Friday, 25 February 2011

Are there Double Standards in the Intervention

I listened to a discussion about the Northern Territory Intervention this week and heard one of the speakers make this interesting claim. The incidents of alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse which formed the basis of the justification for the Intervention are also found throughout the remainder of the Australian population. We're left to infer that this renders the Intervention discriminatory, or that there should be an equivalent action taken in the rest of society.

This is going to make me sound heartless at first, but it needs to be said. I'd like to see some statistics about the incident rate across Australia, sorted by location rather than ethnic group, to help me understand this claim better. I don't doubt that the abuses are found everywhere (just look at any leaked video about a football team party, or trawl through the facebook status updates over the weekend) and across all segments of Australia. I would, however, like to know if it's uniformly distributed or whether we have problem areas; be they remote communities, suburban communities, or wherever.

Secondly, even if there is only a single case of abuse, surely some kind of intervention is required. We commonly think that the police should intervene and arrest the perpetrator. But how can we prevent things like this from happening in the first place? Or, what are the cultural and social conditions required to prevent abuse? And furthermore, should we apply those in the Northern Territory instead of the Intervention we now have?

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Ten theses about the church as a social ethic | Ekklesia

Ekklesia has an interesting summary of a book by Stanley Hauerwas. From their blog:

"Whether you find him inspiring or exasperating (and I sometimes find him both!), the work of US theologian Stanley Hauerwas provides a challenging alternative vision of church as subversive, exemplary community - rather than the cement or glue of society, as in the top-down Christendom model.

Most famously, he has declared: “The church does not have a social ethic; the church is a social ethic” - or not, I would add, looking at its actual performance in many instances.

Back in 1981, Hauerwas published Reforming Christian Social Ethics: Ten Theses. The appeal echoed Luther's famous 95 Theses, which disputed the ideology and practice of church in his era - though not sufficiently to stop his followers persecuting Anabaptists and sanctioning state churches, sadly. But then reformation is a continual (radical) process, not a one-off event."
Ten theses about the church as a social ethic | Ekklesia

The ten theses themselves give a decent framework for the church as a social entity, perhaps over-against any other social entity in history, including governments and corporations.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Alain de Botton on the nanny state

A recent topic of conversation on this blog has been the role of government in the affairs of private citizens. So when I stumbled onto this piece of Alain de Botton, I thought I should link to it - not because I agree with it, but because it adds grist to the mill.
"In this scheme, the state should harbour no aspirations to tinker with the inner well-being or outward manners of its members. The foibles of citizens should be placed beyond comment or criticism, for fear of turning government into that most reviled and unpalatable kind of authority in libertarian eyes - the nanny state.

Compare this with how religions handle things. Religions have always had much more directive ambitions, advancing far-reaching ideas about how members of a community should behave towards one another."
BBC News - A Point of View: In defence of the nanny state

Under his analysis, the modern (post-Mill) state perceives its own role to confine itself to defending rights in order to secure liberty for the citizenry, whereas religions are prescriptive in the minutiae of lives in order to create a specific kind of world. He claims that in doing this the state weakly misses an opportunity to effect a positive change in the world, but he doesn't go so far as to completely endorse a religious method of total control.

I think that all of this depends heavily on what the role of the state ought to be. For a libertarian, the role of the state should be as unobtrusive as possible, securing liberties through implied or actual violence (police, military, etc.). But is this really the best that we can do, to enforce the right not to be harassed while we pursue our own ambitions?