stuartbramhallon said:Aunty, I think the nub of the issue is that mainstream media (and the Democrats) are trying to portray parents as bigoted when they express concern about public schools introducing children as young as 5 to extremely abstract concepts about race and sexual identity before they are old enough to fully grasp abstract concepts – and without parental consent.In my mind, the gender ideology and racial sensitivity training are two separate issues that parents are complaining about.As for the gender ideology, when I was in school, sex education was only offered at age 10-up and only with parental consent. At present, children as young as 5 are being taught that physical sex doesn’t equate with sexual identity and that people can hold as many as 24 different sexual identities. I’ve watched unhappy young people exposed to this ideology coming to the conclusion prior to adolescence that changing their gender is the automatic solution. With the result that they (and their teachers) put pressure on the parents to allow them to start puberty blockers at 11 and the hormones of the opposite sex two years later. The physical suffering they undergo from these treatments (which have never been tested for long term safety) is immense. Likewise there has never been any long term evaluation of the effect of exposing young children to gender ideology training, especially when the teachers are given little or no training on the appropriate way to teach it/Here in New Zealand, I fully support parents who decide to home school their kids to protect them from being exposed to what in my mind is basically propaganda with little or no scientific basis. While there are a number (around 1%) of children who are born as intersex individuals (with unclear external genitalia), I don’t believe that encouraging all preteen children to opt out of normal puberty will in anyway reduce or discourage discrimination against adult homosexuals and transsexuals.Critical Race Theory is a separate issue because Critical Race Theory is actually a university level area of study addressing the issue of what’s known as “intersectionality.” “Intersectionality” is the process of looking at a person’s social disadvantage on the basic of “intersecting” minority identities (usually class, ethnicity, sexual identity, sexual orientation, religion and level of disability). There is no way they are teaching Critical Race Theory in elementary school because there is no way young children can absorb such complex ideas.In my mind, CRT is another wedge issue, like gun control, to get people on the right and left to fight each other rather than the ruling elite.Liked by youReply ↓
auntyutaon said:Stuart, thank you very, very much for this reply to clarify the situation. Even though I have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it did not occur to me that this sort of thing was going on in elementary school. One grandson and his wife preferred to home school there two daughters when they were little! I always thought it was their right to do this. But I think I understand a bit better now what their motives may have been. When I went to school, sex education was not a school subject, not at all. As far as I know, all my children experienced very limited sex education, and this only past the age of 12 in high-school.
Uta says: First my comment to this article. Can anybody please tell me, why on earth Australians should not be worried about the safety of the submarines until 2040?!! It gave me a shock, to hear about all this a few minutes ago on the 7.30 Program!!
Former submariners with over 500 years of collective service in the Royal Australian Navy are warning a newer version of the Collins-class boat is needed as a stopgap measure before the AUKUS nuclear-powered boats start hitting the water in the 2040s.
The Collins-class submarines are due to start getting major upgrades from the mid-2020s to extend their life
A group of submariners are pushing to find a replacement sub that can be used until the nuclear subs arrive
The Swedish designer of the Collins class says it is happy to help Australia with a newer model
The veterans, who have served on Australia’s current submarines and the predecessor Oberon-class, are urging Defence to consider building an interim boat based on the Swedish-designed Collins to address a looming capability gap.
In an “Expression of Grave Concern”, the group argues: “Australia must keep the Collins submarines running until 2040+ or acquire some new conventional submarines:”
“The fact is that arguably both must be done, or the Collins submarines will be retiring at age 45 and beyond.
“It’s reasonable to ask whether they would still be safe to operate, let alone whether they should be used in a fight. This would be very poor value for money.
“Getting on urgently the Collins life extension and building more submarines are both necessary for sustaining today’s submarine capability and preparing industry and Navy for nuclear submarines.”
