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This is the last post I shall write for Paradigm Oz.
For everything there is a season, and P.Oz’s has passed. It was my second excursion into the blogosphere, the previous one being co-writer of Kalkadoon.org. Paradigm Oz was always an experiment, it began as a Palm Island News agency but circumstances changed and I only posted from the Island for a couple of posts. Kalkadoon.org’s work with sustainable housing on Palm finished at the same time as I moved back to Brisbane so Paradigm Oz was reduced to an experiment to simply see what happened rather than the grandiose scheme that it was originally envisioned as. I have enjoyed writing for Paradigm Oz and look forward to blogging again but with something a bit different, not sure what yet but I’m working on it.
I shall continue to post on Public Polity , hopefully more often now that I have finished here but I will re-emerge on the blogosphere again, probably soon. I will put a link from this site to the new one when I start it – so stay tuned.
I will leave this site up as-is for as long as wordpress lets me. I have not posted for a long time but am still getting a lot of visits so perhaps somebody is still interested. I will leave the comments open for a while but shut them down when I get sick of moderating them.
“Take it easy, but take it!”
(I wish I had made that up but I am quoting Pete Seger)
This post was inspired by the recent ABC Compass program on the Uniting Church in Australia, “The Uniting Church” highlighting a divergence of opinion within the church between conservative Christian traditionalists and a new movement emerging called “progressive spirituality” (P.S.). P.S. is challenging traditional Christianity at its core by questioning key doctrinal concepts such as the virgin birth, the physical resurrection of Jesus and the church’s rejection of homosexuality.
I don’t believe the Compass program did justice to the ideas of either faction in this schism and seemed more interested in highlighting the existence of conflict within a church that calls itself “uniting”.
The Compass program did touch on what I consider to be a major issue which did not appear to be aimed at either side of the debate, and then dissapointingly did not return to it. The Uniting Church’s modus operandi in its mission to the poor, oppressed and marginalised is a bureaucratic/welfare mode by way of welfare institutions. “But this work has become more professionalised, congregations have become less directly involved” according to Compass. I shall return to this issue.
The P.S. Movement is not confined to the Uniting Church. it has members and curious followers from all Christian denominations, it struggles with the word “Christian” as it excludes other faiths. However despite welcoming invitations to members of other faiths the movement is dominated by Christians or ex-Christians. The P.S. Movement is infinitely diverse, it cannot be pigeonholed as a particular tradition, philosophy or theology. It actively challenges preconceptions of religion and spirituality and as such is incapable of articulating a party line. It is indeed a post-modernist movement that sees respect for difference as part of the essence of their movement.
The P.S. Movement seems to have defined itself by way of adherence to the writings of radical theologians such as Bishop John Shelby Spong who recently visited Australia and invigorated this movement.
The movement holds scholarship in very high regard and its main spokespeople have been academic theologians which has its blessings and its curses.
Amongst the blessings of a theologian lead movement is a direct connection to the tradition and knowledge of ancient scriptures such as the bible and gnostic gospels. The cultural illusions that have been the substance of modern Christendom are stripped away with great authority and scholastic accuracy. This deconstruction of traditional Christianity has opened the gates to authentic spiritual experience without the constraints of artificial and outdated modes enshrined as holy and eternal. The scholars have assisted in liberating the captive Christian mind.
However the curse of scholastic spiritual leadership is the same as of academia in general in that the root or base experience of all (or most) knowledge is the written word.
I wonder if literacy itself is an obstacle to spiritual reality?
I am no anti-intellectulaist. However I am concerned that spiritual experience and knowledge is contained when it is a product of a book (or website). This would perhaps be my major criticism of traditional Christianity, in that it has demanded that the book, the bible, be the only source of knowledge of god.
Very few of the main characters of the bible got their wisdom through books, that was predominantly the domain of the often despised religious authorities. The new testament church taught spirituality by way of active engagement and participation in the Jesus community, through the oral tradition of story telling and through engagement in ritual such as baptism – bathing in the waters of a healing sacred site. Spirituality was a historical reality that people – all of them, body and all, participated in, not an idea or a thought or anything contained in text including holy scripture..
Western industrialised society, not just the church has made literature the basis of our entire educational system from preschool to PhD. However literacy – the monotonous, one dimensional experience of shape recognition on a piece of paper or computer screen that triggers memory of pre-existing concepts in our mind by way of chemical and electrical impulses does not get to the truth of the matter.
Learning through literacy is a secondary, represented reality instead of a direct engagement with the subject being studied.
Spirituality is not an ideology but a lifestyle and the consciousness that grows from that, a holistic connection of physical and mental and of ourselves to everything else. Spiritual wisdom is the experience of living a holistic lifestyle, not a rational justification or idea that has been read in a book.
