Nationals are in favour of equality or who knows what would have happened?

I decided to succumb and went back to the portal and clicked on more information. I discovered that the carbon tax would not help the environment, and would effectively bankrupt rural Australia. I then wondered what the Liberal Party had to say.

Their site was more comprehensive, and lacked a red portal. I was struck, however, by just how negative this site was. Going from bad to worse - 365 days of Australia's worst ever government, screamed a large black banner. It also solicited comments from readers on Labor's waste. The Greens leader Bob Brown, and the independants who allowed Labor to form government were in the photos on the banner. I discovered the Labor Green carbon tax was the biggest most punitive tax in the world. A large claim, I thought - and actually dead wrong as the UK has a price of 16 pounds a tonne, rising to 30 pounds by 2020.

There was even a separate hyperlink labelled 'Labor's failure.' I bit, and clicked on it.

I found: 'Labor. It's a mess." What followed was a lengthy diatribe on Julia Gillard. I found if I clicked on other categories, labelled things like 'National Security', every one started with a large headline that trashed the Labor party. Nation Security stated that Labor failed to protect Australia's borders. Kevin Rudd has allowed Labor states to ruin the health budget (note to Tony - time to update this part of the website). Nurses were worse off under Julia's award. And unlike Labor, the Liberal party support parental choice in education.

Why am I telling you all of this, I hear you cry. It is simply because I am so sick of the negative political crap that comes our way in waves. What happened to positives? Why has our alleged adversarial political system become no more than dumping buckets of negative comments that bag everything that the other side does?

Research has clearly showed that the more people are bombarded by negative influences, the more negative they feel. While the leader of the Opposition might believe that such negativity will get him elected, he runs the risk of inheriting a population who are fearful, inefficient and sick, as research also shows that positive influences result in happier, healthier, more creative and longer lived people.

Perhaps bad news really does sell papers and win elections.Perhaps this is why it is happening so frequently now. But I for one am really tired of it.

I don't want to read article after article on why Labor sucks when I am searching for policies. Coaliton, just tell me what you are intending to do without bagging the other side. I resent that you go on and on and have nothing good to say about any other party or politician. I am appalled when you tell lies. I resent it when you make me depressed.

I am sure that living in negativity must be bad for the politicians who do this also. I also think that the Coalition has missed the boat in regard to the new paradigm that is Australian Federal politics.

In an analysis by Parker & Partners, Australia’s bipartisan public affairs specialist, they suggested that the Labor Government needed to change the normal modus operandi of playing the politics ahead of policy. They suggested that the hung parliament could well produce ministers that should be better politicians – not better at spin, but better at negotiation, consensus building and making a strong public case for their policies.

The Independant member for Lyne, Rob Oakeshott, was inspirational in his vision of the possibilities of shared government, and a parliament that worked togeether for the betterment of Asutralia. Sadly, this vision and enthusiam has not been played out, and not only has the traditonal parliamentary adversarial system continued, but it has become a negative policy of opposing everything that the Governmment does, rather than a true critique of government policy.

Policies that are comprised of the two words "I oppose" are not adequate. They are not visionary, they do not consider the future or the common good.

Michael Pearce, Melbourne lawyer (http://w/opinion/politics/should-the-alp-labour-on-or-is-the-party-over-20110410-1d9ba.html#ixzz1WVg2LlR9) suggests that:
The shrinking domain of genuine debate goes a long way to explaining the poverty of contemporary politics. We seem to have settled into a political routine in which the party in power implements the economic policies of the federal Treasury and the party in opposition opposes them. This produces many paradoxes: a Liberal-National government introduced the GST - a great big new tax on everything, if ever there was one. A Labor government proposes a market-based solution to climate change while the Liberal-National opposition proposes massive government subsidies instead.

This sort of politics has largely displaced political philosophy from the contest for votes. When Gillard was asked recently to explain her political philosophy, she could only say that she believed in the value of a good education and the dignity of work. The Liberal Party's main pitch at the last federal election was to stop the waste and stop the boats.