Noam Chomsky: “We’re approaching the most dangerous point in human history” US professor, Noam Chomsky now 93, joins George Eaton to discuss the Ukraine Russia War, the climate catastrophe, Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, Brexit, and much more. “It’s monstrous for Ukraine,” he said. In common with many Jews, Noam Chomsky has a family connection to the region: his father was born in present-day Ukraine and emigrated to the US in 1913 to avoid serving in the tsarist army; his mother was born in Belarus. Chomsky, who is often accused by critics of refusing to condemn any anti-Western government, unhesitatingly denounced Vladimir Putin’s “criminal aggression”. Noam Chomsky is also still engaged by British politics. “Brexit was a very serious error, it means that Britain will be compelled to drift even further into subordination to the US,” he told me. “I think it’s a disaster. What does it mean for the Conservative Party? I imagine they can lie their way out of it, they’re doing a good job of lying about a lot of things and getting away with it.” Read the full interview by George Eaton here: https://www.newstatesman.com/encounte… Chapters: 0:00–1:23 Intro 1:23–12:38 Ukraine Russia War 12:38–23:05 Afghanistan war, Yemen, and US foreign policy 23:05–28:30 Putin and US democracy 28:30–35:32 Trump and the “greatest threat to humanity” 35:32–37:00 Keir Starmer and the Labour Party 37:00–47:47 The US Democratic party 47:47–48:58 Brexit 48:58–53:37 Why Chomsky is still politically active 53:37–59:06 Hope and Extinction Rebellion #NoamChomsky#Brexit#RussiaUkraine
April 25 is a sacred day in the Australian and New Zealand national calendars. It is a day on which many of our citizens can set aside their divides and commemorate the ultimate sacrifice of over 102,000 members of the Australian armed forces who have died during or as a result of their service in wars and peacetime operations.
On the morning of April 25, 1915, those hardy yet inexperienced souls of the Anzac Corps landed at a place few Australians had heard of. It ended in disaster for the British Expeditionary Force. But, as Australian historian C.E.W. Bean wrote afterwards:
“In the first straight rush up the Anzac hills in the dark, in the easy figures first seen on the ridges against the dawn sky, in the working parties stacking stores on the shelled beach without the turning of a head, in the stretcher-bearers walking … onlookers had recognised in these men qualities always vital to the human race. Australians watched the name of their country rise high in the esteem of the world’s oldest and greatest nations.”
In the modern era, these words might also be applied to the courageous Ukrainians. Fighting against a larger, more technologically advanced nation since February 24, the Ukrainian people, their tenacious military and their inspirational president have demonstrated the kinds of qualities we so admire in our Anzac veterans and celebrate every April.
This Anzac Day, as Australians continue to see the Ukrainians demonstrate those qualities of courage, resilience, empathy and cleverness so “vital to the human race”, what might we learn from the Russo-Ukraine War?
We can’t disappear war with hope
The first lesson is that war remains a central aspect of human existence. No amount of hoping it goes away can make it disappear. As historian Ian Morris has written, war is “something that cannot be wished out of existence, because it cannot be done”.
Despite the theories of Steven Pinker and others, authoritarians such as Vladimir Putin believe that resorting to war to achieve their desired outcomes remains a valid course of action in the 21st century.
We must not fool ourselves into believing this might just be a European phenomenon. While nations such as China would have us believe they prefer to “win without fighting”, they have also engaged in the largest military build-up seen anywhere in the world in the past several decades.
And China is a nation running out of time to achieve the glory so desired by President Xi. It is getting older, smaller and more desperate to reintegrate Taiwan into China. The lesson for Australia is that a large-scale war is possible in our region in the coming years.
We must be prepared to fight
There is a follow-on lesson from this. We need to do everything we can to deter such an eventuality, but also be prepared to fight if deterrence and diplomacy fails.
This increase should apply to the larger national defence effort, and not just military spending. If our nation is to play a more substantial role in deterring conflict, and securing our region, we will need to significantly expand our diplomatic capacity.
Our nation’s diplomats are on the front line of our global engagement, every single day of the year. We need to expand their numbers, their presence, and their aid budget to shape the regional environment so it is less conducive to external coercion or military conflict.
