And the ontological approach requires a hermeneutic method in a great social conversation.

It is 14 years since I first wrote a university paper on guns and  violence in my rural community. In that small enquiry, I found that the use of guns as threats including the discharge of weapons, was a disturbing aspect of domestic abuse.

By the time I wrote that paper, Australia had already regulated and destroyed many weapons after the last massacre (Port Arthur, Tasmania)    to have occurred in Australia. However it has only been this latest massacre in the USA (Sandy Hook School, Newton, Connecticut)  and the conversation that has followed, that has hade me revisit the idea of being a gunless world. My first responses have been to castigate the NRA of North America for its own culpability. However, a sport shooter called me out on the idea of prohibition of firearms. Here were my responses:

Me: I realise firearm sports are even on the increase in Australia, and I have some empathy for the draw it has. I’m not a prohibitionist, and don’t see there is any evidence that it works for any issue. What does work is strong community conversation and regulation. Training and licensing are the key elements of working regulation. However, even in Australia, while we have a reasonable grasp on workable regulation, what we lack is strong community conversation. Peace will only be won by peaceful conversation. In spite of my approach here, I do think peaceful conversation also can’t be rampantly derogatory, just that it doesn’t have to be nice. My challenge here is really to say, “Think about this. What would you do, here, now, to support the next step towards a gun less society?”

He: As you do, I can commit to initiating and continuing a rational, gentle conversation about the balancing of public/personal safety in our Australian ( and to a lesser extent international) society with legitimate, safe and peaceful pastimes which happen to use firearms. As a left of centre voter with a strong sense of social justice and an abhorrence of violence, I still don’t see your presumption that we need a gun less society is correct anymore than one that might say we should have a carless, ropeless, drugless, knife less , Bungy-jump less etc society. But I am astounded by the American refusal to balance individual ‘rights’ with public safety in the face of such evidence. The massacres are not numerically significant whilst shocking. The 10000 gun homicides vs Australia’s 19 per year is more shocking. That anyone could have a concealed weapon next to me in a supermarket queue if i lived in the states is shocking. Thankfully I think Australia has found a balance. Our psyche is different. Our civil society is very different and we can have great discussions without being polarized or extremist. Thanks.

Me: This is essentially an ontological argument ie an argument for BEING gunless or BEING people for whom the idea of weapon is strange and unusual. I can’t be sure that the future of the human society will be weaponless, I simply offer myself the possibility that (while)the rationale of my own mind isn’t capable of going to that place where human society lives in 100 or 500 years, it may indeed be weaponless. However, from that possibility I know (expect) that weaponry at least need be scarce for what the hell would there to fight over, kill. If it is scarce in 500 years, it can be scarce today. Why, because the reason it is not scarce today is because humans believe they are important for something, mainly killing someone, secondarily to kill an animal, thirdly to shoot an inanimate object. However, if you rank all the beliefs and reasons, and you really desire to have them on that basis, I am happy to concede to you. And all the ones that have no belief or reason, well let’s get rid of them. And I am happy to make the same deal with a Neo Nazi with his cache of assault rifles. However, if I ask everyone for their list and then apply hermeneutic conversation to the one’s that are off each list, until we have some clear 90% agreement what can stay and what should go, then I will be extremely happy with that conversation and that outcome. And once we have seen that outcome applied we are already far done the track of a cultural change in which the weapon is a strange and unusual idea.
I am glad this engagement has lead me to review the possible approach to a big community conversation. Such conversation can translate to many, if not all, issues of governance, policy and public health. The hermeneutic approach is no easy method to translate on a mass scale but when doing that research back in the 1990’s I realised that a combination of household survey and an analytic approach to select representatives of the diversity of opinion, for a hermeneutic group approach is do-able. For the application of the hermeneutic approach to community problem solving I used the 4th Generation Evaluation concepts of Gubba and Lincoln.


No More Namby Pamby

On this Christmas day of 2012, I am reminded of the moment that saw Jesus ben Joseph entered the waters of baptism, open himself to the Holy Spirit, and become to completely, wonderfully reflect the Glory of God. In every instance of His life, thereafter, He demonstrated that power through His unremitting stance for the spiritual requirements of all the people living in His moment, towards that day that ” shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” Isaiah 2:2-2:4)

I am reminded that Jesus, forsaking every comfort so that He could establish the law of love with humanity and exact the promise of the Covenant of God with humanity, saying ” I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” (Gospel of John 16:12 – 16:14)

And, even in that, He made it clear as he felled the tables of money veiling the sacred place, the place of worship, that there is necessity in the spiritual stance to go to the priests of rituals of the ego and yell loudly, “NO! NO! NO!, GET OUT! GET OUT! GET OUT!

For Jesus, that stance was completed in His recognition that they would, then, find an excuse to kill Him. For the money makers asked Him,” “What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then they said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” But He spake of the temple of his body.” (King James Bible, John 2:18-2:21). His death would be the opening of the hearts of His disciples to the Holy Spirit and the establishment of Temple of Christ in the hearts of people throughout the world.

