Melbourne and the rest

Perhaps I should preface this self-congratulatory post by acknowledging that it may contain grains of hubris and slices of hyperbole and possible inflation of reality, but this is Melbourne and this is what we do.

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No other Australian city has the MCG!

This following list was compiled a few years ago, but in honour of some friends of mine who are currently touring around Australia and are seemingly confused about Australia’s great city and the provincial cousins, here is the true picture; unembellished and free from facts.

This is how Melbournians relate to the rest of Australia:

  • We like Tasmanians because they’re like a younger sibling to us and they are so lucky to have as an older brother.
  • We laugh at Queenslanders because they are slow and talk funny.
  • We don’t like Adelaide because they want to prove themselves to be our equal and we know they’re not.
  • We have an eternal grudge match against Sydney. We dislike Sydney so much that our newspapers have a mandatory editorial published every month about why Melbourne is better than Sydney (this sentence is one of the few in this post that’s actually true!). We know we’re superior to Sydney, if only the world we recognize that fact. What makes this rivalry almost unbearable is that when a Melbournian meets a Sydney-sider, this northern neighbor is usually oblivious to the fact that the two cities are meant to be at war. Most foreigners think that Sydney is the capital of Australia. When we’ve stopped laughing at this ludicrous conceit, we take it as a personal insult.
  • We would also take issue with Perth but Perth is so remote we can’t be bothered to yawn at their cultural insignificance…although we happily shared from their billions coming the mining industry boom.

 

I hear what some critics suggest and that Melbourne’s weather is somewhat unpredictable,  and not always as sunny and as warm as Brisbane and Perth. Melbourne retorts, who wants sunny every day? The fact that snow and sun and heat and cold will share the 24-hour weather cycle gives birth to the artistry and complex cultural diversity that continues to define Melbourne as the world’s greatest metropolis. We have grabbed hold of these slings and arrows of climate to create cafes and sporting events and parklands to envy galleries all over the globe. Why else do we care that our airport is so ugly and inconvenient? Because once you’re here, you’ll never need to go back to the airport. 

Put it this way. In 2018, 119,000 people left their homes from all over Australia and from across the world, and made Melbourne their new home. On average 100,000 people move here each year to drink our coffee and to play our footy (and possibly for one or two other reasons also). Indeed, Melbourne will soon outshine Sydney altogether as she loses her final vestige of dominance over us, the awe-inspiring and pointless statistic: Australia’s largest city.

 And what about the rest of the world? Every year we pump ourselves up with self-adoration and we award ourselves with medals for competitions that don’t exist…because we are best! Melbourne’s “National” Art Gallery recently showed off an exhibit about, you guessed it, Melbourne and why Melbourne beats the rest.

If anyone is still left with a smidgeon of doubt, remember this, the rest of the world continues to vote Melbourne as the most liveable city in the world. No-one quite knows what “liveable” means, but that’s beside the point.*

 

*yes, Melbourne has recently lost the title to Vienna but one can’t allow such details to interrupt my narrative

The Magpie: Melbourne’s Most Dangerous

 

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It is time for the wisteria,

to send her sweetness into the warming air.

Sun rays are gently descending,

Rebirthing the dormant soil.

 

Playgrounds, parks, and backyards,

are once again filling.

Children, joggers, and dogs.

Cyclists are speeding to work.

Couples holding hands, plagarising that romantic walk at dusk.

 

As winter closes her door,

And the new season begins,

Moods lift and conversations shift.

Smiles erupt for September is here.

 

Yet, not all is well for a Melbourne spring.

These streets with blossom filling,

And the pungent fresh of newly mowed grass,

Forewarn a coming danger.

 

Tis the season of the magpie!

No, I don’t mean that scrawny football team,

The 18 to deride and despise.

That team of bogans,

The belly aching black and white of Collingwood.

 

I mean that Luftwaffe of birds,

Patrolling the suburban sky.

Waiting to swoop on innocence below.

Like the crack of a rifle which follows the bullet,

There is no warning for victims of the magpie.

The first known sign is the strike to the head,

And only thereafter, the woosh of wings soaring past.

 

Sirens sound, screams are heard.

It’s too late.