Military might must expand
At the same time, our military capabilities will need to be sharpened considerably in quality and quantity — on land, at sea, in the air, in space and cyberspace.
Australia must be a nation that potential adversaries look at and think, “no thanks”. This may involve a significant and rapid enlargement in the size of the Australian Defence Force, complemented with a much-improved civil defence and resilience capacity.
It might even necessitate a form of national service for young Australians. Young Australians could serve in the military services or in a variety of state emergency response organisations and other forms of non-martial services.
Finally, leadership matters. Leadership and inspiration from individuals can make or break nations. Despite the centrality of slow, committee-based decision making in our national capital, it is clever, connected, empathetic and values-based leaders who are essential to our nation.
These leaders must be willing to take risks, nurture an environment where failure is permitted in a strategic learning culture, and accept that time is short. Too many in our national defence community think in terms of decades when it comes to risk and defence procurement. This must change, and quickly.
Ukraine gives us an alternative example of strategic leadership. Perhaps the most important leader in the world right now is President Zelenskyy. He was underestimated by Western leaders before the war, but has since unified his people, exhorted courage from his military and inspired millions around the world to reconsider why democracy is worth defending. He appreciates the need to take risks and knows that time is his most precious resource in saving his nation from potential extinction.
Many national leaders in the West will have since looked at themselves in the mirror and wondered if they could meet the high standard of leadership Zelenskyy has set.
This Anzac Day, Australia again looks on from afar as a foreign democracy fights desperately for its life. We must, as a nation, give thanks for the sacrifices of our forebears.
But we should also honour their sacrifices by learning from the war in Ukraine so in the coming years we might better defend our values, our democratic system, and our prosperity in the 21st century.
Mick Ryan is a strategist and recently retired Australian Army major general. He served in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan, and as a strategist on the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff. His first book, War Transformed, is about 21st century warfare.
The connection between Russian oppression and Stalinism
The connection between Ukrainian nationalism and anti-communism
The present basis of support for Ukrainian fascist groups
How that could all change
Since I was recently in Ukraine, I was asked by a respected friend and fellow worker to write about my impressions of the issue of fascism in Ukraine. To me, it’s a very complex issue and it involves the whole issue of the old Soviet regime, the restoration of capitalism in that part of the world in general and the whole issue of national rights for Ukraine.
I am very, very far from an expert on any of this, but I have read a little bit. That reading includes Yulia Yurchenko’s excellent book Ukraine and the Empire of Capital, which reads kind of like a combination of Das Capital plus the Communist Manifesto brought up to date and with a focus on Ukraine, but placed in a world context. My experience in Ukraine was extremely limited and only allowed me to just scratch the surface, but I tried my best to keep my eyes and ears open. So with that understanding, here’s how the issues appear to me:
Ukraine means “borderland”, and that’s what Ukraine is – a borderland between many of the European powers. Combined with the fact that much of it is a flat, broad plain, this meant that it was invaded over and over again, so its peoples are composed of many different ethnic groups. The country or major parts of it were passed back and forth like the booty in a war. Over the last 100+ years, though, Russia has been the dominating power and threat. There was, for example, the “Holodomor” or mass starvation of 1932-3 in which 13% of the Ukrainian population starved to death. This national disaster was caused by the criminal policies of Stalin.
This and similar memories is seared into the minds of Ukrainian national culture, and it means that national oppression is equated with both Russia and what passed for socialism. My impression is that to many Ukrainians, they are one and the same.
Donbas miners on strike in 1989
1989 Donbas miners strike In the late 1980s there was a mass strike movement of miners in the Donbas region. (The following quotes and statistics are from Yurchenko’s book.) In 1989, 173 out of 226 miners – a half million in all – went on strike. They elected strike committees that became semi-permanent institutions These were embryonic workers councils in the making, but the workers didn’t know where to go with them. The miners called for educational programs, but that layer of society with access to history and a wider understanding of the world – the petit bourgeois intellectuals – were intent on Ukrainian nationalism and ignored these strike committees. So, the miners’ intent on fighting the “Soviet system” found but one alternative: a first step back to capitalism through “enterprise autonomy”.