And, so, here, at Christmas 2012, my ego railing within, reminding me of the words that Christ gave us to use to put voice to that ego and its soothing, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”(King James Bible, Matthew), I take this stand. I commit to the promise of love and peace. I commit to saying to the priests of rituals to the ego, war, and hoarding. “NO! NO MORE, NO EXCUSES!” I commit to turning guns into plough shares. I commit to turning violence into calm and peace. I commit to raising the children of the world with physical and spiritual nourishment. I commit to empowering the youth as peacemakers and community builders. I commit to turning prisons into playgrounds. I commit to caring for the planet for every living thing. I commit to the dance of extending love and justice across the planet. No more Namby Pamby. I take this stand.

Forgiving Cain – Humanity’s Political Future.

For quite a number of years I worked in an honorary capacity at the rural health interface of national political life in Australia. Last night, two years after I retired from that work, I found myself waking with a flow of thoughts, almost a dream, about the political process. The flow of thoughts seemed to have initiates from several recent ‘soft’ exposures to the political process: a conversation with a retired MP; a working interaction with the Australian Government Arts policy; visions from the ABC TV Q&A program, and even last nights news image of Bob Brown on the environmental activists ship ‘Steve Irvin’ These exposures drew threads of questions around the non-political involvement principle in the Baha’i Faith.

In that twilight wakening I found myself trawling through the disappointments I had with, not politicians, but organisations approaches to the political process. Some status or historically strong organisations approach politics as a stern father lecturing their ignorant son. They avoid close engagement with community or other organisations, seeming to expect that these will ‘do as they are told’. Some organisations bring wealth to bear through the employment of ex-political advisors cum lobbyists who can open the highest ranking doors. Some young strong organisations do draw on a large niche community of support to both build wealth and human resources for political activism which they direct towards political ‘battle’. Many organisations, in this way try to bully a legislative or policy  outcome for their cause.

It occurred to me that there is a cultural trend in Australia, that politics is done by coercing the community to accept  for legislative and policy change. While the heart of legislative and policy change determines the mechanism for the distribution of energy (wealth); a nation’s management of the level of equity and justice; and a nation’s sustainability, it continues to support a framework of ‘lines drawn’ and bullying. The framework for ‘doing politics’ comes originally from the partisan history of the Australian democracy, the establishment of the Labour Party and the Conservative Parties in the nineteenth Century. Add to that the influence of the mass media, and we find ourselves working with significant barriers to the realisation of equity and sustainability.

So, I found myself wondering why we maintain this aggressive tendency in our politics. In Australia, we have largely lost the violence from our political arguments, yet the aggression and anger roils the surface of our peaceful demeanour. Nowhere is this more palpable than in the fight over refugees and the world’s environment. We are at war, constantly at war with each other.

What is the nature of this war? What, then, given Baha’u’llah’s vision of the Most Great Peace, is the nature of peace? Given peace is inevitable but war is habitual, how works the Will of God? As these questions unfolded, I recognised an answer to politics, in the Will of God. Baha’u’llah asks us to be well-wishers of just governments, to obey governments and kings, to avoid political machinations, and to work for the progress of nations. On our work, He directs us to lifelong learning in spiritual attitude, ethics, philosophy, sciences, arts, trades, agriculture, and health, from which we work with a service ethic, expending wealth including our time and skills, on our family and the society. He asks government to be concerned with the equity of their people, solving difficult problems, diplomacy within a consultative, democratic type approach. Yet, it seems that God’s Will is realised through both active conscious voluntary efforts consistent with Baha’u’llah’s teachings, and an unconscious adjustment through society when God’s Will is being ignored. God’s Will, therefore, might be seen as the Great Attractor. It exists in the human condition as a whole. To the extent that the individual works consciously toward the Will of God, they serve the perturbation of society towards its most profound energies, its greatest of possibilities. To the extent that the society as a whole works in ways contrary to the Will of God, determines the extent by which the Great Attractor creates a more extreme adjustment, just as a pendulum, driven far from its sweetest attractor, will perturb in chaotic and extreme patterns. Yet the Great Attractor harbours no malign aims. It just is, always calling with love to the human spirit.

Demonstration of this effect has been shown with extraordinary efficacy in the twentieth century through the two world wars. The first world war destroyed the old empires of the West and Middle East. It restructured the economics of Europe away from the upper classes towards greater equity. The second world war destroyed the old empires of China and Japan, and shifted, once and for all, through the loss of life and the holocaust against the Jews, the mindset of humanity to the elimination of religious and national prejudice. These were crucial principles in the Law of God, extolled by Baha’u’llah.