Another child, another cyclist has been hit.

Bleeding, scratched, afraid,

Resembling the Collingwood fan club.

 

The tropics have beaches and crocodiles to share.

The surf is a blood bath for surfers and sharks.

The bush floor is a game of hide and seek for strolling walkers and venomous snakes.

But from the sky, comes our most aboding fore.

 

Land, sea, and air, there is no escape.

Australia is made to scare.

Touch the water.

Tip toe on land.

Reach your hand inside that dark crack.

Duck, cover, put that helmet on.

 

It’s the magpie,

That makes us cower.

It’s happy laugh which signals spring.

The sirenic call, that ironic laugh.

How beautiful we say,

Final words for those for whom it’s too late to take cover.  

 

 

Gambling and the Love of Money

“Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Proverbs 31:9)

“Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless”. (Ecclesiastes 5:10)

 

Victorians love to gamble, but at what cost? It was revealed today that in the past financial year (2017-2018), Victorians lost $2.7 billion on the pokies. As the ABC has reported, this is the highest figure in a decade — “with punters in some of the state’s most disadvantaged communities losing the most money.”

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Sourced from the ABC

There are areas in Melbourne that are losing $10 million every month to the pokies, and this isn’t taking into account all the other forms of gambling that are popular in our State, including betting on sporting events and the lottery. In fact, pokies account for less than half of all the gambling costs incurred by Victorians annually. According to responsiblegambling.vic.gov.au,  “the average loss per adult in Victoria in 2015–2016 was $1235”. Given that many Victorians refrain from ever gambling, and many others bet on rare occasions, it doesn’t take long before realising that gambling is hurting thousands of Victorian families in significant ways.

While gambling leaves many Victorians destitute, it gives the State’s economy a sizeable boost each year. Over the course of the last financial year, the losses made at the pokies generated $1.1 billion in taxes for the State Government, and this does not include the revenue generated by the pokies at Crown Casino.

I’m sure many Victorians are appalled by these numbers. Building prosperity off the back of other peoples’ poverty shouldn’t be morally acceptable, but it has been the stars quo in the State of Victoria for many years. It’s hard to say “no” to money, especially easy money and free money. After all, who is bold enough to look a gift horse in the mouth?

While gambling is a huge social problem in Victoria, we are never going to overcome it while the Government accepts this revenue, protects Crown Casino, and while media and sports dilute the joy of the game for the sake of greater profits.

The situation has deteriorated to the point where parents are concerned about allowing the children to watch sport on television. When young children are watching the footy and gambling advertisements pop up every few minutes, they are not listening to those automated words, “gamble responsibly”. What they hear is the allure of making money. You don’t have to earn it, you don’t have to work for it. When a sporting hero tells them, give us $20 and we’ll magically turn it into $100, of course, kids will think, what a great idea.

Of course, the Government income profited through gambling is anything but free. Gambling is a powerful industry. When the NSW Government tried to ban greyhound racing in 2016, it backfired and resulted in the resignation of the Premier, Michael Baird.

It’s hard to turn away the promise of financial gain; it’s difficult for the gambler, and it’s herculean for a Government.

The thing is, we can’t claim to be for the working class family and to be concerned for the poor while we use their vulnerability to gambling as an economic driver.

Now, the picture is not all doom and gloom. My beloved Carlton Football Club may not be kicking many goals on the field this season, but off the ground they’ve been starring on a range of social issues. Last month the club sent out this tweet,

“Kids think you have to bet to enjoy sport. This round, remind them what foot is all about.”

“Love the game not the odds”

Such messaging is important, but it’s not enough, and it’s clearly not drowning out the clanging and cha-ching of the pokies and the alluring advertisements of gambling agencies.

We need the Government to have the moral strength to say no to billions of dollars. That means, we need Victorians to raise their hands, agreeing to forego some of our own economic demands upon the State.

It’s not so easy, is it?

Perhaps the Bible was right all along, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

We may not like gambling. We may hate the way gambling controls people and sends families into financial and social hell. What is clear, however, is that we don’t hate gambling so much and we don’t love our neighbours too much, that we would accept the cost of losing $100s millions annually.

