THE POLITICAL COMMUNITY
Human beings are made to live together. We cannot survive without others and can only grow and achieve our potential in relationship with others. Societies need some kind of authority to coordinate or regulate the network of relationships between individuals and groups, providing laws, institutions and procedures that foster the good of each and of all. The role of the State then, is to serve the human person by organizing and promoting the common good.
While some use their faith to justify acts of violence, is religion really the root of such conflicts? An interview with theologian, historian and author of Fields of Blood, Karen Armstrong.
Palestinians are last defenders against Zionism – Gaza-born journalist Ramzy Baroud
In this speech recorded for conferences in New Zealand and Australia (March and April 2016), Dr. Ramzy Baroud explains the nature of the fight ahead and why Palestinians need to reach a critical mass in their fight for equality and justice. Baroud has been writing about the Middle East for more than 20 years. He is an internationally-syndicated columnist, a media consultant, an author of several books and the founder of .
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Negative gearing the end of the Australian dream
Historically, having a largely home-owning population has ensured both the social benefit of housing, and an economic benefit through enforced saving with long-term growth. In contrast, the negative gearing push splits the cultural and economic meaning of home ownership, because it focuses on investment. Negative gearing promotes property ownership but not home ownership. Thus the social benefits of home ownership that we have come to expect give way to bare economic indicators, writes Kate Galloway for Eureka Street.
Fighting corruption in Indonesia
In a bid to stamp out corruption in government in Indonesia, a newly established organisation there has been set up to encourage Catholic participation in socio-political issues. It says it wants to help would-be Catholic politicians prepare and run in regional elections next year.
May day: time for amendment of life
Joe Egerton draws on Christian political theology to analyse the post-referendum crisis in political authority in the United Kingdom. What needs to be changed for Parliament to function with the consent of the people and facilitate the agenda that the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, has set out?
What kind of society does this budget enable?
It is important to move from the budget to consider the plan it enables. If the budget is for the whole nation, it should look to the good of all, with each person and business having a responsibility for the good of others, particularly the most vulnerable. When budgets are constructed in such a way that the cost of their balancing is gross inequality and the exclusion of vulnerable people from participation in society, they should be rejected. They do not serve but betray the economy, writes Andrew Hamilton for Eureka Street.
New Nationalist myths entrench white denial
Dismantling white myths about history is a positive step, a potential pin in an ethnic nationalism which lingers here. Yet these posters pop up often not in bastions of that denial, but rather on walls across Western Sydney, in suburbs whose demographics hardly tell tales of fortresses of white privilege. It seems that, less than a project to dismantle white myths about history, the popularity of these stories is more an attempt to bring non-white Australians into a new myth in the making.
40 maps that explain the Middle East
Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today, compiled by Max Fisher.
How the Seychelles saved Syria
Panama Papers revealed how a seemingly insular regime has harnessed the tools of globalisation to ensure its survival.
Pilger: Why Clinton is more dangerous than Trump
An edited version of John Pilger’s address at the University of Sydney, entitled ‘A World War Has Begun’.
What to do about my sinking Island home
Ursula Rakova is Executive Director of Tulele Peisa ("Sailing the Waves On Our Own"). She comes from the Carteret Islands, a small Pacific group whose population of about 2500 are among the world's first climate refugees.
Great Barrier Reef’s new battle
Warmer seas are causing unprecedented levels of bleaching at the northern end of the Great Barrier Reef while, inland, plans are being made for a vast new Queensland coalmining development. Conservationists are now launching a legal battle against the development on the grounds not just of the environmental footprint of the mine itself, but of the impact on the reef of the burning of all the coal subsequently produced. The Guardian Weekly reports on what could be a landmark court case for the environment taking precedence over industrial affairs.
East Timor and the emperor’s "old" clothes
Dr Adam Henry discusses newly released documents exposing self-righteous and dispassionate attitudes of Australian diplomats during the war in 1970s East Timor.
Pedagogy of the Oppressed
I first read Paulo Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed in 1973 with heart-throbbing excitement. My life has never been the same since. Given when I read it, no book has influenced me more than Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
Militarised refugees – a success story
Current events in Syria and the broader Middle East have brought forth the idea of “militarized” refugees, writes Jim Miles for the Palestine Chronicle.
