Mr, Mrs, Dr…Why have titles?

Posted: 19 June 2016

miss-ms-mrs-mrIt is evident that along with the collapse of so many aspects of Western Society from the mid twentieth century onwards, we have witnessed a general casualisation of the way we refer to other people; that is, using their title. Whereas one would always refer to another man or woman as Mr., Mrs., or Miss followed by their surname, these courtesies are now more often than not pushed aside for exclusive first name usage from the introductory meeting. Even those who are entitled to the use of specific religious and academic titles such as Sister, Father or Doctor are more commonly introducing themselves as Susan or Ralph.

Perhaps the last domain where honorific titles are still commonly used is the school classroom. The hands of children are shot up in the air with an accompanying “Sir” or “Miss”. There are however plenty of academics that would like to see the old titles dropped in favour of first names. One of the reasons for this is around the level of disparity between the titles ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’. It is said that ‘Sir’ began its usage in 16th century England where male teachers of a lower social standing were needing to assert their authority among largely upper class pupils. ‘Miss’ on the other hand is reflective of the late Victorian era when the majority of women teachers were young and unmarried, giving up work once they did marry. The issue of teacher titles then is often spun around the issue of discrimination against women which coincided in the 20th century with the title Ms. as a default term for the address of women without labelling them as single, married or otherwise.

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A Person’s A Person, No Matter How Small

Posted: 3 March 2016

Clare and LouiseMy wife Jane and I have two little girls, Clare and Louise; Clare turns two this month and Louise is just over six months old. Clare is at a really fun – but albeit all consuming – stage. She loves nothing more than playing outside, and if she is not insisting on being pushed around in her plastic toy car, she is carefully dropping her toys in the wading pool, before picking them out of the water and starting all over again. Louise is beginning to shuffle around on the lounge room floor while learning about the world through studying a range of stuffed animals. Clare will now regularly come and lay down next to Louise on the floor and with an enthusiastic ‘hello’ proceed to take back those stuffed animals which she believes are her own. Everyday our daughters are growing and developing but they really are still just babies. They rely on us for everything, we are their nurturers and their protectors, their friends and their family. Their world is safe and secure because we make it that way for them.

But what if one afternoon in the middle of Clare playing outside I just walked away, leaving her in the backyard by herself with no food, no protection and no shelter. Her smile would fall and the frown would descend into tears, she would cry her eyes out, her nose would run and she would go to the back door yelling ‘mummy’, ‘daddy’, not understanding what had just happened. As night began to fall she would cry and cry, tears streaming down her face. She would be hungry and want her milk. She is not old enough to reason out her situation and create or find shelter in the yard. I really don’t know, or do I want to know, how she would cope. Would she even make it through the night?

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10 Steps to Beat Pornography

Posted: 12 April 2015

XXX Sign PornographyPornography is a big problem in modern society, actually no; pornography is a huge problem in modern society. Did you know that 10-15% of all search engine requests and 20% of smart phone searches are for pornography? Studies show that 90% of boys and 60% of girls are exposed to pornography before they are 18 years old. In addition 70% of young men and 20% of young women view pornography every week and pornographic sites have more monthly visitors than Twitter and Amazon combined.

While the numbers are high, especially amongst males, it is not true that all men view pornography, and we must not allow ourselves to believe that pornography constitutes normal sexual behavior. However, especially for young men, if any sort of regular pornography use is not dealt with swiftly is risks becoming a debilitating addiction.

The good news is that authentic religious observation and involvement has been shown to contribute in a major way to lessening pornographic use and dependence. The following then, are ten steps to help beat pornography. The steps focus on the spiritual life but some of them will require major changes in one’s practical life, but if we are sincerely determined to regain control of who we called to be as men and women in Christ there is no other way.

1) Commit to go to Mass and receive Holy Communion every day. Holy Communion is food and strength for the journey and if we don’t have it atop our list then we are not serious about the battle. Getting to Mass everyday will almost certainly require earlier mornings or shorter lunch breaks but how much do we want success?

