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Peter Sellick



Australia day good intentions.

The award of Australia day honors came with a cascade of personal philosophizing the upshot of which was that we should help others.  This is a motherhood statement if ever I have seen one. This being the case, I cannot attack the advise directly, for who could be against helping others? I can only ponder how naive this sounds from someone who has just been congratulated for being a greater than average Australian. Would that all of the worlds problems be solved by this simple bon mot. We might as well say "let's all be nice to each other" and wait to see world peace break out all over the place. This is yet another example of simple mindedness that has appeared on the scene after the penetrating view of humanity preserved in the Judeo/Christian tradition has been erased.  Well, original sin is such a negative concept, better to believe that if we all behaved properly then all of our problems will be solved.  We have forgotten the agonized words of St Paul:

For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Rom 7:18,19 NRSV) 

Or, even more obviously, we have forgotten that it was all of the good people,  who had good intentions, that framed and murdered the gentle Galilean.  Since we have lost the Christian story we have lost the sense of conflict that lies at the heart of every man and women.  We have lost the idea that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

Our underestimation of our culpability  will lead us to being foolish in the world, to expect great things and find that nothing has changed. Because men do not live up to our high ideals we will become cynical and bitter.

Do these speakers know how hard it is to help someone? Do they know the fragile line between being helped and the formation of dependency that will leave them poorer than ever?  Do they know how mixed are the motives of those whose heart bleeds for human kind and who really want to help?  Are there generous acts predicated on that warm feeling that comes and will they turn sour when the helping hand is bitten by those we want to help?

We in our time are torn between our rebelious rejection of all power over us and the desire to be part of community. This tension will not be resolved by our deciding to be helpful.