At this thought, my mind, unbidden, flipped to the heart wrenching conflict of modern Israel in Old Palestine. In that moment, I realised that, all of our aggression is just so much  waste, so much failure to achieve the desire behind our aggression. The Arab and Islamic communities can achieve all their heart’s desire, all that Muhammed and Christ and Moses, and Abraham, desired for them, by that single act which these Revealers of God’s Law all partook – forgiveness. The Arab and Islamic communities shall achieve everything at the moment they forgive Israel. I forgive Israel. Israel will achieve everything when they forgive the Nazi, forgive the anti-semitism that still weaves throughout the world. I forgive them.

We are perpetually given to aggression as we yearn for an unrequited forgiveness. Perhaps ten thousand years ago, as humans first settled from a nomadic lifestyle, we became aware of a new collective power that called for us not to kill our brother. We became guilty of killing our brother, Abel. We have been seeking forgiveness since. Without that forgiveness, through our guilt, we continue to build anger and aggression against ourselves. We project that anger and aggression onto our fellows in many and varied ways. I seek forgiveness for the murder of my brother, Abel, and the murder of my many brothers since, right until this day.

And so, this morning, I came awake that all of our aggressive politics are built with this cry. Those who direct onslaught against fellow citizens, the environment, or the animals. Let us cry back, “We forgive”. And forgive with the deepest tenderness of our hearts. This is the Great Religion of God. This is the most powerful force in human society. It is a force that, like the noon sun, obliterates the self-loathing shadow power of politics. I, who play at the fringes of God’s Law,  who yearn for the vision to see the path closer to the Great Attractor, I forgive every political machination I have been disappointed. I forgive my own machinations


“Only crime and the criminal, it is true, confront us with the perplexity of radical evil; but only the hypocrite is really rotten to the core.” – Hannah Arendt

Thus begins Giovanni Vimercati’s clear commentary in the Huffington Post, on the Breivik mass murder case in Norway. Vimercati asks, “How many people, though firmly condemning his murderous act, share his concerns regarding the so-called ‘Islamization’ of Europe? Is he a deviant exception or a disquieting symptom?” We might ask the same question around the world of our own attitudes to the ‘other’. Here, in Australia, racism against Aboriginal peoples is quietly endemic, finding a louder voice when directed toward Muslims, and, for some reason, even louder against environmentalists.

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in numbers to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are…the functionaries ready to believe and act without asking questions” Primo Levi once said; may this timeless warning guide us in the struggle against evil.

Is Breivik a flagbearer in front of a growing army of ignorance and prejudice who have learnt few lessons about humanity, and who are just waiting for a trigger to unleash their anger on anyone different in colour, nationality or view?

Bullying requires Resilience not Legislation

Nick Gillespie’s article in the Wall st Journal unpacks bullying trends in the USA to reveal that, contrary to the appearance provided by media and lobby group reporting, the trend is down. Here is some of what he wrote:

According to the US National Center for Education Statistics, between 1995 and 2009, the percentage of students who reported “being afraid of attack or harm at school” declined to 4% from 12%. Over the same period, the victimization rate per 1,000 students declined fivefold. The most common bullying behaviors reported include being “made fun of, called names, or insulted” (reported by about 19% of victims in 2009) and being made the “subject of rumors” (16%). Nine percent of victims reported being “pushed, shoved, tripped, or spit on,” and 6% reported being “threatened with harm.” Though it may not be surprising that bullying mostly happens during the school day, it is stunning to learn that the most common locations for bullying are inside classrooms, in hallways and stairwells, and on playgrounds—areas ostensibly patrolled by teachers and administrators.

The immensely powerful and highly acclaimed documentary “Bully,” opens in selected theaters this weekend. The film follows the harrowing experiences of a handful of victims of harassment, including two who killed themselves in desperation. It is, above all, a damning indictment of ineffectual and indifferent school officials. No viewer can watch the abuse endured by kids such as Alex, a 13-year-old social misfit in Sioux City, Iowa, or Kelby, a 14-year-old lesbian in small-town Oklahoma, without feeling angry and motivated to change youth culture and the school officials who turn a blind eye. Our problem isn’t a world where bullies are allowed to run rampant; it’s a world where kids are convinced that they are powerless victims.

Yet, although the solution, in hearing the complaint of the child, and the authority and skill of parents and teachers, is  immediately available, there is a tendency from some quarters to want to bring legislation to bear. Because the nature of bullying is largely an immoral use of communication, legislation has the potential of causing the far greater damage to democratic society by hindering freedom of speech. The world cannot be free if it continually adds layer upon layer of legislation towards protection children from every discomfort. Rather the world would do better to be fully engaged in the discussion about a common morality.  In this world, we take responsibility to engage each other in this discussion. We engage with bullies and parents and friends of bullies. We engage with victims of bullying until they recognise that they are not victims, that there is a bigger game afoot, one in which they can learn to play a special role toward the building of an extraordinary human society. If we begin to understand that the solution to bullying is not the legal constraint of bullies but the building of great resilience in the victim, then we can be assured that lives will be saved, and bullies will be reformed. We need to get over our reluctance to engage with community, keeping each other at arms length through political action.