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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

RIP Victims of Operation Cast Lead - 27 December 2008

RIP Victims of Operation Cast Lead - 27 December 2008.

On this day in 2008, Israel commenced its massacre of the Gaza Strip, which killed more than 1400 Palestinians, including at least 318 children. A further 5,000 were injured, 400,000 left without running water, 4,000 homes destroyed and tens of thousands of people left homeless.

Israel's justification for the massacre was that the bombings were in retaliation for rockets being fired from Gaza into Israel.  What they don't mention is that the rockets were fired in retaliation for Israel breaking a cease fire and bombing Gaza.  This cease-fire had been honoured by Hamas, yet Israel claims it was Hamas who broke the cease-fire.  Israel, as usual, misrepresents the facts and rewrites history.

The 22 day Operation Cast Lead was a war-crime, in which no-one has been punished or held accountable.  Israel used nuclear and chemical weapons on densely populated civilian areas.  The weapons included missiles with depleted uranium, phosphorous bombs, and DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosive).  DIME is a carbon shell which splinters and shoots out tungsten dust, burning and destroying everyone and everything within its radius.

Doctors treating victims of Operation Cast Lead have found people with injuries that they have never seen before and which they do not know how to treat. This has raised the question of what other unconventional and unknown weapons are being used by Israel on civilians.  Refer to this article published by the UK's The Independent :

Human Rights Watch released a report in March 2009 which cited the indiscriminate and repeated use of white phosphorous as evidence Israeli war crimes. White phosphorous is traditionally used in open areas to screen troop movements, however, during Operation Cast Lead it was used in areas in which Israel had no troops.  It wasn't used as a screen, it was used to deliberately maim and kill.

A United Nations review of Operation Cast Lead was headed by Jewish Justice Richard Goldstone (  He handed down a 575 page report which accused both Israel and Hamas of war-crimes.  In a press conference, Justice Goldstone said "the mission concluded that actions amounting to war crimes and possibly, in some respects, crimes against humanity, were committed by the Israeli Defence Force".  Goldstone found that the use of rockets by Hamas was deliberately aimed at killing Israeli civilians and so also constituted a war crime.  However, Hamas's weapons are primitive and certainly are not Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD).  Whilst a crime, Hamas was not aiming to obliterate an entire civilian area or trying to destroy their infrastructure.  Hamas killed 13 Israelis. If Israel wants to punish Hamas, and Palestinians collectively, then who punishes Israel?  Israel killed over 1,400 Palestinians and many are suffering permanent injury from the use of WMD.

There is no excuse for use of these weapons in Gaza.

Israel has consistently used WMD in Palestine.  When accusing Palestinians of crimes, Israel will use military aircraft to bomb the residential area in which the suspect lives, often killing the suspect and their family members.  Israel does not make an effort to simply arrest and charge their suspect.  Even in the cases where they do arrest suspects, they rarely charge them with any crime, but instead hold them indefinitely.   Israel's definition of crime is very loose.  Simply being Palestinian is enough for Israel to suspect a person of a crime and to hold them indefinitely.

Where was the international uproar when Israel massacred the 1400 people in Gaza? Where was the uproar over Israel's use of WMD on civilians? Who will be held accountable? Israel has done such a good public relations job of demonising Palestinians that no-one cares for them or pleads their case.  Yet, how many of us would stand by as our country was invaded and we are forced from the land at gun-point, as many of our people are murdered or raped.  Would we fight back? As the world condemns Palestinian aggression, it then wages illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan based on "pre-emptive" strikes; a policy which has been responsible for massacring hundreds of thousands of people who never committed a crime, and never would commit a crime, against the invading nations.  The last country invaded for its alleged use of WMD was Iraq.  A charge which was shown to be false.  Yet there is ample evidence of Israel's possession and use of WMD on civilians and no country is speaking up against it. Why not?

The hypocrisy shown towards Israel is disgraceful.  It is time that the world stood up against Israel's decades of propaganda, rewriting of history and it's ethnic cleansing of Arab identity and presence in Palestine.  It is time that Israel was held accountable.

RIP the victims of Operation Cast Lead and victims of all other war-crimes committed by Israel.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

F*** the Poor!

 Okay, that is FEED THE POOR.  FEED, people! What did you think it meant?

Sadly, far too many conservatives don't believe in FEED THE POOR, they generally have the attitude of F**K THE POOR.  Ironically, many of those conservatives also claim to be Christian, to worship the very God who told them to FEED THE POOR - THE LEAST OF THESE!

The church cannot possibly feed all of the world's poor, so it is imperative that all people who are capable and all businesses, facilitated by all governments, contribute a portion of their income to feeding the poor, to assisting them to achieve a better life, to have health care, education and accommodation.

Yet Conservatives will scream "SOCIALISM" or "COMMUNISM" at the thought of Government daring to not only tax them, but also spend some of those taxes on the Poor; decreeing the nation a "welfare state".

Socialism was never about a welfare state, it was about equalising the excesses of unfettered capitalism and ensuring that all people contributed to the betterment of the nation.

However, all governments regardless of political ideology should be caring for the poor.  We have seen the basket case that is now the United States which has resulted from unadulterated greed, coupled with failure to care for the poor, failure to provide a free, public health system, or a decent unemployment scheme.

The Poor are people.  They are citizens.  They deserve to live a life of dignity, live a life without hunger, live in reasonable accommodation sheltered from the weather and which they can personalise.

Our society is affected by all who live in it.  It isn't just the "movers and shakers" who make a nation.  The Poor also contribute.

They must be looked after.


Monday, November 28, 2011

One God, Three Faiths, Eternal Love

Three of the world's major religions are Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whilst each see themselves as very different to the others, Judaism and Christianity share a common suspicion of Islam.  Christians in general, tend to support Israel and the Jewish diaspora.

Amidst the arguing and criticism, all three share a common history and worship the same God.

Some people argue that Muslims do not worship the same God that Jews or Christians do.  However, Allah is a word that simply means "God", so an arabic bible has numerous references to "Allah".  Additionally, all three religions have a common ancestor, Abraham, the Father of Many Nations.

Certainly there are a number of crucial differences between the three religions, for instance Christians worship Jesus as the Son of God, whilst Muslims honour Jesus as one of their most respected prophets.  Interestingly, both Christians and Muslims believe Jesus was born of a Virgin and both religions are awaiting expectantly for the return of Jesus.   Jews on the other hand, see Jesus simply as a man, a false prophet and certainly not as the Messiah. The Qur'an has an entire Surah (Chapter) dedicated to the birth of Jesus.  Islam or Judaism consider themselves to be purely monotheistic and do not believe in the Trinity (God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forming a 3-in-1 "Godhead") which Christians do.

Whilst Muslims are accused of violence, intolerance, racism & close-mindedness, the irony is that their accusers are behaving in exactly the manner which they criticise, but all in the name of Christ, Democracy or Zionism.  To justify their belief that Islam is a violent religion, some people will quote passages from the Qur'an which describe killing non-Muslims.  Yet, the same can be said of Christianity and Judaism.  There are a number of passages in the Old Testament  which call for the killing of every man, woman and child.  Of course, Jews, Muslims and Christians would and should argue that when quoting such scriptures the context needs to be explained.

Mainstream media has focussed on those extremist Muslims whose behaviour and words justify the fears that some people hold.  The media will broadcast messages from those Muslims who want to introduce the Sharia (with no explanation of what they are actually saying), or those who believe that women are second-class citizens or that Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims should be killed, or that we should all eat halal meat and not celebrate Christmas.  This inflammatory and sensationalist reporting makes great airtime and always provokes the wrath of right-wing talk-back hosts and their listeners.  Of course, those Muslims who give the others a bad name are in the minority, considering that there are a billion Muslims across the globe, from a variety of cultures who manage to live together well.  The media would do better to focus on the behaviour of the majority of Muslims, rather than the minority.  The media would do better to foster harmony rather than fear and hatred.

Attend a mosque and you will find Muslims from different countries and cultures celebrating their religion whilst appreciating the diversity in the various cultures, such as Egyptians sitting down with Indonesians, Pakistanis sharing with Syrians or Turks, Malaysians celebrating with Moroccans. Islam has brought many cultures together and is a religion of peace.  This of course is similar to churches and synagogues across the globe, where people from various nations come together to worship and celebrate their faith.

Many crimes have been committed in the name of Christianity, including of course the Crusades, right through to the recent reinvention of Jesus as a war-mongering capitalist.  Reinventing Jesus has conveniently enabled the "Religious Right" to justify the bombing and invasion of Muslim nations in retaliation for the extremist behaviour of Muslim terrorists whose actions most of the Ummah (Muslim community) do not support. Of course, this reinvented Jesus doesn't make mention of "love" or "turn the other cheek".

All three religions claim to be peaceful and tolerant of others.  So why the fighting?  Particularly, considering that both the Bible and the Qur'an have their roots in Jewish scripture. Jews view both the Qur'an and the Bible to be complete departures from the original scriptures.  Of course, the messages of both Islam and Christianity have changed from their Jewish roots and their adherents believe that the Jews have missed the final message from God; in the case of Islam, the message of the prophet Mohammed and in the case of Christianity, the message of Jesus Christ.   In acknowledgement of this common scriptural root, Islam considers Jews and Christians to be "people of the book" and honours their original scriptures. Whilst the Christian bible includes the Old Testament which is basically Jewish scripture.  Both Muslims and Christians see their holy books as the fulfillment of the original Jewish scriptures.

