The late ‘possibility’ of international intervention from Obama and Co. should not be seen as the heroic west coming to rescue the Syrian people from chemical weapons, rather it should be perceived in context as a ‘saving face’ tactic that could be likened to someone offering an amputee a band-aid…two years after the limb was cut! Indeed, the civil war didn’t magically begin a week ago; the Syrian people have been suffering since April 2011.
This was always a human rights and social justice issue, a concern that hasn’t been adequately addressed either by the Arab league, the European union or the United States. Over 100,000 people have died, over 4 million remain displaced within the boarders and over 2 million people (of which 1million are children) are displaced just outside the war torn country.
Due to international law, the UN Security Council (in spite of the mass killings that have occurred since 2011) are continuing to be overly PC about when to act with their pittance of a response. As UN weapons inspectors attempt to establish definitively whether or not chemical weapons have been used and by who; I would imagine the millions of Syrian civilians (in and just outside the boarders) are scratching their heads, thinking something along the lines of: “where have you guys been for the past two years?”
Stuff international law, for if the UN Security Council religiously abided by international law, then a lot of social atrocities would not be tolerated as they are (i.e. Australia’s economic neglect of their Aboriginal people; the Israeli apartheid government and their treatment of the Palestinian people; Canada’s land rape of the First Nation’s for oil; and the plight of Egypt’s civil turmoil). Evidently the people who make the rules don’t really stick to them, and when they do it is usually too late.
The Syrian people have been calling out for help for the past two years, if the international community is indeed one big diverse global family unified by human rights, then it’s about time we act like it. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Justice delayed is justice denied.”
Now is the time to act…for the people, for the people, for the people.
Last Wednesday I met a man named Harry (pseudonym), sitting on Queen Street with no money. He didn’t bash me with the Bible, harass me with a petition, or eyeball me to donate towards a cause I don’t believe in. Actually, he never said a word to draw my attention.
Offering my hand towards his own I introduced myself and sat down beside his cup of coins. “How’s your week been bro?” So starts a conversation that neither myself nor he expected to receive on a cold Auckland morning.
45 minutes with a total stranger that I will forever remember as Harry.
The new by-law that essentially criminalizes beggars is a disgrace to democracy let alone what it means to live in society. Time, money, a listening ear, an attentive heart, and the will to see the humanity of another; we have forgotten what it means to encounter someone’s needs other than our own. I’m all for giving to charity, but you can go your whole life giving to charity and never see poverty humanized, incarnated, fleshed out, and needing help in the NOW. The new by-law has fundamentally killed the spirit of the Samaritan, just to justify the ignorance of the priest and the neglect of the Levite.
“People walk past…but they don’t see me… If someone just gave me a chance…” – Words that I will never forget.
Mainstream evangelicalism (dominant church culture) is embedded with a dualistic philosophy that denies the relevance of social justice now. This platonic theology relegates the earth to a sinking ship in which the only solution is to rush every individual onto the life raft of Jesus. As the world/matter and heaven/spirit are platonically opposing, ‘saving souls’ takes precedence over social responsibility. In a way one could term conversion as the only ‘social responsibility’ of the Church. Indeed if what really “matters is the soul, then thinking about the way socio-economic, material structures and institutions shape people is hardly important” (Sider, 2012, p. 3).
Socio-political concerns are labelled as irrelevant in a dying world, in which the only thing that matters is escaping “this world and its problems by going to heaven after death” (McLaren, 2007, p. 21). This dualism cements the Church’s main goal; which is the salvation of every soul through personal conversion (being born-again). Sider (2012) indicates how this perspective encourages personal conversion over social transformation – accordingly social problems would apparently disappear “if everyone were converted to personal faith in Christ” (Sider, 2012, p. 2).
Social responsibility should be crucially important to mainstream evangelicalism as it was a key message of Jesus’ ministry. The individualistic philosophy of dualism has silhouetted the socially inept gospel of evangelical culture. The gospel has ceased to create transformation and liberation, and has instead become a spiritual message of societal distraction (p. 29), in which the only things that matter is individual souls going to heaven and the accumulation of personal blessings in the meantime. Mainstream evangelicalism denies the relevance of social responsibility, even though societal concern and transformation is at the heart of the kingdom of God.
McLaren, B. (2007). Everything must change: When the world’s biggest problems and Jesus’ good news collide. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.
Sider, R. (2012). Evangelical advocacy: a response to global poverty. Evangelicals and structural injustice, 1-5.
The top 100 billionaires added $240 billion to their wealth in 2012- enough to end world poverty four times over.”
As the chasm between the rich and poor widens, it is evident that a more creative approach needs to replace the trickle-down theory. There needs to be a comprehensive system that takes into account ‘all’ available sources of taxable revenue as well as pushing for a macroeconomic structure which revolves around an ethos of social investment, rather than the accumulation of individual capital. Namely it is time that WE ALL (as in everyone globally) do our part in closing the gap.
“If the top 100 were a separate state, their combined wealth would outstrip the Gross Domestic Product of all but eight countries. They would rank behind Italy, but ahead of India and Russia. Of course, being billionaire capitalists, the top 100 don’t actually produce anything. They own, and they reap the benefits of the labour of others.” 
Whether you’re at the minimum wage end of the spectrum flipping burgers at McDonald’s or whether you’re earning a healthy doctor’s salary towards the other end; the one thing you will have in common with everyone else is that we all pay tax. But it is clear that not EVERYONE is chipping in their 5c of social responsibility. “At least $21 trillion of unreported private financial wealth was owned by wealthy individuals via tax havens at the end of 2010.”
I propose the abolition of private tax havens run by global financial giants located in 1st world cities. It is interesting that the OECD, the World Bank, IMF, and the G20, have carelessly given offshore tax havens so little concern; even though a trillion dollars could significantly close the global income gap. I’m not proposing universal communism nor am I advocating for mass Marxist redistribution. All I’m saying is that a new economic ideology needs to replace the failed equity system of capitalism; in which the separation between “the rising fortunes of the billionaires and the declining living standards of the masses is an essential feature.”
 Oxfam, The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all. Oxfam media briefing: January 2013
 Tax justice network, The price of offshore revisited: press release. July 2012
As councils push to get rid of begging eyesores lining the streets of the major cities, it could be argued that our society is heading towards a growing global trend of ‘encouraging’ inequality. Whether it is the bliss of ignorance or the arrogance of an individual society capitalising on a capitalist ethos of civic systems; if you’re poor and live in NZ, nobody gives a damn. Indeed the recent campaign to get people to give to charities not to beggars (1), highlights not only the move away from Samaritanism but also the inability of long working ‘charities’ aimed at helping the homeless. Giving to charities is great but discouraging people from helping the poor ‘immediately’ is a sure step in the wrong direction. As the 270, 000 kiwi kids in poverty know, NZ’s stingy streak is becoming a social routine; a routine more and more justified by the underbelly of New Zealand’s ‘middle-class.’
No matter what socio-economic index is used, it is evident that our nation is becoming more unequal by the day. We live in a society in which the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer; the top “20% of the population earn five times as much as the bottom 20%” (2). It is evident that something needs to change; the failed economic structures of the past 10 years need to be addressed as well as the developing public philosophy of ‘stuff thy neighbour.’