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What would Jesus do about tax and government spending?

2 Apr

https://www.smh.com.au/business/the-economy/what-would-jesus-do-about-tax-and-government-spending-20180401-p4z7ah.html

 

By ROSS GITTINS

It’s Easter, so let me ask you an odd question: have you noticed how arguments about governments’ intervention in the economy – should they, or shouldn’t they – often rely on an appeal to Christ’s parable of the Good Samaritan?

No, me neither. Until I read a little book called, The Political Samaritan: How Power Hijacked a Parable, by Nick Spencer, of the British religion-and-society think tank, Theos.

This is my take on what I read.

Polling in 2015 by the British Bible Society found that 70 per cent of respondents claimed to have read or heard the parable, but in case you missed that day at Sunday school, I’ll summarise.

One day a lawyer trying to trap Jesus quoted the Old Testament law to “love your neighbour as yourself”, but asked, who is my neighbour?

Jesus replied with a story. A man was travelling down a road when he was attacked by robbers and left half-dead. A priest came down the road and saw the man, but passed by on the other side. So did a religious functionary.

But next came a Samaritan who took pity on the man, bound his wounds and took him to an inn, where he looked after him. Next day the Samaritan paid the innkeeper to look after the man until he was well.

Then Jesus asked the lawyer which of the three was a neighbour to the man who’d been robbed. “The one who had mercy on him,” the lawyer replied. Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”.

Politicians have been using this parable to support their arguments at least since British evangelicals were campaigning for the abolition of slavery in the early 1800s. Martin Luther King spoke about the parable at length in his last sermon before he was assassinated in 1968.

George W Bush spoke about it, as did Hillary Clinton. But it’s been a particular favourite of the British Labour Party.

Early in his establishment of New Labour, Tony Blair said: “I am worth no more than anyone else, I am my brother’s keeper [an allusion to Cain and Abel in the Book of Genesis], I will not walk by on the other side. We are not simply people set in isolation from one another . . . but members of the same family, same community, same human race. This is my socialism.”

Blair’s successor as British prime minister, Gordon Brown, son of a Presbyterian minister, said “we are prepared to spend money to help the unemployed; we are not going to walk by on the other side, we are going to help them.’’

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Brown said: “In a crisis what the British people want to know is that their government will not pass by on the other side, but will be on their side.”

So, to politicians on the left, the Good Samaritan is the all-purpose justification for state intervention to help anyone anywhere with a problem. It’s about collective responsibility and collective action.

To a politician like Margaret Thatcher, however, it’s about precisely the opposite. The Good Samaritan was an individual; he saw someone with a problem and he acted to help them. He didn’t tell the government to do something about it.

People shouldn’t hand over to the state all their personal responsibility. Point one.

Point two: the Samaritan needed money to be able to help the half-dead man, and he had it. But the more we’re taxed, the less we have to discharge our personal responsibility to others.

So what was Jesus really saying? First, according to Spencer, he was reacting against the lawyer’s legalism.

Jesus was concerned with following the spirit of the law, not exploiting its letter. And he was saying the law of neighbourly love is the key commandment which, in cases of conflict, overrides other commandments.

The Samaritan was from an ethnic group the other people in the story despised. So neighbours aren’t just the people in our street, our friends, our fellow Australians, they’re everyone, including those we don’t know or don’t like. The parable is relevant to our treatment of other races and asylum seekers.

The world has changed a lot in the 2000 years since the parable was spoken, so I think we should be wary of assuming it speaks definitively about every modern practice. It doesn’t explicitly authorise compulsory state redistribution of income from rich to poor, nor is it condemned. It doesn’t even give the tick to organised charities.

Conservatives are right to emphasise that our personal responsibility for others is fundamental. But I think supporters of collective action may claim that it’s consistent with the spirit of the parable.

Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor 

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Recent comments

  • mitch of ACT
    @sh5 & Bazza, Your skepticism about the actual existence of Jesus must be shared by those who espouse all that is good …
  • SlowBob
    It wouldn’t matter what Jesus said. Some one with a clever accountant would be able to construe His words any way the…

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Ross Gittins

Ross Gittins is economics editor of the SMH and an economic columnist for The Age. His books include Gittins’ Guide to Economics, Gittinomics and The Happy Economist.

