Our political, corporate and academic leaders like to tell us that we are ‘all in this together’. It’s a communitarian expression which we would like to think is true.
In my younger days when I veered towards communism, that collective ideal was a strong one for me. Even when I, unlike some of my lecturers, grew up and out of Marxist philosophy, I still understood that community and society are vital parts of being human.
It’s just that communism was too conservative for me — so I went for something much more radical: I became a Christian! ‘From each according to his means, to each according to his needs’ comes from 2 Corinthians 8, not The Communist Manifesto.
I still have a keen sense of injustice and unfairness in society. This struck me as I considered three of the great crises facing our culture today: Covid-19, Climate Change and Critical Race Theory.
As our Western society rejects its Christian foundations, it appears that our responses to these three crises indicate that our sense of common humanity and purpose may be fracturing.
Before Covid-19 hit, our media and political establishments talked a lot about caring for the poor. They mocked and were outraged at Donald Trump’s ‘build the wall’ populist nationalism. Now they are the great wall builders themselves!
The Covid-19 crisis throughout the world has hit the poorest hardest of all. Adam Creighton, writing in The Australian, has a fascinating article headlined, ‘World’s poor suffer as rich work from home’. He cites Tony Green, Professor of African History from Kings College, London:
The wholesale abandonment of the global poor by policy-makers, opinion-formers in the liberal press and the global rich is one of the most repugnant features of the international response to the pandemic.
That rings true in many ways. I think of a missionary friend who works with the poorest of the poor in Kampala, Uganda. She told me that when the government there sought to copy Western lockdown policies, it was a disaster for the poor.
Amongst other things, the poor normally went shopping on their way home from work, but they couldn’t do so because the government had an evening curfew. The number of teenage pregnancies as a result of abuse far outweighed the number of people with Covid-19. In Africa, 400,000 children aged under five die each year from malaria.
I find it incredible how people who can work from home, have nice gardens or balconies, and have no loss of income, are so unaware of how those in the ‘gig’ economy suffer. ‘Lockdown!’ they cry, condemning everyone who doesn’t agree with their obvious compassion, based on their superior health knowledge; knowing that their jobs and their lives are going to suffer little more than the inconvenience of Zoom and the postponement of a couple of foreign holidays this year.
The closure of schools, especially in poorer countries, and the shutting down of even basic healthcare (except for Covid-19) will leave the poor paying a heavy price for years to come. Lockdowns may sometimes be necessary — but let’s remember who pays the highest price for them.
Covid-19 has shown that we are in fact not ‘all in this together’. Take the example of Queensland Premier Annastacia Palasczuk who, following ‘the health advice’, refused to let a fully vaccinated man go to see his dying mother, and who last week pushed for the Prime Minister to cut international arrivals into Australia by 50 percent.
For me, this is personal. This week my father died. Even if I was granted permission to go home to Scotland to bury him and help my mother (which is almost certainly not going to happen, since 95 percent of compassionate applications are rejected), the cost — thanks to the Queensland Premier’s policies — would be prohibitive. Last time I looked, it was priced at $180,000 for myself and my wife (plus quarantine costs)! Even Sydney Anglicans don’t pay those kind of wages!
Yet Ms Palaszczuk is planning to leave the country to attend the Olympic Games in Japan. She justifies this by saying it would be ‘good for the country’. I’m much more interested in what is good for individual human beings. If you have the money and the political influence, you can travel in and out of Australia. But ordinary citizens and foreigners like yours truly haven’t a hope. We are most certainly not all in this together.
Another great issue of the day is climate change. This also is increasing the gap between rich and poor. The well-off demand that we stop flying, driving, buying, heating or cooling our homes. Is there anything more hypocritical than the wealthy elites flying by private jet to the Davos summit to discuss how they can encourage the rest of us to stop flying?
Two weeks ago, it was breathtakingly reported that 33 people died in London in the last year because of heat caused by climate change. What somehow missed the headlines was that over 30,000 died of the cold. For many, it was because they could not afford to heat their homes. Carbon taxes are paid by the poor; carbon credits are bought by the rich.
Again, there are so many examples of this hypocrisy. In my native Highlands of Scotland, I have witnessed landlords being paid thousands of dollars per year for each wind turbine they allow to blight their land (of course, never in front of their own homes). Meanwhile, there are those who shiver in the depths of winter because they cannot afford to pay the inflated energy prices which pay for those subsidies.
Socialism used to be about the redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poorer. Green progressivism is now about providing middle class subsidies — reversing Robin Hood — and taking from the poor to give to the rich. Why else do you think so many of our mega corporations are suddenly ‘green’? They can make money and appear virtuous!
I’m not arguing that we should not care about climate change. I’m not saying that it is not real, or that mankind has nothing to do with it. We should do all we can, together, to limit its causes and effects. All I’m arguing is that if you wanted to find a better way to increase the wealth of the wealthiest, you would be hard put to beat most of the current climate change policies being advocated.
When I see the rich volunteering to pay triple for their energy, and limiting their travel, perhaps I might take their passion for the planet a little more seriously! Until then, we are not all in this together.
Critical Race Theory
If Covid-19 and Climate Change have increased the great gap between the haves and the have-nots, Critical Race Theory shows us the gap between the virtue signalling of the wealthy elites and the reality of the racism and economic disadvantages faced by the poor.
CRT is a progressive doctrine bred from the elite universities of America’s East and West coasts. It allows wealthy white people to show that they are anti-racist by claiming that all white people — but especially poor white people — are inherently racist.
It also allows them to make lots of money by providing ‘anti-racist consultancy’ to corporations and institutions. They ignore the fact that judging people by the colour of their skin is itself racist, and that poverty is much more likely to be a cause of oppression than race.
They are completely blind to the number one factor in increasing poverty: the breakdown of the traditional family. In fact, their social policies do more to increase poverty than anything else. Again, this is not to deny the seriousness of racism as an issue — it’s just to point out that CRT increases racism, rather than defeating it. And CRT is just one arrow in a whole quiverful of identity politics issues which harm the poor.
The Biblical Alternative
The Bible is neither a communist nor a conservative manifesto. It is much more radical than that. It is so radical that it turned the whole world upside-down.
The Bible’s teaching that all human beings are made in the image of God gave us the foundation for equality. Its teaching that both male and female are made in the image of God gave us the foundation for gender justice. Its concern for the poor, and its teaching about economic justice in the prophets, Christ, and His apostles, gave us a foundation for economic justice.
Today our cultural elites are, in their self-perceived wisdom, removing those foundations. As a result, all we are left with is the words themselves: equality, diversity, justice. Without sure foundations, these words and concepts just collapse like a pack of cards in the midst of a storm.
As such, we are not progressing towards a secular nirvana. We are regressing back to the inequality, injustice and sexual exploitation of the pre-Christian, Graeco-Roman, pagan world. That world is a dog-eat-dog world, where we most certainly are not ‘all in this together’.
If we want real community, compassion and clarity, then we need Christ.