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
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.
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