How About We Sabotage Our Own Society?

In this blog, David Sretenovic laments the heightened sense of tension surrounding the simple matter of being honest.

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A man who was previously considered an upstanding, caring, intelligent and valuable leader in an Australian community is nowadays so easily sidelined and made into a pariah. A woman who is confided in, relied upon, leads and protects can be, at the click of a button on social media, catapulted to a status of notoriety and suspicion. A citizen who for years has been a pillar, upon making an admission regarding politics, will have shade cast upon their very legacy. Important contributors – those who are known for their work ethic, qualifications, and abilities – are so quickly being turned over and replaced with … others.

You see, if someone admits to questioning something controversial (you name the hot-button topic of the moment: burqas/head coverings; vaccination, same-sex marriage/ gender/sexuality; evolution/creationism; refugee policy; support for a leader such as Trump or Obama; global warming…) –  this has so much power at the moment. It has the potential to see someone’s reputation tarnished in a day. Take, for example, a doctor who allows and supports patients in making a conscience-call on vaccinating their children: such a doctor is today hunted down and swiftly discredited by authorities. This doctor, prior to admitting his opinion on vaccination, would be considered a pillar of society: intelligent, reliable and one who brings healing and health to many. But no longer – all that swept away with one admission (regardless of whether that admission contravenes any laws or not). The teacher who students and parents have heralded and trusted: instantly considered a traitor to the school and society if they dare admit they support traditional marriage and gender norms. All the brilliant work that a teacher does in supporting students, building the community and imparting knowledge, casually tossed aside due to the revelation of his opinion – the ramifications of an honest comment.

The knock-on effect is where this bites. Who replaces them? I can tell you this much: it’s not someone who will be willing to make the same mistake. They will know exactly what not to say. And if they do in fact hold a contraband opinion, rule number one will be to withhold their truth and never be honest. One could of course see this as a good thing. It could be the civilizing effects of political correctness. It could be the initiation of a new social order which has washed away the dregs of outmoded and archaic beliefs and ways of being – a social cleansing of sorts. But let’s just examine closely exactly what it is that has triggered, in the past decade or so, this rapid cleansing.

Honesty. It is precisely this: an honest comment. Without those words of personal truth, that individual would have retained their honoured, valued and established position of citizenship and contribution. All those things which take years of hard work, which a society celebrates and needs, and which it strains and toils in order to build into a person: discarded over what? An honest word, and a venture into vulnerability.

I’ll tell you what, I don’t know of a better way to sabotage an entire society. We’re losing out on so much by operating this way. And it’s not necessarily clear which is worse: discarding the quality, or discouraging the honesty. But if I had to choose, I’d say the latter. It’s a dagger to the heart of us all.

Brian Zahnd — My personal promo and thoughts on “Mars”

David Sretenovic applauds Zahnd’s inspiring, incisive and eloquent book “Farewell to Mars” (2014). He also adds to the conversation with a few thoughts about our inner and outer dialogue in response to Zahnd’s thesis.

I highly recommend the book “A Farewell to Mars” (2014) by Brian Zahnd to everyone, but especially Americans, and especially Christians. Chapter eight is one of the best book chapters I’ve ever read, full stop. Ideally I’d love to give a full book review and include some of the choicest theological quotes I’ve yet seen, but for now I will just point to one segment, as a symbol of this book’s force in current theological and civic dialogue.

Chapter eight has the same title as the book “A Farewell to Mars”, and thrusts home Zahnd’s booming thesis, that the War-god Mars represents a polar opposite to the Peace-God Christ. When Cain killed Abel, he was serving the former God; when Jesus didn’t kill, he inaugurated a new Kingdom of anti-violence and anit-war. That is the context for this quote (emphasis is mine):

“…on August 6, 1945, the world crossed a threshold. Human capacity for killing is now totalized. We can kill the whole world if we want to. Will we continue to believe the lie that we have to kill the world in order to save it? This is the lie Cain told himself. In a mystical sense, Cain killed the world when he killed his brother. Then he built the city of human civilization upon the lie that we can do good by killing.”

