Posts Tagged ‘Social Justice’

Amazing Grace – DVD

January 7, 2009

I received the DVD “Amazing Grace” as my requested Christmas present. I just love this movie because it has so many high quality elements.

It is the true story of a man called William Wilberforce a godly christian who spent his entire life as a member of parliament campaigning tirelessly to abolish the slave trade of African people practiced by British businessman and landowners.

The story is truly inspiring as it describes the passion, perseverance, ingenuity and charisma of a man who suffered constant opposition, ill health and disappointment throughout his life, until he finally fulfilled his vision to abolish the slave trade in Britain via an act of Parliament.

Today many people are fairly cynical about politicians and anything to do with politics.  This is why this movie is such a stark contrast since it shows how a man with godly motives, having little concern for his own well being, truly used his power, wealth, wit and charisma to achieve freedom for this oppressed group.  He also initiated many other social reforms  for the making of a better world.

The film  may at least offer some  hope that perhaps one day other individuals of the same calibre may rise up to do the same –  by using their power and influence to change the world for the better without being totally corrupted by the political process itself.    As the bible says in  Matthew 19:26b  “with God all things are possible”

The film also features the presence of the preacher John Newton, the former chief slave trader who eventually repented of these sins.  As a result he wrote the famous hymn “Amazing Grace”.  Hence the title of the film .  The reason he wrote this song was to express the wondrous mercy love and forgiveness that he received from God through Jesus,  for his past sins in the mistreatment of African slaves.   This became an overwhelming and moving spiritual and emotional revelation for his life.

I also love the musical score of the film with it’s full orchestral themes and nuances to create the whole mood and drama of the events.  This makes the film worth seeing as well.

I am also fairly partial to movies set in the old seventeenth eighteenth century settings in England.  I’m  always quite fascinated by english history.  Perhaps because it always conjures up the old english novels I used to devour as a child which succeeded in spurring my imagination to be able to be transported to other worlds.

Every person or christian who has any interest or concern for social justice or the making of a better world must see this movie.

The following are the lyrics to the hymn Amazing Grace which you may choose to meditate on:-

Amazing Grace

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

’Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved;
How precious did that grace appear,
The hour I first believed!

Through  many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yes, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease;
I shall possess, within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

The earth shall soon dissolve like snow,
The sun forbear to shine;
But God, who called me here below,
Will be forever mine.

John New­ton, Ol­ney Hymns (Lon­don: W. Ol­i­ver, 1779)

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Asylum Seekers-Their Silent Removal

November 5, 2008

Dear All
 
There is a documentary on SBS on Wednesday 19 November at 8.30pm that I invite you all to watch and to encourage all your friends, family and colleagues to watch.  A Well-Founded Fear was filmed following reports of death, disappearance, imprisonment and torture, of fear-filled lives spent in hiding, privation and despair have filtered back to Australia about some people Australia has removed after disallowing their claims for protection on refugee or humanitarian grounds.
 
Disquiet about this situation was expressed to the 2000 Senate Committee by bodies such as the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, the Australian Refugee Council and various legal aid and trauma treatment organisations. Following significant disquiet, the Edmund Rice Centre for Social Justice commenced an investigation into the fate of asylum seekers deported from Australia.  The results are disturbing and force us to confront the impact of decisions made by the Howard Government.  While the tide is turning with more humane protection of asylum seekers and a cultural shift within the department of immigration, before a new future for those claiming asylum here can emerge, we must first take responsibility for what we have caused.
 

I invite you to watch this documentary so you can be informed and can, with so many Australians, ensure we not let this happen again.
Community Services & Outreach Co-ordinator
Salvation  Army
 

 

 

Myth of the Free Market Economy

October 8, 2008

A few weeks ago I attended a women’s conference on social justice and political activism.  It was quite an experience since most of the women there were either leaders of organisations or lawyers.  It was almost a bit daunting to be in the same room as them during question time.

In attending this conference I realised the great contribution women can make in public and political life.  A DVD illuminated some of these aspects which  include :-  compassion,  common sense,  less ego,  consideration for the poor,  needy and underpriveleged and in a more comic vain –  beauty brains and talent.

An example of this was displayed when I was listening to one of the female speakers.  She explained how the absence of organisations to negotiate fair and higher wage levels in the USA,  can be considered as one of the causes of the subprime crisis in that country.  This is due to the fact that as inflation increases ( while wages stay the same or decrease),  sooner or later wage earners,  no longer have enough money to repay their mortgages or buy the goods and services that they need.

Aside : There is also the issue of the Iraq war and the tremendous cost of this and it’s aftermath which has completely drained ( and is continuing to drain) the US economy.  This was a clear impulsive act of revenge & ego, which totally ignored the possibility of diplomatic relations according to international law. 

This is the inherent fault in an economy which relies too much on the “free market economy” and it’s so called “invisible hand” to automatically distribute resources to consumers in society.

By definition,  a free market economy is where business is governed by the forces of supply and demand and is not restrained by government interference regulation or subsidy.  In practice however,  capitalist countries still have a certain degree of government regulation and restrictions on the ownership and exchange of goods and services.

The degree of the free market economy verses government intervention is seem more in the differences between political parties.  Usually the more right wing a party is,  the more they will lean towards advocating a free market economy with very little government intervention.  On the other hand the more left wing a party is,  the more they will gravitate towards greater government intervention to achieve a more equitable distribution of wealth to all sectors of society.

The problem with a free market economy is that it is only a theoretical model which falsely assumes we live in a perfect world where all things are equal. For instance it assumes all consumers have the same amount of income to spend on goods and services,  which obviously is not true.  The free market model goes on to assume that the “invisible hand” of market forces will automatically distribute resources to people who need them.  In the real world this does not happen since market forces are subject to many different variables which are not considered in the free market oversimplified economic model.

