Nils von Kalm

My take on faith, life and how it all might fit together

Category: Politics (page 1 of 5)

Oils at the Bowl

I almost made the calamitous mistake of choosing not to go and see Midnight Oil on their current ‘Great Circle’ tour. I figured I had seen them a couple of times previously, and I could do something else with the $100 that was the ticket price. I won’t make that mistake again. What was I thinking?!

So, when the opportunity came up last week to grab a ticket, my impulsive nature made an uncommonly good decision. I paid the price and got my ticket.

As I stood on the lawn of the Sidney Myer Music Bowl as the band came onto the stage, storm clouds were gathering around Melbourne and the rain was gaining momentum. The cool change had come and I was getting wet. But it didn’t matter. I was glad that stupidity hadn’t gotten the better of me by knocking back the chance at being here. This was the Oils at the Music Bowl. I looked around at the crowd, represented by a few generations as Peter Garrett broke into the famous, maniacal dance moves that only he can do. I couldn’t get the smile off my face. You know when you’re glad you’ve made a wise decision, and this was one of those times.

I first started following the Oils as a 13 year old. They have been part of my life for 35 years, and they are as good and energetic today as they were back in those heady days of the early 1980s when songs like ‘US Forces’, ‘Short Memory’ and ‘Read About It’ became legendary Australian rock anthems almost as soon as they were released.

The aura that Midnight Oil have had about them comes down to a few factors: no-nonsense, intelligent, unflinching political and social commentary which is as prophetic as it is bold, a tall, bald singer whose dance moves are uniquely natural and at the same time almost out of control, a passion and energy that brilliantly complements the lyrics of their songs, and finally, just really, really good, raw, authentic (non-manufactured) rock ’n’ roll.

It is a sad irony that many of their songs which were made so famous in the ’80s and ’90s are suddenly relevant again. ‘Blue Sky Mine’ is now an indictment on the Adani coal mine, and ‘US Forces’ brings up nightmarish images of Donald Trump’s massive spending increases on the military and his fawning of nuclear weapons.

The other thing that grabbed me about this tour was the impact of the legacy of Peter Garrett’s own political career. All now seems forgiven after he was seen by many to have sold out by entering the bureaucracy of the political machine in Canberra as a Minister in the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd Governments. People just wanted to come along to hear legendary Aussie rock. I think we are all just glad to have the Oils back doing what they do best.

Midnight Oil captured much of my generation in the ‘80s, and 30 years later they have captured some of the younger generations. I just hope that the younger people in the crowd at the Bowl during the week are able to appreciate what the Oils are about, and the impact they had on this country back then. They have always had their own sound, their own presence. It is theirs; they have never tried to be anyone they are not, from when they first started out in the Sydney pub scene in the late 1970s, to when they famously wore their ‘Sorry’ t-shirts in front of a global audience of 2 billion at the closing ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, to today, when they are rocking the world again, both musically and with their powerful criticism of injustice and environmental degradation.

When passion is combined with the goodness of a cause, the energy that is exuded can be breathtaking. Midnight Oil are the quintessential example of this. You know a band has legend status when they can play their greatest songs and the lead singer can just stand back, hold the microphone to the crowd and let us sing, and we all know every word. It is a reciprocal gesture of respect and giving. The Oils have given so much to us over the decades, and we want to keep turning up to their shows and give back to them.

Midnight Oil have been a major part of my inspiration to be a part of the solution to the problems of the world since I was a quiet teenager. Who would have thought that a lanky, bald, tall singer with a crazy dance routine, and his band of brilliant musicians, could influence so many? You wouldn’t read about it.

The forgotten Christians

Since the time of Jesus, millions of Christians have had a fascination with visiting the Holy Land. It is a pilgrimage for many of us, almost in the same way as visiting Mecca is for Muslims.

For much of my adult life I have wanted to visit the biblical sights in Israel, and last year I finally had the opportunity.

My work in the area of aid and development, as well as my passion for justice to be done for people living on the margins of society, had alerted me to the plight of Palestinians in the Holy Land. I didn’t know a whole lot about the conflict and its history, but I did know that Palestinians were the ones being oppressed and that therefore, as a follower of Jesus, I wanted to know more about the conflict from their point of view.