It was Jesus who said (yes, the very same Jesus whom we’ve deemed redundant from our erudite and progressive culture),

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”

It’s a condition we Victorians all share, both wealthy and poor alike. The promise of prosperity is harder to refuse than the Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey. With all the pride in our moral sophistication, we are still practitioners of total depravity, selling our souls and trampling on the vulnerable, in order to grab hold of the prosperity’s mist. 

If we want our Government to put an end to this blight on our society, then we need to check our own hearts and be willing to give up something as well

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STOP the Inequality: Melbourne’s Traffic Light problem

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from ABC news

The great feminist battle of March 2017 is the pedestrian signal. I know it sounds small…and pedestrian, but how wrong was I! Thousands of people have participated in straw polls and thousands more have made comments on social media. In fact, the issue has become so contentious, not only are articles appearing on the ABC, The Age, and Herald Sun, from across the globe even the BBC are reporting the story.

According to ABC news, ‘Ten female pedestrian figures will be installed on traffic lights at the intersection of Swanston and Flinders streets as part of a VicRoads-approved 12-month trial.’

The Committee for Melbourne — a non-profit organisation comprising more than 120 Melbourne business and community groups — is behind the move.

Chief executive Martine Letts said having only green or red silhouettes of men discriminated against women.

“The idea is to install traffic lights with female representation, as well as male representation, to help reduce unconscious bias,” she said.”

I didn’t realise men only pedestrian lights were an expression of inequality and oppression. I mean, does anyone really look up and think, ‘see that green man, I wish I was like him’? Apparently we do, but none of us were aware of this unconscious bias, until now. To help me out, I asked my wife what she thought of the saga, only to have a pair of eyes roll past me as though I must be stupid for ever thinking this must be matter for women’s equality.

Victoria’s Minister for Woman said, “There are many small — but symbolically significant — ways that women are excluded from public space.”

I am not denying there are real issues between the genders, but am I the only one who is asking, are we being a little too precious about our traffic lights? I can think of 742 better ways of spending  funds than altering the gender of pedestrian lights, but if it such a pressing issue, then as a Melbournian I say, go ahead; it’s a green light from me.

As we wrestle with this unacceptable prejudice, I can’t help but wonder, what if all traffic light action figures had always been female? I can imagine today’s fight being very different, we would have feminists being outraged as they discover some secret derogatory messaging in our women only traffic lights. Maybe these lights are subconscious signals that make women into inanimate objects!

Let’s be clear, I’m totally cool with changing pants to dresses, but I do have one quick question though, in representing women with a figure wearing a dress, are they not stereotyping women?

One one cheeky friend posted on social media,

“Not far enough Melbourne!

Still stuck in the fixed binary red/green paradigm.

We need lights on a spectrum from red to green”.

Leaving aside that mischievous (although not entirely aberrant) comment, and the perennial problem of our traffic lights discriminating against colour-blind Melbournians, let’s stop for a moment, or at least slow down to amber: the fact that we are even having this tiny squabble over pedestrian lights ought to tell us how far society has moved on women’s issues. If the sex of pedestrian signals is where the fight now lays, then I don’t think we have too much to be worried about.

I was walking through the city today, and when crossing the street I didn’t realise that the traffic light’s gender had changed, but as I can see with this photograph from ABC news, it has (or should that be, she has?). I had just come from speaking to a group of people about some slightly bigger issues, such as God, life and death, and hope. I guess I am a little ambivalent about the messaging in our traffic lights, but I do wish and pray that we Melbournians would stop and think about these biggest issues that we all are facing, which no small social or council alteration can solve.

Contrary to current feminism, which may turn to smaller things because the larger battles are won, the propensity of Melbournians is to focus on miniature and what are often trivialities, at the expense of facing the eternal questions that we must all one day address. And it’s not as though we are lost in the dark, with no direction given. God has given a definitive signal, his only son, Jesus Christ, and yet we walk through life as though he is an irrelevance, and then we wonder why there are so many traffic accidents in life.

Once a crowd asked Jesus, ‘What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

He answered, albeit with a somewhat cryptic message, ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in 3 days.’

John (the author) then explained Jesus’ meaning,

“the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.”

