Tuesday, July 27, 2010

To Win, You Have To Risk Losing

One of the things I have always loved about Australian cricket, especially during the captaincy of Mark Taylor and Steve Waugh, was that they knew that you had to risk losing in order to ensure victory. Cricket is a funny game, for as well as losing and winning, there is a third option - a draw. Historically we associate conservative riskless cricket with the English, but the disease is easily caught and can dominate Test Cricket in any part of the world. One of the appeals of the shorter games of cricket is that the only options are to win or lose. Soccer is also a game where the wary simply defend, with the aim of not losing. But the most exciting soccer to watch is when teams take risks to score goals, which exposes their own defense to attack from the opposition. Often a team has to get behind to play their best football.

I use the sporting illustration to explain what I find galling about our current federal election campaign. Poll-driven politicians are terrified of offending anyone, so collectively they say nothing, hoping that their opponents will score an 'own goal' and present them with victory. When the ALP tells us they are going to have another summit to consider climate change, there is a collective groan across the nation. The honest truth is that we can’t proceed to put a price on carbon without the support of other nations. But somehow telling the truth is just too risky. When the Liberal Party bat on about the fact that previous employment policies are dead, buried and cremated, employers and often employees know that there must be ways of improving our employment contracts and agreements. So instead of saying we went too far last time but there is a better way in the future, we are left with a straight bat producing nothing but defense. Meanwhile neither party is really addressing the current account deficit that has gotten worse with every government for 30 years; our out of control personal debt levels which are the real reason 'working families’ are struggling; the fact that banks have all but stopped lending to small business because of the global credit risk; the embarrassment that our hospitals really need more funding, which probably means we need to pay more tax; and the fact that our welfare system is bloated at the middle, leaving the most vulnerable in poverty and too many in the middle discouraged from working because of the welfare trap.

Privately, but never publicly, most pollies also know they are not as much to blame as we think. Our own lifestyle choices; our widespread substance abuse especially of alcohol; our addiction to gambling; our worship of all things material fuelled by debt; our inability to face our own spin (or is that sin); our unwillingness to take more responsibility for our health; and our latent racism that is so easily exploited - all result in us getting the politicians we deserve.

If we risked facing the honest truth in our lives; if we risked God’s exposure of truth to our souls; if we risked facing our own personal policy failures - maybe then our leaders would change their spots.

Matthew 7: 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

“Now I... I know we're not in Kansas!”

The phony war is over and the Land of Oz is now on a journey towards deciding who can live in the Palace (or Lodge as we call it). As we face this journey some have lost their minds, some are scared and most are depressed but we really all ought to be thankful!

Firstly, we should be grateful that political parties can change leaders if they decide to have a vote when they are convinced that the person leading them is not right for their party or for the country. The Liberal Party has changed leaders twice from Mr Nelson to Mr Turnbull, and then from Mr Turnbull to Mr Abbott. Each time there was a vote the will of the majority was respected and the vanquished accepted defeat, packed up his office and wished his new leader all the best. Some see the ousting of a Prime Minister by his party as undemocratic, but the opposite is true. We vote for local members who in turn elect a leader. When Mr Rudd was challenged he called for a vote. When he did not have the numbers, he did not even contest. Afterwards he accepted defeat, moved offices and house, did not call in the army, did not get protesters in the street, did not hang on to power, but accepted the vote of his colleagues. He pledged allegiance to his new Prime Minister. His replacement, Ms Gillard, did not have him arrested after the event but offered him a job in her cabinet after the election. All peaceful, all democratic, with no army, no bloodshed, no arrests, no strife, no secret service.

Secondly, the usurper of power, albeit democratically, has now declared an election, so we can all decide who we want to lead our country for the next three years. Again no protests on the streets, no army, no violence, no guns, no threats, no intimidation! Now each one of us, regardless of our wealth, status, gender, religion or tribe, gets one vote to elect a local member to represent us who will in turn elect a leader to lead the nation. People will complain but in any global perspective we have to be considered so blessed.

Thirdly, over the next month or so we are free to discuss, debate, decry, demonise, and even donate to our prospective candidates. We can denigrate their policies, dismiss their record, doubt their promises and even debate the appropriateness of their swimwear. We can ask questions about faith, we can demand integrity, we can challenge motives and we can disagree. We even fund the whole process through electoral funding, which helps weaken the nexus between power and money. Sure the system still has many rotten elements, where patronage, influence and control are still unequally vested in the hands of media barons, big business and the unions. But the unrestricted internet has levelled the playing field, allowing anyone to blog, network, comment and even tweet (or not).

The Bible tells us that governments are part of God’s plan. In a nation where we get such say, such freedom and such opportunity, we ought to be involved, active, engaged and above all, thankful.

“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Romans 13: 1

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Justice prevails!

At the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup there were many predictions. Many believed that Italy, Argentina and Brazil would be in the last four: but alas they were not! Most, apart from their own supporters, knew that England would disappoint again: and alas they did! Millions of South Africans were hoping their team could do the impossible: but alas they didn’t. In Australia we all knew we would get clobbered by Germany, but we convinced ourselves we could still make it to the second round: but alas! Some of us feared that the results would all come down to silly penalty shoot outs again, but fortunately there were very few.

As a very occasional soccer fan, two things stand out for me:

First, according to most pundits the best team, Spain, actually won. As first time champions this must be good for the game and especially good for the people of Spain. Strangely the 2010 World Cup will be remembered for the exploits of an octopus, of questionable ancestry, which supposedly predicted all of Germany's games' results, as well as the results of the semi and final. I wonder how the Spanish players feel when they read the nonsense that their victory had nothing to do with their skill, hard work and preparation, but was predestined by a geriatric cephalopod. Please!

Secondly, the handball by a Uruguayan defender was probably the low point of the World Cup, when Ghana’s, and indeed Africa’s chances of making the semi-final was destroyed by blatant cheating. Sent off, the disgraced player celebrated on the sideline as Ghana stumbled in the penalty shoot out. Justice was swift when Holland ended the Uruguayan’s party in the semi-final.

There is something deep within our souls that is disturbed when people win by cheating. Equally there is something deeply satisfying about the fact that the best team lifts the Cup in the final hour.

In the Bible this is expressed by the principle that one day we will reap what we sow. In the real world, and often in the world of sport, people make considerable progress by avoiding their sins for a long time. Inside traders make all the money, crime seems to pay, injustice prevails, and often those with the best lawyers tend to win. But this is an illusion and only temporary.

In life, we often do eventually reap what we sow and in death we shall all face the judgment of a just God.

The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6: 8)