Our view of the world is determined by where we stand. Too often in Christian circles, we stand with those in power. If we stand with power, we will see the world from that point of view. This has been the case with Christendom ever since the time of Constantine. But if, like Jesus, we stand with the oppressed, we will see the world from their perspective.

This is where we need to understand something that is terribly misunderstood in the church: God plays favourites.

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What Donald Trump and Jesus have in common

You may (or may not) be surprised to find that Donald Trump and Jesus have one significant thing in common…

Movie review – Churchill

Here’s my review of the movie, Churchill, which I saw last week. 

ON THE SCREEN: ‘CHURCHILL’S’ NARROW FOCUS LEAVES AUDIENCE WANTING MORE

Churchill (M) In a Word: Flat MOMENT OF DECISION: Brian Cox stars as the British PM in the film Churchill. “This is a story of courage in the midst of personal despair, of perseverance when you are at the very edge of giving up and being given up on.

When I talk about justice they call me a leftie

Responding to the reality of a Trump Presidency

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Much has been written amidst the turmoil of Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US election.

Disbelief was probably the main reaction, from people who voted against him as well as those who voted for him. As the world comes to terms with how the Trump Presidency might impact the world, much has also been written about the best way to respond. I have to confess to probably going a bit over the top with my emotional responses. When someone as divisive as Trump comes along, emotions can be overwhelming.

Whatever our reactions and thoughts, now is a time of great opportunity, an opportunity to bear witness to the Gospel loud and clear. Not the dualistic gospel that says you can get to heaven when you die if you just believe the right things; nor the same gospel that says you’re going to hell if you don’t believe those things.

No, the Gospel I am talking about is the Gospel of Jesus as we see in the Scriptures. It is the good news that another world is possible and another world is already here. It is the good news of inclusiveness for all, that there are no walls in this new world that Jesus came to bring. All are equal, male and female, black and white, (dare I say it) Muslim and Christian, Mexican and Trump supporter.

This is the good news that all are welcome if only they will come. Because God is President, not Donald Trump, a world order is being created where enemies are loved and where the broken are embraced and not ridiculed or shamed.

In a world which has already become more hostile as a result of Trump’s victory, this is our opportunity to shine, to live an alternative world, to be a light on a hill, to be a beacon for those who are not welcome elsewhere. This is our time to be a community of hope, of love and of faith. The politics of fear and division and hatred will never overcome faith, hope and love. Nothing can separate you from this love. Love does indeed save the world. 

So, what does it look like to respond in grace and love to those we disagree with? Yes, what does it mean to respond like Jesus would, whether you despise or rejoice at the Trump Presidency? Here are my thoughts:

Listen

As time goes on and we come to accept the reality of what has happened, we need to listen to the viewpoints of those with whom we disagree.

To take Trump supporters as an example, they have been vilified and lumped into a “basket of deplorables”, to use a quote from the campaign. There are many, many people however who voted for Trump because they genuinely believe he was the best choice for their country and for the world. That’s why they were willing to stick with him despite his racism, sexism and invectives of fear. These people are not stupid. Many of them can definitely be classified as racist, sexist and/or filled with hatred, and that needs to be confronted with courage and strength, but those classifications do not apply to all Trump supporters.

Trump tapped into something very deep in the soul of America. Millions of people have been angry for a very long time because they have felt that their voices have not been heard. History shows that when a group of people are ignored over time, they will eventually rise up and revolt. It is rather ironic that Trump supporters have long felt the same as African Americans did (and still do) during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ‘60s. Back then, Martin Luther King, told by many white people to be patient, wrote about the fact that his people could no longer wait after suffering for so long. A movement rose up and it has happened again.

When we disagree, we don’t make it personal

We confront the issue, not the person. When we disagree with someone, we must show that we are not attacking them as a person. We can disagree strongly while maintaining the relationship with that person. Don’t ever shame anyone for their position. That will just turn them away even more and is not treating them as people of dignity made in the image of their Creator.

Unfortunately in the era of social media where anyone can voice their own opinion, personal abuse has become rife and healthy debate has been dumbed down. Responding in grace means listening while not attacking the person.

