Conservatives grow with an obsession for a squeaky clean image from their formative years. Resulting, in uniform achievements in the leadership stakes. Like studious bookkeepers they watch the double line ledgers in case there is an overflow in the trickling effect. Labour by contrast has had a crop of fallible leaders that grew to the status of Shakespearean heroes. Their hallmarks have been charisma, boldness, vision and the indefatigable desire to make a difference. One side shows preoccupation with quibbling and grandstanding as modern-day Sir Oracles, amassing wealth but little else. The other side labours to expand and nourish the common wealth. It is good that we are gifted with this splendid isolation, sheltered from the tsunamis that threaten and rock the continents oceans away. Our leaders only have to contend with minor swells, mostly of their own making. O happy lot!
Struggling to contain the toey dogs of war, the world awaits in apprehension. Allies, half a globe away (comatosed by post colonial inertia), see familiar clouds gathering on the horizon, reminiscent of times when they went to policing and peace keeping missions all over Asia. The crusade is still inspired by the spirit of democracy. Democracy, seen by some as panacea for all our woes. But, while they peddle their opiates around the world, they seem indifferent to the millions staving at their door-steps. They are blind to the inequalities and squalor in the shanty towns across the globe. In their comforts they seem resigned to the destruction of our planet and its ecosystems. All too hard, and someone else’s problems. Am I my brother’s keeper? Detachment indeed!
Why don’t these prophets, newly inspired, first attend to their own backyards; cleaning up their problematic electoral systems and methods of good governance? Remove the log from your own eyes brothers, before scrutinizing what’s in the other’s eye. There is no one size to fit all cultures. Then, there is that lame excuse that this is the best system we’ve got! Surely those who suffered under authoritarian rules across the world were meant to believe something similar – “It’s as good as it gets”! Why should citizens, anywhere, accept politicians too lazy to work on, either perfecting their own systems, or, still better, work diligently to create a better, more efficient, and just system? If solutions are not found soon, we may become the “late” generation.
|Matthew 18:15-20 ©|
Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone … if he refuses to listen to the community, treat him like a pagan or a tax collector.
‘I tell you solemnly, whatever you bind on earth shall be considered bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be considered loosed in heaven.
Today’s passage comes after the parable of the Lost Sheep, which is a lesson on God’s mercy and compassion. Notably, that passage opens with the caution to treat little children with proper care. Today’s text is an instruction on how disciples should treat differences with and faults of their brothers (and sisters). Basically, the call is to treat the offenders with compassion. If reasonable attempts to bring the brother to reconciliation fail, i.e. if he shows no signs of the wanting to alter his ways, treat him as a gentile or tax collector (outsiders).
The sacrament of Penance (reconciliation) hinges on this edict by Christ – the extension of God’s mercy and compassion to His beloved creations. He will give them every chance to repent and recover a state of grace (friendship) with Him. The Church believes that no sin is too big that it cannot be forgiven by God. Though people may offend and reoffend, 70X7 (infinitely), absolution is guaranteed, if the contrition is from the heart. How then can a priest (representing Christ), break his professional oath of confidentiality. It is essential, both for the process of healing, and is a reassurance that the contrition is between the sinner and his savior. What is bound here is bound also in heaven. The Church cannot surrender this sacred duty. Not only priests, but many believers will be prepared to be martyrs in the service of God. A nation built on Christian values and traditions would do wrong to dismantle what is a practice of religious freedom.
The prince is here to make his plea. Every crow in town has heard it. With the lusty mob at the sidelines I have cried, “Hang him for his bad choices.” The courts allow it, the Church allows it and every Australian allows it. So let the show begin.
Both parties are entrenched for a long drawn battle for attrition. For, neither side will flinch away from an unsatisfying outcome at this stage. They are prepared to go to the top courts. Yet. When the battle is lost and won, what then? Will our confidence in our social structures and legal process be vindicated? Will the winning of the holy grail (the golden pound of flesh) satisfy those whose hopes have been amplified? In short, will we accept the umpire’s decision (s)? Can a verdict pave the way for meaningful rehabilitation? Will sullied reputations be restored by true contrition? Will we be big enough to absolve the villains of the piece with, “It was a good bit of copy while it lasted, mate”.
The people cry for peace. This “Just War” has gone on for too long. An entire generation’s best have been sacrificed in the the cause of righteousness. And, at what a cost of resources – and Time. Happy only those who quibble with justice to sharpen their weapons of death and destruction.
They all want peace. But, peace with honour and at no loss of face. Fools! There is a blood price to pay! Its currency, humility and contrition.
My mother would be bemused by some of the “Feminists” of today. She just took for granted the equality of all creatures, great and small. In a male dominated environment, she was at home among educators, parish groups and community at large, ignoring the gender differences that may have existed. She mixed it with the best at Bridge, badminton, academic discussions and social action. She had a large heart and she gave from it unreservedly, always with a smile and genuine concern. It earned her the nick name of “Crackers”. And, she wore it proudly as though a badge.
A simple girl from a remote place in the Indian Himalayas, she graduated with a bachelors’ degree in education when few women ever went beyond matriculation. As a young graduate she was appointed Assistant Principal at a girl’s middle school. She gave up the job to marry, have children and play housewife to a district official. After ten years, with the family situation and the need to be self-sufficient she re-entered the world of teaching. Gifted and flexible, she responded to the needs of the school, teaching classes, when necessary, from the primary level to final year secondary students. Out of the classroom, she coached in sports like rounders and and net ball. She directed plays for the annual concerts. She helped introducing debating and elocutions to the school.
The school authorities, with a missionary bias, relied on her to fill many technical and skills gaps in its administration. She would prepare things like the school timetable. She coached and mentored many young people, preparing them for teaching careers of their own. When the headmistress of the kindergarten left, the authorities turned to her to fill a big void. She threw herself into it just as she did in all things; imbibing emerging methods of teaching the “Three Rs”. She then disseminated the skills among other members of the staff. Vacations and off times were dedicated to the institution she loved. She went out of her way to help in the establishment of sister schools in Meerut and New Delhi.
The parish priest and the nuns at the local convent knew they could call on her assistance when necessary. They knew mum could approach district and education authorities through her contacts. But, her circle of friends went beyond the Parish and school. Her friendships went across religious groups, communities and social status; people who could rely on her as much as she relied on them.
As an activist she started early. While a school girl, she earned a reprimand from the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, for arranging civic action against grog shops in her town. In a post card he admonished her to give up the protest and return instead to her books. Later, as a young woman she was an organiser of a strike by the Agra city cleaners. She lamented the action because it caused a stink around the city. She continued to help the marginalised through her life. At one stage she was being wooed for support by two rival political parties as a potential voter winner.
For all this she was rewarded by a large crowd that materialised at her funeral to pay their final respects.