We definitely need to find new ways of doing politics. Is it too late to recapture the vision and encourage all of our elected parliamentarians to make policy with the future in mind? Rather than just bagging out the other side, is it too much to ask that our politicians to work together for the greater good? Surely we need to encourage qualities like wisdom, humbleness, a passion for service, truthfulness, vision, true listening, problem solving and compassion in our leaders. And healthy, thoughtful debate, and co-operation in large issues such as climate change, refugees, health and education.

Monday, 22 August 2011

The Canaanite Woman - a study in dogged persistance

The Gospel story that was last week's lectionary reading is an interesting one. It tells of an encounter that took place between Jesus, the disciples and a Canaanite woman, as Jesus was near the borders of the Gentile lands of Tyre and Sidon. The unnamed woman has come out from her own land to seek Jesus’ help. Initially repulsed both by Jesus and the disciples, she remains undeterred and demands their attention.

We felt that this story was best explored as a dialogue, so this blog invites you on an imaginative journey, which we hope will lead you to think about the story from a different perspective, to engage with different assumptions, and perhaps lead you to different conclusions. We are going to offer you the opportunity to listen in to a conversation about what might have happened that day when Jesus encountered the Canaanite woman.

We will not be listening directly to the conversation between Jesus and the woman—although it will figure in the discussion that takes place. Instead, we will be eavesdropping on a conversation between an acquaintance of the woman, Tamar, a servant in a Jewish Christian household, and a relative of one of the followers of Jesus, known as Baruch.

Baruch and Tamar are somewhat different people. Tamar is a Canaanite, from the land of Canaan which was taken over by the Israelites who conquered its original inhabitants. Baruch is an Israelite who has become a follower of Jesus, and who has heard a version of the story from his cousin Zebedee. They have accidentally met up in one of the Palestinian market places and have been drawn into a conversation about Jesus’ latest miracle.

So now, please imagine yourself watching this scene.

B: Have you heard of the latest miracle performed by our Lord? Why, he healed the daughter of a Canaanite – and by long distance! A truly remarkable feat.

T: Can I enquire as to the details of this miracle, Baruch? I believe I may have some knowledge and understanding of it.

B: I will tell you what I have heard. She was an unaccompanied Canaanite woman – a woman without a male relative! I ask you, do these Canaanites have no sense of decorum or decency? She came crying after Jesus and his disciples, all alone, no male to chaperone her, demanding that he heal her daughter. Such presumption!

T: Now just a minute. I object to you pronouncing the word ‘Canaanite’ as if these people were a nasty plague of insects. I also do not think you appreciate the desperation of a loving mother, worried about the condition of her child.

B: If this Canaanite woman was a decent woman, she would have approached Jesus with her husband, let him do the talking, and remained quiet, eyes down and head bent. But no, she made a complete spectacle of herself.

T: I think you are embellishing the facts, don’t you agree? Perhaps this woman was widowed, or perhaps her husband did not want to beg a favour of a Jew – after all, it was the Jews who drove many of the Canaanites from their traditional homelands.

B: You must know that Canaan was the land that God promised to the Israelite people. It was foreordained that the Canaanites would have to relinquish it. And rightly so. Just look at some of the dreadful practices they had – worshipping strange gods, boiling baby goats in their mother’s milk – disgusting! All of this stopped when Israel took over the land.

T: I believe you are exaggerating – both about their practices and whether Israel indeed stopped them. But what right do you have to use this ancient history to belittle the woman we are speaking about? Whatever her ancestors did or didn’t do, it was hardly her fault.

B: I disagree. We all know these things can be passed down from generation to generation. And I reiterate – what was she doing running around alone on the public roadways crying after strange men? And a why would a Canaanite seek help from their Jewish conquerors like that?

T: I believe you know the answer to that. She understood that Jesus was a healer, someone special. I heard she called him “Lord”.

B: Well, there is that. I suppose his fame and reputation had spread even into Tyre and Sidon. But this is no excuse for her behaviour, and she must have known that the Messiah was to come only to the Jews! There is no mention that he was to help Canaanites.

T: I have heard that he made that abundantly clear to the woman – and called her names. I thought a Messiah was meant to love everyone, not to mention have some sympathy with a race that had originally shared a homeland.

