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God through lenses

We know that the human notion of God has been at the centre of so very many wars throughout history, and still remains so, in Israel and Palestine, for example. This idea, of religion being at the centre of war is so often used, almost as a weapon against religion and the people within it, in some cases. However, what is not oft discussed is how the human notion of God, or religion has also been the cause of so much peace in the world. Figures such as the Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa, come to mind.

For many of us in our own community, too, religion can often be used as a grounds for conflict. It has been too often where I have heard, in our own community, offensive words used against people of another faith to the person using the language. Again, religion can be used as a weapon against religion and the people within it. However, what is not written enough about, is how religion guides the actions of so many people who are selflessly doing good in our community, Azem Elmez, for example, has helped to raise a great amount of money for many worthy causes and visited many people in prison as a Muslim chaplain.

So we find that religion, or a person’s idea of God can be both the start and the end of war.

As a Buddhist Agnostic man, I believe in Buddhist philosophies strongly. I too, believe in a notion of God as an Agnostic, as there is no specific idea of God in Buddhist teachings. This is a belief I have developed, not through birth into a religion, but through an exploration of world religions in contrast with my personal values and ideologies. This is a notion I have developed with the assistance of religious education in schools, which was largely a christian education.

This is true of many schools, that religious education is predominantly grounded in Christian education rather than a view of many religions and spirituality. This means that children grow up with a view, at least through our education system, of Christianity being the primary religion, viewing God almost exclusively through the lens of Christianity. As an Agnostic, I hold no animosity toward Christian values, but to look at God blinkered can be a dangerous thing.

To know a persons idea of God, to know their values, is to know a great deal about a person, you begin to see their vision for themselves, their family, their place within the world, how they value others and what they live for. This too is true of people who do not believe in a God. So to know more of God through different lenses is to know that God can be seen through different lenses. It is not enough to know of the existence of other lenses, but to actually look through them.

If one can see God through many lenses, even if not to engage with God through these lenses, one can exercise one of the vital elements of peace: empathy.

Emotion and Humanity

The last two decades have seen a strange phenomena occur in Australian politics, some would debate it is part of a much greater problem in Australian Politics, but I am only talking about this phenomena in one area of policy in this instance. I speak of the politics of fear; specifically on the topic of refugees that arrive to Australia by boat.

The language used by politicians from the two old parties; Labor and the Coalition, is often loaded with vitriol and irrational judgement when talking about refugees. The very terms “boat people” and “illegal immigrants” are terms that are used to demean the integrity of human beings trying to flee their homes for fear of death. When did it suddenly become acceptable, and at times encouraged, to incriminate human beings before official judgement of any sort?

I wish I could say that our unfair judgement of refugees was restricted exclusively to our discourse, however, like almost every other instance, our discourse reflects the way we treat the people we are talking about. The word “detention centre” is used to describe the place in which we send refugees who arrive to this country by boat: Detention centres are places where we house people for an indefinite period of time, without trial and with no certainty of their future. After imagining myself in this situation for just a few moments, I begin to imagine that this is possibly what hell would feel like.

What’s more, the people who are living in these detention centres are quite likely to develop a mental illness, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; which is archaically referred to as “shell shock”. Furthermore, it is not just adults that are kept in these conditions, but children of all ages. Now imagining my young brothers being subjected to such a situation, I begin to imagine what a blind rage or a feeling of absolute helplessness would feel like.

And if I were to live through these feelings of living in hell or feeling helpless for a long period of time, how ever could I cope with these overwhelming emotions? How could I cope seeing my children, my mother and father, my friends slowly lose hope and their will to live while they wait in limbo for years on end, how could I keep a smile on my face? How could I stop myself from lashing out? How could I stop myself from climbing on the roof in desperation demanding my, and my friends’ and family’s release?

These are human emotions to grossly inhuman conditions.

Yet, with the reality of these situations so blatant, the two old parties have and continue to lock up every refugee that arrives to Australia by boat, using words to encourage people to fear people who seek refuge in Australia by boat, suggesting these human beings are a threat to our security, our jobs, our way of life and our culture. And for what end? For what reason? How could successive governments and their oppositions not see past this irrational fear-politics?

