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Educating The Educated

The Cry is “Education”! “Educate Them, Educate Them” is the echoed response. This is the new found panacea for all our woes. Inappropriate acts, words and gestures, committed in private or in public places can, hopefully, be resolved by just education. The distortion of another pillar of civilisation has a distinctive smell. It no longer conjures images of somber dons, but an association with Siberia, “The Red Book”, and Pol Pot Cambodia. And. I shall “nip it in the bud”(sic).

There was a time when parents and teachers looked at formation as a sacred duty to the generations to come. People began taking authority for responsibility and a backward slide began. No one can be branded responsible if the “culprit” is a vague figment such as education. All people, of all ranks love adulations , but , are quick to fop off responsibility. Indeed we all become judges. Only, there is no one in the dock but an illusion. Money is our medium for change. By throwing it at causes, we believe change will occur magically. Millions are spent on advertising (washing our hands off effort), that has neither an audience, nor, a readership. Job is considered done, but none assess resulting gains. If there is a deficiency in the results – feed it with more education.

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Auld Lang Syne

Goodbye 2021. No one frets for you. What started with a storming of the citadel of our democracy quickly spiralled out into a labyrinth of a Pandemic. Physicians, politicians, punters still argue the why, where, when, how, of what they know so little. An insidious genie is constantly morphing and transforming itself. All agree it’s a pestilence of dimensions never experienced before.

Human experiences bring out the best and worst in us. People have come out braving infections themselves to help the sick and stricken. We have seen thousands put themselves at risk this way – while thousands upon thousands remain unsung heroes. But, as there are givers there are also those who “take”; taking self-protection to extremes. Communities have gone into self-isolation and set protective barriers to keep infection at bay. Who can judge them, self-preservation is a basic human instinct? But. Humans are better than sheep or goats. When they can master the elements, nature and their own life choices, does that not assume a moral obligation toward the neighbour’s welfare and good? All science and technology must first be used for the advantage of the species, else it is mere vanity.

To Live and Let Live

When the blind lead the blind down the streets of the CBD they forget, or, are blind to the smooth and effective systems that regulate daily life, from bedtime to re-bed time. Together they facilitate civic life that we all enjoy. To try to be free of them is to wish for a paradise free from interdependence and conscience restraints, an idle life free of responsibility of any kind. It’s almost as impossible as being perfect.

Why this compulsive stumbling toward the unattainable? We live gregarious lives intertwined with others. We depend on others as they depend on us. To reverse that is to act like infants challenging parental authority. For four or five year olds such behaviour can find pardoned with a simple, “Sorry”. When adults misbehave, putting their own perceived rights above those of others, there are social consequences; disruptions mean amnesty  at a higher cost (invariably the community ends up paying). 

Where there are more than two individuals there is potential for conflict and disagreement. Who and what determines who is right? Who deserves to dominate? Does might give a divine right to rule and be obeyed? Is the human kingdom no more than a pretentious animal kingdom; where the choice lies between fleeing and fighting? If the noble “two-legged things” are truly compassionate and respectful of fellow humans, higher standards of behaviour are expected. Consideration and empathy would rate highly. These could only be possible with a degree of self-restraint. On a social platform this means discipline   – exalting the simple principle of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you”. 

Cynics in Politics

How politicians do take us for granted, and then make believe that they work for our good. Example in hand is the much debated Anti- discrimination Bill before parliament. There are the self-righteous claims and the flag waving on issues that arise from time-to-time in the workplace and our educational institutions. There is no arguing with the facts that in our society merit ranks foremost in the job selections process. We support students ( and teachers) having free access to where they want to study/work without hindrance from the governing bodies. And, legislations already exist to protect the rights of disadvantaged individuals. There may be half-a-dozen Acts at the Commonwealth level, and equal numbers the same at state levels. Bodies and corporate institutions at the micro levels have codes and guidelines under the watchful eyes of their governing boards. So. What is the idea of burdening the taxpayers with what is a tedious process for  “notional “ gains that have not been validated in public. And to all purposes, would only result in a surfeit of policing.  

If the government truly believes that there are grey areas (that in their eyes) are being exploited, and that reforms need to be introduced for the benefit of the community, it should do so transparently; ensuring that the constitution rights of all parties are protected in the spirit and letter of the law. In the larger scheme of things, we already have a legislated body that’s charged with scrutinising and reviewing the Constitution and Laws as they exist. Should it not be expedient to reconsider all legislations on discrimination with a view to rationalise and combine them? When the law allows it, the courts (be it reluctantly) will allow it too. 

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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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.