B: Nonsense. The Messiah was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel – everyone knows that. And a lone woman shrieking like a mad thing out in public – she deserved to be called names! And for presuming to quarrel with our Lord.

T: Don’t you think calling someone “dog” is rather insulting? Even if it is the Lord who says so? And as the Canaanites were killed or were hustled out of their land by God’s orders, I would think that it is time to make some amends to them. Why shouldn’t the Messiah share the love around a bit? And what would you do if your daughter was gravely ill, possibly possessed by a demon? Wouldn’t you make the effort to seek out help from the one person you thought might really be able to do something? What would you be prepared to do to make your children well? Maybe she was right to quarrel with Jesus.

B: Hmmmmm, I see your point. Of course we all want what is best for our children. And the scriptures do occasionally say that God is indeed the God of other people. But you must admit that she behaved in a somewhat irregular way.

T: I am admitting nothing of the sort. This poor woman goes in search for help for her daughter, and she is told to go away, she is scorned for not being a Jew, and called a dog into the bargain. It seems to me that Jesus and the disciples left themselves open for criticism. It is to her credit that she persisted with such a rude lot.

B: You are not telling the whole story. She was helped by Jesus. In fact, I think you are exaggerating what happened.

T: Am I? Let me recap as I heard this story. The woman called Jesus ‘Lord’, and asked for help. The disciples ignored her, and wanted her sent away. So Jesus tells her that he is sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. He then informs her that this is because it is wrong to take bread from the children (that is, the Jews) and throw it to the dogs (that is, the Canaanites). Are you honestly telling me she did not have a right to feel rather insulted?

B: (reservedly) Well, I suppose when you put it that way, you have a point. But still, a woman alone in public, crying out – I am not sure about this at all.

T: Then let me put it another way. If Jesus decided that after all, she had a case, and he decided to help her, then what is your problem? Just put yourself in the place of us women. We live in a world where we have little say about what happens in our lives. What is a woman meant to do if her husband dies or neglects her? What if she has no male to care for her? Remember what the law says about caring for widows and the oppressed. Baruch, you place great value in these laws, don’t you? So surely you should be prepared to some sympathy to this woman?

B: I am not entirely convinced. She must have been some sort of outcast to behave that way.

T: If Jesus decided not to judge her, why should you? After all, when he did engage her in conversation, he accepted her argument as the right one and healed her daughter. I have also heard that he called her faith ‘great’.

B: Are you sure? I heard that he said to her that her saying was clever, and for that her daughter was healed. Why would Jesus commend the faith of a Canaanite woman?

T: Well, he did. And I believe that once she had convinced him that her faith was sound, he was making a point to those men in the Jewish faith who didn’t believe. You know, if even a Canaanite woman believes I am the Messiah, then surely those who teach the Law should believe this too. After all, they should know the prophecies and scripture that point to Jesus.

B: I grant you that this meeting between Jesus and the woman of Canaan was rather unusual. There may have been extenuating circumstances. But you must understand that in Jewish custom, men normally only speak to women in public like that if they are related by blood. No wonder Jesus acted the way he did in the first instance.

T: Men are so quick to judge! They have to be argued into a reasonable frame of mind. And even in this rather unusual situation, Jesus did not shame her for being a woman. His quarrel with her was the fact she was not an Israelite. You Jews are so exclusive!

B: But he did concede the argument to her.

T: Are you saying then that she changed Jesus’ mind?

B: I suppose I am. I guess she must have been someone pretty special.

T: Yes, indeed. This woman stuck to her beliefs. She was dogged, she was persistent, she was not going to be ground down by rudeness or by being pushed to the side. Why, she is like the Hebrew midwives in Egypt, who dared to defy Pharaoh. Or Moses’ mother and sister, who persisted in their quest to save him. There is great power in the way that this woman acted.

B: She took quite a risk, then, in acting like this.

T: Indeed she did. But remember – she was someone pretty special. It is an interesting point, isn’t it? Some people I have heard speaking about Jesus tend to claim that he is always the one who was right; that he will always persuade the other person, always win the debate. But in this instance, it is the woman who seems to be the one who speaks the deepest truth, and she comes out as the victor. In the end, Jesus admits that she is right, and he grants her request. Perhaps Jesus was the one who was transformed. So that doesn’t suggest a woman who is an outcast, does it? It suggests a woman brimming over with wisdom and spirit!