Whilst the three religions have different interpretations of the nature of God and His message, the fact remains that they worship the same God.  Their messages may differ, but God does not.

The Qur'an has a number of scriptures which describe God's love and His love for people who do good.  For instance Surah 3:134 "those who spend (freely), whether in prosperity, or in adversity; who restrain anger, and pardon (all) men; for Allah loves those who do good".

The Bible is full of verses describing God's love and his commandments to love one another, such as John 3:16 ("For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever shall believe in Him will not perish, but be saved") and Matthew 22:37 & 39 ("Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul and all your mind and ....You shall love your neighbour as yourself").

And then Deuteronomy 7:9, which appears in both the Christian Bible and Jewish Torah (and honoured through the Qur'an), states "Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands"

God, in the Bible, Qur'an and Torah, is a God of Love and commands us to love each other.

We should forget the petty bickering over religious differences and do what God has commanded us - to love one another and to love Him.

God loves each of us, and Christians, Jews and Muslims love Him - as expected.

But - here is the kicker - is it too much to expect all of us to love each of us as God does?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Axis of Evil - Iran, Halliburton, Cheney

In 2002, then President George W. Bush declared Iran to be part of the "Axis of Evil", which was comprised of three nations: North Korea, Iran and Iraq.

Vice President Dick Cheney stated that "we don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it" when referring to one of those "Axis of Evil" nations.

Dick Cheney's CV also includes a stint as the CEO of Halliburton from 1995 to 2000, when he resigned amid claims of a conflict of interest as U.S. Vice President and favouritism in the awarding of government contracts.  Nonetheless, Halliburton continued to be awarded extremely lucrative government contracts, particularly with the rebuilding of Iraq and the establishment of Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay.

Whilst Cheney was CEO, Halliburton was trading with Iran and even had an office based in Tehran.  This violated American law, namely the "Trade with the Enemy Act" and the "International Emergency Economic Powers Act". These Acts specifically prohibited trade with Iran, even before Bush's declaration of the "Axis of Evil".

Halliburton has been charged with selling nuclear technology to Iran as recently as 2005 and as early as 1995 - while Cheney was CEO.  This has prompted the obvious allegation that these deals may have assisted Iran in developing weapons-grade uranium.

Cheney was willing to profit from these dealings, willing to profit from an organisation that traded with "evil" whilst he was CEO and Vice President and was continuing to trade with evil after he resigned as CEO and whilst he still held significant influence within the company and around $40 million of Halliburton stock options.

"We don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it".

If it hadn't been for Halliburton's dealings whilst Cheney was CEO, there may not be anything to defeat; or is the conquest of Iran seen simply as another profit-making opportunity for Halliburton.

"We don't negotiate with evil, we defeat it".

What's the problem here? The definition of negotiation, or the definition of evil ...

or do money and power transcend ethics and hypocrisy?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

You Will Know Them By Their Fruits

Being a Christian can be summed up in one word: LOVE.

Love is the one way in which others can tell that we are followers of Jesus as stated in John 13:35,  "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another".

In distinguishing false prophets from true believers, Jesus stated in Matthew 7:16 that "You will know them by their fruits."

A Christian, a person with a heart for God, will yield the Fruit of the Spirit.  Galatians 5:22-23 tells us that "The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control"

LOVE is the very first fruit of the spirit.

"If someone says 'I Love God'  but hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also". 1 John 4:20-21.

Sadly, we are seeing that the fruit produced by many people in today's world is hate, intolerance and fear, which is generally directed towards Muslims, homosexuals, socialists, communists, social justice advocates, "do-gooders" and so on.

Hate is a manifestation of fear.

Yet 1 John 4:18 tells us that "there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.  But he who fears has not been made perfect in love."

In Matthew 22:37 & 39, Jesus summed up the entire law, the entire bible in two commandments: "You shall love the Lord Your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind and ... You shall love your neighbour as yourself".   
As Christians we are commanded to love, not hate.

Our fruits should distinguish us from the fruits of the world. Whilst we live IN the world, we are not OF the world.

What are your fruits?

What do people see when they see you?  Do they see a person of love, with compassion for all?  Or do they see a person of hate and fear, full of vitriolic bigotry?

When people see you, do they see Christ?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Grass Roots - Then & Now

Back in the day, the Labor Party's grass roots supporters were the working class.  Those hard working men and women who built this country and struggled to earn a living in order to feed, cloth and house the family. They were generally union members who fought for fair pay and conditions in the face of blatant opportunism and exploitation by "the man" - the boss who represented the company with no compassion for individual circumstance, no understanding of "work/life balance" and who was only interested in increasing profits for the Company.

The Liberal Party's grass roots voters were traditionally businessmen and women, those who owned businesses and were interested in the vagaries of the stock market.

The National Party's grass roots base were traditionally farmers.  Hard working men and women who struggled to make a living through drought, flood, fire and famine.

Back then, it was easier to differentiate political affiliations and loyalty.  Generally, people voted for the same party all their lives.

That was then.  This is now.

All three parties are so closely aligned that you would not know which party released a policy unless you were informed. No longer are the party policies clearly delineated.  People swing between parties from election to election, which is not necessarily a bad thing depending on the motivation for it, however it is made easier when the major parties are so closely aligned.

Party policies are predominantly determined by popularity and focus groups.

The "New Grass Roots" these days is driven by fear, selfishness, ignorance and misinformation which is often manipulated and encouraged through government rhetoric and media sensationalism.  Lindsay Tanner expounds on this in his book, "Sideshow - Dumbing Down Democracy".

The Labor Party has lost many of its grass roots supporters who have become disillusioned with unions and complacent about their industrial rights.  We see workers supporting the Liberal Party and even backing big business to sack other workers (for instance, the stand that many workers took in supporting the grounding of the QANTAS fleet to break the strike - a strike which was not just about more pay, but about protecting jobs in Australia and not seeing them outsourced overseas). Back in the day, every union in Australia would have gone on strike to support the QANTAS workers. It will be interesting to see if those workers who supported QANTAS management will then bleat if their jobs are the ones outsourced.  So much for solidarity.

One of the New Grass Roots values is fear.  Fear of anyone different to us, whether it be skin colour, race, nationality or religion.  We have seen asylum seekers demonised and misrepresented as terrorists.  People have very little sympathy or understanding of their situations.   Yet, had Australia been invaded by Japan in the Second World War, we may well have been the ones seeking asylum in other countries.  I wonder if we would have joined an orderly queue as we expect other asylum seekers to do.  I wonder if we would have politely awaited our turn as our families were brutalised.

The Grass Roots these days is also driven by selfishness.   Whenever an election is called many people are more interested in the benefits to their hip pockets than in what is good for the country, for the economy, for the environment, for those less fortunate then us.  This is evidenced by the increased "pork barreling" during recent election campaigns and the focus in the media of stories detailing "what's in it for you" or "what's the cost to the hip pocket?"

Two other values of the New Grass Roots are ignorance and misinformation.  Very little truth or detail is given by any party or the media when discussing policies.  It is more about smoke-screens, misdirection and focusing on red herrings rather than truth.

The New Grass Roots values of fear, selfishness, ignorance and misinformation are pandered to by all parties.  Political policy is often reduced to inane slogans which strike a chord with those who are too ignorant and apathetic to look deeper into those slogans, to realise that they have no substance, no policies and no real meaning.  

Politics in the 21st Century is marked by politicians capitulating to the amoral values of the New Grass Roots.  It is time that politicians of every persuasion change the dialogue which drives these selfish values and for the electorate to not accept blindly the manipulative posturing of politicians and the media who thrive on fear and feed on selfishness.

Regardless of political preference, we all should take stock and return to the true values of Australia - fairness, equality, tolerance ... mateship.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Adam & Eve meet Adam & Steve

Whilst there has always been a strong Christian protest against same sex marriage, and homosexuality in general, the campaigning by both sides is heating up.

On one side of the fence is the gay community, which includes a diversity of sexual proclivities, namely Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex (LGBTI).

On the other is the Christian lobby, whose opposition to homosexuality is reliant on the interpretation of a number of biblical scriptures and the incorrect assumption by many Christians that people are not born 'gay'.  There are also a number of Christians who believe that people are born 'gay', but that it is a defect which can be cured by God. Nonetheless, most of them believe that homosexuality is a sin.

The old adage that God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve, ignores the fact that the bible teaches that God did actually create Adam and Steve and Bob and Joe and Mary and Lucy and you and me.  According to the bible, God created all of us and knows how our lives will pan out before we were even born.  Psalm 139:13-16 describes this beautifully: 'for you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.  Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.'

People are born homosexual. People are born lesbian, bisexual, transgender and intersexual. People are born heterosexual.  There are a multitude of variations of chromosomes from just the normal XX and XY genes. There are XX males, XY females, X0, XXY, XYY, XYYY and numerous other combinations which impact on a person's sexuality.  These occur naturally.

Some of these manifest under the broad description of intersexual (or hermaphrodite).  In terms of intersexuals, the stereotypical image of a person with both male and female genitalia is not always correct,  often chromosomal variations which may result in a person being born intersexual are unable to be physically detected.  Instead, they will manifest as a desire for the same gender, or a feeling that they are a woman trapped in a man's body or vice versa.