We remain true to our convictions

Responding with grace does not mean we roll over and have to compromise what we believe. Self-respect and respect from others is gained when we stand up for what we believe. As the old saying goes, “stand for something or fall for anything”.

Respect the other person’s viewpoint

There is a caveat to this though. Many people’s viewpoints are not thought out very thoroughly. What was revealed in the US election campaign was that much of the support for Trump was based on pure emotion and blind faith. When presented with the facts, the viewpoints of many were just further entrenched. You don’t need to respect a point of view that has not been thought out. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but if they want their opinion to be respected, it has to be credible. That also means that if you are going to put forward a claim or point of view, you need to be able to back it up with facts.

As well as that, be prepared to suffer. You can present your case in the most Christlike way with undisputable facts and many people will still attack you as being unreasonable and ungodly. We are human. We will disagree, often vehemently. Bear it and get support if you need to. You can’t do this alone. Responding in love is about being part of a movement; it is not an individual stand.

Many people we disagree with are people with genuinely held beliefs

It is important to acknowledge this. They actually have thought through their motivations and have come to a conclusion that we thought was unconscionable. Suck it up. I know I need to.

Be open to having your views challenged

This relates to the previous point. And as well as being open to having your own views challenged, realise that you might need to change your point of view when presented with other facts. 

No issue is black and white

There will always be shreds of truth in any argument. Every situation is unique. Remember this is ultimately about real people, and real people are not “issues”. They are human beings with feelings, hopes and dreams.

Embody an alternative world

Remember, another world is possible and another world is here. ?The new world that Jesus inaugurated is both now and not yet. Protest is not enough. The world needs to hear a better story. And a better story includes people from all sides of the debate. Violence has been committed by both sides in the wake of the election. A true Christian response is not to constantly highlight one side’s violence and ignore the other’s. It is to make a strong statement that violence of any kind is unacceptable, no matter who perpetrates it.

We need to be the change we want to see in the world. People do not change until they see that their present way of living, based on their present worldview, is no longer working. It is then that we need to know there is a better way. Embody that way. 

Embody the way of love, of forgiveness, of speaking truth to power. Let your light shine so that others will praise your Father in heaven. Live a life of attraction so that people won’t have anything to pin on you.

Embodying an alternative world is also being on the side of the marginalised. God actually does play favourites. The Bible clearly shows God’s definite bias for the poor and oppressed. This is not because God loves them any more than the rich and powerful. To the contrary, it is because God made them equal and they deserve to be treated as such.

Now is the time for people of faith, hope and love to come together and show that love does indeed cast out fear, that there is indeed a better way. Now is the time to get together with others who want to live this way. It was Margaret Mead who said, “Never forget that a small group of people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has”.

We have nothing to fear in the post-Trump world, whether you support him or not. Remember Matthew 28:20 – “I am with you always, to the very end of the age”.

Why Australia is stingy and getting stingier

The below article in yesterday’s Age newspaper in Melbourne said a heck of a lot about how stingy our Federal Government has become in recent years in terms of our care for those living in poverty around the world.

Why Australia is stingy and getting stingier

Australians like to think their government is a big-hearted foreign aid donor. A recent opinion poll found voters believed our overseas aid budget to be about 10 times bigger, on average, than it actually was. In fact, Australia has never been an especially open-handed donor compared with many other wealthy countries.

While the article is excellent in what it points out, there is so much more to add. Here are some more facts about why cuts to our aid budget simply don’t make sense on so many levels, including economic ones:

1. Vanuatu
2. Tonga
3. Philippines
4. Guatemala
5. Solomon Islands
6. Bangladesh
7. Costa Rica
8. Cambodia
9. Papua New Guinea
10. El Salvador

Vanuatu, the beautiful tourist destination for many Australians, is the riskiest country in the world to live in, with natural disasters on average affecting more than a third of the population each year.