B: Well, it is clear that Jesus was affected by her. And I guess it follows that this must be good news for all of those people who aren’t Jews, but who want to follow Jesus.

T: Ah, now I think you are on to something. If the Messiah allows himself to be transformed, just think; if we emulate this, then we could transform our world, not just our two peoples. Think of it. The Canaanite woman was despised by Israel, whose ancestors took over their land. So the way that the disciples and Jesus responded to her at first, was simply the customary way. Such a response perpetuates resentment and hatred that then runs from people to people, from generation to generation.

B: Yes, I can see that humiliation, resentment, and violence have been passed down by people who do not stop to think that things may have changed, that there may be a better way. Jesus, with his final acceptance of the woman and his gift of healing, has set aside these conventions of ethnic hatred. In his final words, he treats the woman as one of the faithful, and opens up the way for all of us to do the same.

T: Now Baruch, I do confess that I hear something of the prophet in you now.

B: A prophet? Me?

T: Yes – you, even if I confess this somewhat reluctantly. I thought that Jesus was wrong in his initial statement to the woman; but I can see that his final words and his act of healing show he really does have an unconventional attitude and behavior towards those normally despised. That appeals to me, for it is this sort of attitude that can heal these historical rifts and create community. When we are dealing with Jesus, we should expect the unexpected. And I like the relationship with God that this story implies. Israel is not the only nation loved by God – all people are God’s children.

B: Imagine – a whole town full of people who could do that – who could reach out to each other in love and acceptance. Who could, in spite of a long history of enmity between them, accept that they are all equally loved by God, and that their faith and worship could be shared and celebrated together. This is indeed a miracle. What is to stop it happening now?

And I can see that this story symbolizes so much. When we are in trouble, the natural thing to do is to reach out for help from God. This simple act of asking for help should not be a problem. Why is it that we all just cannot talk to one another and help one another? Why is it that race or gender or religion should determine how we treat each other?

T: Perhaps if we all allowed ourselves to step back from our own prejudices, and try to see the world as others see it, we might all live life in the way that God intended. Like the Canaanite woman, we all need to acknowledge that we can come, just as we are, before God. We can put aside what other people think about us, and what we think about other people, and simply speak directly and honestly to God. And in this way, we can become the vessel for the good news, and spread it out to everyone around us. Our world needs such honesty – and such persistence.

As we leave this discussion and return to the present time, let us think about how it touches us in the twenty-first century.

Every one of us can be caught in the familiar and well-worn patterns of our lives. We know what we think about certain issues; we know what we think about certain people. And sometimes, what we think can be judgemental; we can, condemn people without a fair trial, we can determine our attitudes without weighing up all the factors. In the familiarity of our lives, we can perhaps breed contempt all too easily.

This Gospel story provides us with a clear role model – an unexpected picture of Jesus, confronting a woman who acts out of character, who transgresses the rules of behaviour for her day, and who provokes Jesus into seeing things differently, and valuing the other person in a new way. It is an important reminder to us, never to be so settled, so comfortable, that we are incapable of changing our mind or revising our opinion. Because in the story, that is precisely what Jesus did.

The Gospel story also provides us with a role model of faithful discipleship, in the woman who had such a deep-seated need that she was not constrained by propriety, and she acted in ways that she might once have thought inconceivable. What does it mean for us to live as faithful followers of Jesus? How are we called to live out our beliefs, to put into practice our ideals, to travel along the path that we are called to follow?