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There Are No ‘Gay’ People

Posted: 19 July 2014

Gay StraightThe words ‘hashtag’, ‘selfie’ and ‘tweep’ were among 150 new words added to the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary this year; and with selfies being taken by everyone from Barack Obama to Pope Francis to Kim Kardashian, it’s little wonder this word is among those making the list. While the evolution of language has, with technology, become all the more rapid, language remains one of the most vital tools underpinning a society. It is language that shapes reality for the members of a society, allowing us to attach meanings to things. Words convey reality and the better a language is used, the more precisely concepts can be understood. Inversely, the poor use of language can misinform a person or a whole society, about a particular truth.

Enter the word ‘gay’. Originating in 12th century England the original meaning was ‘joyful’ or ‘carefree’. By the end of the 20th century, the word gay became the recommended and preferred term for persons experiencing homosexual feelings. While I am not losing sleep that a word once meaning joy has become the key identifier around homosexual actions, what does concern me greatly is the usage of the word gay in direct reference to a person. “My friend is gay” or “He was born gay” are two of the most common examples. Even in talking to people who consider homosexual actions wrong, (and note that judging objective moral action is always different to the subjective judgment of an individual person), they will still refer to a particular ‘gay’ person as if that term is completely descriptive. In fact, this usage has become so normalised that the nuance is not often understood, so allow me to be more specific.   Read the rest of this entry »

Who is the Human Person?

Posted: 6 July 2014

Kermit the FrogThere is a cartoon image which shows Kermit the frog visiting the doctor. The doctor is examining an x-ray of Kermit which shows that it is actually a human hand animating the frog’s body. In the speech bubble the doctor is seen to say “Have a seat Kermit. What I’m about to tell you may come as a big shock”. All these years Kermit has been busy hosting the Muppet Show, meeting celebrities and avoiding the romantic advances of Miss Piggy, but his understanding of himself was completely wrong, he is no more than a lifeless pile of fabric and foam.

To some extent we are no different to Kermit, we go about life, interacting with the world around us, making our decisions based on certain assumptions that we often don’t even realise we have. Everyone views the world through some sort of lens, we are all a canvas that started being painted upon before we were born. This canvas is influenced by factors which include our family, our friendships and our faith. With the increasing secularisation of society though you may have sensed the push for an a-religious attitude to matters of politics, education and public life in general. The problem with this though is that a non-religious ethic is no more neutral than a religious one. Every view of life is underpinned by a certain philosophy which steers an idea like a captain steers a ship.

In our pluralist society there are almost as many ‘isms’ as there are people, philosophies such as relativism, communism, rationalism or feminism. These are all different ideas about life, thought and action. Not all the ideas in the market place of thought are completely wrong or completely right, most errors stem from a truth that has been pushed too far one way or the other. It would be worthwhile looking briefly at four of the major schools of thought that underpin many current ideas held about the human person – Dualism, Manichaeism, Utilitarianism and Personalism. Read the rest of this entry »

Are You a Gossip?

Posted: 2 February 2014

GossipIf there is one thing human beings like to do it is talk. We talk about ideas, we talk about facts, we talk about ourselves and we talk about others. But arguably, many of us seem most interested in talking about others. Listen to a casual conversation around the office or your favourite pub and it doesn’t take long before it transforms from chit chat to gossip about the personal affairs of others. Gossip is much bigger than that though. The New York Times claimed recently that the celebrity gossip industry tops more than $3 billion per year; covering internationally important news, such as that of Justin Bieber throwing eggs at a neighbour’s house, right through to your everyday celebrity gossip about who is dating/ marrying/ divorcing who.

There is plenty of speculative commentary available claiming that gossip is part of the human condition and that far from being a negative, it can be good for people in that gossip creates group solidarity and shows that people accept one another as they are able to have a laugh at the expense of someone considered an outsider. It is considered valuable currency to know about the inner news of our superiors or when the next transfer, promotion or dismissal is about to take place. All of us have likely gossiped at some time or another, and most of us have probably been the subject of gossip. Of course not every conversation about another person behind their back is severely problematic, but as a society we have far too much interest in observing and commenting on the faults of others (as we perceive them anyway). Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Porn

Posted: 23 November 2013

widenative-408x264You may have already heard the boiling frog story but it goes something like this: if you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will frantically jump out, however, if you place the frog in a pot of lukewarm water that is slowly heated, the frog will not notice the impending danger and allow itself to be boiled to death. Pornography in our modern Western society is somewhat like that pot, it has been heating up over the last few decades and is at such a boiling point that it completely pervades culture. Ironically, while this complete pervasion is more visible – like the frog – we are mostly unaware at the effect it is having upon us.

