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budgetary nihilism: a response to the deferral of foreign aid

Courtesy of the ABC: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201305/r1115368_13599551.jpg

Yesterday I was privileged enough to have an article of mine appear on the ABC Religion and Ethics website.

The article is entitled Budgetary nihilism: Deferring foreign aid signals a distorted moral vision. It discusses the recent budgetary decision to defer Australia’s foreign aid commitments under the Millennium Development Goals to 2017–18.

[In this decision to defer our foreign aid commitments] there is, it seems to me, no clearer indication of the nihilism that now permeates politics, for what other than political nihilism could account for the moral obstinacy of diverting foreign aid to help cover a perceived budgetary shortfall? The obscenity of this decision is only compounded when one realises that this shortfall is itself a product of the irrational rhetoric and shameless opportunism of political parties scrambling to annihilate one another and appease a shrill and self-interested minority.

On top of all this, there is the inescapable irony that Prime Minister Julia Gillard recently assumed the role of co-chair of the UN Millennium Development Goal Advocacy Group, charged with “building political will, rallying additional support, and spurring collective action to achieve the [Millenium Development Goals] by 2015.” It is unclear how a leader of our country can do this with any integrity or credibility, given the immorality of one of the world’s most prosperous countries diverting promised money away from programs for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The piece goes on to discuss an approach to the underlying ethics of foreign aid, particularly from a Christian perspective.

The article was also discussed on ABC’s Radio National Drive program (in which I am referred to as a “fiery … obscure PhD student”, which made me laugh).

The article on ABC R&E is largely an updated version of my essay from this time last year (also in response to aid deferrals in the budget) entitled Foreign aid and moral vision.

Enjoy!

MCA

Feature image: http://www.abc.net.au/news/linkableblob/4689470/data/swan-gears-up-for-budget-data.jpg
Small image: http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201305/r1115368_13599551.jpg
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the jungle booklet: reflections on a trip to india

Back in October I spent 16 days travelling around India with a couple of friends/co-workers visiting some of  TEAR Australia’s partner projects. While that trip occurred a couple of months ago, I’ve been meaning to write something about it since I got back—better late than never I suppose.

Arriving at Delhi Airport is, in most respects, much like arriving at any other major airport in the Asia-Pacific. It’s big, it’s busy and it’s boiling. But what was, until the 1980s, according to one local, “a few runways and some dirt” is now a facility rivalling its cousins in Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney. In a sense the airport is a microcosm of India’s massive growth over recent decades, growth that has benefitted some but also left many behind. With a population tipped to be the largest in the world in the next decade, India is complex: it is a fast growing economy (6.5% growth in 2011-12[1]; as of October 2012 India had 61 billionaires) but it is also home to around one-third of the world’s extreme poor (those living on less than US$1.25 a day).

India is also a place of great beauty. Deserts under the sun’s glow meet lush, green jungles; ancient culture meets modern technology; a multitude of languages meet as neighbours. Stunning ancient architecture and monuments are to be found all over. India is colour personified, both in its natural beauty and in its culture. This colour is particularly striking in the clothing of India’s women—the vibrancy of the sea of saris you experience everyday is hard to describe. And the food…

The first day of our trip was spent Read the rest of this entry

abc religion and ethics: foreign aid and moral vision

Yesterday an article I wrote was posted on the ABC Religion and Ethics website entitled Foreign aid and moral vision. Here is an excerpt:

…This leads me to the second reason why we should question that aid is about the wealthy sacrificing their wealth to the poor: the assumption that aid is about charity and generosity. When such intentions, however virtuous and commendable, become the sole moral lens through which foreign aid is viewed, the criticism that aid is really a form of the “White Saviour Complex” can become all too accurate. The truth is that aid is not primarily about generosity – it is about reparation.