Today there are voices that want us to think that the foreigner is a threat – a problem to be kept away, a danger to be avoided. There are voices that press us to toe the line and follow the well-worn conventions of society. There are voices that invite us to remain comfortable, settled, and unchanging. But the path of discipleship invites us into a risky adventure and beckons us into an uncertain future. With a sense of excitement, we are called to follow.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Curse ye Meroz, and all dark forces who believe climate change is real

Even I have been surprised this week in regard to the amount of hostile emotion that has been stirred up in Australian politics, and I am well aware of the rhetoric of hate that stalks the media like an avenging spirit nowadays. What I find most disturbing is how it has managed to permeate the minds and lives of average, apparently normal people. The debates are becoming more extreme. Insults are nastier, denigrate others and are intended to personally wound. While everyone would agree, I think, that debate is a healthy thing, the kind of rhetoric that passes for debate but actually has inciting hate as its true agenda is quite another thing.

Many of our politicians, almost anyone who writes for the Murdoch print media and the radio “shock jocks ”, would do well to remember this. Public proclamation also comes with public responsibility. Once upon a time I could rely on most both print and electronic media to give me facts. Now I have to look elsewhere for facts, because reporting is no longer about facts. It is about sound bites and controversy when it comes to anything that can be classed as ‘political’ idealogy. Issues have been polarised between factions rather than being considered on their own merits.

As I was trawling the Net doing some quick research on the rhetoric of hate in politics, I found an article written by Laurie Oakes no less (Daily Telegraph 5 March 2011), about this very topic. Laurie thinks that Tony Abbott’s call for the people to revolt will have “crazies foaming at the mouth”.

In the article, he goes on to note that
The Australian Tea Party - a fringe group based on the US right-wing movement - also attracts some prize specimens. A US tea-bagger, for example, writes: "Hello Down Under. Sorry to see we are not the only nation plagued with vermin like Obama. We stand with you in your quest for liberty from tyranny and oppression."
They are all enraged, even the New World Order conspiracy theorists (10 per cent from the carbon tax will go to a World Government, in case you didn't know).

Tyranny and oppression? Are these people really serious that the current Australian government is either a tyranny or oppressive in a country where any person can have a say?

Even John and I are getting some very strange ‘hate mail’ up here in National party heartland. You may have read about John’s postcard mail in my last blog. This week it was my turn. I received a postcard in the same hand writing allegedly from the Gold Coast (postmarked Mid North Coast) gently telling me that a real church (the Port Macquarie Anglican in this case) had been left 10 million dollars, and didn’t I see this as a poor choice? The inference was that my understanding of ‘church’ and Christianity was somewhat deficient and therefore I could not expect such largess to descend upon the Uniting Church.

On Thursday I was filmed (I wasn’t interviewed, just filmed sitting on my seat) at the Mid North Coast Climate Alliance launch. We have signed up as the Uniting Church, becoming one of the member institutes. I happened to be sitting next to Rob Oakeshott, who was presented with a signed copy of the Alliance Statement at the end of proceedings. I also gave a brief statement to the ABC Radio, and the event was covered in the Port News.

This apparently has provoked more weird rantings from our anonymous friend. This morning we received an email, purporting to be from the Byzantine Catholic church in the Ukraine. It was titled “God’s anathema upon the Uniting Church in Australia” and it called down curses on the Uniting Church for its intention to become “a homodictatorship” and “to live in sin here on earth and to end in hell after death”.

Among other things, the Uniting Church was accused of having a “false gospel of the traitors of Christ, behind which is the “angel of light” (Lucifer), “shines through” one’s sinful nature in such measure that people “enlightened” in this way glorify the god Lucifer by homosexuality in every dimension of their life.” It is also “an assembly of Satan” and “has ceased to be a blessing
for the nation and brings down a curse upon it as well as upon all Australia, leading them to self-destruction”.

Right then. So next time the floods or fires or droughts come, you will all know who to blame - the “Uniting anti-Church in Australia”.

Perhaps it is fair to say at this point that some of our more conservative church brothers and sisters would probably agree with this estimation of the Uniting Church. But it is also true that our anonymous hate mailer (and Mr Carp is still our preferred suspect) is clearly homophobic and responds to anything we say in regard to climate change by accusing us of ‘believing in homosexuality’. How climate change translates to a “belief in homosexuality” is a conundrum that escapes us. But it is fair to say that this places our anonymous hate mailer squarely within the rhetoric of hate, for as well as damning all gay and lesbians he wants to also damn the entire Uniting Church and is now calling down lurid curses upon all its members.

