Sunday, February 27, 2011

Further on the Middle East

Let's take a conservative and natural law approach to the current events in the Middle East. 

First, let's not get swept along with euphoria about people power etc.  Sure, democracy is a good system: it reflects human dignity by giving a measure of participation in the government, and it provides a feedback system that operates in a legal and non-violent manner.  But let's remember that there's no intrinsic right to democracy (consider, for example, the non-democratic government of St Louis IX).  And recall that the merits of a democracy depend on the maturity of the governed to take informed and responsible decisions. 

Second, let's not expect the same outcome in each middle eastern country.  Pan-islamic rhetoric hasn't translated to a lasting pan-islamic state because different communities and countries have their own histories and cultures.  The likelihood is that the "people power" revolutions will produce different outcomes, perhaps with a repressive dictatorship in one, a somewhat democracy in another, and an islamic state in a third.

As the servant of God, G K Chesterton wrote, "human beings ... never have from the beginning of the world done what the wise men have seen to be inevitable".

And, remember Ps 121/122:6, which bids us pray for the peace of Jerusalem.  Sure, this refers primarily to the Church.  But the Catholic approach is to embrace all aspects of Scripture, and of reality, and so we are bidden to pray for the earthly Jerusalem also.  

One final point.  Consider Colonel Gaddafi's humility.  How come he or the Revolutionary Command Council didn't upgrade him to General or Field Marshal?  I guess it's too late now. 


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Middle East

From <a href="">Michael Danby MP</a>.  Mr Danby, who is Jewish, is a Labor member of the Australian Parliament:

"Counter intuitively to the perverse BBC/Guardian/Fairfax worldview about the Middle East, only Israel has seen the number of Christians increase from 34,000 in 1948 to 151,700 (according to the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics Report of 2010).  Where is World Vision, Care or the Uniting Church, off on the same tangent with Israel-obsessed radicals of the Middle East Council of Christians?"

And, by the way, let’s remember to do as Sacred Scripture bids us and to pray for the peace of Jerusalem (Ps 121/122:6).


Monday, February 7, 2011

Imperfect surroundings

James Deaton asks whether knowledge workers "need ideal conditions to do great work?”  He cites the views of many eminent scientists who believe that an “ideal situation” is actually detrimental.

Deaton's take is that “if you are not making progress where you are, believing better conditions are all that is holding you back is a convenient substitute for doing the actual work".

There are a lot of factors, of course.  For example, perfect surroundings can create a pressure to think only great thoughts or write only perfect prose, pressures which are in fact turn counter-productive.  

The piece is worth reading.  And perhaps a good corrective for people (like me) who are inclined to think that holiness would be easy if things were better. 

If we were in a monastery, or had better health, or weren't emeshed in family issues. But that it’s all a bit too much as things are  …


"It was a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals."
Felix Frankfurter
(h/t Jewish World

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thoughts at Candlemas

The 2 February is the Feast of  the Presentation in the Temple, aka Candlemas.  The last day of extended Christmas tide.  And I was thinking about the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary while waiting for Mass to begin.

They're all about journeys.  In the first mystery, the Archangel Gabriel journeys from Heaven to Nazareth to announce the Incarnation. 

The second mystery has Mary on the road, travelling from Nazareth to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who lives down south near Jerusalem. 

Then the third mystery has Mary and Joseph both travelling south from Nazareth, to Bethlehem.  The Lord is born while they shelter in a stable. 

The fourth mystery is the Presentation.  Mary, Joseph and the Child travel from Bethlehem to the Temple in nearby Jerusalem. 

And in the fifth mystery, the Holy Family travels from Nazareth to the Temple for annual celebrations. 

They say that life is a big journey.  But what impresses me is how Mary's life was made up of lots of smaller journeys. 

A bit like St Therese of Liseux's "little way", achieving perfection through attention to trifles.  (And, as Michelangelo is supposed to have said, perfection is no trifle!)