The greatest spiritual tradition this continent has ever known is Aboriginal culture. This is of course relevant to this P.S. Movement and indeed all Australians. However knowledge of this tradition cannot be gained through reading books but only by direct engagement with Aboriginal people, culture and sociology.
I believe that spirituality is a non-rational, subconscious reality on a dimension different from literacy and the experience of reading. Spirituality is multi dimensional and holistic but literacy is not holistic and just a simple exercise of our visual senses impacting on our intellectual capacity.
We all learn of spirituality and the depth of human experience when we encounter death. Our understandings of life that flow from the grieving process can barely be articulated in text and cannot be taught to another through text, yet the spirituality of life and death is the most profound of all. The funeral of a loved one is an intensely spiritual experience, whatever religion or ideology. It is this reality without language, from grief to joy to dialogue with the devil in the desert, that we find and share and teach spirit. Life, death and spirituality are all “lived” experiences not book-learned ones.
And this is where I return to bureaucratic/welfare modes of mission or engagement in the world. Can the P.S. movement incorporate service to the poor within a spiritual framework? Can this mission itself be a generator of spiritual experience for them?
The poor and marginalised’s direct experience of the church, by way of welfare agencies is of an empty structure while the congregations are having their own spiritual experiences and journeys somewhere else, in church on Sunday, social groups or theological colleges.
I do not believed detached welfarism is the model of engagement with the community that occurred in the historical church of the bible.
I have seen nothing (yet) in my searchings to suggest that the P.S. Movement has a vision for any other modes of engagement with the poor other than managing, or in other ways engaging bureaucratically with, welfare or social justice agencies – the traditional church model.
This I believe is the challenge of the P.S. Movement, to explore a spirituality, lived experience and social engagement that is not so much outside the theology of the traditional church but actively and intentionally outside of the culture of the traditional church.
I believe that the P.S. Movement could develop, on the one hand as a distillation of mainstream, secular consciousness and morality and engage with society on that level. On the other hand it could embrace a spirituality similar to the radical Christian community movement of the 1970’s which emphasised an alternative communal lifestyle (of different sorts) and real and active connection to the poor. This movement existed within traditional theology but lived a holistic spirit that had little to do with the institutional church and its Sunday services.
Can a new, liberated spirituality of the Progressive Spirituality movement get beyond a theological/academic tradition and evolve into a lived, daily experience and social reality that is accessible and relevant to those in need as well as church members?
The emerging awareness that we have to relate to the Earth differently, for theological or ecological reasons, provides another reason to re-engineer the culture and lifestyle of the church, for its own sake and to have some positive relevance to the wider society.
More info –
http://www.progressivereligion.org.au/ Centre for Progressive Religious Thought
http://commondreams.org.au/ “Common Dreams”
http://www.progressivespirituality.net/index.htm Progressive Spirituality Network – Brisbane
It is 12 months since Paradigm Oz started, the point at which I had planned to evaluate my experiment.
12 months ago Paradigm Oz was planned as a news agency to be based on Palm Island. My partner and I had been working with a few Palm Islanders in the previous year developing proposals for sustainable housing projects for Palm Island. We had been running the website Kalkadoon.org, which wasn’t really a blog because it didn’t invite comments. Kalkadoon.org served the purpose of building a network around our work as well as being an information resource on the issues we were pursuing, in particular sustainable housing and this blog was supposed to be the next step in the same direction.
Because of various issues, in particular our continuing battles with the Queensland Adult Guardianship regime we never ended up moving to Palm Island. Apart from our own problems, key people we were working with on Palm found themselves burning out.
So in the end I decided to continue with Oz as a personal blog as an experiment, just to see what would happen.
I have found the blogging experience quite unfulfilling without the base of an active organisation as Kalkadoon.org was and as Paradigm Oz was originally envisioned.
I have no agenda to promote or publicise so my writing has become somewhat purposeless. I have figured that my opinions and perspectives may be interesting to some. But in the end, so what?
It is this one dimensional nature of the written language that I have found most dissatisfying about producing a blog.
The dominant methodology of learning in our institutions from pre-school to Phd is written text. While we may read about many things from many perspectives, our monotonous one dimensional pavlovian experience is that of perceiving text – marks on paper or a screen generating electro/chemical reactions in our brain that generate perceptions of shape that trigger pre-existing concepts.
Written texts are not a direct experience of the reality of their subject matter.They are an experience of a representation of the subject matter, a secondary learning characterised by the monotonous experience of text triggered conceptual recall. Writing just reminds us of our own preconceptions and is incapable of teaching anything beyond them.
However a multi-dimensional education methodology based on direct experience of the reality being studied gives new concepts (rather than just networking existing concepts) for which often the student must afterwards find the language (or music or art) to explain it rather than discovering the concept through language in the first instance.