The reasons for this are well summarised by Belinda Streeter from the website “Opus”  from the Newcastle University Students Association.  Here is an excerpt from an interview with her :-

So why is this idea of a free market economy such a farce?  
(Source: http://www.opus.org.au/node/179)

“This artificial market has many assumptions.  One is that as a mechanism it can survive on its own without any intervention from the state.  This is not true.  Markets only exist because societies and states create them and they are run and regulated by the state.  This idea of separating economics, politics, and society would lead to the destruction of society as we could know it,  a big claim I know but think about it.  Can you imagine if there were industries that were not regulated?  Aeroplanes would fall out of the sky due to lack of maintenance,  the cost of education would go through the roof,  or even more mining accidents would occur such as that in Beaconsfield.  Also there would be no welfare whatsoever,  no free education,  no free or discounted health care,  more polarisation between rich and poor,  increased costs of living and so forth,  this list could go on and on.”

A significant outcome of an overemphasis towards a total free market economy is that inevitably the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.  This is evident especially in the USA – a popular advocate of the free market “invisible hand” philosophy.  Even though in the past it has been considered a wealthy nation the disparity between the rich and poor is becoming wider and wider.  This is so because man is inately selfish and will always tend towards achieving his own financial gain even at the expense of others.  The “laisez fair” free market economy is about the survival of the fittest or strongest members in the market.  Those who are weaker or disadvantaged usually become oppressed economically and socially by the stronger aggressive players.  For instance, individuals who may face disadvantage or discrimination through a lack of education,  dysfunctional family,  race,  gender,  physical attributes or disability etc,  would be left by the wayside and asked to fend for themselves in a pure free market economy.

Is the sort of society we want to live in?  If not,  then we must fight for the causes of social justice and support those political leaders who advocate policies to assist the poor and needy in our society.

We must also remember that our society needs the services of the more humble lower paid wage earners,  otherwise whole industries would not be able to function eg.  fruit pickers,  factory workers,  cleaners are all essential workers in the labor force.  Hence it is necessary to cater for their economic needs just as much as high earning professional people.

Today the USA has been one of the greatest proponets of the free market economy.  US government policies have often favoured big business and made low wages for all workers an acceptable fact of life.  This is futher entrenched by the lack of trade union representation in most business sectors.  It is ironic that this fact has back fired because in the present financial crisis,  it is partly because of this endemic low wages that people are not able to pay their mortgages and credit card debt.

In conclusion perhaps we need to refrain from becoming too carried away with the myth of a self correcting free market economy and instead balance this by allowing intelligent and constructive governement intervention to ensure that we create a more equitable society that is just and fair and considers the plight of the weak and underprivileged in our world. 

Individualistic greed would also need to be overcome since this more often leads to the oppression of the poor and weak in society for personal gain.  This can take the form of exhorbitant prices that people cannot afford to pay or paying wages that cannot sustain a minimum living standard for the average person.

In Psalm 33:12 it says “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.  The people whom He has chosen for His own inheritance.  God’s laws include to refrain from greed,  (see Luke 12:15,  Romans 1:29,  Ephesians 5:3,  Colossians 3:5,  Proverbs 15:27) ;  refrain from oppressing the poor and needy (Exodus 22: 21-27),  and instead to act justly and love mercy and walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8).

Bosses and Trade Unions Unite in Peace

April 1, 2008

North & South DVD Review Starring Daniela Denby-Ashe,  Richard Armitage,  Sinead Cusack  and Leslie Manville.  3 Stars

I watched an interesting DVD over the past week called “North & South”. This was formerly a 4 part TV series produced by the BBC. I’m not sure if it is available in the USA.

The story is about a woman called Margaret who is the daughter of an English Pastor. She comes from a fairly middle class traditional upbringing. Suddenly her whole family is uprooted to a more dire part of England in the town of Milton. Milton is the home of working class people who labour in a cotton mill. This occurs during the midst of the industrial revolution.

I found this drama interesting in that it explored in more detail, the relationship between the workers of the mill and their “master” or owner of the mill. At the beginning of the story it depicts the relationship as one of great animosity and distrust, even to the point of violence. This results in an attempt to form a trade union. It is led by one of the more outspoken workers in order to create a united force to barrack for fair wages.

When Margaret’s family appear on the scene, they form relationships with both opposing parties ie the workers and the factory owner. Margaret’s father for instance, begins to tutor John Thornton – the factory owner, in subjects of interest. In so doing, Margaret and her father gradually become acquainted with both sides of the worker/boss relationship.

It was interesting for me, since it helped me to see & even empathize a little more with the business operations from the view of the owner of the factory and see the challenges they face. For instance, the fact that they hold a great deal of responsibility for the livelihoods of so many of their employees, as well as the enormous risks and difficult decisions they must face.  Also it made me realize that if a company does not turn out the same amount of income each year it can become much more difficult  to keep paying workers the same or higher wages or keep the same number of workers employed. 

Even so, it is only through the influence and intervention of this strong woman Margaret, who promotes greater compassion , civil dialogue and personal interest between each of these factions that an atmosphere of peace and co-operation is eventually achieved.

I’m not sure if this story is actually true, however the film maker does try to show how understanding, compassion and a genuine interest in the other party, in the workplace, can possibly be resolved through mediators who try to promote peace instead of hatred and violence.

The film may show an idealistic situation, but I believe there are elements that viewers can indeed learn from and even perhaps apply in everyday life – like trying to see things from another perspective and exercise forgiveness and compassion.

Highly recommended viewing for those who are interested in achieving greater social justice through peaceful and humane means

By Adelle Arwen
Gospel Singer Songwriter & Recording Artist
http://www.strengthinyourstruggles.com/