Countries are ranked in this report using the world risk index, which takes into account not only the frequency of natural disasters in each country, but also how well equipped the country is to cope with and recover from the effects of a disaster.

parliament-house-168300_1280

  • The more foreign aid we give, the better it is for Australia. It’s in our national interest. The Australian Government agrees that its aid program is in our national interest. The Department of Foreign Affairs website says that, “the purpose of the aid program is to promote Australia’s national interests by contributing to sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction”. This is quite apart from the fact that it’s just the right thing to do. It’s sad that we have to appeal to our own self-interest to get our Government to hear this stuff, but that is the reality. It is better for Australia if there is less poverty in the world because it frees us up to trade and invest in countries that are able to do that. And it promotes stability.

To reduce our foreign aid giving simply doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, for the reasons stated in the article linked to above, and in my points.

What do you think? Are there any other reasons we should increase our foreign aid?

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

George Monbiot has written another insightful article, this one on the problem of neoliberalism, and the fact that most people in our neoliberal society don’t know what the term means.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems

Imagine if the people of the Soviet Union had never heard of communism. The ideology that dominates our lives has, for most of us, no name. Mention it in conversation and you’ll be rewarded with a shrug. Even if your listeners have heard the term before, they will struggle to define it.

Here are my thoughts on some of the points Monbiot makes:

  • “Neoliberalism sees competition as the defining characteristic of human relations. It redefines citizens as consumers, whose democratic choices are best exercised by buying and selling, a process that rewards merit and punishes inefficiency. It maintains that “the market” delivers benefits that could never be achieved by planning.”

Just like communism reduced people to cogs in a machine, neoliberalism, or market capitalism, does the same. We become consumers whose value lies in how much we contribute to the ongoing efficiency of the economic machine. We are not seen as having inherent dignity in ourselves.

  • “When political debate no longer speaks to us, people become responsive instead to slogans, symbols and sensation.” Think Tony Abbott and ‘stop the boats’ in Australia.

The rise of Bernie Sanders is as much a response to the current climate as is the rise of Donald Trump. The failure of the Left has been seen by them and is responding in the rise of Sanders.

“Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed”. I remember when communism fell over in the late 1980s, Jim Wallis said the same would happen to capitalism one day. It might take another generation, but we are seeing it happening now before our eyes.

  • “it’s not enough to oppose a broken system. A coherent alternative has to be proposed.” Perhaps one option (and there may be others along the lines of what people like Bernie Sanders are putting forward) is Tim Jackson’s Prosperity Without Growth.

The problem with unfettered market capitalism is that it is an amoral system. It doesn’t take into account human nature, the fact that humans are ultimately committed to their own self-interest. That’s why it needs people in poverty to survive.

Why the Resurrection still matters in the 21st century

Behold-the-Man-Antonio_Ciseri-e1330966503449Another Easter has come and gone. As we reflect on what it means 2,000 years after the event, I am reminded that the circumstances in which the world finds itself in today, early in the 21st century, are similar to that in which the first Christians found themselves 2,000 years ago.

On that first Easter day, a handful of Jesus’ disciples became convinced that a new King had been enthroned, a new Lord. They became convinced that the teacher from Nazareth who they had been following around for three years was alive again, was the saviour of the world, and was the world’s rightful Lord. He actually was who he said he was, and now they finally understood.

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Donald Trump and Christians

Two things from this article stand out to me: the utter foolishness of Donald Trump, and the equally utter foolishness of every Christian who supports him. Check these quotes out:

  • “It’s hard, because my whole life, I take money, take money. Now, I’m going to be greedy for the United States. I’m going to take and take and take.” – Trump, at a rally in Georgia on Monday.
  • John Lee, 47, who runs a small business selling ‘Christian clothes’, was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the second amendment. ‘We want to see The Donald,’ he says. He has common sense. He doesn’t put up with wish-wash; he’s not your standard politician. He stands up for principle and takes care of his people.’

Meanwhile, I hear Jesus whisper down through the ages:

“Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of possessions.” Then he told them a parable: “The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, ‘What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.” – Luke 12:15-21

Crisis for Republican party as Trump heads for Super Tuesday victory

Donald Trump appears poised for sweeping victories on Super Tuesday that would effectively anoint him the Republicans’ presumptive nominee, leaving the polarised conservative party in the throes of an existential crisis.

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