So, on reflection of the last 12 months of Paradigm Oz, it has been a succesful experiment in that I have figured out a bit about the mechanics of the blogosphere but it has been a failure in terms of building any organisational or educational momentum, which was my underlying reason for experimenting with a blog. I can still see enormous possibilities in education and organisation but I will have to change my blogging paradigm beyond detatched commentary for this to occur. This is my challenge for the next twelve months – stay tuned!
p.s. at the time of writing Paradigm Oz has had 12, 544 visits in the last year, nearly 10,000 0f those visits have been since July.
Maori Sovereignty activist Tame Iti was one of the 17 people arrested yesterday. Background on Tame Iti here
Yesterday New Zealand Police broke into several houses, raided a Maori community and arrested 17 people including peace activists and charged them with various firearms offences.
The raids were the culmination of a police operation which had been underway for some time including surveilance and phone tapping. The operation was co-ordinated through the prime minister’s office and is the first time the N.Z. suppression of terrorism act has been used. According to police they had uncovered a terrorist training camp and a terrorist plot.
The story on “Stuff”
I don’t know enough of the Maori struggle to give any substantial comment on this development. However I do know enough about terrorism hysteria and neo-fascism to say the new international anti-terrorism regimes are desperately intent on finding targets to justify their existence, creating hypothetical and just plain false hypotheses to investigate and prosecute.
I also know enough of the nature of the colonial state to say it will always use the force of the police to repress indigenous power when it begins to threaten colonial interests.
Tame Iti has been previously charged for the ceremonial use of firearms in accordance with tribal protocol. From nga korero o te wa ……
“Mr Iti had been found guilty of two counts of possessing a firearm in a public place after he fired a shotgun during welcomes for the Waitangi Tribunal at Ruatoki in January 2005.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove any criminal harm from Iti’s action.
Mr Iti says the case was brought because of the grandstanding of former ACT MP Stephen Franks, and he has no grudge against the police for taking it.
“Tuhoe tikanga or any other iwi hapu tikanga always will be in conflict. As long as the judicial system continues to marginalise indigenous people of this country, we always will be in in conflict with it,” Mr Iti says.
He says over the past 15 years he has discharged shotguns on Tuhoe marae in front of a prime minister, a governor general and a police commissioner with no complaints.”
My first post on Leftwrites is entitled “The Eurocentrism of Australian Socialism”
Here is my most recent comment on that discussion……
The point of real connection with Aboriginal Australia is spirituality, not ideology. It is about the heart not the head.
UPDATE – This post has suddenly become very popular. New visitors to Paradigm Oz should be aware that this was posted before the new allegations against Noonan were put on youtube (post on that issue here ). It was not written as a response to the youtube allegations. The complaint refered to was a complaint to the QUT Vice Chancellor relating to the representation of Aboriginal women in the footage.
Paradigm Oz regulars will know that I have been following the controversy over Michael Noonans movies and his Phd thesis “Laughing at/with the disabled”.
This is a link to my most recent article on the controversy which contains links to the other articles on the issue. “Michael Noonan exposes his naughty bits”
Since Noonan has released his controversial footage to the public it has been widely applauded and the criticism against it in the name of “the disabled” has dissolved.
However Noonan is still being criticised, this time for inappropriate representation of Aboriginal people in one of the released clips.
So Paradigm Oz asked Baganan Kurityityin Theresa Creed , a Kalkadoon and Pitta Pitta woman what her impressions were of the controversial Boulia Pub scene.
Baganan is not related to May, the Aboriginal woman in the footage, and cannot speak on her behalf. She is however a traditional owner of Boulia.
This is what Baganan says………
(note Baganan is refering to James, one of the two stars of the clips when she speaks of “him” and “he”)
That was liable to happen because that was their intent to get a girlfriend for him. When he asked all the town folks and most of the girls up there had children so there wasn’t many to pick from who didnt have children.
It looked like a good mood where they were happy and cheerful and looking content with their interactions, content with each other.
Playful to the point of playfullness and a good time.
Aboriginal woman was very cautious with him, very careful with him, picked up straight away that he had disabilities and was able to give him that attention that he needed.
She was very careful with him and encouraging.
She was a very thoughtful person who was able to read where he was coming from and make sure that he felt accepted.
It was funny because this guy finally found someone after all this time, after looking everywhere, his heart was content then when he finally found someone.
The issue was to find out about a girlfriend, the issue was to go on a trip and find a girlfriend that can be good for him. Someone that was acceptable to him and acceptible to her.
Aboriginal women role in this movie was very powerful, she chose to be with him and understood the unspoken words of mental disability. She was woman affectionate as well as strong and straight, she wanted to be with him and she was sure of that, sure that she was with him, she made it happen.
She directed the playfulness and was able to get what she wanted which was his attention and they both got lost in each others joyfulness and had a playful time.
Racism could block the gap and peoples minds and make them get offended by this beautiful phenomenon. Once upon a time out west it was forbidden for black and white to be together and people who still suffer from that racism would have been very wild upset at seeing this happen.