The reason that I refer to intersexuals is because this is perhaps the best physical example of people born with a variety of sexual combinations and subsequently their sexual urges may manifest as transexual or homosexual.

With such a natural variation in chromosomes, hormones, genetics and brain structure, how can it be argued that people are not born LGBTI?

There are a number of ways in which a person's sexuality is formed, particularly in terms of attraction to the same sex:

  • they are born that way;
  • through societal influences;
  • their upbringing is punctuated by abuse, rejection, lack of appropriate affection; or 
  • they chose to - there will always be people who decide to rebel against the established position or wanting to experience all that life has to offer, or for any other reason.

Some Christians believe that LGBTI people are acting against nature, in keeping with their flagship scripture found in Romans 1:26-28, which says:

'For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.'

This scripture is talking about people acting against their natural sexual urges. Now, for this scripture to effectively condemn homosexuality as a sin, it requires that people are not 'born gay', that homosexuality is against their nature. Yet, it is natural for people to be born homosexual.

Verses 29-32 go on to say:

'being filled with unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful, who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.'

Pretty much every sin that a person can commit is listed.  Many of those who aggressively criticise and abuse the LGBTI community are committing many of the sins listed in Romans 1:29-32.  It should come as no surprise that the bible is opposed to fornication, that is, sex outside of marriage.  So those people who are naturally attracted to the same sex should have the opportunity to live within wedlock if they so desire, to live in a committed relationship with their chosen partner and entitled to the same legal benefits that other married couples have.

Back to biblical scripture.  There are a number of other scriptures which Christians use to condemn homosexuality.  Many of these are based on the interpretation of the scripture's context or subjects.  Before launching into this, I want to preface it by saying that the Bible is not incorrect, however, our interpretations may well be. Below are my interpretations of specific passages relating to homosexuality, I'm sure that many will disagree; I'm also sure that a large number will agree.

  • Romans 1:26-28 - For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves the recompense of the error which was meet.

    As discussed above, this scripture is talking about people acting against their natural sexual urges. For this scripture to effectively condemn homosexuality as a sin, requires that people are not born gay, that homosexuality is against their nature. Yet as discussed above, people are born homosexual, it is their natural sexual urge.

  • 1 Corinthians 6:9 - Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolators, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind ...

    The word 'effeminate' in this verse is incorrect. The correct term in the original scriptures is 'catamite', which means 'male prostitute'. This is in keeping with the nature of the verse which was referring to those having sex outside of a committed relationship. Additionally, the term for 'abuser of themselves with mankind' is based on the word 'arsenokoitai', which was used by Paul when writing this scripture. This word was not a common word and in fact, its meaning is unclear. If Paul was referring to homosexuals he would have used the term 'paiderasste', which was the common Greek term for homosexuals. A number of interpretations have been given to the word 'arsenokoitai' since the early Christian church, including 'temple prostitutes' (generally males servicing women), and masturbators.

  • Leviticus 18:22 - 'thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind'.

    The book of Leviticus was centred on the law of the Israelites at that time. Many of the laws do not apply today, nor are they acceptable to modern society. For instance, these days most of us sanction divorce, we don't ban people from sleeping with a menstruating woman, we happily accept the charging of interest on loans, farmers now harvest the corners of their fields, we don't punish the victims of rape, we eagerly devour pork and shellfish, all of us wear clothing manufactured from two or more types of fibre and many people (including Christians) are tattooed or admire tattoos - in fact, there is a small industry in Christian tattoos.

  • Leviticus 20:13 - 'If a man lies with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them shall committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death: their blood shall be upon them.'

    See Leviticus 18:22

  • Genesis 19 - The story of Lot in the city of Sodom. Two angels stay with him and the men of the city want Lot to give them over so that they can have sex with them. The men also ask for Lot's son-in-law and daughters. God destroys the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone.

    Homosexuality is commonly given as the reason for the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, however, the story is not about homosexuality but about rape and the treatment of strangers (the angels). The men of Sodom wanted to rape and sexually humiliate both the male and female members and guests of Lot's household. The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for the complete rejection of biblical standards. In fact, Ezekial 16:49-50 explains why Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed: '... this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit.'

  • 1 Timothy 1:9-10 - 'Knowing this, that the law is not made for the righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for men stealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine.'

    Refer to the response to 1 Corinthians 6:9 regarding the word 'arsenokoitai' being translated as 'them that defile themselves with mankind'.

  • Jude 1:7 - 'Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire'.

    This scripture clearly states that Sodom and Gomorrah had given themselves over to fornication and 'going after strange flesh'. It condemns sleeping around, but it does not condemn committed homosexual relationships. 
There have also been studies published which provide evidence that same-sex unions were sanctioned and conducted by the church between the 4th and 14th centuries. Most notable are the books 'Same Sex Unions in Premodern Europe' and 'Christianity, Social Tolerance and Homosexualityby John Boswell, a Yale historian.

Sexual attraction is based on natural, innate impulses which we are born with or have developed.  The majority of people are attracted to the opposite sex, some are attracted to the same sex and some are attracted to both. 

Marriage is a promise of commitment between two people who want to share the remainder of their lives with each other.

Not all people who oppose same sex marriage are Christian.  Besides biblical scripture, some arguments against same sex marriage include the obvious issue that same sex couples cannot procreate.  Based on this argument, heterosexual couples who can't procreate also should not be allowed to marry, that would include those who are infertile or who are older and won't be having children.  The point of marriage is commitment, not procreation.  The desire to commit to someone is generally because we love that person and want to spend the rest of our lives with them.

This leads to the fallacious argument of 'where will it end'.  This argument states that if same sex couples are allowed to marry 'for love', then why not allow polygamy, incest, bestiality and so on. This is similar to the so-called sexual relativism argument which claims that people should be able to engage in any sexual activity they want, including homosexuality, sado-masochism, exhibitionism & voyeurism, fetishisms, polygamy, bestiality, incest, pedophilia and necrophilia. Both arguments are blatant scare-mongering and raise issues which are of no relevance to the same sex marriage debate.  To humour those who argue this, it is important to understand that polygamy, bestiality and incest are activities which very few people indulge in. They are based on lust and sexual gratification. Homosexuality on the other hand is a natural sexual urge, just as heterosexuality is, and forms a person's identity - it is not an "activity", it is a basic, primal desire and is not just concerned with sexual activity, it includes all other aspects of human relationships. Marriage (same-sex or otherwise) is based on two people committing to each other for the rest of their lives, not on more than two people marrying. It is biology and psychology, not mathematics.

Other arguments centre around adoption with the assumption that same sex couples do not make good parents. This argument ignores the fact that many people in this situation already have children from previous heterosexual marriages. It ignores any evidence to the contrary, that people are people regardless of sexual orientation and generally parents have a desire to protect and nurture their children, regardless of the parent's gender. The argument then goes on to say that the children will suffer because of the stigma of living in a household with same sex parents. Many of those children grow up as well-adjusted as any other child.  Children can suffer regardless of the gender of the parents who raise them if they are in a household without love, tolerance and respect. Every year, children become the unwitting victims in domestic violence or divorces. Certainly far more are in those situations than children who are raised in a household with same sex parents.   

Whilst some people may find the thought of homosexuality to be abhorrent, it needs to be remembered that it is more than just the sexual act. Just like heterosexuals, LGBTI people have emotions, attractions, needs, love and the desire to be loved.  They also want committed relationships based on respect and love; the very things that are the corner-stone of any successful marriage.  Those who oppose same sex marriage, are dictating how others should live their lives.  They are stating that they know better than others and through this they are delegitimising the lives of others.

Marriage is the right of all adults, the basis of which is commitment, respect and love - gender is not a criteria.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Palestine's Right to Exist

The United Nations will soon be voting on whether Palestine should be recognised as a nation state in its own right.  Many who oppose Palestinian statehood do so based on the argument that Palestine has never been a nation and that no people ever identified themselves as Palestinians.  The argument goes that Palestine was only referred to since 1948 when Israel was created and that prior to that there was no Palestinian identity.

This argument has one aim: to ignore the long history of Arab settlement in the area now known as Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to discredit any sense of Palestinian identity.  Arabs (let's call them Palestinians) have lived in this area for thousands of years. Yet the current argument against the creation of the state of Palestine ignores this history and is in essence a form of ethnic and historical cleansing.  It is a modern day form of Terra Nullius, a latin term which literally means 'land belonging to no-one'.

In 1901, a Zionist named Israel Zangwill wrote 'Palestine is a country without a people; the Jews are a people without a country'.  In 1969, Golda Meir stated 'There is no such thing as a Palestinian people ... It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn't exist' Zionism is based on the concept of Palestine being terra nullius.

Yet the land has belonged to those people who occupied it for thousands of years, who built their lives, their farms, their families on this land.  By the 19th century, these people were predominantly Muslim Arabs, with some Jews, Christians and others.

Numerous references to the land as Palestine are found throughout history, including the British campaigns against the Ottoman Empire during World War I, right back to ancient history when Egypt referred to it the people as the 'Peleset', biblical scripture referred to them as Philistines, the ancient Assyrians referred to them as the Pilistu, and the ancient Greeks called the area 'Palaistine'.