These are inhumane motions in a greater human condition.

A future for our future

I would like to applaud the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce for taking the initiative to try and find a solution to the most visible sign of youth disengagement and restlessness in our community, specifically, the all too often reported incidences of violence in the Maude Street Mall. Rather than condemn and marginalise these young people further, the Chamber of Commerce has given young people the chance to have their say on what they would like to see going on in their community. The voice of young people is all too often silenced under an archaic attitude of children (or young people) being seen and not heard. I think we can all identify that had we not expressed ourselves when we were young, we would not have had the opportunity to learn first hand what is subjectively right and wrong.

The overwhelming response from these surveys was that young people wanted live music played of an afternoon in the Maude Street Mall. It is no surprise, given the vibrant and successful music scene in Shepparton, from the highly successful 3630 festival, regular live music at Yahoo Bar, Lemon Tree Cafe and the Attik, to the Take the Rap and Shine Festival coming up this weekend, Shepparton should be proud of the vast talents we have nurtured. What’s more we should continue to nurture these talents in our community. To further nurture such talent we must allow young people to take the lead.

If we are to have an event FOR young people, we must acknowledge that in order to ensure its sustainability it must, too, be an event created BY young people. Shepparton has a great array of talent here too. From the 3630 festival to the events and activities of Word and Mouth, the young people of Shepparton are active in delivering entertaining events for young people. This means that young people are learning to organise, lead, collaborate and facilitate, and often better than people twice their age. What’s more, this gives young people the opportunity to engage in activities that are meaningful and fulfilling to them, whether they be organising the event, performing on stage, promoting the event, cooking food for the event or sitting back and enjoying the show. In short, this gives young people a viable alternative to passive boredom, community disengagement or destructive restlessness.

I urge the Shepparton Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Shepparton City Council to build on this survey and provide young people the opportunity to follow through with the idea of seeing live music in the Maude Street Mall, it won’t take much if you let young people take the lead. What’s more, you will be nurturing the future leaders and business owners of this city.

All colour, no heart

Andrew Bolt is constantly making his views known, often in the most crude and uncensored way he possibly can. It is no surprise that I disagree with 99% of what he says, but for the most I will defend his right to express his opinion freely. However, his recent court trial suggests that he may have grossly overstepped the line between free speech and respect for human beings.

I have written many times before my disdain for political correctness and all that it implies, as it prescribes a specific set of rules around how we converse about and with others. I am, though, an advocate for informed respect in language. This means that instead of regurgitating a word from a cultural authority, we are instead treating others how we would like to be treated and asking others how they would like to be treated.

In some respects there are almost universally accepted words that we can and cannot use to refer to other human beings; words that are disrespectful in their very definition. Also, there are topics or approaches to subjects that will almost universally conjure a feeling of hatred, anger, fear or sadness. It is almost universally accepted that we, as humans, do not like to insult or unnecessarily hurt other humans.

What Andrew Bolt has allegedly done is call into question the ancestry of a group of humans in questioning their Aboriginality on the basis of the hue of their skin. The humans Bolt is questioning undoubtedly have no doubt about who their parents are, who their grandparents are, who their great grandparents are. These same humans undoubtedly have pride for who they are, their ancestry, the culture of their family.

Regardless of the verdict of this trial, I propose that to question the ancestry, origin or family background of a human is to insult their very being, to call into question the foundation of the values and morals of a human. I propose that this is disrespect and that it should not be tolerated in any form, this, is not informed respect.

Green In A Blue Pocket

Today’s blog takes more of a reflective look at human beings and our place in our environment. As a Buddhist, this takes many forms. I am focusing, in particular, on one meditation that speaks particularly to me. It follows much like this:

Even in a pile of rubbish, castaway by the roadside, a lotus there can bloom, of sweet scent and pleasing the soul.

I feel it necessary to add, on a more pesamistic note: Even in the most fertile of ground, a lotus there can wilt, it’s sweet scent disappearing, devastating the soul.

