About John Lilburne







0923 Tue 7 Aug 2001

Sunday's Gospel was on Luke 12:13-21 and the homily I heard was by Cardinal Lustiger. The main part of the reading is a parable being told by Jesus:

There was once a rich man who having had a good harvest from his land, thought to himself, "What am I to do? I have not enough room to store my crops." Then he said, "This is what I will do: I will pull down my barns and build bigger ones, and store all my grain and my goods in them, and I will say to my soul: My soul you have plenty of good things laid by for many years to come; take things easy, eat, drink, have a good time." But God said to him, "Fool! This very night the demand will be made for your soul; and this hoard of yours, whose will it be then?" So it is when a man stores up treasure for himself in place of making himself rich in the sight of God.

I have a tape recording of a sermon by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr on this passage. He gave it the title: "Why Jesus Called a Man a Fool". I have listened to it many times and find it inspirational.

I used to think parables were a way of making things easier to understand. They help in teaching, but I now believe they are more like riddles, with the learning process occuring through pondering the meaning.

It is not obvious why the man is a fool. The man contributes to society: has a good harvest and stores food. Maybe it was more clear to people when Jesus said it. Martin Luther King suggests the food could have been stored in the bellies of the hungry. Perhaps that is how some of Jesus' audience saw it. He also highlights how the man operated as an individual, rather than seeing himself as part of a community.

Cardinal Lustiger, as I recall, emphasised the importance of motives. He was asking the question: "Why do we do what we do? Is it for God or for me?" There can be difficulties in identifying this. Yet it is important in the morality of our actions.

Yesterday I was reading Germaine Greer, a feminist author, in "The Whole Woman" (Anchor, 2000). I think she makes good observations which make sense from my experience in the army, navy and seminary.

Men not only give orders; they also take orders. A masculine man's attention is focused upon his role in the various groups to which he belongs and from which he gains verification of self-worth. (page 374)

Whenever men are gathered together, in the pool hall, at a restaurant, you can see the wannabes waiting on the dominant males, studying their reactions, gauging when to defer and when to challenge. There will always be one man who can silence the others with a look; most will defer, one may challenge or mock challenge, giving the leader a chance to strut his stuff, and there will be the junior males, who seek to ingratiate themselves by stepping and fetching, and grooming the silverback. The presence of women in such groups distracts the men from the work in hand - if they acknowledge the women's presence, which they usually don't. (page 375).

The notion of equality takes the male satus quo as the condition to which women aspire. Men live and work in a frighteningly unfree and tyrannical society, constructed upon the oppression of junior males by senior ones, on grooming of favoured males for succession at the expense of others, on confederacies and conspiracies, on initiation and blooding rituals, on shared antisocial behaviour, on ostracisms and punishments, practical jokes, clannishness and discrimination. As soon as a women enters a male preserve, be it the police, the military, the building sites, the law, the clergy, she finds herself an alien and repellant world which changes her fundamentally even as she is struggling to exert the smallest influence on it. (page 384).

It is safe to say that self-defining male elites always gang up on outsiders, especially if they feel that the outsiders have been forced upon them. ... if the participation of women in male elite corps means that bullying and victimization die out then immediately cannot be soon enough but at this stage the cost to the women seems rather too high. (page 392).

If women can see no future beyond joining the masculine elite on its own terms, our civilization will become more destructive than ever. There has to be a better way. (page 398).

I have sympathy for the males. The motives matter. If an organisation's structure preserves unity, defends truth, and works more efficently then it makes sense. But in the opposition I face to the ministry of instituted lector, I feel I am being ganged up on - at the expense of unity, truth and efficiency.

A few years ago I saw a play by David Williamson called "Dead White Males" (Sydney, Currency Press, 1995). In the introduction he writes about the play's real concern: "the relationship between males and females in the last ten years of the twentieth century" (page viii). Here are some of the things a mother says to her daughter:

When they found out I was pregnant all the men in that bloody firm practically cheered. .... I was fighting for all women. ... Why not be a good mother to my child, then have another, then another? Because I wasn't going to let those bastards walk all over me. ... I want to get rid of all that macho posturing and introduce a management style that's sane and collaborative and inclusive but I haven't got a ghost of a chance. I takes all my energy just to survive. ... I'm battle weary. ... I read The Female Eunuch the day it was published and danced in the street with joy. I've been a founding member of every women's group from W.E.L. to five different varieties of consciousness raising, and I taught assertiveness training on a voluntary basis for years, but if you want my honest advice, go find yourself someone with heaps of money, marry him and raise six kids! ... It couldn't be a worse bloody life than I've had. (pages 61-64).

Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970. She was born in Melbourne in 1939 and went to the University of Melbourne. David Williamson was also born in Melbourne in 1942 and studied engineering at the University of Melbourne. I wonder if they met and stay in contact.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 7 August 2001. Last updated 12 November 2001.


Links to other sites on:

Martin Luther King's "A Knock at Midnight" audiobook at Amazon.com

King's Sermons

Germaine Greer

David Williamson