In the late 19th Century, Zionists (those who believe that this land belongs solely to the Jews because of the promise given by God to Abraham as recorded in the book of Genesis) decided that the Jewish diaspora (predominantly European Jews) needed a single homeland.  The concept of a 'homeland' for these Jews is somewhat of a misnomer, considering that their ancestors were Europeans who converted to Judaism, not descendants of Abraham.  Nonetheless, they turned their eyes to Palestine and set about obtaining this land for Jews from all over the world (the diaspora).  In 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 181 (II) Future Government of Palestine which called for the establishment of Arab and Jewish nations in the land of Palestine and an end to the 'British Mandate of Palestine'.

The Palestinian Arabs understandably disagreed.  The UN resolution was implemented against the express wishes of the Palestinian Arabs; as a result, the Jewish nation of Israel was created while a nation for the Arabs was not created.  The UN resolution created borders for Israel and for the Palestinian territories. The majority of Arabs were forcibly removed by Israel, whilst some sold their land to Israelis, often in response to threats, violence or withholding of essentials, such as food and water.  The Arabs fought against this and of course lost to the much better armed and United States sponsored, Israel.  As the Palestinian Arabs lost war after war, Israel occupied more and more Palestinian territory.  The United Nations issued hundreds of resolutions condemning Israeli aggression, human rights violations, treatment of Palestinians and denial of basic services.  Some of these resolutions were issued because Israeli occupation and settlement of Palestinian land violated the Fourth Geneva Convention.

Zionists and their apologists have been searing their consciences by:
  • adopting the Terra Nullius argument and rewriting history in order to void thousands of years of Arab history in Palestine through claiming there was no Arab who identified as a Palestinian; 
  • believing that God Himself has anointed the Jews to occupy the Holy Lands at the expense of Arabs; 
  • demonising the Palestinians; and 
  • ignoring and white-washing the vast human rights violations of Israel.  

The United Nations has issued hundreds of resolutions calling for Israel to stop the occupation, stop the slaughter, stop the human rights violations and to tear down the walls.  Israel's increasing occupation of the Palestinian Territories is under-stated in the polite term of 'expansionism'; it is imperialism, it is conquest.  It is illegal.

Regardless of whether or not a 'Palestinian' identity existed prior to 1948 (and it obviously did considering the territory was known as Palestine and Arabs lived there for thousands of years), this does not give Israel the right to deny them their basic human rights, it does not give Israel the right to effectively imprison them behind a 'security barrier', it does not give Israel the right to massacre men, women and children, it does not give Israel the right to deny them access to hospitals, food, water, jobs, education.

No wonder the conquest of Palestine has been white-washed.  No wonder Palestinians have been dehumanised and their right to exist disregarded.  Any opponent of Palestine who has a conscience, or who proclaims their belief in a loving God, would see that through their rejection of Palestine, they are sponsoring ethnic cleansing.

Some Palestinians have not done their cause any favours because of their support and involvement in terrorism and suicide attacks in Israel.  However, the vast majority of Palestinians have adopted peaceful protests which the mainstream media does not report or focus on.  It should also be kept in mind, that often those attacks are in response to provocation by Israel and for every Israeli killed, there are hundreds of Palestinians killed in Israeli actions against civilians.

Many others have protested simply by their continued existence and by not yielding regardless of how many illegal settlers occupy their lands or how violent those settlers are.   There have been instances of Palestinian children throwing stones at settlers who have then responded by bashing or imprisoning the children without charge for months, sometimes years.  There are other instances of settlers shooting the children dead, without fear of being charged for murder by the Israeli police.  Children throw stones and are condemned for it. Settlers kill them and are rewarded.  This is not the action of a just and civil society.

In justifying the 'security' wall, in justifying the use of military jets to bomb civilians in Palestine, in justifying the use of white phosphorous and depleted uranium, in justifying hundreds of check-points which prohibit Palestinians from living a normal life, Israel declares that it is acting in self-defence.  Based on this argument, the Palestinians can also justify their attacks on Israel as it was the Israelis who forcibly took land and killed or removed the occupants.  Self-defence as a justification cuts both ways.

In 1982, up to 3,500 Palestinian civilians living in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in southern Lebanon, were massacred by the Phalangists, a Lebanese Christian militia. The Israeli Army had surrounded the camps and controlled entry and exit to them. For three days, from 16 to 18 September 1982, the Israelis witnessed the Phalangists murdering men, women and children. Witnesses tell of the militia storming into dwellings and shooting children in front of the parents, including killing babies as they were nursed by their mothers. This was a war crime which then Israeli Minister of Defense, Ariel Sharon, was held personally responsible following an inquiry commissioned by the Israeli government (the Kahan Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Refugee Camps in Beirut, which commenced on 28 September 1982 and handed down its findings on 8 February 1983).

Sabra and Shatila are just one of the many massacres perpetrated by the Israelis. Based on the Israeli 'self-defense' line, the Palestinians have every right to protect themselves from war crimes.

Regardless of the outcome of the United Nations vote on Palestinian statehood, the lives of Palestinians will not improve until Israel and its supporters abandon their genocidal policies, their rewriting of history and their misconstruing of religious scripture.

Those who claim that it is Israel's God-given right to rule this land based on a few scriptures completely ignore the rest of the scriptures which talk of God's love.  For more on those scriptures refer to my article: 'Israel - Superstition, Prophecy and Human Rights'.

The Holy Land needs more love and tolerance and less of the partisan politics and racist policies dominating the discussion.  Many of those who embrace and promote these policies are not extremists or militants, but ordinary people, often church-going people, who mistakenly believe that Palestinians have no right to exist in their own nation.

Israel argues that it has offered peace to Palestinians on a number of occasions, yet, these peace offerings have always been at great expense to the Palestinians. It also ignores the numerous peace offerings made by Palestinians.  These offerings have rested on Israel returning to the pre-1967 boundaries; Israel has violently and vehemently refused to make any such compromise, yet they expect Palestinians to continue vacating land which they occupied for thousands of years. They expect Palestinians to accept the theft of land through illegal settlement, which breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention, and for the world to turn a blind eye to this war crime.

Israel argues that some neighbouring countries would like to see Israel driven into the sea.  However, this does not justify Israel taking a similar approach and effectively destroying the Palestinians, driving them into the sea.

Israel is a reality that its opponents need to accept. At least within the boundaries legally set for it by UN Resolution 181.

Palestine is also a reality that their opponents need to accept.

Palestine has a right to exist and Palestinians have a right to live with the same rights and freedoms that all people are entitled to.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From Frankincense to Franchise - the Corporatisation & Politicisation of Christianity

From Frankincense to Franchise - the Corporatisation & Politicisation of Christianity

Modern day Christianity is being over-run with the desire for money and power as a result of "prosperity doctrine" and "dominionism". Christ has been corporatised and politicised. Instead of blessing Christ with frankincense and myrrh, corporate Christianity brings Him franchises and movie rights. Instead of "the truth shall set you free" many fundamentalist churches and televangelists preach that "the tithe shall set you free".  Instead of "go into all the world and preach the gospel", right-wing fundamentalists are forcing their interpretation of biblical law on the world, ignoring the biblical principles of love, forgiveness and grace.

Over the last few decades an  element within the Christian Right has been actively taking steps to establish the United States as a Theocratic Republic which would be subject to the Laws of God detailed in the Old Testament.

This element has become known as Dominionists and their aim is to establish God's Kingdom on Earth through the creation of a Christian state which favours Christians and persecutes those who do not ascribe to their self-righteous expectations of morality and their strict interpretation of biblical law.  Dominionists are politically conservative and fundamentalist Christians who are highly influential in politics, with even former President George W. Bush believing in their creed.

Whilst Dominionism may not be well known to many people, the concept of it is embraced by world-wide Evangelical churches and its insidious message broadcast across the globe by such well known proponents as Pat Robertson, Dr James Dobson and Focus on the Family, Tim LaHaye, Jerry Falwell, Charles Colson, Phyllis Schlafly, Rick Joyner, Promise Keepers and others.  RJ Rushdoony, a "Reconstructionist" (a form of Dominionism) wrote a book called "The Institutes of Biblical Law" in which he calls for a return to Old Testament law, including the death penalty for crimes such as murder, rape, homosexuality and adultery.

The policies of Dominionism include:
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-homosexuality
  • Anti-Islam
  • Anti-immigration
  • Anti-multiculturalism
  • Anti equal rights
  • Pro war
  • Pro gun ownership
  • Pro death penalty
  • Military expansion
  • Smaller government
  • Supporting Big Business
  • Lower taxes for the wealthy
  • No social security system 
  • No public education system
  • No public health system
  • American hegemony 
  • Abstinence
Many of these policies are based on exclusion, fear, racism and xenophobia.

Dominionism has transformed God from Omnipotent to Omniphobic.

Dominionism has transformed God from a God of Love to a God of Law.
Dominionism essentially ignores the New Testament laws of "love your God" and "love your neighbour" whilst embracing many of the laws of the Old Testament and ignoring the tenets related to fairness and love.

They have also misused scripture to demand smaller government, labelling attempts at public service delivery as communist.