The miners strike could have been a first step towards the working class taking power. But the only option that seemed on the table was some sort of “kinder and gentler” capitalism. Something along the lines of what existed in Sweden or Germany – a well ordered society in which clear laws existed and were observed by all. A society with a “free” press and “fair” elections. A society that was able to provide the economic basics and had a wide level of social benefits.
The result of the collapse of the miners strike was a forewarning of what was to come. Throughout the Donbas, crime took off as criminal gangs multiplied. Increased drug addiction, the collapse of family life – all the ties that hold a society together even under capitalism frayed to the breaking point.
Return to capitalism The middle class nationalist intelligentsia and the gangster capitalists combined. This along with the fact of the long standing oppression by Russia led to over 90% of voters voted for independence from Russia in the 1991 referendum. This was not only a vote for political independence, it also implied a view of moving towards capitalism as it was seen in Western Europe – capitalism with a kind and “democratic” face, capitalism with clean and “democratic” elections, lack of corruption and social programs to provide health care, pensions, etc.
With or without independence from Russia, though, a return to capitalism was inevitable at that point. The point is that independence also meant some form of democratic rule to those who voted in its favor.
What kind of capitalism they were going to get was indicated by the fact that in 1993 inflation reached 10,000%, by 1996 the GDP had shrunk to its lowest level in the history of Ukraine and by the following year the productive (as opposed to the speculative) component of GDP was at a mere 47.8%.
The “nomenklatura” (the old Soviet era bureaucracy) combined with outright criminal gangs to hive off the state owned industries. Gangsterism reined supreme. Each oligarch ruled over his turf like drug gang leaders do. They developed their own regional-based political parties. They fought amongst themselves as much as they did against their class enemy, the working class. This capitalist class in the making was a “criminal-political nexus”.
Capitalism in Western Europe and U.S. At that time Western Europe was headed down the neoliberal road, reducing all social benefits and even the social democrats were collaborating in taking that direction. Due to this, far right nationalist and even outright fascist forces were bound to develop in those countries. So what chance did capitalism stand in Ukraine?
As for “democracy”, we have to realize one thing: It is a luxury for the capitalist class to rule through democratic norms. True, it’s the safest and least expensive means of their rule, but it is only possible when the capitalist class can offer at least the hope of a decent life to the majority of the working class. That is why it is being steadily eroded in Western Europe and the United States. In the US, where the working class is in crisis, the main resistance to that erosion comes from all the institutions that base themselves on capitalist democracy. That includes most of the capitalist media and almost all governmental institutions – for example the bureaucracies that control elections, different regulatory bodies, and even the US military. Even here, though, we see the erosion as for example within the police, where a large sector are committed racists and even fascists. And the US military has always had its “Dr. Strangelove” wing which is exemplified today by the likes of Michael Flynn and the convicted war criminal (pardoned by Trump) Eddie Gallagher. For all its extreme failings and its decline, the US unions also still stand as something of a bulwark to the developing anti-democratic trend that is being led by the Republicans.
Political basis for capitalist rule in former East Bloc But what did Ukraine (or Russia or any of those countries) have? The previous state institutions were based on repression. There was no tradition of “free” press. And the unions were simply the old state-controlled unions, more like company unions than real worker organizations of any sort.
As for socialism: In the West – the US for example – socialists always were in the forefront of any workers’ movement. All the best, the most serious and dedicated union leaders were socialists of some sort – the famous ones like Eugene Debs, Big Bill Hayward, P.J. McGuire, and those whom history has largely forgotten like Benjamin Fletcher and R.T. Sims. (These names are largely forgotten due to racism.)
But the working class of Ukraine lacked the mass workers’ organizations – the unions. And as for socialism – it was and is almost unanimously associated with national oppression and the monster to the east.