If we take the lotus to be a human, and the ground or rubbish to be our sociology-environmental foundation, we can reflect on a humans place within their home.

So: Even in Olympic Ave, Shepparton or Redfern or Dandenong, Somalia, Mexico or Laos; a wise, insightful and joyous person can prosper. This person can empower their land and communities and bring hope where there was once only hopelessness. Even in a blue pocket, green can grow.

Equally, Even in Kialla Lakes, Toorak, St Kilda, Coogee, North Shore, Monaco, Manhattan, Paris or the Arab Emirates an ignorant, miserable person can be formed from what could have been the opposite. This person can bring down their neighbours and obstruct that which is joyful. Even in a green pocket, green can wither.

Last night, a bus driver reaffirmed to me an oft ignored value of human kind in general: do not judge.

Lachlan

Der-Politics

Surprise! Australian Politics has taken a turn for the unintelligent! (Sarcasm font would come in handy here). Sadly this is something we have come to expect from Australian Politics; the sort of immature name-calling that even the United Congress of School-Yard Bullies would label low, before giving Tony Abbott a wedgie.

News today reveals the latest chapter in the name calling circus that is our elected representatives of Parliament, this time Christopher Pyne very ambiguously  drawing a line between an accusation with climate denial and holocaust denial. But this is not the only case of genocide and dictator related slander from the Libs this month. At the start of the month, Sophie Mirabella, renowned for her Palin-esque, un-canny ability to sprout off all things dumb and not thought through, likened Julia Gillard to Colonel Gadaffi.

And where has all this incredulous abuse stemmed from? The debate on Climate Change. No matter what your view on the science of climate change, we can agree on one thing. Climate change policy and specifically a carbon tax requires rigorous, intelligent debate on an environmental, social and economic level. The majority of the coalition seem to have lost this memo.

It would seem that the minority government have caught the coalition off guard on this topic, to the point where they must resort to slanderous name-calling and over-offensive accusations. To me, this reveals that despite climate change being an inherently scientific topic, climate change has become the most emotionally charged debate in Australian society, particularly to those that do not understand it (or do not WANT to understand it). Climate change science and, in particular, it’s solutions, challenge the very fabric of capitalist society, the very things we know to be true of our world. When this fabric is challenged, it suddenly becomes personal (read: feminist doctrine; “the personal is political”). Because of it’s personal nature and the fact that many of us cannot completely comprehend climate change, many of us tend to act irrationally, and rather than trusting the experts in the field, we flock to those who cannot understand it either. Or at least some of us do.

The shocking part of this is that those that should provide leadership in our society, or at least some of them, simply follow the lack of understanding. Instead of debating the economics, societal and environmental impacts of the carbon tax, the coalition choose to block their ears, close their eyes and shout non-sensical, ill-considered ramblings at the minority government.

Sadly none of this behaviour surprises me, in the slightest. It sickens me.

Lachlan

Blogospheric initiation

Well! Here I am, and to be perfectly honest I never thought I would find myself in the blogging world. Typically I have seen blogging as rather self-centred and pretentious and not really ‘worth it’. However, I have recently been swayed and inspired by my friend’s blog “The Huntress vs The Headline” which, by the way, I highly recommend!

Essentially I came to the realisation that a blog would be not far from my ‘core values’ as I am constantly  expressing my opinions and values through the mediums of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, so being a sucker for social networking and Web 2.0 in general, I thought it would be not too much trouble after all to join the “blogosphere”.

In my blogs you will typically find a plethora of miscellaneous meanderings of a man from Mooroopna. It will be political, as I suspect you have found this blog through one of my many social networks and know that I am often telling people what I think and open up the flood gates for hearty discussion from my friends who have varying opinions on varying issues. I expect much of the same on this blog!

I will sometimes be more light hearted and post interesting tidbits, scintillating fascinatories and inspiring stuff.

As a new blogger, I am also very open to new ideas to make my blog more betterer so please post any constructive criticism for me to improve the facade or content of my blog!

 

Lachlan