President George W. Bush, a member of the Christian Right and in accordance with this Dominionist policy of smaller government, privatised or outsourced many core government services, including Defence and Security (most famously outsourcing to Blackwater which operates outside of the same constricts that the US Department of Defense does), Law Enforcement, Education (including the expansion of Charter Schools which allows for private corporations to run public schools and which are not subject to the same governance, rules and regulations that government education departments are), Health, Prisons, Road Construction and Maintenance, Public Transport, Administration, Communication, Air Traffic Control, Municipal Services and Postal Services.

During George W. Bush's administration, privatisation resulted in trillions of dollars being wasted by the USA Government on the fallacy that private companies are more efficient than public ones at delivering services. Yet, private companies are dedicated to earning profits for shareholders, whereas government departments are dedicated to delivering services.

The Republicans gave massive tax cuts to the richest Americans whilst ignoring lower and middle income earners.  Both the Republicans and the Tea Party (many of whose members are Dominionists) call for lower taxes whilst supporting exorbitant military expenditure and cutting social services, education and health which disadvantaged the poor and low income earners.  It was this unrestrained military expenditure and encouragement of corporate and individual greed that led to the Global Financial Crisis, costing thousands of jobs and bankrupting many people.

The Texas Republican Party Platform document of 2004 stated "we call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education and the prohibition of the transfer of any of its functions to any other Federal Agency".

This policy appeals to Dominionists as it matches their aim of replacing the public education system with private Christian education.  Whilst Christian schooling is not overtly sinister, put into the context of the Dominionist desire for supremacy and domination it is particularly concerning.  Gary North, a leading Dominionist, stated "Until the vast majority of Christians pull their children out of public schools, there will be no possibility of creating a theocratic republic".

Pat Robertson, head of the 700 Club has declared that Christians are to take over the government of the United States. They are well on their way to achieving this through the influence that they wield within the Republican Party and the Tea Party.  At the moment we are seeing conservative Christians with Dominionist views, namely Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann, campaigning to be the Republican Party nominee at the next Presidential election.

Dominionists are more interested in benefits for big business than in caring for the poor.  They care for power and prosperity - attested to by their political lobbying for big business, small government, corporate greed through unregulated markets and removal of government social service programs.  Prayer has been exchanged for Political Power.

They have campaigned to remove the minimum wage, which even now provides insufficient income for many workers.  Michelle Bachmann stated "If we took away the minimum wage, if conceivably it was gone, we could potentially virtually wipe out unemployment completely, because we would be able to offer jobs at whatever level."  There might be more jobs under a Bachmann plan, but the "working poor" would become the "destitute poor" and with the Dominionist opposition to social services, public health and public education, the poor would become beggars, would become untouchables and undesirables in their own land.  Taking away the already meagre minimum wage will encourage corruption and crime as workers do what they can to keep their families fed and the bills paid.  Corruption flourishes in countries with inadequate wages.

Dominionism as a concept is finding fertile ground among conservative Christians because many of their influential preachers and evangelists have twisted the Bible message into one of materialism through their "prosperity" doctrine.  Put simply this doctrine claims that God will bless Christians with material wealth.  There are many biblical scriptures which condemn this materialistic attitude.  Hebrews 13:5 says "keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said 'never will I leave you, never will I forsake you' ". 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of God" is being replaced with "Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the big screen TV".

It is the materialism of prosperity doctrine which has resulted in many Evangelical and Pentecostal churches embracing Dominionism, even though many don't call it that.

The genuine love that these Christians have for Christ has been exploited and manipulated by influential preachers who have channeled this passion into a heartfelt belief in a Christ vastly removed from the one in the Bible: a materialistic, corporate Christ, not the selfless, loving Christ of the New Testament.

Jesus never said "follow me and I'll make you rich and famous beyond your wildest dreams". 

Coupled with this materialistic dogma, is a predisposition to punish all who don't meet the high moral standards set by these Christians and an intolerance and exclusion of "liberal" Christians and non-Christians including Muslims, atheists, environmentalists, socialists, homosexuals and the list goes on.

The bible tells us that the wages of sin is death.  In Ephesians 2 we are told that whilst we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Him through his grace.  John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall be saved".  The bible is a gospel of grace and inclusion of all.  John 3:17 says "for God did not send His Son into the world to condemn, but that the world through Him might be saved."

Many of these conservative Christians are focused on punishment of crimes with little understanding and no desire to address the causes of crime. For instance, asylum seekers often enter other countries in order to escape persecution and war (ironically these have sometimes been caused by despots and wars sponsored by the USA).  Yet Dominionists call for their imprisonment and deportation, often demonising them as terrorists, contrary to the scriptures in which we are told to love and care for them.  Deuteronomy 10:18-19 says "He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger ....".

Dominionism is more interested in punishment than in correction. The motivation to punish is borne of hatred, anger and revenge coupled with a fear of losing the life they desire and the power they crave. The motivation for correction is borne of love through self-sacrifice, reaching out to others and loving them.

Instead of showing love, Dominionists show contempt and condemnation. They focus on abortionists and homosexuals, actively campaigning against them, declaring that these people are condemned to Hell and that God hates them - contrary to the message in John 3:17.  They condone and preach animosity and fear of those who practice other religions or other ways of life.

Instead of reaching out to those who are different, who are poor and downtrodden, Dominionists join with Uber-Capitalists to subjugate them, to dehumanise them, to further disenfranchise them, to deny workers their rights.  All men are equal in God's eyes, but not in the eyes of the extreme Religious Right.

Dominionists are the new Sadducees, the new Pharisees; with potential to be a type of Christian Taliban.  Their legalism and harsh interpretation of the bible may well result in a Totalitarian regime where they fully implement their antiquated and prejudicial laws.  Isaiah 10:1-2 states "woe to them who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless".

Like the money-changers that Jesus ejected from the temples, the Dominionists and many others in the Christian Right have turned churches into ongoing business concerns at the expense of the poor and the weak. They prey on superstitious fears that cause some to tithe in order to avoid God's wrath, exhorting an image of God as a Mafia Godfather who will strike people down unless He is paid "protection money".  To sweeten the tithe, they often preach Capitalism rather than Christianity, exhorting people to tithe through the promise of reward with the assurance that God will return to them tenfold or hundredfold what they give.

These should not be the reasons for tithing.  Tithing, and for that matter any giving, should be out of love, not because of fear, greed or personal benefit.  Of course churches need money to survive and to run their programs, but they should not be obtaining this money through messages of fear in what amounts to extortion or in exploiting people's greed through exorbitant promises of untold wealth.

We now see the rise of the "mega-church" with churches taking over other churches through a mergers and acquisitions program that would make any corporate raider proud, with the result that many of these mega-churches have essentially franchised themselves nationally and in some cases, internationally.  Before sowing into these mega-churches, Christians should remember that it is a fine line between Kingdom Building and Empire Building.

Jesus didn't ask us to build huge churches, drawing people into buildings; instead He commissioned us to go out into all the world, to mix with people of all nations and all types in order to preach the gospel.  Some of us have become idolatrous of these mega-churches, wearing their t-shirts and collecting memorabilia in the same way that people worship their favourite rock star or football team.  Yet, where is God in all this? Religious fervour is easy to exploit, and very profitable.

Modern Christianity has been hijacked with cleverly marketed messages aimed at manipulating the congregation's love of God and fear of rebellion in order to gain support for the Dominionist goal of power through a theocratic state.  People who dare criticise this Religious Propaganda Machine are condemned as "bleeding heart liberals", as having sold out to the world.  Yet it is the extreme Religious Right who has swapped the Truth of God's Love for the worldly Lie of Prosperity and Political Power.

Christians in particular should be standing up against this perversion of the Gospel and all people should be opposing any attempts at Totalitarianism and Fascism whether it be in the form of malevolent dictatorships of any religious or political persuasion, or in the name of Democracy or Christianity.

There are enough problems in the world without Christians adding to them.  Issues such as poverty, terrorism, war, famine, illiteracy and poor health should be the priority of Governments, Churches and individuals working together.  To solve these problems the world needs love; it needs people to love and respect each other and to acknowledge and embrace the differences between individuals and communities.

Doctrines of hate and intolerance whether masquerading as religion, politics or personal opinion only fuel the problems facing the world and do not solve them.

The world needs less fear, less greed and more grace, more love.

Before embracing the heresy of Dominionism, we need to remember the message of Mark 8:36 -

"what shall it profit a man, if he should gain the whole world, and lose his soul

Sunday, August 14, 2011

National Debt: the Child of Capitalism and Prosperity Religion

The United States economy is struggling under a crippling debt and has recently been downgraded from AAA to AA+ by the economic ratings agency, Standards & Poor (S&P).  Whilst the USA is not the only country to be downgraded recently, they are certainly the largest and most influential on world markets.

Much attention has been given to the recent dispute over increasing the debt ceiling, which was required for the US government to pay the interest on its debt.  The Republicans who control Congress refused to pass the bill by the Democrats, who control the Senate.  The Republicans blamed the Democrats for poor fiscal management.  However, it is the Republicans who have accumulated the most debt over the last 30 years.

The recent request to increase the debt ceiling is nothing new, in fact, the Republicans have increased the debt ceiling more times than the Democrats ever did in order to pay for their massive budget blow-outs.  President Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling 18 times, whilst President George W. Bush raised it 7 times.