Western capital played its role. Again, according to Yurchenko, it flooded Ukraine with speculative finance capital. She writes: “A large proportion of the economic growth of Ukraine’s economy in the pre-crisis years was growth on paper, based on fictitious foundations of credit finance and mirage liquidity. Investment from abroad that flooded the country in the last few years, before the Lehman Brothers collapse, has been the last wave of Ponzi-type financialisation. Ukraine’s banking sector growth since 2000 and especially during 2005–2008 was not a sign of the country’s improving economic performance but rather a sign of growing dependency and integration with the global financial architecture. It was an expression of the last wave of financialisation that began in the USA and then spread over to Europe–first Western and later farther to the East….. Ukraine cumulatively borrowed $44 billion and over 15.6 billion euros with the largest lenders being the IMF, the World Bank and the European Commission.”
All that money had to be repaid… by the working class.
The Maidan protests They were not nationalist or fascist inspired
Maidan In 2014, masses of Ukrainian youth rose up against the corrupt and pro-Russian president Yanukovich. Some on the “left” claim that it was a right wing-led coup that drove Yanukovich out of office. An independent study revealed that 70% of the protesters mentioned police brutality as a reason for being out in the streets; 53.3% mentioned Yanukovich’s refusal to sign the EU-Ukraine agreement; 50% said it was a desire to change life in Ukraine. Only 5% mentioned following a call of one of the right wing parties.
As with the years that led up to Maidan, the years that followed were filled with power struggles between different regional and gangster capitalist based parties, of which Yanukovich’s “Party of the Regions” was only one. It was the one most closely linked to Russia.
Ukrainian fascism It was in this historical context that we have to understand Ukrainian fascism. Before commenting any further, it should be stressed that contrary to how most of those on the left raise it, fascism in
A member of the Russian National Unity Party. Putin sent these fascists into Donbas. The “socialists” who talk about fascism in Ukraine ignore Putin’s much stronger fascist links.
Ukraine is no isolated phenomenon. There is a fascist component to almost all those former east bloc countries, with the strongest fascist component being in Russia. There, Putin’s Number One advisor is the fascist Aleksander Dugin. Almost every fascist group and prominent individual throughout Europe supports Putin. While she is not directly a fascist, France’s Marine Le Pen is close to it. She has been directly financed by Putin. At a recent conference of the white supremacist America First in the US, the crowd was chanting “Putin, Putin, Putin”. So any talk of fascism in Ukraine is hypocrisy at best if it doesn’t point this out.
Nor is the Zelensky government a fascist or even fascist friendly one. In fact, Zelensky recently dismissed his interior minister Avakov, who was giving protection to the fascist-led Azov Battalion. And in the 2021 elections, the fascists received something like 3% of the vote and didn’t get a single delegate elected (as opposed to in the US).
However, this can be somewhat deceptive. According to what I was told when I was there, support for Azov is quite widespread as are right wing sentiments… of a sort. I was told that one can give the Nazi salute without being arrested, but one can be arrested for singing the Internationale. But we must see the complexity of this sentiment:
A funeral for a right wing leader in Lviv. Support for the far right is a complex issue in Ukraine.
Ukraine nationalism is totally integrated with the view that national oppression of Ukraine is integrally linked with the old Soviet Union. This is the basis of the anti-communism. Anti-communism and Ukrainian nationalism are one and the same in a the minds of many Ukrainians. Those who want to resist the Russian invasion would be looking for the force most determined and most able to do so. For many, that would be Azov. It is similar to those Syrians who wanted to resist the fascistic Assad dictatorship joining with the Muslim fundamentalists. They were not necessarily fundamentalists; they just wanted arms to fight Assad.