Considering the problem with pornography one could choose any number of different areas. We could discuss the physical harm that is done to the bodies of ‘actors’ in the porn industry; we could study the neurological effects of pornography on the brain of the person who watches it, or, we could analyse the harmful social effects that come about as a result of engaging in pornography. But let us leave aside all those aspects to consider the way that pornography harms the basic dignity of the human person.

Obviously no one is offended at the sight of a naked cow or chicken. Why? Because a cow is just that, a cow, there is no more to it. But we are persons, human persons, male and female, and we have the capacity to think, to dream and most importantly, to love. In other words we have a spiritual dimension to us, we have a soul. The soul has been identified as part of the human person from Aristotle to Augustine to Aquinas.  In philosophy the soul is referred to as the form of the body.  In fact, when a person dies we refer no longer to John Smith but to the body of John Smith, even our language recognises that the essence of the person is deeper than his or her physical make up. Pornography however does not make this distinction; it looks upon men and women in the same way as we would look upon cows and chickens, as animals with no deeper reality. Read the rest of this entry »

Men and Women…Are Not Equal

Posted: 16 October 2013

Men Women EqualityI am sorry to be the one to raise this issue but I am going to put it straight out there so there is no confusion: men and women are not equal. For two things to be perfectly equal they would need to be the same and it should be self-evident that a man and a woman are not the same. Not only are they different on the physical level but they differ in almost every way they relate to the world around them. Men and women have different communication skills, different uses of emotion and even different perceptions of pain. However just because men and women are different does not mean that one is better than the other, in fact the very existence of humanity depends on these differences. These differences are what we might call complementary and they are part of the richness and design of humanity.

We have a major problem in our modern society though, we want everything to be ‘equal’, at least equal in the way we think it should be equal. Marriage has to be suited to whatever combination certain people desire lest it be discriminatory, faith-based employers are forced into employing those not of, or contrary to, faith, and some workplaces have quotas placed upon them in order to employ equal numbers of men and women. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of Overpopulation

Posted: 5 June 2013

overpopulation PicAustralia recently welcomed its 23 millionth citizen. Of course we do not know who this person is exactly but they are out there somewhere. The person may have been a new born baby or possibly an immigrant who relocated to call Australia home. The news reports generally seemed to have been positive, or at least neutral, about our growing population numbers, which are still rather small compared to other nations. The same positivity was certainly not present when the global population ticked over to seven billion in early 2012. At that time there were renewed warnings from some quarters that earth could no longer continue with so many humans moving in.

Talk of overpopulation is nothing new. One of the foundational works on the subject was published in 1798 by an English Vicar named Thomas Malthus. Malthus believed that unchecked population growth would lead to a reduced standard of living and he actually advocated the death of poorer members of society so that those of a higher social status would not starve. Malthus predicted that society was about to reach a point where the planet would no longer be able to produce enough food causing worldwide starvation. Although his predictions of a global meltdown never came true, Malthus is still cited as an authoritative reference for those who advocate the forced curbing of population growth. Read the rest of this entry »

Living for the Weekend

Posted: 26 March 2013

ClockWe all know people – in fact you may be one of those people – who live for the weekend. Every work place has people who function like countdown clocks perennially sharing the news of how much time is left before Friday rolls around. Mondays are the most painful day of the week because it is the longest time until the weekend, on Wednesdays relief is in sight and Friday…the whole day is a bustling excitement awaiting the clock to strike five. It is the weekend that gives such people hope and keeps them focused. Now of course everyone enjoys resting from work, that is natural, but are we really supposed to live our work lives just waiting to be set free like prisoners on weekend release?