Firstly, I zealously commend Zahnd’s inspiring, Christ-led and Christ-honouring heart and message – read the book, it’ll both inspire and confront you (with a fluid, witty and sage-like style)! Secondly, I’ll add these thoughts for pondering. When Zahnd says that “Cain killed the world” he is pointing to a pattern of life which is categorically damnable. But the truth is, it was God who was responsible for Cain being conceived and born in the first place. God was responsible for Adam and Eve being created. God was responsible for it all. So in a real sense, extrapolating on Zahnd’s statement, God killed the world when he started it.

There’s a thin line between those two assertions though, that of free-will. Did Cain have the freedom of will to not kill Abel?

I’ll put it plainly: I don’t care what the answer to the question is right now. But what I am caring about here is this: blame. The beauty and power of Zahnd’s book is his ability to entwine history, literature, theology, modern civic discourse and ancient prophetic texts into a captivating Mona Lisa; he carves a delicate, exquisite sculpture with a chainsaw in a way that really convinces you that this is how it ought to be done! I’m inspired and in awe! But I am exploring where his ideas lead us individually in our own thoughts about blame. Where are we directing the blame as we live out our new paradigms: to God or to Cain … to our neighbour, or to ourselves?

Peace be with you! … “the first word of a new world” 😉

— David Sretenovic

September 2016

Pauline Hanson: Good, Bad or Ugly?

David Sretenovic weighs in on the spanner that Pauline Hanson is in the works of Australian politics and civic life. Using John Pasquarelli’s insights as a springboard, David seeks to help folks make the most of her existence!

For me, the best type of politician — or person full stop — is one whose eyes and actions communicate this: “Despite our differences, I am no better than you are.” Is Pauline Hanson that type of politician? I’m not sure — I haven’t met or even read her autobiography yet. But I did recently read The Pauline Hanson Story by John Pasquarelli (1998) — her early political advisor’s recount of her initial rise to political fame — so I feel I’ve gotten a solid dose of her side of the story.

Perhaps the two other crucial measuring sticks I swing at politicians are these: integrity and courage. Honesty might be the common thread. If a politician can weave honesty together with an agenda which isn’t overly defensive, they stand to gain my enduring admiration. While I perceive that Pauline’s politics do tend to emanate from a defensive stance, courageous honesty itself is still a rare trait and I certainly give her points on that ledger. I think it’s a big part of why she has made political history in Australia.

Consider the following statistics. This year in Australia’s federal election, Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party secured the highest number of votes outside of the two major parties and the Greens: nearly 800,000 votes (about 2.6% of the national vote). To put that in perspective, the Greens got about 2.6 million votes, Nick Xenophon 700,000, Katter’s Australia Party 120,000 and Palmer United about 26,000[1]. Moreover, in 1998 when One Nation first appeared, it secured 9% of the national vote[2]. The fact is: she has won many Australians over; swathes of Australians are saying, “Pauline speaks for me.” The kicker for me, which Pasquarelli’s book just hammered home, is that she has reached this level while swimming upstream, with the Left, the Right and the media — at least on public record — largely against her in an unprecedented coalition of efforts.

The Pauline Hanson Story was the impetus for this blog, so I’d like to share a few quotes which I think are important in getting the full picture. My goal is to help folks to be able to make the most of Pauline’s presence in our political world — Pasquarelli certainly did this for me.

