Welcome to our June-July 2020 edition of Act Justly!
“There is one challenge for the future leaders of our nation which I would particularly emphasise. It is the challenge of justice and truth. The challenge never to be indifferent in the face of injustice or falsehood. It encompasses the challenge to advance truth and human dignity rather than to seek advantage by inflaming ugly prejudice and intolerance.” (Governor General, Sir William Deane at a Uni of Qld Degree Award Ceremony 29 May 2003)
Secular heads of state can emphasise moral virtue equally alongside church leaders, and both need to keep open to the infiltration of darkness into our midst. Fr Frank Brennan made this observation in his book The People’s Quest for Leadership in Church and State, when he quoted from American philosopher Alisdair MacIntyre’s After Virtue, despairing of dark forces moving across North America and Europe in 2007.
A crucial turning point (in the declining years of the Roman Empire) occurred when men and women of goodwill turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium (ie. the authority of the top commanders) and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of the imperium. What they set themselves to achieve instead was the construction of new forms of community within which the moral life could be sustained, so that both morality and civility might survive the coming barbarism and darkness. MacIntyre, Alisdair, After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory (Uni of Notre Dame Press, 2007, p. 263)
As we reflect on the sort of higher good principles we have all seen in our communities during the pandemic, and while we wait for virus to pass, a lot of us are concerned that the talk of “Snap Back” could mean a return to the darker days when prioritizing the economy over our communities meant a large and growing number of people were left behind. While we know that around two million people have missed out on the Federal Government’s COVID support programs, indications are that those numbers could swell massively if COVID supports suddenly disappear and our economy crashes even further into recession.
Fr Frank Brennan’s observation 13 years ago remains salient today: “If we are to make prudent judgements and take appropriate action in relation to issues such as climate change, security, migration and economic growth in a globalized world, we need leaders who can appeal to the public’s finer nature, idealistic selves, and longer term vision. Short term electoral gain by appealing to individualistic self-interest or collective fear of the ‘other’ just won’t cut it.”
We need to find the ability to come back better together, by bending to hear the needs of those most vulnerable, rather than snapping back with the loudest hailers. We can repeat the marketing mantra that “we are all in this together,” but it is what we do, not what we say that matters right now.
Blessings, JPO Team