The Lost Antidote

Michael Palin enjoys traditional Abrahamic hospitality on his recent journey through Iraq. (Courtesy SBS)

Have you stopped watching the TV News? Are you, like me, getting exhausted by the reports of crisis upon crisis at home and across the world; or fed up with the superficiality of banal police reports of crime and car crashes? Are you as perplexed as I about the obscene gap between rich and poor, the disintegration of our education and health systems, the continuing suffering and exploitation of asylum seekers, of housing shortages and honest folk made homeless and the continuing festering wounds of Aboriginal dispossession…and will women ever get equal pay for equal work? It just goes on and on.

And it’s not as though everyone is not trying to do their best – including our governments – and that there are important discussions being had and some great achievements.

It just seems to me that there’s something misdirected at the very core of our human endeavour and all our attempts at ‘fixing’ are not capable of dealing with the real issue. And I suspect Western hubris may be at the heart of it.

How do you deal with someone who commits their life to making money at everyone else’s expense? How do you deal with people who have amassed enough power to control the minds of the masses and engage in blatant deceit. Do they do it for the morbid pleasure of watching people turning on each other, as if playing one giant human video game?

How high is your cynicism dial for self-preservation? Who can you trust? Where’s an honest tradesperson? And how long is the waiting list? Are there really more jobs needing to be done than people to do them? And should we not accept anything but full employment? What happened to the prediction that we would be smart enough to create technology that would give us endless leisure and seemingly no employment?

OK – Enough! You get the picture!

I have been looking with interest at a TV program about a country I know little about, hosted by a thoughtful comedian who once enlivened us with his wit as a member of Monty Python’s Flying Circus. Michael Palin is travelling through Iraq, that unfortunate cot-case of a country that suffered the terror of both Saddam Hussein and George Bush, both equally corrupt and both intent in extracting the seeming unending riches of Iraqi oil for their own interests. (As is often the case, Great Britain started the exploitation rot… isn’t that how Britain got ‘great’!) As I watch Palin in Iraq, it seems the perfect case study to ask the question I’m posing – what is being missed in trying to adapt to all these crises that could make all the difference?

This head-spin is happening while I am in discussion with my friend who is ministering in prisons and who is teaching a course for students training for chaplaincy ministry.

So rather that writing a new book to explore my responses to the big question I am asking, I am embarking on producing some short 10 minute max. video discussion starters that might be used in his classroom, if he wants – all dancing around aspects of the big question.

Here goes the first one. Familiar territory, perhaps, for my regular followers. It starts with Michael Palin in Iraq. Love to know what you think – your own thoughts about the ‘big question’ or of my plan.

Recovering the Ancient Art of Hospitality

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