To find Meaning in Life

28 Jan

After browsing through a lot of articles on the internet, I ended up with the following blog about the Meaning in Life:

http://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/4-ways-to-find-meaning-in-life

 

Derek Beres refers to  Emily Esfahani Smith’s  book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed by Happiness, and says:

“We are obsessed with happiness, often believing it a birthright, yet as journalist We are obsessed with happiness, often believing it a birthright, yet as journalist Emily Esfahani Smith notes in her book, The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed by Happiness, all that searching is actually making us unhappy”

Beres further says the following:

“As with my recent conversationwith Robert Lustig, Smith cites Aristotle’s concept of eudaemonia as a force for “cultivating the best qualities within you both morally and intellectually and living up to your potential.” Instead of chasing pleasure, we need to institute the search for meaning.

This is challenging during a time when you’re constantly instructed to do “what you love.” Smith counters this advice by invoking German philosopher Immanuel Kant. As with the mythologist Joseph Campbell, who, while famously remembered for saying “follow your bliss,” continued, “If your bliss is just your fun and your excitement, you’re on the wrong track.”

“To Kant, the question is not what makes you happy. The question is how to do your duty, how to best contribute—or, as the theologian Frederick Buechner put it, your vocation lies ‘where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.’”

Smith’s beautifully researched homage to this hunger hinges on “four pillars of meaning.” By seeking, cultivating, and maintaining each of these, she argues, happiness arises from a deep sense of contentment rather than the incessant and unyielding grasping for pleasure. “

Then there are four interesting write-ups about

Belonging

Purpose

Storytelling

Transcendence: Here Beres points out that Smith grew up in a Sufi household.

Beres says: “Transcendence is at the heart of most spiritual traditions. It can be achieved through psychedelics, music, scripture, or meditation. A deep sense of connectedness carries adherents beyond the normal trappings of society. People are able to intimately connect with their environment and peers. Writing of volunteers in a 2015 study focused on the development of empathy through transcendence,”

Smith notes:

“They abandoned the conceit, which many of us have, that they were the center of the world. Instead, they stepped outside of themselves to connect with and focus on others.”

 

 Derek Beres is the author ofWhole Motion: Training Your Brain and Body For Optimal Health. Based in Los Angeles, he is working on a new book about spiritual consumerism. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Here is what I found in Amazon.com about the book:

https://www.amazon.com/Power-Meaning-Fulfillment-Obsessed-Happiness/

The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness Paperback – September 5, 2017
by Emily Esfahani Smith (Author)
In a culture obsessed with happiness, this wise, stirring book points the way toward a richer, more satisfying life.

“Too many of us believe that the search for meaning is an esoteric pursuit—that you have to travel to a distant monastery or page through dusty volumes to discover life’s secrets. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us—right here, right now.

To explore how we can craft lives of meaning, Emily Esfahani Smith synthesizes a kaleidoscopic array of sources—from psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and neuroscientists to figures in literature and history such as George Eliot, Viktor Frankl, Aristotle, and the Buddha. Drawing on this research, Smith shows us how cultivating connections to others, identifying and working toward a purpose, telling stories about our place in the world, and seeking out mystery can immeasurably deepen our lives.

To bring what she calls the four pillars of meaning to life, Smith visits a tight-knit fishing village in the Chesapeake Bay, stargazes in West Texas, attends a dinner where young people gather to share their experiences of profound loss, and more. She also introduces us to compelling seekers of meaning—from the drug kingpin who finds his purpose in helping people get fit to the artist who draws on her Hindu upbringing to create arresting photographs. And she explores how we might begin to build a culture that leaves space for introspection and awe, cultivates a sense of community, and imbues our lives with meaning.

Inspiring and story-driven, The Power of Meaning will strike a profound chord in anyone seeking a life that matters.”

