The emphasis on values is both timely and welcome.
The eschewing of Australia’s traditional values, based on European Social Democratic Values (Judeo/Christian Ethic), has been evident for some 30 years, but it has gathered pace at an alarming rate since the mid 1990s. These values were manifested in our concern for the welfare of all families, the acceptance of a legitimate role and responsibility of Government to not only deliver essential services but also to protect the most vulnerable; a concern for our neighbours and hospitality to foreigners; pride in our egalitarianism, integrity, home ownership, mateship, friendliness and the opportunity for all and not just those well-off to prosper, to name a few. The pursuit of, and pride in, those attributes gave us all a sense of security and well-being, a most fundamental desire of all human beings.
Australia was a great place to live!
These values have now been replaced by American individualism which has been driven by a neo-conservative agenda and supported by Christian fundamentalists who espouse a mistaken view of the Judeo/Christian scriptural imperatives. Contrary to the Christian social principles of our responsibility for the Common Good, the pursuit of social justice and the teachings of ‘Love of God and Neighbour’, this Fundamentalism preaches that God is pleased with the pursuit of individual wealth as it is His reward for Goodness of the individual.
Largely as a result of adherence to traditional values, Australians have adapted well to the great social changes which have occurred since WW2, including post-War Reconstruction, the absorption of the huge intake of European migrants with the development of a Multicultural Australia, the Gender Revolution, the changing engagement of Australia with the Asian Region, the intake of Indo-Chinese refugees, the IT Revolution, rapid economic growth and change and the huge shift of people from inner metropolitan areas to outlying regions. They even adapted without too much trauma to the modernization of the workforce where the skilled and educated move from job to job thus losing the security and the traditional employer/employee loyalty.
Do we still have pride in our country which is now dominated by political leaders who ruthlessly use political expedience to override our values in pursuit of selfish power and wealth rather than the good of the country; where millions of Australians are left in deprivation with little hope of escape; where the threat of insecurity in the home, the workplace and the country is a constant and the fear of this insecurity is constantly reinforced by government actions and statements; where there is little infrastructure to skill those in need of jobs in the new era; where we now treat asylum seekers worse than criminals; where we are taken into an illegal war on deliberate misinformation which results in the deaths of thousands of innocent people; where there are around 800,000 children living in jobless households; where we have abandoned many of our youths, as not even Governments want to employ them (there are less than 500 people in the Government employ in Canberra below the age of 23 and the Australian Public Service, the largest employer in the Southern Hemisphere employs less than 5,000 in this group); where voters elect political parties which throw $60 billion at a few electorates in the lead-up to an election; and where we allow political and community leaders to simply blame the disadvantaged for their own poor circumstances and also blame others for this parlous state of affairs?
The real tragedy in Australia is that all the issues which grind people into deprivation and keep them there can be solved if we as a nation were prepared to do so. It would require our political leaders, acting in the national interest, to seek collaborative solutions bringing together Federal and State Governments on policies and services including: education, health, housing, skills training, child poverty, youth employment, transport, and childcare. This has been recommended by many Parliamentary Inquiries, independent researchers, church leaders, and welfare groups.
The darker side of all this is that the eschewing of our values is not simply a matter of lethargy on the part of those of us who are relatively prosperous and comfortable. The leaders of a number of organisations which should be expected to draw attention to the declining state of our values seem to have gone missing at a most crucial time.
Neither major political party appears to represent anything other than the pursuit of power – whatever it takes! Even the ALP which once stood for those social democratic values seems to talk like Groucho Marks: ‘These are my principles, but if you do not like these I am sure I can find others.’
The media is complicit in this demise for it is no longer fashionable for print media to be Documents of Record but rather to say things its readers simply want to hear or to publish the latest scandal; and the electronic media thrives on the ‘grab’ or the scandalous.
Leaders of the mainline churches have failed to remind their followers, and the rest of us, what the real scriptural imperatives are, namely the pursuit of social justice and that this pursuit is not just an optional extra for Christians, but the heart of what it is to be a Christian.
We ourselves are also complicit by our lack of courage to stand up for our values – CPD’s addressing of Values is a great initiative! Martin Luther King reminded us that: ‘Our Lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.’
Finally, I will conclude with a statement from the most prominent advocate of social justice in the world today. On his 80th Birthday Nelson Mandela said: ‘We are born to manifest the God that is within us. It is not in some of us; it is in all of us. As we begin to let our light shine, so we invite others to do likewise.’