In this construal, the “White Saviour Complex” is in fact a “White Sinner Complex,” and it is not inappropriate that we should suffer from it. In truth, the way each of us lives is in some way connected to a global economy that exploits someone on the other end of the production chain. As Thomas Pogge has written:

“affluent countries, partly through the global institutional order they impose, bear a great causal and moral responsibility for the massive global persistence of severe poverty. Citizens of these countries thus have not merely a positive duty to assist innocent persons mired in life-threatening poverty, but also a more stringent negative duty to work politically and personally toward ceasing, or compensating for, their contribution to this ongoing catastrophe.”

That every major world religion ascribes in some way to the ethic of “love your neighbour as yourself” should lead us to deep moral reflection: Who is my neighbour in such a globalised world?

You can read the rest here.

MCA

“enough is enough”: walter brueggemann on abundance and scarcity

Below is an article by Walter Brueggemann entitled “Enough is Enough”. Brueggemann is a world-renowned Old Testament scholar, prolific author and a prophetic voice in a world dying for lack of imagination. I don’t normally post exterior articles, but this is more than worth the exception.

Source: The Other Side, November-December 2001, Vol. 37, No. 5.

Enough is Enough

“In feeding the hungry crowd, Jesus reminds us that the wounds of scarcity can be healed only by faith in God’s promise of abundance. “
by Walter Brueggemann

We live in a world where the gap between scarcity and abundance grows wider every day. Whether at the level of nations or neighborhoods, this widening gap is polarizing people, making each camp more and more suspicious and antagonistic toward the other.

But the peculiar thing, at least from a biblical perspective, is that the rich – the ones with the abundance – rely on an ideology of scarcity, while the poor – the ones suffering from scarcity – rely on an ideology of abundance. How can that be? The issue involves whether there is enough to go around – enough food, water, shelter, space. An ideology of scarcity says no, there’s not enough, so hold onto what you have. In fact, don’t just hold onto it, hoard it. Put aside more than you need, so that if you do need it, it will be there, even if others must do without. Read the rest of this entry

“the sun is squashing us”: caley’s story from kenya

Below is a story from a friend named Caley. Caley is 17 and just finished school. She also just went on a trip to Western Kenya as part of one of TEAR Australia’s Development Educations Experience Programs (DEEPs). Caley writes:

We went to learn about what effective development looks like, and to meet people whose lives have been changed by the programs that TEAR supports. One of the things many Kenyans said to me while I was there, was to tell Australians about their story when I returned. I want to do that now!

Below she recounts a story that relates to climate change and its effects on the poor in Kenya. I hope you find this story as moving and challenging as I did. (Note: this story is unedited.)

Sitting under a tree, on the dusty earth, were four Kenyan men. On a small solar powered radio they were listening to a sermon. We were on a tour of the village and we stopped to talk to them. It was the words of one of these men that changed my perceptions about climate change, and deeply convicted me about the action I need to take against it.

I did not catch the name of the eldest man under the tree. I remember his words though: “The sun is squashing us” he said. “We pray for rain and it feels like the devil replies”. Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 3)

Welcome to the third and final instalment of my interview with antiwar activist Simon Moyle. Perhaps you would like to begin by reading Part 1 and Part 2.

If you are new to the life.remixed blog you might want to subscribe to receive articles like this regularly. You can sign up via RSS Feed, or by using the email subscribe function in the column to the right, near the top.

So far in our discussion Simon you have mentioned and quoted Gandhi, and that raises a worthwhile question. Everyone has heard of people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., 20th Century icons who brought about significant social change and who were influenced by the nonviolent teachings of Jesus Christ.
But to most people these figures seem legendary, almost superhuman; what have their legacies got to do with us, in our lives?

Hagiography has a lot to answer for in setting up Gandhi and MLK Jr. as unattainable ideals. You really need to read their stories to learn their struggles and failures. MLK was a notorious philanderer and adulterer who spent much of his life in depression and self-doubt. I mean, the civil rights movement was often a mess of egos, backstabbing and embarrassing failure. Gandhi was often a terrible father and husband – his eldest son ended up dying young and homeless. To some people these failings invalidate their work and witness – but to me it humanises them, makes their example more compelling. If they were able to achieve everything they achieved despite their brokenness, perhaps I have something to offer too.