THE RED COAST

26 Jan

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35724024-the-red-coast

“THE RED COAST” is the title of a novel by DI MORRISSEY. I am now about half way through reading this book. Last night = just before going to sleep – I got stuck on pages 184/185. DI MORRISSEY tells the reader about a writers’ festival in Broome where some well known authors are present. During question time Wally, a 90+ old man from the audience asks one of the authors:

“So, tell me, how would you suggest getting a book together from a whole pile of notes and letters?”

“Are they yours? Or someone else’s? You mean like compiling a family history?” replied the young author.

Wally points out that it is not just a family history but “a ripping yarn, an adventure and a mystery” which is all true and “would be a bloody good movie. But sad though.”

The author’s advice is as follows:  “Start at the beginning. Pretend you are writing a letter to a friend.” And then he asks Wally: “Can you use a computer?”

Here is Wally’s answer: “Bloody oath, I’m on Facebook. –  Well, computers might be all the go these days, but I reckon we should all be writing down our family stories. And even if they don’t get published, someone will find and read them. Nobody inherits emails and tweets. My wife’s family history is an oral one, so unless the stories are told to the next generation, the history will be lost. You got to keep your family’s stories.”

So DI MORRISSEY  writes: “There was a burst of applause when he said this, and Wally sat back down looking pleased with himself.”

Recently I’ve been reading a lot of novels about outback Australia, wriiten by Australian authors. I find it always very interesting to learn a bit more about outback Australia. What this over ninety year old bloke says in DI Morrissey’s novel I find most interesting. For instance he says, that nobody inherits emails and tweets. This is pretty sharp, wouldn’t you think so?

https://diverstavern.com.au/event/corrugation-lines-broome-writers-festival/

Grassroot Records and Divers Tavern present a special Corrugation Lines, Broome writer’s Festival opening event. Shane Howard in Concert. The Tavern will be transformed into a seated theatre for this rare chance to see one of Australia’s treasured artists in an intimate concert. Marking 20 years since he produced the widely loved Pigram Brothers album “Saltwater Country”, Broome welcomes back the writer and poet in all his heartfelt storytelling magic. Do not miss!

The above was a Broome Writers’ Festival Event in August 2017.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shane_Howard

 

 

Locust Girl by Merlinda Bobis wins Christina Stead prize for fiction

23 Jan

http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/the-locust-girl-by-merlinda-bobis-wins-christina-stead-prize-for-fiction-20160516-gowcra.html

Susan Wyndham

” . . . .

Philippines-born Bobis, who lives in Canberra, came to Australia as a student 25 years ago, taught creative writing at Wollongong University for 20 years, and is the author of novels, stories, poetry and radio dramas in English, Filipino and her native language, Bikol.

Locust Girl grew out of her concern for the people and nature in both her countries, which has led her to work with the International Water Project, leading a community in the Philippines to tell stories about the dying river that supplies their water.

“We think there is a border between us and the non-human world,” she says. “We think of water only as a resource, but we’re looking at how to teach people to care for water, and how to help students reimagine water.”

Thinking about climate change, poverty, terrorism, globalisation, she says, “I wondered how I could write about all this and make a big issue come alive in a small story, so that even a child could understand.”

. . . . .

The State Library of New South Wales is a large reference and research library open to the public. It is the oldest library in Australia, being the first library established in New South Wales.

Following is a write-up by the State Library about the Christina Stead Prize:

http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/about-library-awards-nsw-premiers-literary-awards/christina-stead-prize-fiction

 

LIANE MORIARTY

10 Jan

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/nicole-kidman-wins-golden-globe-for-role-in-big-little-lies

http://lianemoriarty.com.au/Book/big-little-lies-us/

I love to read books by Australian Author Liane Moriarty.

“Liane Moriarty is the author of seven international best-selling novels, Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story and the number one bestsellers, The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty”

http://lianemoriarty.com.au/about-liane/

 

 

Birthday Celebrations two Weeks before Christmas 2017

11 Dec

On Saturday, the 9th, it was Caroline’s, our youngest daughter’s, birthday. She and her partner gave us a special treat when they came to visit. They presented very fresh Steak Tartar. Everybody liked this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steak_tartare

For Sunday, Peter had baked a hazelnut cake. It had been our daughter Monika’s birthday a few days earlier. So she and some of her family came to see us on Sunday afternoon for coffee and cake.