During the Global Financial Crisis then President George W. Bush decided to stimulate the economy through tax cuts to the wealthy and a trillion dollar buy-out of banks whilst continuing to spend billions in Iraq and Afghanistan as lower income earners lost their houses, their jobs, their incomes.

Under George W. Bush spending on essential government services such as health and education was cut in favour of boosting the Defence budget and funding the "War on Terror" through invading Afghanistan and Iraq.  Additionally, he privatised core public services, costing the USA government trillions of dollars as contracts were awarded to companies whose boards included senior politicians such as Rumsfeld and Cheney.  Republicans, the Tea Party and those conservatives who believe in small government seem to not understand that government is dedicated to delivering a service. It is the service that is the priority for government, whereas profit is the priority of private industry.  It is a fallacy to assume that private industry is always less expensive, more efficient or more capable of delivering government services than the government is.

Privatisation, essentially the surrogacy of government service and responsibility, was not done to better society but to pander to the extreme capitalism of multi-national business. All manner of service has been privatised including security and defence, law enforcement, education, health, prisons, road construction, public transport, administration, communication, air traffic control, municipal services and postal services.  Often privatisation produces no cost savings to either the government or to the consumer, and rarely does it result in better service.

The USA is not any safer, healthier, better educated or more efficient because of the divestment of government responsibility to the private sector.  Under the Republican government of George W. Bush, the private sector was rarely held accountable for service delivery or compliance with national and international legislation.

The religious right has also encouraged this extreme capitalism and campaigned for downsizing of government, arguing that churches are best placed to care for people in terms of charity, health and education.  Of course, these churches will charge either the government or the consumer (or both) for these services so it is in their financial interest for these services to divested to them.  The religious organisations interested in providing these services are effectively commercialising and politicising the gospel for money and political power.  Very little love or tolerance is preached in their religious messages whilst embracing a "prosperity" teaching which is at odds with the austerity and anti-materialist message of Jesus.

The religious right has gained an incredible amount of influence in the USA government.  Rather than use this power to hold government accountable for its treatment of its citizens and the lies and excesses of the War on Terror, the religious right encouraged anti-muslim sentiment to justify the War and demanded privatisation of government services; contributing to the massive debt increases under the Republicans.

The Republicans have shown themselves to be more interested in boosting big business than in caring and providing for their own citizens, other nations they involve themselves in, or in improving conditions for workers, the poor, the disadvantaged.   Even small business operators struggled in this extreme capitalism as globalisation saw the influence and power of big business undercut, undermine and take over or wipe out many small businesses, costing livelihoods and jobs.

The USA government, particularly under Republicans, has been funding and encouraging the greed of unfettered capitalism at the expense of its citizens, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. This greed has resulted in massive increases in the USA national debt, company debt and personal debt as companies and people chase the dream of a capitalist utopia, ostensibly through the myth of wealth creation using "other people's money".

The USA government needs to get back to basics in order to address the poverty, health and education issues facing its society and to reduce its public debt.  Government should be concerned with governing.  This includes delivering essential, core services required for the improvement of society through an efficient and dedicated public service not through an unfettered and unaccountable market-place.  Government should not be abdicating its social, political and fiscal responsibilities to private industry or to religious organisations. The massive United States national debt is the product of this abdication.

For the sake of the United States and world economies, the US Government needs to be returned to the people for the benefit of the people, not to big business for the benefit of big business.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Socialism, Capitalism & the Parable of the Talents

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25:14-30 and the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:11-28 are often used to justify the recent reinvention of Jesus as a capitalist.  In both parables a rich man gives his servants money (a different amount to each according to his ability) and expects them to invest it on his behalf.  One servant in each story is scared of his lord and buries the money, handing back the same amount he was given. The servant is rebuked and cast out for being lazy and slothful.

Both of these parables have been used to justify capitalism rather than socialism. Yet for any economic system to be successful and contribute to the betterment of society, there is a requirement for hard work, honesty, integrity and fairness.

The Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19, both show a rich man giving his money to his servants to earn him more money.   At all times this money remains the property of the rich man.  Two of the servants double the man's money, the other hands back what he was given.  This servant is described as lazy and wicked.   The "lazy" servant describes the rich man as a hard man who he is afraid of.  The rich man admits that he "reaps where he has not sown and gathers where he has not spread seed".

Below are two interpretations of these parables, both from an economic perspective and both with the same conclusion - that the parables are not an endorsement of capitalism.  As parables they don't just relate to how we manage money, they also relate to how we manage anything, including gifts, service, increasing the Kingdom of God; they show that we should not bury our gifts but use them productively.

Let's look at these parables as applied to Capitalist and Socialist systems.

Traditional Interpretation

Traditionally, the rich man is seen as representative of Jesus and the servants as representing us. In this analogy, the lazy servant failed to invest the money entrusted to him.  He buried it out of fear of his Master.  If anything, this parable highlights the crippling power of fear in our lives.   It shows that we can achieve great things if we don't allow fear to dominate.    It also shows that the servant was disobedient.  He had been asked to produce a result and he deliberately failed to do so.  What if he had tried to increase the rich man's wealth and instead lost what he had been entrusted with? Would he have still been cast out?

In our own professions we are required to produce results for our employers or businesses.  If we do so we are blessed with an income and possibly with promotion.  The lazy servant deliberately failed to produce and was dismissed.

This interpretation does not declare categorically that capitalism is God's preferred political system.  Even Socialism needs productive workers to have enough resources to care for the people.

The Parable of the Sheep and the Goats immediately follows the Parable of the Talents.  It is significant and indicates that money is not meant to be accumulated purely for individual wealth but to be distributed according to the needs of people who are worse off.

From a doctrinal perspective, the traditional interpretation indicates that we must work our way into heaven; that salvation is earned, not given to us by the grace of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 states, 'For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not our own doing; it is the gift of God - not the result of works, so that no-one may boast'. Verse 10 goes on to state that we were 'created for good works'. However, we are not saved by works and can not work our way into heaven.

Alternative Interpretation

Looking at these parables from purely a financially perspective, they could be interpreted in another way; in this case, the servant is the hero.

In both parables, the rich man states that the servant should have invested the money in order to earn usury.  The bible generally condemns the system of usury, or earning with exorbitant interest and did not allow Jews to charge usury to other Jews. Additionally, the concept of "reaping where he had not sown and gathering where he had not spread seed" indicated that the rich man was using immoral methods, or extortion, for gathering his riches.  The servant could be seen as the model of behaviour in that he didn't yield to the corrupt methods of his master; he returned the money, he didn't steal from him, nor did he participate in the extortion requested of him.

Galations 6:7-8 explains the deceit of the rich man, "Do not be deceived, God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please the flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

Extortion is condemned throughout the bible and if anything this parable is a condemnation of the immoral economic practices of the rich man.  The behaviour of the rich man contradicts the Beatitudes, such as "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven, blessed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy". The rich man also has responsibility with the money he expected his servants to earn for him.


Neither parable explains the fate of the rich man or how he used his wealth.

Proverbs 28:8 explains how the rich man should  have used his wealth.  This proverb states "one who increases his possessions by usury and extortion gathers it for him who will pity the poor".  The bible is very strict about the conditions of usury and is very clear about helping the poor and not exploiting them.

Ezekiel 18:7-9 describes the moral behaviour expected of people in dealing with others, including showing justice, compassion and fairness. It says "But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right .... and hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; he that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord God".

Isaiah 5:8 warns against greed and capitalism and certainly the globalisation that we see today with smaller businesses being "acquired" by larger ones, "Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field, till there be no place that they may be placed alone in the midst of the earth."

Neither of these parables is a ringing endorsement for unfettered capitalism. They do not espouse the "laissez-faire", "survival of the fittest" mentality of modern capitalism.   As stated above, it is interesting that the parable of the talents is immediately followed by the parable of the "Sheep and the Goats".

In this parable Jesus is on His throne in heaven and has separated the nations one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  Those deemed to be goats are on his left hand and those deemed to be sheep are on his right. In Matthew 25:34-36, He says to the sheep, "Come you, blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to Me".

The goats don't fare so well.  Jesus says to them in Matthew 25:41-43 "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you did not feed me, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, I was naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me."

Socialism is not about slothfulness, it is not about a "welfare" state. It is about redistribution of wealth for the benefit of society. For there to be wealth, there has to be profit.  Socialism is not against profit, it is against profiting from the exploitation of others - exploitation which is also condemned in the bible. For socialism to be effective it needs productive "workers".  The socialism of the bible acknowledges this and the secular socialism of Karl Marx acknowledges it.

Capitalism in general takes the wealth common to a nation, such as natural resources, and redistributes it to the rich.

An argument has been put forward that the charity of the bible is meant to be undertaken by the Church not by the State.  The flaw in this argument is that centuries ago the Church was the State or had great influence in the government of nations, whether it was the Sadducees and Pharisees in the Sanhedrin Council or the Catholic Church which ultimately ruled the former Roman Empire and influenced many other rulers.  Eventually, the influence of the Catholic Church in State matters waned, however, the responsibility to care for its citizens remained with the State.  Certainly the Church needs to provide charity, but not to the exclusion of the State.

Government is not designed to simply pass laws and collect taxes.  It is meant to govern the economy and the people.   To achieve this, the State needs to responsibly spend those taxes in a manner that protects and develops the nation.  The State has a responsibility to ensure that all people within its borders are cared for, that no-one is left behind.  It has a responsibility to contribute to the global community of which all nations are now members.