It is worth quoting Yurchenko at length: “The Ukrainian nation as an imagined community was weak when the country became independent… until the insurrection of 2013-2014…. It became popular to view the annexation of Crimea by Russia and the latter’s active support for separatist forces as factors that forced the birth of the Ukrainian nation that had been in the making since the early 1990s…. The Ukrainian is now locked into defining themselves in opposition to the Russian ‘Other’… [which] is chained to the communist Soviet.” (From pp. 20-21)
This view has nothing in common with that of Putin, who denies the very right of Ukraine to exist, and does so in order to justify a brutal imperialist invasion. Yurchenko bitterly opposes the invasion and has no patience for those “socialists” who deny Ukraine’s right to obtain arms from any source available, including the NATO nations. But what her explanation does do is explain two things: First is the link between Ukrainian nationalism and anti-communism; and second and related to this is the relatively weak basis for Ukrainian nationalism as compared to, for example German or Italian nationalism.
The basis of any national sentiment is a shared historical experience, a common language and culture, and more or less clear borders, among other things. What is happening in Ukraine – what has happened – is only the most extreme example of a global process. In 2004, the Guardian newspaper carried an extremely interesting article called The Demise of the Nation State. The author, Das Gupta, explained that all these factors that hold a nation together are under assault by global capital as well as other forces. But workers know no form of rule under capitalism other than the nation states. In fact, there is no other form of rule. It is exactly these processes that are driving a yearning for the “good old days”, meaning increased nationalism. The author didn’t comment on the absence of a mass, working class based socialist movement as an alternative, but that factor is certainly there globally and doubly so in Ukraine.
So what we see in Ukraine is a concentrated image of the future that capitalism holds for all.
More specifically, in relation to Ukraine, if Putin’s invasion succeeds even in part, if he succeeds in gaining military control over the Black Sea coast, possibly even all the way down to Odessa, this will lead to years of low scale war. It won’t be entirely different from what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza today. In the absence of a clear headed – which is to say socialist – wing of the working class developing, then hatred of Russia and in fact all Russian people could develop. This could include a movement against ethnic Russians in Ukraine, maybe even including physical attacks. In that case, then genuine fascist ideology could start to really develop.
Israeli fascist youth chanting “death to Arabs” at a protest.
To continue the previous analogy: In Israel today, Zionist fascism (as opposed to simple colonial/racist thinking) is developing, especially among the settlers in the West Bank. In the case of the war in Ukraine, Putin would likely have to bring in a “new” and more loyal population into his newly conquered territory. These would have a fascist ideology. Not only that, but the chauvinism that Putin bases himself on in Russia would also lead to an increase in outright fascism in the mother country. In fact, it’s possible that Putin’s rule could become an outright fascist one.
On the other hand, if Putin’s invasion fails, if his forces are even just driven out of the regions they already have conquered and Luhansk and Donetsk remain as puppet “states” for Putin, it seems likely to me that that would be considered a huge victory for Ukraine. In that case, within Russia a mood similar to the post-Vietnam mood in the US could start to develop. That would be a radical left challenge to the Putin regime, including mass disafection within the military. More important is what could start to develop in Ukraine. It seems most likely to me that there would be an initial outpouring of national pride. “We beat the Russian bear!” would be the mood. But then a new mood could start to develop among workers: “We went through all this sacrifice, now we want ours.” In other words, a renewed class struggle. Under these circumstances, an opening could develop for genuine socialism.
A funeral for a right wing leader in Lviv. Support for the far right is a complex issue in Ukraine.
The Native American poet Diane Glancy writes: “It is a fragile gate, the opening of faith.”
We enter into it with all our human frailty, our sin, and faith asks of us more than our rationality — it asks us to believe.
In our relationship with God we find a new relationship with each other. Relationship beyond the fixed, bounded identities. As theologian Miroslav Volf would put it, we are asked to embrace what we would exclude.
We become, he says, porous “bounded yet permeable”. In letting others in we do not lose ourselves but enrich ourselves.
For Christians it is encapsulated in John 17, Jesus’ prayer offered to God before his betrayal and crucifixion: “Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”
Volf says that in the Holy Trinity — the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit — we find love and reconciliation, an “unconditional embrace of humanity”.
While for many Easter is a welcome break from work, a quick trip away and some chocolate eggs, for Christians Easter is when we remember Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection and when we are asked the hardest of questions: can we love even those who have wronged us?