Two of our great-grandsons, Lucas and Alexander, were among the guests. The boys are three and five now. It was a pleasure to have them around, and I think they liked to spend a few hours at our place. Even though they had not been to visit for a while they could still remember a lot of things, for instance boxes with games and some children’s books. I think their favourite book right now is PUMUCKL, who is a ‘naughty’ goblin (kobold). They went through every page of the book to see where  PUMUCKL was and what he was up to.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumuckl

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kobold

They also went with their Dad and later with their Mum into our backyard, where they looked at a lot of the plants and also did some running around from one end to the other. I had great fun watching them! I showed them some ripe black berries which they were allowed to pick.There were many, many green tomatoes in all different sizes. One very nice firm tomato had already turned a lovely red and could be harvested.

In two weeks on Sunday the whole extended family is going to come to our place for some Christmas Eve celebrations. We are all looking forward to this.

“Don’t Worry, Life Is Easy” by Agnès Martin-Lugand. Also my Opinion on Gay Marriages

18 Nov

This book can be downloaded and read in iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.

https://itunes.apple.com/au/book/dont-worry-life-is-easy/id1159625953?mt=11

 

“Description

Now in Paperback: The much-anticipated, bestselling sequel to the international phenomenon Happy People Read and Drink Coffee.

Diane needs to start over again. After returning from Ireland and turning the page on her stormy relationship with Edward, the brooding Irish photographer, she is determined to rebuild her life in Paris with help from her best friend Félix. She focuses solely on getting her literary café back on track-until she meets Olivier.

He is kind and thoughtful, and she may have a future with him…until she stumbles across her former love at a photography exhibit. What is Edward doing in Paris? Why didn’t he reach out? Faced with a hail of questions, her old flame remains cold and unresponsive. Apparently, he, too, has moved on.

In order to put the past behind her, Diane must go back over her tracks. Ireland saved her before. Can she get answers there and find peace again?”

 

I got the above book from the local library and enjoyed reading it very much. When I can find  “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” I am going to read this too. However I find it is all right too to just read   “Don’t Worry, Life Is Easy”  without having read “Happy People Read and Drink Coffee” .

Above I copied the

iTunes Preview of  “Don’t Worry, Life Is Easy” 

Several people are mentioned: Diane,  Félix , Oliver and Edward. It says:

“In order to put the past behind her, Diane must go back over her tracks. Ireland saved her before. Can she get answers there and find peace again?”

So Diane does go back over her tracks, namely to Mulranny where she spent quite a bit of time not so long ago and did get to know and love quite a few people who helped her in a personal crisis after having lost her husband and young daughter in a car accident.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mulranny

Diane loves Félix like a brother and treats him very respectfully as her partner in that business she owns, namely her literary café.  Félix is gay and a very good friend to Diane. He loves her and always looks out for her. With the postal survey about same sex marriage, that we just had in Australia, the issue of ssm is a lot on peoples’ mind these days. In this fictional story that I have just read, this guy  Félix is a very happy and friendly Parisian bloke who loves to go out a lot and meet his friends. Towards the end of the book the issue comes up that someone would like to have Félix  as a permanent partner because he loves him. It is left open whether they really get together. But if it should happen that they want to stay together, why should they not be allowed to marry? What harm would a marriage like that do to anyone?

Heterosexual couples usually get very excited about marrying, even if they have already lived together for some time. Once a marriage proposal has been accepted, there is joyful excitement all the way which usually extends to friends and family as well. Why should not gay people have the option to go for marriage? I do not know the statistics about the duration of such marriages, however I am inclined to believe gay or lesbian marriages probably last at least for as long as heterosexual marriages, on average that is.

Going back to the above book, I would like to copy here a few sentences from page 15 of the book. Here is what Diane says about the bookstore:

“I had wanted the bookstore to become a warm, welcoming place, open to everyone, somewhere that all types of literature would find a home.  . . .  “