I believe Laurie Oakes is right. Why has this debate become so heated and flushed so many nutters out? What is it about climate change, or this particular government that has people like our friend “foaming at the mouth” and using the rhetoric of hate to dump on his fellow citizens?

I find it difficult to believe that scientists are actually receiving death threats in this country. They have become objects of rage and hatred for doing their research. Their children have also been threatened. They are called liar and frauds, and every conspiracy theorist has them working for a different shadowy (though always left wing) organisation, secretly funded by the current government. Their carefully worded statements based on the science are treated as they were the product of a dangerous fringe ideology.

Such claims can only be hatched surely in brains that have been twisted by the rhetoric of hate.

We can stop this, if only by demanding that our shock jocks and politicians (and their party faithful) behave themselves. They need to stop using the rhetoric of hate, and desist from feeding what has become an overt culture of bullying and fear-mongering.

Such behaviour would be condemned roundly in any schoolyard, and could be seen as undermining the stability and fabric of our society. Is it any wonder children become bullies with the exemplary model of our politicians (Tony Abbott take note in particular) before them? Is it any wonder usually sane people become confused and angry when they are faced daily with sensationalist headlines and negative sound bites designed to destroy rather than to inform and build good healthy debate? The media in general, the shock jocks and their continued use of the rhetoric of hate, the arrogance and self-interest of the wealthy and those with vested interests in not supporting climate change measures, and an opposition leader who can smell blood and a prime ministership just a few negative opinion polls away are all in danger of eroding what is good and decent and fair in our society.

People, it is time to take a long hard look at yourselves and see what you are really doing.

Wanted: suffragettes to engage with lost cause

On Thursday I attended the launch of the Mid North Coast Climate Alliance, a group made up of various community groups who want something done about climate change. The Uniting Church is the lone Christian voice on the group, but that doesn’t particularly disturb me, as the Uniting Church is often the lone Christian voice on many social and ecological issues.

While we were waiting for Mr Oakeshott to turn up and hear our carefully prepared speeches, and accept our signed statement (why is it that politicians are habitually late?) I got chatting to two women sitting at a nearby table.

And I made an interesting discovery. Both of them, upon arriving in the electorates that comprise greater Port Macquarie did not get the standard ‘welcome to the electorate’ letter. But their husbands did. One woman moved here when Mark Vaille held the seat. He wrote to her husband. The other moved here under the statesmanship of Mr 72%. He also wrote to her husband.

And neither woman received the welcome letter.

I can’t believe that welcoming men to National Party electorates and not their wives is unofficial National Party policy. Haven’t they worked out yet that women were given the right to vote decades ago?

I had originally been prepared to give Mr 72% the benefit of the doubt, wanting to believe that my lack of a welcome letter had been due to an oversight on the part of those in his office who scan the mail for new electorate members.

I am no longer prepared to give any such concession. For now here is the evidence that the National Party is of a sexist bent and is a Party which still appears to dwell in the halcyon days of the 1950s, where real women were unpaid servants who stayed in the kitchen, laundry and nursery while real men were the bread winners and expected dinner on the table every night and clean socks and underwear in their drawers every week.

What we need here is an education program to gently break the awful news that women can now vote to the party faithful. Perhaps there are still a few old suffragettes that could be asked to perform the task, and to also help the NP understand that women are now considered to be the equals of their male counterparts.

Trained nurses (male ones, of course) could be standing by to treat the inevitable signs of trauma and shock. The news that Australia’s Prime Minister is a woman could be shared at the same time, though only if a resuscitation trolley is nearby, re-stocked and ready to go.

Instead of the CWA, perhaps one of the Men’s Sheds could provide the refreshments whilst all this is happening. Just to reinforce the message of gender equality.
Shame on you, National Party. I know that your ranks are rife with some pretty strange bitter and twisted people. But this exclusive behaviour has now put you completely beyond the pale, and has therefore assigned you in my eyes to the outer darkness found in the gospel according to Matthew. For while I am happy to have you call me names and send me hate mail, seeing me as an inferior cannot be tolerated in this day and age.

From now on, I demand to be treated with the very same disdain that you show my husband.