The TPP, investor disputes and indigenous communities
Those who point out that we already have investor-state dispute settlement provisions in other trade deals and ‘so far so good, we haven’t had to worry about them’ … When it comes to arms reduction and nuclear proliferation, do we say ‘Hey, we haven’t had World War III yet, so it’s OK to keep on building the bombs and spreading them around?’
Next onslaught in Gaza: why the status quo is a precursor for war
The suffering in Gaza has never ceased, not since the last war, the previous one or the one before that. But only when Israel begins to mull over war as a real option, do many of us return to Gaza to discuss the various violent possibilities that lie ahead, writes Ramzy Baroud in The Palestine Chronicle.
The Hurley legacy: remembering an anti- apartheid leader
Discovering the causes of major social problems then seeking to bring about change is, as Hurley recognised, a massive task. That is what drew him to the ecumenical and inter-faith movements. Despite our differences, he would say, there are so many things we object to and could tackle together: human rights abuses, poverty and inequality, violence and war, to mention just a few, writes Paddy Kearney for Thinking Faith.
Dairy tariffs still in place - why did we sign TPP?
Now that we are at last allowed to know a little more about the TPPA negotiated in our name, writes Bryan Gould, it is clear that the free trade goal that was said to be the main point of the exercise has not been.
Free or managed trade?
"You will hear much about the importance of the TPP for ‘free trade’. The reality is that this is an agreement to manage its members’ trade and investment relations – and to do so on behalf of each country’s most powerful business lobbies. Make no mistake: It is evident from the main outstanding issues, over which the negotiators are still haggling, that the TPP is not about free trade." Economist Joseph Stiglitz in Chris Trotter’s column October 9
Jesuit doco highlights Honduran injustice
A new documentary that explores violence and injustice in Honduras from the perspective of journalists at a Jesuit-run radio station was released late last month, coinciding with the 35th anniversary of Archbishop Oscar Romero's murder in neighbouring El Salvador.
Laudato Si’ a revolutionary document
Pope Francis’ encyclical offers a prophetic message – bold and direct, says Joseph Camilleri OAM. It is able to synthesise spirituality, science, ecology and society. It is a transformative document because it represents a seismic shift in mainstream Christian thought about humanity’s nature with science and nature. Watch here
Education needed to overcome media superficiality
Last week's image of Aylan Kurdi was emblematic of a range of current social crises: religious and ethnic conflict, discrimination and inequality, terrorism, the plight of migrants and refugees. Western Sydney University Humanities lecturer James Arvanitakis sees education as the key to grappling with them beyond the knee-jerk response to the disturbing images, says Peter Kirkwood for Eureka Street
Pacific free trade deal hits the doldrums
Japan has made it clear it thinks New Zealand was the key major stumbling block to a successful conclusion of the Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. Alas, New Zealand proved to be the axle-breaking bump in the road that nobody saw until it was too late to slow down. The talks stalled in Hawaii last month and political commentator Gordon Campbell examines some of the hitches.
Blessed Oscar Romero’s courageous witness
On May 23, the holy archbishop of San Salvador will henceforth be known as Blessed Oscar Romero. But for the people of Central America, especially the poor and oppressed, he is already a saint, writes Tony Magliano for National Catholic Reporter.
Letter to NZ MPs warns against free trade pact
The picture of the Italian luxury liner Costa Concordia tilting dangerously on its side as it sank provides an apt metaphor for what the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) offers its signatories. Shapely but hopelessly unbalanced, its guts had been wrenched out forcing people to die below decks in terror and darkness, swamped by the in-rushing sea and trapped and powerless to change their situation. The captain and ship owners are denying all responsibility.
See also ISDS proposal misses the point
The common good ideal – alive if not well
It seems many Australian voters are disenchanted not only by the sense that we are losing that peculiarly Australian sense of a ‘fair go’ for all, but also that our institutions and political processes are disempowering, and our representatives somehow blinded to the need to work actively to reinstate the ideal and practice of a fair go.