For most of us, work will occupy a third of the prime years of our lives, and about a fifth of our entire lifetime will be spent working in some capacity. Work is therefore a fairly dominant part of most lives. The question is, should we understand work as something that merely gets in the way of our real lives, an activity that allows us to survive, or, should we consider work as a more valuable occupation, something that defines who we are and builds us up as people? Read the rest of this entry »

Modesty. A Sign of Respect for Men and Women.

Posted: 4 November 2012

So there I was at the train station minding my own business when a young lady walked past wearing a pair of tights. At least I think they were tights. It might have been black body paint for all I know, as it looked like she was wearing nothing at all below the waist. I have since been informed by a reliable source that tights are very much in fashion, which would explain why so many women seem to be getting around in them.

Now I am all for fashion, (after all it was in the name of fashion that I sold my maroon microfiber suit on eBay), but I question the appropriateness of an item of clothing that only serves to draw attention to the body and not the person. Regardless of why she was wearing the tights, as that young lady walked down the platform the message she sent was ‘don’t worry about who I am, just have a look at my body’. And that is exactly what an array of men did as they watched her move down the platform. I am certainly not stating that all men’s fashion is worthy of the human person either, but there is no question that women’s clothing that has the most tendency to be provocative. Read the rest of this entry »

The Useless People in Our Lives

Posted: 31 August 2012

I was scrolling through Facebook this week and I saw the following message; “KEEP people in your life that truly love you, motivate you, encourage you, inspire you, enhance you & make you happy. If you have people who do NONE of the above, let them go.” These sort of short inspirational messages are all over the internet and I have posted up a few of them myself. However as I read this one I found myself wondering what I should do with the people in my life who didn’t love me or motivate me or encourage me or inspire me or enhance me or even make me happy. And what if these same people did not motivate or inspire anyone? What if these people were a drain on me, their families and on the whole society?

It is important to surround ourselves with people who are going to encourage and inspire us. After all we become a reflection of the company we keep. If we spend our time with those who live to get drunk and party then we will end up doing the same. If we keep the company of those who strive for higher ideals then we will begin to strive for those same ideals. Read the rest of this entry »

Theology of the Body as it was in the Beginning

Posted: 21 December 2011

People ask a lot of questions of the Catholic Church, especially in regards morality. “What is the problem with sex outside of marriage?” Why is contraception immoral?” “Why does marriage have to be between one man and one woman?” People used to challenge Jesus with similar questions. At one point a group of Pharisees came up to Christ to ask him if divorce was permissible. To their surprise though He did not simply point them to the written law but instead he invited them to consider that “from the beginning God made them male and female” and created a marriage bond that could not be broken. The Pharisees complained that Moses had allowed them to divorce, but even though this had happened, Christ looked deeply at them and said “but from the beginning it was not so.”

Why direct the people to the beginning and not just the written law? Because Christ was directing them to the law written on their hearts. We exist in a fallen world, in a world where we struggle to do what is right, where the body and the spirit battle one another. However, it was not always like that, there was a time when humanity knew what it was to love God, love others and love themselves rightly. This time was before Original Sin entered the world and we read about it in just a few short passages in the book of Genesis. Thirty years ago a young Pope John Paul II began to give a series of addresses that delved back into the beginning so that we would know better the answer to the questions, ‘Who am I’ and ‘What does it mean to be human’. These addresses are known today as the Theology of the Body. Read the rest of this entry »

Can I employ someone as a doormat?

Posted: 26 September 2011

Have you ever walked through the city and seen those people holding signs advertising something? They can be found on busy street corners or open air shopping malls. Their signs point the way to a restaurant lunch deal, the nearest bottle shop or cheap parking. You might have similarly seen someone outside a pizza shop waving a sign to passing traffic highlighting cheap lunchtime meals.

I have a problem with this; in fact we should all have a problem with this. It is not a problem with advertising; it is a problem with the fact that people are being used simply as sign posts. Sometimes the people are handing out advertising material as well and this lessens (a little) the problem because at least there is interaction with people as part of the job. However to simply strap a sign to a human person and have them stand in one place or even walk around effectively treats them as an object; it is below our dignity as people. Read the rest of this entry »