How scrupulously correct we seek to be in our interactions. How scrupulously  we watch our own and other people’s behaviour. Appearance and perceptions are important. Yet, we are also prepared to let “unscrupulous” behaviour slide by in the interests of social unity and “ political correctness”. Our current norms tend to be relative (one might say ambivalent ) to the priorities dictated by perceptions of Freedom. Secular society’s great gift to the world is the feeling of liberation from the yokes of religion, morality and orthodoxy. One is free to act as one pleases so long as the majority in government feels comfortable about it.

Many psychiatrists’ couches have given relief to burdened consciences by differentiating between scruple and conscience. In associating scruples with social behaviour they neutralise the fears of damnation and consequences of sin- which would be borne by an individual conscience. Reparation is offered by way of changing habits, commonsense rational solutions and monetary compensation. Once done it is hoped there will be no lasting scars or damages. Figuratively, an eye is offered for an eye –  the court allows it, justice allows it. If unresolved flash backs begin to haunt, the pain can be eased by clinical intervention. It is to be resolved, or, treated in the here and now.

But, not all rely on terra firma solutions. There are transcendental extensions for those who believe that we are more than just mind and body. To them actions and consequences must be resolved not only in the body and mind, but in the spirit too. They are intertwined influencing and directing each other.  The ancients understood this and devised systems and traditions for dealing with human conditions in an ever changing and evolving universe. Social changes have been some times too strong for traditions tarnished and diminished by human misadventures and the sands of time. To those grounded in the traditions of the elders there are insights and revelations not granted to the intelligent and worldly learned. For them there is no bad conscience: it’s a gift of discernment keeping the wayfarer on the straight and narrow. Believers are able to distinguish between an earthly “scruple” and the grace of a conscience. Scruples may tell us when we are wrong, wrong, wrong, but do not offer healing or ways of redemption. Conscience indicates when we are off the track, where, why, and how to mend a relationship that may have been put to risk.

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Blindness of Justice

     What’s happening about Brittany? Brittany Who? Outrage and self-righteousness has drowned the cause of our protestations.The young victim, so brutally raped and abused, suffers because she could not trust our legal system provide the justice and support sorely needed at the hour.She suffered, and suffers still, as news bulletins re-exposes the wounds and publicly parades what causes deep shame to her. 

          Justice delayed is justice denied.After days of this being public knowledge, the victim awaits, as pleaders and counsellors shred arguments to the bone. Some MeToo, and fellow barrow-pushers, have swamped the information networks with striking headlines and red herring to feed an insatiable hunger for news. I would think that workplace ethics and codes of conduct are of lower priority to her. She bears the humiliation of media exposure, frustrated that no resolution is expected soon. The villain, meanwhile, can move freely, unnamed, unshamed, because some unlikely loop hole could be used to pronounce him “not guilty”.

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Honouring Liberty

        The catch cry is “Freedom”. Yet. How is it conceived ; how practised; how delivered? Is it just a populist posture? How deeply is it pondered upon by its proponents? How often do they question the agenda that puts forward new propositions? How does it propose to “liberate” followers? In other words, what effort is put in by way of discernment? Every decision has consequences. The gifts and the price of embracing  liberty need to be properly appreciated.

   The incessant demands for freedom cloud judgement. Like blind followers, some continue to embrace the increasingly dramatic positions and opinions. High minded aspirations, in many cases, have degenerated into lists of “rights”. There are no counter lists of responsibilities to provide balance and accountability. Fools rushed in to Capitol Hill while angels counted the cost to the fabric of society. Drinking and frolicking may be great for a night out, but morning must bring the sobering headache. At a stage the very freedom sought becomes the controlling manacle.

We are a strange mixture of elements, compounds and a spark that combines intellect and intangibles feelings. The spark is the seat of our desires – the distinguishing intangible of our species. Desires that motivate higher aspirations can paradoxically lead to sub-human acts of savagery. Prominent is the desire for freedom and liberty. Human need for freedom is as strong as the need for bread and water. It arouses a restlessness to shake off the narrow confines of personal and environmental limitations. However, Freedom needs to be properly managed and disciplined for right results. Failure to do so can lead to digressions – even anarchy.