If Easter is to retain its full meaning, must we forgive even the most heinous of crimes?
How can we forgive?
Forgiveness is unequivocal. Jesus on the cross cries out: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Jesus would ask for forgiveness even for those who would want him dead.
It is not selective forgiveness, but forgiveness for all.
Miroslav Volf says “Christ justifies the ungodly”. We must love our enemies as we love our neighbours.
But how? In a world of such suffering, how can we forgive?
Volf probes this question in his classic book Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation.
The book has been named one of the 100 most influential religious books of the 20th century and starts with an acceptance that none of us is innocent. We are all with sin. We are, he says, “morally divided”.
Sin is “both the rot deep in our souls and a prowling beast of exclusion that holds captive entire societies, cultures and communities”.
Sometimes it is the church itself that is the source of exclusion and conflict. Volf says that we “inherit exclusionary forms of faith”.
This is faith that hardens identity. “A religion thus configured,” he says, “ends up justifying the group’s practice of exclusion and its deployment of violence”.
“Exclusionary forms of Christian faith are distortions.”
Instead, he says, we must act with will. It is a will to embrace, “not as a simple switch to turn the practice of embrace on, but as a site of struggle for the truth of humanity.”
A crack in the world
That truth is forgiveness. Between sin and our will is a “fissure”, a crack in the world. The cracks, as the singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen wrote, are where the light comes through.
Simone Weil, the French philosopher, wrote of that fissure — her tension with Christianity. She said she had “not the slightest love of the church in the strict sense of the word”.
At its worst, she saw it as a tool of authoritarians. But this is not the spirit of the cross.
Weil felt powerfully true faith; faith she says, “stronger than I was”. During a liturgical service, she wrote that she “felt the passion of Christ entered into my being once and for all”.
It was a Christ of the forsaken. It is a Christ of inexhaustible forgiveness.
For Volf, it is very personal. He lived through the wars of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. His father had been tortured in a concentration camp, and Miroslav was locked up and interrogated.
As a Croatian, he was once asked: “But can you embrace a Cetnik?”
The Serbian fighters, he writes, were “sowing desolation in my native country, herding people into concentration camps, raping women, burning down churches, destroying cities”.
What was Volf’s answer? “No, I cannot.”
But then he said, “but as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to.”
Asking the hard questions
As a person of faith, I also have to ask myself the hard questions of forgiveness. Like Simone Weil, mine has been a life in the cracks — in exile.
As an Indigenous Australian can I forgive the sins — the crimes — committed against us? My family has suffered. Our history weighs heavily on us.
Were it not for the teachings of the Aboriginal church I was raised in, were it not for my elders of faith, my uncles, my aunties, my grandparents, there would be no light in the cracks.
Were it not for the example of elders like Aunty Jean Phillips, who taught us how to live a public life of faith to reach out to non-Aboriginal people to renew our nation, or Pastor Ray Minniecon, who lives the scriptural lesson of Micah 6:8 “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”, then forgiveness, for me, would remain out of reach.
Indeed she points out in her book Recognising Resentment that righteous anger and resentment have inspired powerful non-violent movements for equality and justice.
It is a double-edged sword: anger can inspire courage and, as we see too often in our world, it can lock us in a deadly embrace from which none of us can escape.
Forgiving and forgetting may be the destination, but first we must walk the road of justice.
Miroslav Volf says forgiveness will not come until “the wrongs have been named, forgiven and repented of and after the perpetrators and victims have reconciled, and after the world has been made safe from evil”.
This Easter, we live in a world that is far from safe from evil.
Whether one is Christian or not, the act of forgiveness is essential for justice, for peace.
Jesus on the cross asks of us the greatest gift of grace,“that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them” (John 17:26).
But we live in the real world with all human frailty and it is hard to find ourselves in each other.
In Ukraine right now can we possibly ask the victims if they can forgive? Can a Ukrainian embrace Vladimir Putin?
