Wednesday, March 8, 2017

21st Century Visigoths

I know that I am a trusting person. I tend to see the goodness in people first before I see their negative qualities. I generally think that people think about the world like I do. I am not a Trekkie, but to quote Spock, "the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one (blame the Big Bang Theory for that reference). If everyone thought about the many rather than their own interests then our world would be a better place.

I know that I am a bit of naive person. I tend to think that people in positions of authority act with people's best interests in mind. I tend to think rules are there for a reason. However, I do know that there are some military figures, some political figures, and some law officials who abuse their powers and try to serve themselves. Generally though, until I have seen such authorities abuse their power, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Once they break my trust and demonstrate that they are more concerned about their own well being rather than the well being of others, I add my voice to those who protest.

I also tend to be a person who trusts academics. When they say something is true, I tend to believe them. Yes some academics have biased opinions. Some have their research paid for them by companies who want to be portrayed in the best light- tobacco companies funded studies for years to show that their products were harmless even though overwhelming evidence proved otherwise. But when a huge majority of the academic and scientific world says something is true, I believe them. They have spent thousands of hours studying and researching their topics. They know their field.

But in this country, and around the world, people are disregarding the experts. 97% of the scientists around the world say that climate change is happening. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that Sydney had it's hottest summer on record. One community in country New South Wales had 35C temperatures over 50 days this year. Toronto saw little snow until February this year, and most of the winter has been spent above 0C.  Yet some politicians claim that climate change is not occurring. Oil companies and coal companies of course do not think it is occurring. People who distrust the experts say that this is just a warm spell and we will have cooler years ahead. And yet overall, our world is warming.

Vaccines have been around the western world since 1796. Thanks to them, I do not have to worry about small pox, diptheria, tetanus, or countless other diseases. Millions upon millions of people have been saved. But the anti-vax movement believes that being vaccinated causes autism. The vast majority of scientists disagree with this opinion, saying that there is no basis in fact to the link between autism and vaccinations. But still the anti-vaxxers remained determined. And our world faces the possibilities of new epidemics of formerly dead diseases as the percentage of possible victims grows.

Now I admit that sometimes scientists and academics do get things wrong. Sometimes world views get changed with new evidence. But my point is, we spend a lot educating our best and brightest in universities. There they receive knowledge from the best scholars of the past. There taking that best knowledge of the past, they do research and try to advance the knowledge in that field.

In its day, the Roman empire was the most advanced civilisation that the world had known. They were known for their roads, their architecture, their sanitation systems, poetry, and music. Yet problems arose in their society. There was corruption and abuse of power. The Visigoths arose to fight against these weaknesses, brought down the empire but with that destruction, they destroyed all of the good things in the Roman empire. Europe then took 1000 years to recover. Little was done in that 1000 years to advance knowledge, the arts, science, medicine, etc.

I think the anti-vaxxers, the isolationists, the climate change deniers are like the Visigoths. They have arisen as protest movements against things such as globalisation, world trade, corporate greed, economic gaps, knowledge gaps, change, and uncertainty. There is injustice in the world when less than 100 people have as much wealth as the poorest 3 and a half billion people in the world. There is injustice when heads of corporations and banks earn as much as the average workers yearly salary in a matter of a few hours. There is anger, when jobs are being lost to machines or to overseas workers who will work for fractions of our salaries. And fear of the other is being increasingly used by the media and certain politicians to keep things just like they are. In the midst of these injustices, is it any wonder that we have our own modern Visigoths in our midst.

Yes our world has problems. Yes things need to change. But do we want such change to be done out of ignorance and reaction, or do we want such change to occur with guidance, knowledge, and careful study. I for one think it is best to listen to the experts rather than following the mindless mobs.  Blessings.


Last week for Lent I was going to list my blessings each day. So here goes:

On Friday March 3rd, I gave thanks for the gift of storytellers. I had been to the world day of prayer service and heard stories from the Women of the Philippines. And that afternoon someone shared with me many stories of Australian history.

On Saturday March 4th I gave thanks for the gift of Celebration. It was the Sydney Mardi Gras parade and I watched as hundreds of thousands of people in our city celebrated our diversity.

On Sunday March 5th, I gave thanks for the gift of singing. I am singing right now in a group that will be performing this coming Sunday.

On Monday March 6th I gave thanks for the Draught Discussions group. Each month a few of us gather to laugh, to support, and to encourage one another as we share our stories and our lives.

On Tuesday March 7th, I gave thanks for the opportunity we have to serve others. We had gathered to dream about a new outreach ministry from our church.

On Wednesday March 8th, I gave thanks for the gifts of Women on International Women's Day

On Thursday March 9th, I give thanks for the songs of the birds whose call even drowned out the sound of construction outside of my window.

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