Nanny State or Adult Kindergarten

On a daily basis we are fed doses of truths/half-truths/, about who addressed whom inappropriately, causing hurt and angst. Like four year-olds, there is much finger pointing, and reports of “he/she said”, so-and-so. Our journos ferment and encourage the behaviour like protective parents, willing (and indeed keen) to join in the fray. The other night we had an opinionated “jock” wring the last drop out of the lemon of “Heaven and Hell”. All to no other purpose than to enhance his own narcissism, and to feed the “demands” for sensationalism  and conspiracies. Demands created by the media in the first place.

I remember my father had a strict rule of never carrying home tales from school. And, we never did. Of course, these days there is the natural dread of “Bullying”, in all its forms. It is not to be condoned. But, there are natural bullies (for whatever  reason), and there will always be copy-cats who consider bullying an expression of some macho trait that makes the bully superior to “weaklings”. Therefore, the bully measures his/her superiority by the power he/she can assert. It seems a natural pathway for adult bullies and other undesirables.  

The point I wish to make (despite my limited understanding of human behaviour), is that pointing fingers at obnoxious behaviour does not solve anything. “Political Correctness” and legislated measures are no more than band-aids to symptoms of deeper social maladies. It would be a risky and unpopular exercise to get to the bottom of the problem(s); for the cause and affects would be too close to home. Rather than see ourselves as deficient role models and physicians, we tend to blame others – civic authorities are convenient targets because they do not bite back. I suggest that if we want true reform, we must look at our own behaviour as peers, parents, siblings and members of the community. If we can change our own behaviour, we may be able to improve the behaviour of others. 

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Being Right Isn’t Always Right: A Moral Case

What good’s a liberty gained by depriving others the same right? Belligerent attitudes now dare weak politicians, to subvert the laws that give basic rights to simple folks, to live simple lives in the traditions of their ancestors. One battle after another has been won by the same modus operandi; with the growing certainty that one day the war will be won.

Religious groups have not done themselves any favours. The sins of leaders are to be worn by the unsuspecting followers. Most Faiths are easy targets, and their defences weakened by a loss of morale, and a feeling of hopelessness under the incessant pressure of “Secular” forces. The lifestyles and misuse of power, by a few, further weakens  the will of those confronting compelling empirical evidence posed in the fluid environment of commercialism and technology. Persistent arguments and the hammering of guilt, have led to self-doubts and a turn to other diversions for solace and personal dignity.

It is easy to pursue a campaign against religious thinking that is nebulous and cannot be proven in sensual terms. Just a manipulation of the meaning of “Secularism”, offers, virtually, unbridled liberty. The argument becomes, “ Faith against Science” – and such epic allusions. With insufficient “evidence” to prosecute an argument, the weak submit to stronger arguments; fearing associations being made with superstitions and mediaeval hangovers. In vain, traditionalists turned apologetics, quote chapters and verses from texts made obsolete to this new rationalism. A myriad set about dismantling the fabric of faith, hope and a living Love. 

The LGBTI movement began, legitimately, to empower males and females to assert their sexuality. It is a fact that people with sexual preferences outside the norm, had long suffered vilification, discriminations and were criminalised by all parts of society. It has been a long hard slog for them to gain acceptance and the respect of the community. So, increasingly people are “coming out” in the community. Institutions that have been building bridges of reconciliation must be congratulated.

Problem comes when one group tries to debunk and  overpower the other. Each group’s expressed freedom needs to be respected and acknowledged by all. Institutions should show flexibility and an enlightened approach in their interactions with twenty-first century sensitivities. It does not mean that they should surrender their entitled rights to flourish in freedom and to practice  their cherished beliefs. Whether or not (and how) these differences are accommodated, is a matter for individual consciences and the respective institutions. But, to compel a school to accept students and staff, holding opposing stands to the institution’s values and mission statement, would tantamount to bullying, and an unacceptable form of behaviour. Morally, those who say they stand for human rights, cannot demand rights over the rights of others. The armed forces have some exemptions under the discrimination acts. When I do not like a particular TV programme I am free to switch channels. So, I feel that to force an institution (against its moral code) to accept individual/individuals philosophically opposed to them, is ethically improper as it amounts to undermining the very grounds for their foundation.    

A Case for Passion in Politics

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!

Worrying Thing About War

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.

Reflections on healing of the Lost Sheep

 

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.