We are not there yet. The answer perhaps would echo Miroslav Volf when asked if he could embrace a Cetnik: “No, I cannot. But as a follower of Christ I think I should be able to.”
Stan Grant is the ABC’s international affairs analyst and presents China Tonight on Monday at 9:35pm on ABC TV, and Tuesday at 8pm on the ABC News Channel.
This post of Gerard’s brought on quite a few comments. I think, my first comment to this post of Gerard’s was this one:
“Gerard, your imaginary ‘obituary’ shows your great imagination and humor! It is so humorous, that I made me laugh instantly.
But then I thought a bit more about it, why is it that ‘obituaries’ nearly always deal only with the ‘good’ things a person has done during a life-time?
It leads me to what I call my ‘personal’ belief about ‘Jesus’. I am not sure, whether I am a sort of ‘odd’ Catholic convert. I really do not have a lot of contact to other Catholics. I do not want to go into the reason for that. It is really another subject I would have a lot to say about . . . .
So, at age 40 I became a Catholic convert!
I was attracted by everything that related to what Jesus is supposed to have said.
He said, something like that if a great sinner (for instance someone who did commit murder) if this ‘mortal’ sinner is truly sorry for having done such a horrible sin, Jesus says, In this case a forgiveness of this sin can be granted!
I find the ‘Hail Mary’ Prayer has great faith value!
The first part of the Prayer says how blessed Mary is.
The second part of the Hail Mary goes like this:
Mother of God,
Pray for us Sinners,
Save us from the Fires of Hell,
And bring all Souls to
Heaven, especially those
That most need thy mercy. Amen
The Catholic belief, as far as I know, is that every person can become as wholesome as Jesus at death’s door, and then go straight to ‘Heaven’ so to speak. So when a person is dead and has regretted every bit of ‘Wrongdoing (Sin)’ then this person is totally blame-free, meaning nothing bad at all should be said about this deceased person!
Church people, that tend to threaten a mortal Sinner, as for instance
a murderer, with everlasting ‘Hell’ in my view do not act the way the (imaginative) ‘Jesus’ would have acted towards a ‘mortal’ Sinner!
The way, I imagine Jesus, he would have talked gently towards this person who committed a very grave Sin! Probably in most cases, there would not have been an instant forgiveness, but some urging to do a lot of ‘penance’!
When you do ‘penance’, you try extremely hard, to lead a life of a kind of self-sacrifice to make up for the very great wrong of mortal Sin!
Now to Mary, who is called ‘Mother of God’: This, to my mind wholly imaginary ‘Mother of God’, is just someone, that can pray for us so much better than we can ever be praying for ourselves!
In the Hail Mary Prayer, we think especially about those who do need most this special kind of mercy, so are in need of a lot of prayer!
My feeling is, that it is quite alright, ‘to speak only well’ about the deceased.
However, somebody who says on his deathbed that it was right that it was right to murder a person because that person is from a different race, how a person like this can ever be forgiven – – – – Well, I do not have an answer to this.
What I write here, are my personal feelings.
At this stage, I do just express my personal belief!
I do not claim, that my interpretations about ‘Belief’ are of general value: Really, not at all!
I assume, to be able to talk more sufficiently about the subject of belief, would, for sure, require some proper studying!”
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My other comments, to what Gerard published, I might publish soon as a follow-up!
It is impossible to read a bad word about those that have gone. All of us, men and women are faultless when in the icy embrace of the dearly departed. Here some examples from the obituary page of the Sydney Morning Herald: “Norman. Devoted father and beloved husband, sadly missed at 98 years old after 68 years of unstinting love to his dear wife Gladys, unselfishly gave to the community. Or Mavis, at 102 years sadly passed surrounded by loving family at Eventide Home, fascinating and loving wife of Geoffrey (who remained, faithful till the bitter end). She pioneered tirelessly for the sport of indoor sword fighting, boxing and gun clubs.”
With all the rain it did make me somewhat melancholic or inward looking and spend the time as usefully as possible and of late have come to peruse the paper’s Deaths and Funerals pages. It is amazing how few…