Monday, March 10, 2008

The Scourge of Systemic and Collective Evil

Today I saw two stories that really affected me deeply. The first was on ABC online and The Sydney Morning Herald about the way in which Anglo-Saxon children are leaving public schools in droves because their parents do not want them to go to predominantly Aboriginal or Middle-Eastern schools. The second was a story about the marginalisation and stereotyping of Muslims in Australian society. Both stories challenge the rhetoric of egalitarianism said to be an intrinsic element of Australian society and both raise issues about the structural and collective evil that pervades our society.

I would suggest that the mass exodus of Anglo-Saxon children from public schools owes largely to structural injustice. While I am sure that there will be many parents who wish to move their children out of an "Aboriginal school" for racist reasons, I believe that most parents do so only because they believe that the private system will offer their children a better education. Indeed, in certain rural areas these perceptions may be very well founded. However, this phenomenon makes me question whether private schools are overfunded and public schools are underfunded. And more importantly, is it fair that the quality of education one's children are entitled to is directly proportional to the size of one's bank balance? Ideologues may well point to the "right" of a parent to send their children to a school of their choice, but what does this mean that those who have no choice because they have no money? It seems to me that by subsidising private education at the expense of the underfunded public system, we are creating an underclass of Australians are pushed further behind the eight-ball with respect to the obstacles they face in society. The fact that indigenous Australians in rural communities are more likely to be impoverished than their Anglo-Saxon counterparts inevitably means that they will lack the opportunities the escape from the cycle of poverty. The fact that this system seems to be imposed upon an entire class of people seems to be the very essence of racism.

The second story looked at many different aspects of Muslim identity in Australia, but the scenes at Camden, where locals were protesting the planned establishment of an Islamic school impacted most heavily upon me. Most disturbing was the fact many of those who spoke most harshly about Muslims considered them to be Christians. Although he was not in the story, I remembered the role that the Reverend Fred Nile played in the saga with his inflammatory rhetoric. It horrifies me to think of what people watching this must think of Christians. But even among those who oppose racism, the Christian community has been woefully silent on the demonisation of Muslims in society. I believe that this simply isn't good enough. Christians must speak out against this type of evil both individually and collectively as the body of Christ. I believe that it is shameful that we have done not so and believe that this is cause for each and every one of us to repent.

My final consideration was about my relationship to the system. I realise that I am a product of the system and belong to a class of individuals that the system higher respects and esteems - legal practitioners. Every day I am being more and more made aware that I am on the inside of the system and this realisation makes me feel most uncomfortable. I am constantly thinking about how I can promote justice most effectively from within the system without being sucked into the vortex of the system itself and becoming apathetic to the demands that justice places upon my conscience. I really need God's help to tread this fine line and your prayers would be most welcome in this regard.

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