The political news has been unedifying. It is easy to sound moralistic making comment at all. However, I want to have a try, hopefully in a nuanced way.
Let’s link a survey foreshadowed today which describes lack of well-being among polytechnic staff with the high pressures we know are on members of parliament and support staff. It’s vital all workers have a secure, supportive workplace. In tertiary education and parliament workers are well educated in the main, usually reasonably well paid (in some cases excessively well paid!) Another acute situation I know of is at a different level – the still lowly paid carer level – where a change of ownership is revealing lengths to which owners can go to maintain profits or squeeze out more margins. The people who get squeezed are usually the workers.
At Labour weekend, we celebrate the 40-hour working week. Some in the situations above might sigh at the dream of a 40-hour week – either because they work 60-80 hours weekly or their hours have just been cut back.
We cannot expect individuals to work desperately long or too short hours without anxiety, poor mental health and fractured relationships. Lack of good judgement is also added to the list of poor results in pressure cooker situations when too much is demanded of people. Add in the increasing ethos that ‘anything goes’ when it comes to personal relationships, ethics and motivation and you have the kind of mess we have been hearing about this week.
The spectre of secret recordings hangs over public figures if not before, certainly now. How do any of us act in what we think are private moments? Does private behaviour match public persona? Integrated integrity is being ‘steel true, blade straight’. This tribute paid by Robert Louis Stevenson to his wife echoes the sometimes easily dismissed beatitude – “Happy are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” The general public increasingly thumb their nose at organised religion but the ‘old fashioned’ recommendations found there are qualities that same general public still want in their public leaders, business owners, teaching institutions, and relationship partners.
One definition of righteousness is “the quality of being morally right or justifiable”. Some synonyms for righteousness sound pompous, others include goodness, virtue, decency, integrity, honesty, honour and nobility. To borrow a word over-used by the TVNZ weather presenter, they’re summed up as ‘decent’. Decent people care for others, speak well of others when they are not present; they are kind, not cutting, enabling, not encroaching, beneficial to others not bullies.
Our religious forebears didn’t always get it right. Since then, we, however, have evidence and experience which tell us some enduring qualities are not ‘too heavenly minded to be any earthly use’. They are needed now so all can live in dignity and free from fear.
In our own community, our thoughts are with Anna Smith and Douglas Woods as Douglas’s energy runs low. We are pleased to hear they are finding this time special. Others are recovering from illnesses and picking up after winter colds. Some are finding life ‘grey’ and hard work at the moment. We think lovingly of Andrew and Wendy Matthews as they attend the funeral of their son Alastair in Palmerston North on Saturday. It is doubly sad when death comes to someone so young. Our love and thoughts are with you all.
A bright moment this week was a good connection made between a school chaplain and Insideout which supports rainbow youth in schools. This became possible through the book proposal made at General Assembly – great to see positivity out of a seeming dead end, paradoxically, showing potential for transformation.
The social justice group will be meeting after church this week. Sunday’s reflection topic – the paradox of left handed power – is relevant to the week’s politics. See you at church if you are not away for the long weekend. Enjoy your holiday if you are!
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