Government is to provide the infrastructure and framework for the efficient operation of the nation and to meet the needs of the people, this includes schools, hospitals, police, roads, trade and market regulations and so on.  The trend in privatising these services has resulted in higher operational costs and lower quality service as private business focuses on profit and not on service delivery. Government traditionally focuses on delivery of service, ensuring that the services meet acceptable standards within a value for money framework.

The bible needs to be read in context.  The context of the bible is that no-one is left behind, all are cared for, all are loved.  Certainly, the more money you have the more people you can help. The bible is not opposed to profits, it is opposed to exploitation and lack of charity.

Capitalism is not a system that lends itself to caring for the individual.  It is a system which encourages exploitation, unfair and deceitful practices.  Capitalism results in the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.  Capitalism is about personal wealth.

Matthew 6:19-21 says "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, your heart will be also".

If you treasure the accumulation of wealth and don't redistribute it, then your heart will be focused on selfishness, not on charity.

Capitalism is self-centred and focuses on the accumulation of personal wealth for a small segment of individuals at the expense of many.

Socialism is based on creation of wealth to be utilised and redistributed as needed for the benefit of every person in society.

Our responsibility is to build the Kingdom of God and care for each other, to care for the poor, the stranger, those who are not the poster-children of success, those who have been the victims of exploitation, greed and tragedy.

In the parable of the Sheep and the Goats, Matthew 25:45 Jesus declares:

"'Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to Me". 

For further comment on Biblical Socialism refer to the following article:

"Biblical Socialism - to each as anyone has need"

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Temptations of Christ

One of my favourite scriptures in the bible is Hebrews 4:15, which reads: "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathise with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin".

Years ago I had become very discouraged with my own weaknesses and felt that I couldn't relate to the perfection of Jesus.  I knew that Jesus had been tempted by the devil when He was challenged to turn stones into bread, when He was challenged to leap from a tower and leave His fate in the hands of the Angels and when He was taken to the top of a mountain and promised the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping Satan.

Whilst these temptations were significant, they weren't the sort of things I had personally been tempted with.  No-one had led me up a mountain and offered me the kingdoms of the world or to turn stones into bread or to leap from a high tower - not literally anyway. I'm sure these temptations can be applied figuratively to our lives, but at that time they really meant nothing to me and were not temptations that I could identify with.  As a result I felt that Jesus had no idea what it was like to be tempted as a human by the allure of the world.

I rationalised that Jesus found it easy to resist temptation because he KNEW that He was the Son of God.  He knew without doubt that God was real.  For me, the reality of God was a matter of faith without any empirical evidence that God really was there.  I believed He was real, but I couldn't physically prove it to anyone.

During this time one of my favourite movies was "The Last Temptation of Christ". A movie that had been banned at one stage at the behest of the Catholic Church.  The reason I liked this movie was that it showed the humanity of Christ and his struggles with both his divinity, humanity and temptation.  Many movies about Jesus only explore His divinity, His Godliness.  As I'm not a god, I found his divinity to be something I couldn't really relate to.  As a man, I could relate to His humanity.

The bible tells us that Jesus was the Son of God AND the Son of Man.  It was necessary for Him to be born of a woman so that he shared both divine and human qualities.  A fact that I had not comprehended until I understood Hebrews 4:15.

The divinity of Jesus is essential in bridging our relationship with God.  Yet this did not mean that Jesus was unaware of the struggles we face. The temptations of Jesus were not constrained to those three events in the Gospels. Hebrews 4:15 says that Jesus was tempted in the same areas that we are.  This means that He was tempted in ALL ways that we are, including lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life.  He would have been tempted with immorality, vanity, pride, greed, anger: just as we ALL are.  Yet He remained pure, without sin.  He was tempted, but he did not give Himself over to temptation.

Jesus understands our weakness no matter how discouraged we get, no matter our disenchanted we become with ourselves or others.

He understands because He has been there and is still there for us.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Big Brother, Doublethink & the Memory Hole - Politics in the Modern World

Big Brother, Doublethink & the Memory Hole - Politics in the Modern World

Cold War, War on Drugs, War on Terror ... more than 70 years of continuous warfare.

Is this the realisation of the "Perpetual War" that George Orwell wrote of in his novel, Nineteen Eighty-Four?

These wars had to be fought to ensure the continuation of democracy and capitalism - so we've been told.  We feared communism and socialism, we feared the insidious and subversive nature of drugs and now we fear Islamic extremists.  We fear people who are not like us, outnumbering us in "our own" land.

Our modern western society has eerily disturbing similarities to the world portrayed by Orwell in Nineteen Eighty-Four.

The purpose of "Perpetual War" was to artificially create fear in the minds of the population to believe that they were at war with an enemy who was ill-defined, yet identified as the source of many of society's ills; without any logical argument or proof behind the accusations.  In Orwell's perpetual war citizens had to swear undying allegiance to "Big Brother" and the State without question.  This was not that different to George W. Bush declaring that "you are either for us or against us".  Big Brother employed "thought police" to monitor the behaviour, reactions and opinions of citizens to weed out those who were traitors to society.  President Bush passed the Patriot Act which restricted media and free speech and gave law enforcement unprecedented powers of monitoring, censorship and arrest.  Journalists were "embedded" in military operations so the media would only report "authorised" information.

Orwell's Big Brother would often change the enemy.  One day an ally would be an enemy and an enemy would be an ally and citizens were expected to forget the previous status of the relationship as history was rewritten and contrary evidence destroyed in the "memory hole".   The enemy being fought today may not be the enemy being fought tomorrow.  We have seen parallels with this in modern society. During the 1980's Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, the Mujahideen were all supported, financed and armed by the United States.

However, during the 1990's Saddam Hussein became the enemy.  Osama bin Laden formed Al Qaeda and became the enemy.  From the Mujahideen, the Taliban was formed and following 9/11 became the enemy because they were harbouring Osama bin Laden.  Histories were rewritten and denials issued of the support that the USA gave to these groups. Lies were manufactured to justify the invasion of Iraq; for instance the blatant lie that Hussein and bin Laden were cooperating with each other, the lie that Hussein still held weapons of mass destruction in 2003 and denial of the original reasons for invading Iraq to fit the latest propaganda.  In a purely Orwellian act, the USA buried these histories in the "memory hole" and continued on as though the history never existed whilst their citizens were left wondering "why do our enemies hate us so much".   The reason given by George W. Bush was that "they hate our freedoms"; this could not have been further from the truth.

Two prime examples of this "memory hole" include Colin Powell stating in February 2001 "[Saddam] has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction.  He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbours. So in effect, our policies have strengthened the security of the neighbours of Iraq".

Then in July 2001, Condeleeza Rice stated "We are able to keep his arms from him.  His military forces have not been rebuilt".

In August 2002, Dick Cheney stated "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction".   The United States government from Bush, Cheney, Rice, Powell and others commenced declaring that Iraq clearly was in possession of WMD and had to be disarmed.  He was given warning after warning and in Monty Pythonesque logic Ari Fleischer declared that "If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world".  So if he weighs the same as a duck then he must be made of wood ...

In March 2003, the United States and its "Coalition of the Willing" (a Newspeak euphemism if there ever was one), invaded Iraq on the basis of disarming Saddam Hussein who was allegedly in possession of vast amounts of WMD.   President George W. Bush declared on 17 March 2003, "Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised".

In March 2003, Donald Rumsfeld stated "we know where they are, they are around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat".

On 28 May 2003, Lt Gen James Conway "...we have not uncovered weapons, as you say, in some of the forward dispersal sites.  Believe me, it's not through lack of trying. We've been to virtually every ammunition supply point between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad, but they're simply not there".

On 30 May 2003, President Bush continued with his lies by stating "but for those who say we haven't found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they're wrong, we found them".

The Coalition of the Willing never found any of these banned weapons or manufacturing plants.

In May 2003, Paul Wolfowitz stated "For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction (as justification for invading Iraq) because it was the one reason everyone could agree on".

In Nineteen Eighty-Four the "memory hole" was used to rewrite history by destroying evidence and manipulating the memory of the population.  The use of the modern "memory hole" has resulted in ongoing cleansing of history and as a result many have forgotten the reasons for the USSR invading Afghanistan, they  have forgotten the role that the USA played in this.  Because of this memory lapse we are now at risk of the United States being brought down by the very strategy that they used to bring down the Soviet Union.

In the late 70s, the strategy was for the USA to fund and arm dissidents (the Mujaheddin) to wage terrorist attacks against the Soviets, in order to drag the USSR into a prolonged and expensive war.   The USSR invaded Afghanistan and the USA continued funding Islamic extremists to fight a "jihad" against the Soviets. Eventually this war drained the economy so much that it contributed to the fall of the Soviet Union.

In 1986, the leader of the Mujaheddin warned America that the jihadists were going to look for another enemy once the USSR was out of Afghanistan and that the enemy would be the USA. Most of the Jihadists did not know that they were being recruited and funded by the USA.

