Can the Common Good be restored? Or is Solidarity a dirty word?

Can the Common Good be restored?  Or is Solidarity a dirty word?

By Roger O’Halloran

After sending out the October Palms Post, Rachel received correspondence from a supporter who gracefully thanked us,

“… for all of the extraordinary work Palms has done over many years”, but continued with, “ … Palms’ support for climate change protests shows that our views and morals which triggered our support no longer align with each other.”

I find this somewhat surprising given Palms’ Mission and Values have always called members and supporters to action in solidarity.

Palms’ values cast solidarity as a moral imperative “… arising out of our reflection that all living creatures are interdependent.” “It is not about a vague sort of compassion, or shallow distress at others’ misfortune.”  It does not require us to give stuff to “the poor”, but to be active in removing structural barriers that deny opportunities for any to live life to the fullest.

Mentoring to develop skills is one way of developing opportunities.  However, the people of Kiribati (see Sr. Maata’s post) and Pacific Bishops are identifying climate change as a threat to their survival. As my director’s updates have made clear in recent months that makes it an issue calling us to action beyond mentoring.

Chairman, of the Bishops’ Commission for Social Justice – Mission and Service, Bishop Vincent Long stated at the launch of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Social Justice Statement on September 3rd:

“… we sometimes need to take sides and stand with those who are the poorest, the most pushed aside and excluded, those whose dignity and rights have been abused. We call it making an option for the poor.”

This, rather than any personal vested interest, is why Palms staff joined the climate strike on September 20th

Those with vested interests perceive and fear that structural change, to allow opportunity for all, will require them to forego an advantage the status quo affords them.  Such fear blocks their connection to the moral imperative of solidarity and prevents them giving time to understanding the science or participating in rational analysis. Those with the greatest fear will accept extreme ideas.  Our former supporter’s reasons for withdrawing support included:

  • Humans do not cause and do not have an ability to reverse climate change;
  • Climate change is an ideology which contributes to irrational and damaging behaviours:
    • fear of over-population, leading to a pro-abortion and contraception mentality,
    • lack of respect for women and children’s human dignity and for the family,
    • negative effects on children’s mental well-being,
    • increased poverty due to funding being directed towards climate change activism,
    • effects on wildlife, natural forests and habitats from lethal wind power turbines,

Naturally any loss of support for Palms is disappointing, but more disappointing is that rather than seeking to work together on global issues to find common ground for the common good, a tribal approach is adopted.

Those who defend tribal world views are not the only ones who fail to identify the common good. Perhaps it is the way debate is muddied with fake news and dubious facts, but many others today seem easily encouraged to quietly rationalise being innocent bystanders.  With more than adequate earning power, perhaps in a field where there is little vested interest in taking sides, one can provide psychological explanations for the circumstances of people and focus primarily on individual therapy.

The antidote to being tribal, or adopting an individualistic worldview, where one gets trapped in a sphere of private meaning, is to assist all move to an appreciation of the collective story.  Palms’ comprehensive program of preparation for an assignment abroad provides this opportunity.  It recognises that successful assignment outcomes depend on the ability of participants to identify not only differences, but also the essential truths we share with people of alternative worldviews.

I would like to invite our disengaged supporter, and all who find themselves rationalising a tribal, or individualistic worldview, to become less certain and more vulnerable to a new way of seeing the world by preparing for a Palms assignment, even if you may not be able to take up a placement immediately. Palms’ January 4-12 Orientation Course is applicable for all open to a humble, loving engagement with the other, whoever the other is in our current experience.  It opens one to pursuing the complexities of achieving just outcomes, as we focus again on the common good.

To support those in our region facing detrimental effects from changing climate events, help us recruit an early childhood educator for Tulele Peisa in Papua New Guinea and support our projects in Kiribati.