Musings of an antipodean contrarian

Archive for the category “civility”

Avoiding intolerance only fuels it

In an opinion piece in The Sydney Morning Herald on Thursday, Elizabeth Farrelly argued – persuasively, in my opinion – that our desperation to avoid racial and religious intolerance allows intolerance to thrive.

Ms Farrelly says “our determination not to offend means we tolerate the thoroughly offensive.”  She calls it “moral relativism,” which she says is “profoundly dangerous to a free and fair society,” and she gives several examples.

One in particular caught my eye.  Last year the University of Western Sydney held an Islamic Awareness Week, where members of the Atheist Foundation debated the existence of God with the Muslim Students Association.

When the atheists arrived, they found the room segregated, men on the left and women on the right. There was open hostility in the audience.  One heckler shouted, “Islam will conquer the world!”  The atheists were later escorted off campus by security. 

This is no way to debate theology. Disagreements are not resolved by force, or by appeasement, but by sitting down together and learning from each other, building respect and mutual understanding.  This is sadly lacking in Australia today.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, Sunday 4 September 2011.

Build bridges instead of moats

President Obama honours shooting victims at the McKale Memorial Center.

The recent shootings in Arizona, with six dead and 13 wounded, have been blamed on extremist political rhetoric designed to heighten tensions between different social and cultural groups, and to deepen a sense of fear and mistrust between people.

Some of this, both here and in the U.S., is generated by politicians and media shock jocks, while some of it emanates from ordinary people who happen to have very strong views, or just very strong personalities that thrive on conflict and abuse.

And then there are the chain emails, often irrational and racist, with wild accusations and unsubstantiated claims, promoting fear and hatred, and urging action to preserve the racial, religious or moral purity of so-called “real” Australians.

What can you and I do to help make our communities more harmonious?  First, refuse to pass on such inflammatory gossip and slander. 

Second, ask yourself, “What would Jesus do in this situation?” 

And third, practice what Dr Gordon Moyes calls “positive civil discourse” – by all means express what you believe, but do it in a way that builds bridges and makes friends.   That’s what our world so desperately needs. 

President Barack Obama’s speech delivered in Tucson, Arizona, yesterday (13 Jan 2011) is an excellent example of what I’m talking about.

Broadcast on 2CH Sydney, 16 January 2011.

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