Let’s not ignore CBD traffic lights, and please let us stop ignoring God’s signal to us.

There was evil in Melbourne today

‘My heart is in anguish within me;

    the terrors of death have fallen on me.

Fear and trembling have beset me;

    horror has overwhelmed me.

 I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove!

    I would fly away and be at rest.

I would flee far away

    and stay in the desert;

 I would hurry to my place of shelter,

    far from the tempest and storm.” (Psalm 55:4-8)

Melbourne was frightened today, and tonight Melbourne mourns. This afternoon Melbourne witnessed the worse act of mass violence since the Queen St massacre of 1987, where 9 people were killed and several injured. Even as I write the toll from today’s crime has increased from 3 people dead to 4, and with a further 20 people injured. Police have told the public that the number of deaths may yet increase, and among the dead and injured are young children.

My city, our city, has been subjected to a pointless and evil act of terror. Like so many Melbournians I am trying to make sense of the incomprehensible, that a man would aim his car at innocent pedestrians in the centre of our city, along Elizabeth and Bourke Streets. 

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As with many others, I first realised some terrible event was unfolding as my twitter feed went into a frenzy with reports of a red car mounting the path of Bourke St, striking down several people. Within minutes a growing picture emerged of a police chase, an out of control driver doing donuts outside Flinders St Station, and hundreds of people shortly afterward running for their lives through city streets. One friend of mine reported that he heard gunshots and ran inside a nearby building, realising soon after that the assailant was being arrested, only 100m away.

During the first hour very few of us did not at least wonder whether we were seeing an act of terrorism; some foolishly sparked rumours on twitter, assuming without knowing. Police soon assured everyone that this was not terrorism and that the situation had been contained. Late afternoon police informed journalists that the alleged man was wanted for a stabbing from earlier today, and that he has a history of domestic violence and mental illness.

As with many others, I thank the police, ambulance, and hospitals who serve us so well. We should not forget them in our prayers as they work to protect, save, care, and heal.

The statement from our Premier, Daniel Andrews, echoes our own thoughts and prayers tonight,

“Our hearts are breaking this afternoon.

People have died in the heart of our city.

Others are seriously injured. Young and old. And all of them were innocent.

All of them were just going about their day, like you or I.

Some families are just starting to find out the news about their loved ones, and right now, our thoughts are with each and every one of them.

I’m so proud of all the Victorians who reached out and provided care and support to strangers today.

I’m so thankful for all our police, paramedics and emergency services workers who launched into action, and will now be working around the clock.

And I hope that everyone can be patient and cooperative, so we can let these professionals do their job.

This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act – and justice will be done.”

Mr Andrews is absolutely right, This was a terrible crime – a senseless, evil act”. Such appalling actions remind us how we need the moral category called, ‘evil’, and indeed that there is such a thing as evil. We are not stuck in an enclosed cosmos without Divine and ultimate reason and righteousness. Our recognition of evil forces us to discard esoteric notions of a godless universe, for we know and feel the odious presence of the nefarious, and we desperately need it gone, and perpetrators punished.

Tonight, some of our fellow Melbournians are entering the shadow of the valley of death, and many others stand nearby stunned and saddened. Psalm 23 reminds us that we do not have to walk through that valley of death alone,

‘Even though I walk

    through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

    for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

    they comfort me.’

More than that, the one called Jesus has walked this path ahead of us, and for us. He is no out-of-touch Deity, but a God acquainted with grief.

Tonight, perhaps others would also like to pray for all those tonight wrestling with what they witnessed, especially for the injured and for those facing the most inexplicable grief; praying that friends will surround them and weep with them, and asking that the God of comfort might give comfort and peace through the darkness.


phone number: 13 11 14

Lifeline Australia

 


Update Sunday morning (Jan 22nd): a 5th person has now died, a 3 month old baby boy. 

Terrorism, Christmas, and Boxing Day in Melbourne

Melbourne is my city. I love its people, culture, food, sport, parks, city and suburbs. It is a wonderful place to live. But over the past few days Melbourne has witnessed two significant threats to the human soul, terrorism and materialism.

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Last week’s threat of a terrorist attack in Melbourne City was not enough to keep people away from celebrating that most holy night. A large crowd converged on St Paul’s Cathedral, one of the alleged targets of the plot, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.