Neoliberal notions of the common good
The heads of three of the world's largest multi-national companies - Google, Apple and Microsoft – have been grilled at the Senate inquiry into corporate tax evasion about the practice of moving profits from Australia to lower tax jurisdictions.
Time for a conversation about Australia’s future?
The report needs to be a story of opportunity and advancement, one that heralds the kind of country this generation can bequeath to the next, writes Sam Hurley in The Age.
Churchman’s advice for Joe Hockey
As a former business executive, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby speaks with particular authority on economic issues. In a recent landmark speech on the 'Good Economy' he stresses that everybody including the marginalised has a role to play. As our Coalition MPs undergo soul searching in order to reconnect with the Australian people, they might consider the virtues of a reduced pace of economic growth that has more universal benefit.
War by media and the triumph of propaganda
The fourth estate has been sold off to private interests. What's needed is a fifth estate, one that watches the watchers and practises real journalism, John Pilger writes from London for New Matilda.
Scientists undermined by attack campaigns – expert
Public health is being jeopardised by conflicts of interest in government appointments and dirty politics, an obesity expert says.
G20s chance to nail multinational tax dodgers
Thursday's Financial Review (6 November 2014) reported that Swedish furniture company IKEA's Australian arm has earned an estimated $1 billion in profits since 2003, almost all of which has been exported tax-free. Action to crack down on tax avoidance is on the agenda for the G20 in Brisbane, but it remains to be seen if the interests of developing countries will be looked after, writes Angela Owen for Eureka Street.
We need a Palestinian state,’ new EU foreign affairs chief says in Gaza
Federica Mogherini says world can’t afford a fourth Gaza war, and entire EU sees Palestinian statehood as ‘ultimate goal’.
Pushing down the wire fence separating Iraq from Syria, the militants of the Islamic State proclaimed jubilantly that Sykes-Picot was dead but was it really they who destroyed Sykes-Picot – the First World War agreement by which Britain and France divided the conquered Arab lands of the Ottoman Empire between themselves?
Towards the end of the Second World War, a 16-year-old boy was conscripted into the German Army and sent to the front near the Rhine in an infantry company of youths of a similar age. One evening, he was sent with a message to Battalion headquarters; he returned the next morning to find that his company of over a hundred had been overrun in the night by an Allied bomber attack and an armoured assault.
Gough Whitlam farewelled as giant of Australian politics
Former prime minister Gough Whitlam, who left a legacy of unprecedented and unmatched change in Australian politics when he died last month, was farewelled at a memorial service in Sydney on November 5.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott joined six former prime ministers and a plethora of dignitaries at Sydney Town Hall to honour the man who reformed the Australian Labor Party with a mantra of "crash through or crash".
Listen to Cape York’s indigenous leader Noel Pearson express "immense gratitude for the public service of this old man ... I can scarcely point to any white Australian political leader of his vintage and of generations following of whom it could be said, without a shadow of doubt, 'he harboured not a bone of racial, ethnic or gender prejudice in his body'."
Beware crusade rhetoric in Iraq conflict
Colossal blunders await us, unless our political leaders have a clear understanding of Islamic traditions of war and legitimacy, and why jihadist movements have gained such a hold in the Middle East.
Bigotry pipped at the post
The Abbott Government's excuse for abandoning amendments to racial discrimination legislation is a furphy, Max Chalmers writes for New Matilda.
The unjustified secrecy of the Abbott Government
The Abbott Government has withheld important information from the public on questionable grounds, and it has shielded itself from criticism by stifling debate on whether that secrecy is justified.
Society must lead crackdown on access to Internet porn
A Wellington father of three sons says only the community can bring about the changes needed to crackdown on Internet pornography after a group of boys and young men boasted on social media sites about their raping girls and young women who were drunk and sometimes underage.
Oscar Romero bound for church sainthood
It is the greatest grace and privilege of my life to have known and worked with Archbishop Romero and to have enjoyed his friendship, writes Julian Filochowski about the martyred cleric of El Salvador. There are times in life when one catches a fleeting glimpse of God at work in the world and Christ’s presence among us. The man we all knew as ‘Monseñor’ provided such a glimpse for me.