Since 9/11, Al Qaeda has engaged the USA in a protracted, expensive war which has seen America and her allies invade both Iraq and Afghanistan and wage wars that can't be won and which the USA can't afford.  The War on Terror has cost the USA close to $1 trillion. This money has been borrowed from China.  The Global Financial Crisis, whilst also caused by the greed of the banks, was not helped by the American debt owed to China.  If America is not careful, it may very well suffer the fate of the Soviet Union.

Greed has blinded successive US governments to the potential threat of over-committing to war zones and trouble spots.  The concept of Perpetual War is seen as profitable, after all not only is there an entire industry built around the manufacture of products and services consumed in war, for instance ammunition, weapons, armour, security, but there is also an entire industry around the rebuilding following war.  The US markets this under the banners of "security" and "democracy", yet the locals in those countries often see it for what it is: power, hegemony and money-making for multi-national companies who have no concern for the local economy or local citizens.

Again to quote Orwell's 1984, when asked why the party clings to power, the answer given was not that it was for the good of the people but "The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake.  We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power ... Power is not a means, it is an end ... One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship".   In this case, "the Party" is not a particular political party it is the government.

Of course this quote, does not solely apply to the US government, it could equally apply to any number of governments across the globe, particularly those established following a revolution, e.g. the Soviets,  Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, Pinochet, Suharto, the theocratic rule established following the Iranian revolution.  Some governments were established by more surreptitious "revolution" or by blatant force, for instance Israel, the Taliban, Gaddafi.  All the while the big players, such as the US or the USSR were there funding and establishing their own influences in these revolutions so that they were the beneficiaries. One doesn't have to be the ruler to hold the power.

Western nations were quick to publish and remind citizens of the genocides perpetrated by Hitler, Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, among others.  What wasn't publicised was the complicity and support that the west, in particular the USA, gave to genocides and gross human rights abuses throughout the world.  Declassified White House and CIA documents show that the USA funded, trained and were directly involved in the overthrow of many governments across the globe.  This included overthrowing the socialist-leaning President Sukarno and replacing him with President Suharto.  The CIA then provided names of left-wing sympathisers to Indonesian forces in order for those people to be arrested, tortured and executed.  Suharto was responsible for over a million deaths in Indonesia.   Suharto's troops received training from the British Army.  Former UK Prime Minister Thatcher described him as "one of our best and most valuable friends".  Former US President Bill Clinton described him as "our kind of guy".  This was at a time when Suharto's crimes were well known.  Imagine Thatcher and Clinton saying the same about Hitler or Stalin, yet he massacred over a million of his own people.

The USA will often boast of its democracy and its plan to bring democracy to the world.  In 1973, Chile was under the leadership of socialist President Allende who had been democratically elected.  The USA valued capitalism above democracy and sponsored a military coup which resulted in the death of Allende and the establishment of General Pinochet as Supreme Leader.  It also resulted in right wing death squads hunting down left wing sympathisers and imprisoning, torturing and murdering them.  The torture techniques were taught to them by the USA in their infamous "School of the Americas".  All of this in the name of capitalism.  It wasn't in the name of democracy and Allende was not a terrorist, he was not a despot: he's crime was to be a Socialist.

The USA funded the overthrow of numerous socialist or left wing governments across the globe using bloody revolutions, torture, murder to install US friendly despots who often were abetted by the USA to undertake genocides against their own citizens, particularly those of a socialist persuasion.

The main difference between the USSR and USA in their support of genocide is that the USA tended to not shit in their own backyard - they did it in other people's backyards and in the name of democracy.  However, it was not democratic but pure, unadulterated hegemony and extremist capitalism.

There is a danger in blindly following one ideology whilst criminalising another.  Rather than defend the indefensible, we should be standing up against tryanny, terrorism and human rights abuses regardless of who is perpetrating them.   GK Chesterton summed it up when he stated " 'My country right or wrong' is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying 'my mother, drunk or sober' ". 

In a piece of Orwellian "doublethink", the world's biggest arms dealers are the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, who also just happen to be the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.  In Nineteen Eighty-Four, the concept of doublethink was "to be conscious of complete truthfulness while telling carefully constructed lies" or "the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them".

So to reiterate, the five permanent members of the UN "Security" Council are also the world's largest arms dealers.  To quote Orwell's doublespeak, "War is Peace".

President George W. Bush popularised the term "Compassionate Conservative" as a description of his extreme right wing conservatism.  "Compassionate Conservatives" claim that they use old-fashioned conservatism to compassionately address the problems of society.  Effectively, it is about divesting government of the responsibility to deliver social service programs, by funding their delivery through religious organisations and big businesses. "Compassionate Conservative" is pure Orwellian doublespeak. There is no compassion in the conservatism of the extreme religious right in the United States.

Former President Bill Clinton described "Compassionate Conservatism" as "I want to help you. I really do. But you know.  I just can't".  Compassionate Conservatives are generally of the extreme Christian Right Wing and have shown themselves to be pro-big business, pro-war, support low tax for the rich and higher tax of the poor, bigoted, opposed to human rights, opposed to the Bill of Rights, opposed to government social welfare programs which aim to assist the poorest people in society, opposed to public schooling and public health.

They are Compassionate in name only and have completely ignored the compassionate message of Jesus, whom they claim to so fervently follow.

They want free speech, or more accurately the freedom to criticise non-Christians, but are often the first to complain about outspoken Muslims or other non-Christians.  They want freedom of worship, or more accurately, freedom for Christians to worship however and wherever they want, but not for non-Christians; often waging anti-Islamic campaigns.

"Compassionate Conservatism" is a doublespeak which has duped many Christians and conservative voters, appealing to their xenophobia with catchy, dumbed-down slogans of hate and fear.

Australia has not been immune from this destructive and duplicitous Orwellian politics.  We have seen the rise of the religious right influencing government and religious "values" used in political campaigns.  Then in a form of doublethink, these same "values" were used to justify war as community dialogue and public debates often became hate filled diatribes against refugees, asylum seekers and anyone who did not have the "same values as us".

The Australian Government made great use of the "memory hole" following the debacle over asylum seekers in 2001, firstly with the issues around the Tampa affair, then the fabricated "Children Overboard" affair, the denials and accusations over SIEV-X and the dehumanising policies of giving no voice to the asylum seekers and denying the media access to them or the military.  In a prime piece of doublethink an immigration issue was turned into a military one by unfairly linking asylum seekers to terrorists and unleashing the SAS on the refugees rescued by the Tampa.  The Navy was subsequently used to police our waters in order to "stop the boats".

This global and ongoing distortion of truth, manipulation of the population and misreporting of history was summed up in one of Big Brother's slogans:

"Who controls the past, controls the future: who controls the present controls the past".

Orwell is often seen as the poster-boy of the right wing, portrayed as anti-socialist.  Yet, Orwell was a Socialist and detested imperialism, totalitarianism and fascism. He described himself as a Democratic Socialist who supported free speech and free elections. He believed that Stalin had betrayed Socialism.  He fought with the republicans against the Fascist government in the Spanish Civil War.   He chose to become a Socialist because he saw the squalor and poverty that people in Britain were living in and blamed this on the greed and failure of Capitalism.

His books, Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four warned against the tyranny of government regardless of whether the government claimed to be Socialist, Fascist or Capitalist.  Some people have used these two books as an attack on Socialism, yet they were critical of the hypocrisy of Stalin who claimed to be a socialist, yet was a mass-murdering capitalist and Adolph Hitler who claimed to be a National Socialist (or Fascist) and showed himself to also be a mass-murdering dictator who oppressed and killed any who dare speak out or who was of a race or social group that he either feared or hated.

Over the last few decades we've seen the Alvin Toffler "Future Shock" vision come to pass where global corporations rule the world.  Now, instead of simply government's controlling the masses it is often a hybrid beast of government outsourcing to big business in order to effect social change.  As Naomi Klein has described in her book "Shock Doctrine", the rise of disaster capitalism has seen government and big business take advantage of disasters such as September 11 and Hurricane Katrina to implement policies which would have been more difficult prior to the disaster.  After Hurricane Katrina, "charter schooling" was introduced to replace public schooling at a greater cost to taxpayers but a great fiscal benefit to business.  After September 11, the opportunity was taken by the US government and private organisations such as Halliburton and Black Water to remodel Afghanistan, Iraq and potentially the entire Middle East into "democratic" (read "Capitalist") states at great expense to the US economy (trillions in debt) but at great profit to big business. Whose side is the US government on when it reduces public housing, Medicaid, Medicare, public education at the cost of boosting big business and an expanded military presence.

The fear of socialism and communism was used to manipulate the masses into accepting whatever lie the government required.   Yet following the Global Financial Crisis which was brought on by years of unrestrained military expenditure and unfettered laissez-faire capitalism which made Big Business even bigger and crippled many of the world's national economies, corporations were then forced to return to Government with cap in hand asking for a bail-out.  In the economic wars, the left-wing Keynes was shown to be victorious over the amoral capitalism of Milton Friedman; however, economic histories were also rewritten in order for extreme capitalism to appear victorious in the midst of its moral and fiscal bankruptcy.

As Orwell said "During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act".

It also may serve to save us from ourselves.

With all of the hysteria around patriotism and nationalism, around fighting terrorism and invading Iraq and Afghanistan, we really should remember our history, remember our own contribution to the world as it is, whether that contribution is good, bad or ugly.

Orwell summed up the danger of this hysterical nationalism in a statement that serves as a warning to all of us:

"The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them".