The results of the election last Saturday sparked my interest. The thing is, that I have previously thought about what leads to the populism that is on the rise in the US and in Europe. The recent changes in the leadership of the Liberal Party have been, in part, due to a move on the part of the right of that party to capture some of the ‘populist’ vote by being ‘tough on immigration’ (Melbourne’s streets are clogged because there is too much immigration), ‘tough on crime’ (African Gangs) and ‘tough on the dole bludgers.’ (the ‘lifters and leaners’ slogan or the more current ‘Have a go and you’ll get a go!?)
Now it could have been argued that this mood was also part of Victoria’s landscape. This looked to have been the assumption behind the Liberal Party’s campaign.
But the result of the election showed that this kind of thinking did not resonate with the community.
Instead some socially progressive policies were proposed, which found a place in the hearts of the voters; The safe injecting room in Richmond was seen as a good thing, in general; People liked the removal of the level crossings, and the plan for a ‘ring rail’ in Melbourne which will connect up people across the city, and in public transport, but which will not be finished for a long time; people liked the attempt to do our share in the fight to ameliorate the worst effects of climate change due to our pollution, by the subsidies on solar panels and batteries.
So I’m wondering what is going on?
Matthew Guy said that the first job of the government was to keep the people safe. Say for the moment that this is true. It looks like people found more insecurity (unsafety) in the effects of climate change than in African Gangs. They felt more safe by a harm minimisation strategy in Richmond than in a ‘tough on crime’ approach.
Many people are staying out of their cars, and using public transport: we need a government that will plan for this change.
At the risk of sounding like a person who always thought things were better in ‘the good old days’, I can remember when water was not privatised, and the water board planned for long term building of reservoirs. I can remember when the SEC planned for our electricity needs, and trained apprentices.
It seems to me that much of the trouble we are in is the result of introducing the profit motive into activities that are not good at being subject to competition. Instead we are gouged by companies that have a monopoly, confused by complicated plans and the long term planning that is needed for infrastructure and dealing with long term issues like climate change. These issues look to be better dealt with out of the political cycle and away from the profit motive.
I think that most people know this.
So now comes the hard question. Does being a Christian help in making decisions about such issues?
I think so.
There is some grounds for thinking that the rise of Methodism in the 18th Century helped to prevent a revolution in England as they had in France. There is some grounds for thinking that a combination of Methodism and roman Catholic Social teaching gave us the regulation of unfettered capitalism which then meant that we could be entrepreneurs and ambitious and so on, but that the poor and weakest among us were not punished for it, and that a persons income was not solely determined by their economic value.
So here is my take on things.
First, the letter of John says ‘Perfect love casts out fear.’ This means to me that if governments want to keep us safe, they should be thinking about the ways in which we can love one another better. This goes for ‘African Gangs’ and for those who commit crime, and for those addicted to drugs. The power of love is the power to keep together, or to bring into communion those who belong together. We all belong together, and it behoves us to exercise the harder kind of love that keeps us together, than the kind of response which simply excludes those who offend us.
Second, Jesus says that the first commandment is to love God, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Then he goes on to say that we cannot serve (love) God and Money. And that the love of money is the root of all evil. He also says to the devil ‘People shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from God’s mouth.
But we have changed everything into something that can be exchanged for money. This does violence to the true nature of those who are not means to something, but ends in themselves. This is why I like the idea of the common good, and long term planning for its sake. I also like the removal of the profit motive from such necessary long term planning.
So I think that the Victorian voters have said that the issues we face that make us insecure are not the can not be dealt with by short term-ism, or knee jerk reactions, but are of such a kind as need love.