  • p.117 “She was possessed of an almost pig-headed courage that enabled her to confront situations others, better equipped, would not dare contemplate. It was this quality that, in the end, would never have allowed her to throw in the towel and resign.”
  • p.135 “The weeks after the maiden speech [customary for first-time parliamentarians] were frantic and full of drama. Overflowing mail bags at the Ipswich and parliamentary post offices, bundles and bundles of letters stacked in boxes stacked on top of other full boxes, miles of faxes, reams of telephone messages, enough flowers to start a florist shop, and people lined up in the office reception area like winners at a TAB window.”
  • p.143 “ ‘Pauline Hanson is the most heavily guarded politician in Australian history with the annual cost of protecting her running at more than twice her annual Parliamentary wages bill,’ we were told. … Pauline Hanson has received dozens of threatening letters from left-wing extremist groups opposed to her views, including organisations that have connections with overseas paramilitary groups. This has prompted ASIO to judge her the highest security risk of any Australian public figure, with her security arrangements exceeded only by those for visiting overseas leaders.’
  • p.146 “ Pauline Hanson, her family and her staff should be able to go about their business and work and live confidently in a safe environment, but that is not the case at present. It is a sad indictment of our society that a determined and stubborn woman of no particular brilliance can be considered by the ‘establishment’ as such a threat that they will stoop as low as they can to destroy her.”
  • p.153 “This was Pauline’s first opportunity to appear live on a high rating show with an Australia-wide audience… with Kerri-Anne Kennerley [on the Midday show]. Pauline’s appearance was a spectacular success with the obviously average Australian audience clapping and cheering her… The station ran a phone poll on Pauline’s maiden speech … The poll question was: ‘Are Pauline Hanson’s views racist?’ Thousands of calls poured in and the result was: ‘Yes’ 6% and ‘No’ 94 %.”
  • p.302-3 “Three weeks after the maiden speech [Alan] Jones said that, of the many thousands of calls to his talkback show, 98% of them were in basic support of Pauline. … The Melbourne Herald Sun conducted an interesting telephone poll in June 1997, posing the question, ‘Is Pauline Hanson a racist?’ The paper provided twenty-one Hanson quotes to help readers make up their minds. Eight thousand readers responded, an overwhelming 81% answering ‘no’. While the Herald Sun headlined the announcement of the poll, it did not headline the positive result for Pauline Hanson, burying it instead in an article proclaiming … that the Hanson ‘race debate’ could jeopardise the awarding of the 2006 Commonwealth Games to Melbourne.”
  • p.314 “The big Parties are obviously concerned about the chances of One Nation’s electoral success. The Labor Party … have pledged to put Hanson last on their how-to-vote cards and there has been tremendous pressure placed on John Howard by many of his own people … to take the Liberals down the same track.”

All in all, Pasquarelli — who himself was sacked and later won an unfair dismissal case against Pauline — strongly makes the point of how popular and supported Pauline Hanson’s views are. He brings to the fore the magnitude of the challenge one faces if you wish to present a different perspective to the mainstream in Australia. In doing so, he isn’t reticent in revealing Pauline’s gaping personal and character flaws, which evidently left him burnt, despite his loyal and self-sacrificial efforts for her cause. I for one don’t intend to allow Pauline’s personal failings stop me from understanding what she stands for and those who stand with her.

So, which way do I lean: is she good, bad or ugly? Right now I see a bit of each in her. A bit like myself, in truth; I’m no better than she is.


[1] Combining the Senate and Lower House tallies: http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016/results/  http://www.abc.net.au/news/federal-election-2016/results/senate/

[2] http://www.onenation.com.au/history

Does Democracy Limit Diversity?

Cultural diversity at its best is truly divine. But does diversity have healthy limits? David Sretenovic gives a short comment by contrasting democracy and multiculturalism.

Democracy is an imperfect system but it’s better than others. And as proudly diverse and multicultural as Australia is, I think democracy trumps multiculturalism because there are “cultures” — or elements of cultures — which we as Aussies categorically reject (except at the extreme fringes). Military dictatorship (martial law), pedophilia, child labour, wife-beating, slavery (including sex-slavery and trafficking): ultimately multiculturalism demands the inclusion of all of the above to the extent that they are part of some cultures, but democracy grants the authority to exclude them. Democracy also gives the excluded cultures a fighting chance at re-inclusion, via dialogue; goodwill and dialogue are the doorway. At its best, multiculturalism is truly divine — my favourite vision of humanity — but I’m glad that in Australia, democracy is the substructure.