Terrorism is not an unknown experience for Churches, more often referred to as persecution. Persecution is common place for many of the hundreds of millions of people who profess Jesus Christ is Lord. It is also true that people of other faiths are also terrorised, and that there are also examples of people wielding the sword in the name of ‘Christ.’ There is no justification for any such heinous acts, but as Greg Sheridan of The Australian reported this year, Christians are ‘more persecuted than any other in the world, persecuted more frequently, more widely and with more intensity.’

Civilisations have not always survived the onslaught of horrid regimes. Carthage was put to the sword by Rome, and Rome destroyed by tribal groups from Northern and Eastern Europe, and the Mongols wiped out the Jin Dynasty, and the Conquistadors over the Aztecs. In all cases, reasons for subjugating another culture were multifarious, and it would be intellectually unsound to disconnect religious motivations from imperialism, trade, and at times racial provocations.

One idea has always outlasted persecution, and that is, Christianity. As Tertullian (2nd C) said, ‘the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’. This is evident in history, for example, through sporadic seasons of persecution Christianity flourished in the Roman Empire, and when China closed its doors to missionaries under Communism, 10s of millions of Chinese were converted to Christ.

Terrorism is not new, and while separating modern ‘Jihadism’ from ‘faith’ is understandable, it is ultimately irresponsible. Islamic terrorism is targeting Christianity, as well as other religious groups, and Western Civilisation. Many Muslims are appalled by news that a group of Australian muslims planned mass murder, and so it is only right that politicians are careful with their language. At the same time, as long as the social ‘left’ play games with political correctness, they will only add weight to the extreme ‘right’, as the world is seeing in the United States at the moment. In my opinion both spectrums are dangerous to a healthy pluralist society, as both insist on a flawed moral absolutism.

Undoubtedly, people congregated at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday for different reasons: as an act of defiance, to show solidarity, as well as for marking the birth of the world’s Saviour. All these reasons have a place, but there is something true and symbolic about the message of Jesus Christ breaking through threats of violence.

The message that resonated around the Gothic walls of St Paul’s and in hundreds of churches across Melbourne this Christmas is one of the incarnation, how God broke through a world of human hostility, even amidst State attempts to kill the new born child. At Mentone Baptist with a congregation overflowing into the hall, we sang of this most extraordinary wonder,

‘True God of true God, Light from Light Eternal,

lo, he shuns not the Virgin’s womb;

Son of the Father, begotten not created’

Today in Melbourne, the same city we love and that yesterday celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, is once again teaming with people, somewhat sluggish from overeating but eager to fill shopping bags with deals. It’s the Boxing Day sale day!  While not denigrating the pursuit of a great sales price, to fill again Santa’s sack that was emptied only one day earlier, suggests a certain proclivity toward toys and clothes and other stuff.

There is a certain irony in that the Jesus whom we sang about with such gusto on Christmas, spoke more often about the danger of materialism than he did of persecution.

‘What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.

“I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.’ (Luke 12:3-5)

“When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.  Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!  Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:22-25)

We may have resolved to resist physical violence, but eating away at the soul of Melbournians is an excessive love for things. We are the world’s most liveable city and we’re intent of maxing it out.

Christmas may be the happiest day of the year for many Australians, and it is also the loneliest for many of the poor and sick. What makes news of God incarnate, good, is not that we get to dress up in suit and tie, and visit Church for one day, feast on too much food and open presents. The incarnation says God understands human poverty and suffering, and he went further than any of us can go, he died on a cross for our sins and rose from the dead for our justification.

Terrorism can’t destroy this Christian hope, neither can materialism. But while terrorism may drive Aussies back to Church, materialism deadens the soul. I get it, such a suggestion is amount to heresy in this city that I love, but what if Jesus is right? What if these ancient words remain true for us today?

And what about the Boxing Day cricket test? Leave cricket alone!

Freedom For Faith in Melbourne

For my review of last week’s  Freedom for Faith Conference in Melbourne, go to The Gospel Coalition Australia site – https://australia.thegospelcoalition.org/article/freedom-for-faith-melbourne-conference

 

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