We also have to realise that MLK and Gandhi alone – just like Hitler alone – couldn’t really achieve much at all. They were made to look good by the people who surrounded them – the ones who did the hard yards out of the public eye, going to gaol, being beaten. Certainly those people no doubt learned from the Gandhis and MLKs and looked up to them but did just as heroic things without the glory. Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of this interview with nonviolence trainer Simon Moyle. If you haven’t already it might be worth reading Part 1.

If you are new to the life.remixed blog you might want to subscribe to receive articles like this regularly. You can sign up via RSS Feed, or by using the email subscribe function in the column to the right, near the top.

People often cite Hitler as an example of a historical case where violence was necessary to end greater suffering. Is this true; was violence necessary to stop a person like Hitler? Could there have been another way?

Hitler is too convenient a scapegoat I reckon. Now certainly, Hitler had some truly horrific ideas and did some terrible things. But Hitler was just one person. Average height, average weight, normal intelligence (some would say abnormal, but you know what I mean, he wasn’t a supergenius). How is it that one man carries the weight for an entire regime, and the evil it unleashed?

Well partly because we like to have a simple scapegoat, because once we begin to unravel the myth of Hitler as the solely responsible evil agent it asks some uncomfortable questions about ourselves. Because let’s face it, Hitler alone could not have been a murderous regime, started a war and killed six million Jews. He needed a whole bunch of people to help him. He also needed a whole bunch of people to stand passively by and do nothing to resist him. Read the rest of this entry

exploring violence & peace: an interview with nonviolence trainer simon moyle (part 1)

On life.remixed I have written often on issues of peace and violence from a theological and biblical perspective. The result has been a robust ongoing conversation as life.remixed readers have wrestled with articulating Christian responses to war and violence.

This has raised a variety of questions, some of which I have received many, many times throughout the life of this blog. To help respond to some of these questions I recently sought out a friend and nonviolence trainer, Simon Moyle.

Simon is an ordained Baptist Minister in Melbourne, nonviolence trainer with Pace e Bene Australia, husband, and father of three children. He is an antiwar activist and writer. You can read some of his work at New Matilda, Eureka Street, ABC Religion, The Drum and Waging Nonviolence.

This is the first of what will be a three part interview. Enjoy!

Simon, you are a peace activist who has been especially active in resisting Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan. How did you get involved in peace activism? Read the rest of this entry

q&r: luke 19 and the parable of the minas

A Facebook message I received today read simply:

Luke 19 – parable of the 10 Minas. Please explain?

Straightforward. I like that.

The Parable of the Ten Minas is a well-known parable whose popular interpretation has God as the nobleman and Christians as the servants. In this reading faithful servants are those who are productive. We all have different levels of resources, and this is taken into account by God. Ultimately though the faithful are rewarded and the unproductive are punished.*

The problem with this reading is that it portrays God as a cold, cruel, greedy elitist. It assumes that the nobleman in the parable, who is a wealthy character, should be equated with God. As I have said previously this is a mistake; Luke consistently portrays the rich in less than flattering ways throughout his Gospel:

  • … he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. (1:53)
  • … woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation. (6:24)
  • … the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich towards God. (12:21)

It would be strange if Luke suddenly equated God with a rich man.

If the nobleman is not God, and the story is not about productivity, what exactly is going on in this parable? Read the rest of this entry

for you will always have the poor with you…

Recently I was asked if I truly believed that global poverty could ever be “fixed”. The question was accompanied by a reference to Mark 14:7—“For you always have the poor with you…”

Have you ever wondered what Jesus might have meant in Mark 14:7? Was he saying that we should not bother helping the poor, since the problem of poverty will never end? Perhaps he was saying personal acts of devotion were superior to helping the poor?

Check out my latest article from TEAR’s Target Magazine, entitled “For you will always have the poor with you…“, for my perspective on this often misunderstood passage of Scripture.

MCA

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