Credit to Julia
Women throughout Victoria came together on Sunday 10 November to mark the centenary of women’s suffrage in Australia and to pay tribute to former Prime Minister Julia Gillard under the banner, ‘credit where credit is due’. The event follows an advertisement in the major daily newspapers in July which Mary Crooks from the Victorian Women’s Trust says elicited ‘an extraordinary public response’.
Watch the event here
Cackling geese and taxes
Whenever public funds are made available for frowned upon projects they are described as taxpayers' money. The phrase rightly suggests that public funds are collected for the good of society, and so should not be spent wastefully or arbitrarily. But the phrase is rarely neutral. Taxpayers' money is misused, thrown away, squandered, wasted or cast at its unworthy objects.
The moral theology of getting involved in Syria
Traditionally, moral theologians have argued that to use military force justly, one must have a just cause; the use of force must be the last resort; success must be probable; the means must be proportionate; and the military action must be by a legitimate authority.
Chomsky on peace talks and the Syrian war
American philosopher and political commentator Noam Chomsky warns Syria ‘is descending into suicide’ and suggests that Syria will be partitioned into probably three regions; a Kurdish region – which is already forming – that could pull out and join in some fashion the semi-autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, maybe with some kind of deal with Turkey’. He made these comments in a phone interview with journalist Frank Barat, published in the Palestine Chronicle.
The Biggest Lie
Read Australian journalist John Pilger’s analysis of war.
Being church in a modern world
The Second Vatican Council document Gaudium et Spes, (The Church in the Modern World) spoke of, ‘a living exchange between the Church and the diverse cultures of people’. Jesuit philosopher Gerard J Hughes reflects on the Church’s dialogue with social and scientific culture. How can we best talk to our contemporaries about the truth of the
Meet Global Corruption’s hidden players
When the son of the president of a desperately poor country starts buying mansions and sports cars on an official monthly salary of $7,000, Charmian Gooch suggests corruption is probably somewhere in the picture. In a blistering, eye-opening talk (and through several specific examples), she details how global corruption trackers follow the money – to some surprisingly familiar faces.
Global Witness co-founder Charmian Gooch exposes how a global architecture of corruption is woven into the extraction and exploitation of natural resources.
Only the rich are getting richer
While governments of developed countries implemented austerity budgets to counter the economic slump in 2008, the number of individuals in the world with more than one million US dollars of free cash surged, says London School of Economics professor Robert Wade.
Being Palestinian in Israeli society
Towibah Mjdoob is researching how some Palestinians live within entirely Jewish surroundings, how the conflict between the two nations comes into play in their day-to-day lives. But very quickly, Mjdoob realises that she has become the subject of her own research.
When community organisations sup with the devil
A certain metaphorical framework sees community organisations as factories and the people they serve as consumers. It can be useful to focus attention on the costs and efficiency of programs. But when it becomes the master model for caring for human beings, it betrays all that most community organisations are about.
Another better way for Mahmoud Abbas
By Rima Merriman "The clearest distinction between [Mahmoud] Abbas's Fatah and their main competitor, Hamas, is that Fatah argues for negotiations as the only way to resolve the conflict, and Hamas argues for violent resistance (or "popular resistance" as they are now describing it). Every time negotiations fail, Abbas loses credibility and Hamas gains.
What Australia doesn’t want East Timor to know
The famine of 1977-79 cut a swathe through East Timor's civilian population. Having failed to subdue the Timorese, the Indonesian military opted to starve them out. Details from that little-understood period are contained in cables that Attorney-General Nicola Roxon has blocked from public access.
The Big Society and Catholic Social Teaching
Theologian, James Hanvey SJ offers a powerful critique of our current social and economic climate as he explores the meaning and potential of the Big Society from the perspective of Catholic Social Teaching. In a major address delivered last month to a Caritas Social Action Network conference, Fr Hanvey argues that 'the Church must claim its freedom in all its works of charity'.
“The common good requires that civil authorities maintain a careful balance between coordinating and protecting the rights of citizens, on the one hand, and promoting them, on the other.”
Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, n 65
Stories And Reflections