The Board of Social Policy Connections is currently challenging itself to sharpen its core purpose and reassess ways to promote debate about social justice among our supporters and readers, in a context of faith and ecumenical commitment.
It is not a simple endeavour. Were we a specific purpose organisation, say, opposed to human trafficking or seeking to eliminate homelessness, stating our core purpose would be straightforward. But when we identify as educating and informing on social justice issues, we immediately open up a broad range of topics.
This reality is captured in one of the many definitions of ‘social justice’: “The virtue which inclines one to cooperate with others to help make the institutions of society serve the common good”. Clearly, we are ultimately talking about promoting “virtue”, about encouraging in each person good moral principles and practices which work to the betterment of society.
This month’s newsletter immediately illustrates the breadth of such an endeavour. Peter Woods, in his recent presentation on West Papua, is certainly informing us, but is essentially urging us to recognise the human dignity of West Papuans by solidarity with them in efforts to end their dispossession and to uphold their rights to self-determination.
Sarah Puls, in her commentary on Peter Dutton’s charge of ‘fake refugees’, explains how Australia’s treatment of refugees on Nauru and Manus Island continues to distress and traumatise these unfortunate people who sought our protection, and suggests what we can do as individuals and groups.
Leah Ruppanner, in her article from The Conversation, asks whether we are in a demographic crisis because inadequate government economic and social policies prevent couples from having the time and resources to raise the number of children they desire. She highlights policy settings adversely impacting couples, and identifies challenges to achieving an equitable society.
Bruce Duncan examines the controversy over a recent attack by a semi-official Vatican paper on the politicisation of right-wing Catholic groups in the United States, allegedly in alliance with extreme fundamentalist Protestant groups. He notes that the politicisation of church networks by powerful sectional interests often sidelines fundamental social principles of human rights, equity, and distributive justice. The somewhat clumsy Roman article could have been clearer than it was in critiquing a political ideology designed to justify the wealth and power of rich elites, and not just in the United States.
The historian, Henry Reynolds, in Memories and Massacres, recalls the deeply disturbing history of colonial mistreatment and even large massacres like a war against Australia’s First Peoples, urging us to reassess our attitudes to current generations and restore their rights and new opportunities as full citizens in their ancient land.
And John Menadue in his article Chilcot – the Iraq War and Murdoch’s war on critics, reminds us that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was based on contrived evidence and public opinion, misled by powerful sections of the media. Millions have died following that war, and tens of millions have been displaced, yet none of the architects of the war have been brought to account.
How would you like Social Policy Connections to develop?
Social justice is ultimately about personal virtue promoting the good of society and all its people. How, therefore, does the Board of Social Policy Connections best represent its core purpose? The propositions of ‘promoting virtue’ or ‘promoting the common good’ are unlikely to help us focus tightly enough to guide us forward. They nonetheless constitute the very rationale for our organisation.
The Board will continue its deliberations at our next meeting on 17 August. We greatly welcome hearing your views, as supporters and participants.
You can either email any of us on the Board of Directors at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to us at Social Policy Connections, PO Box 505, Box Hill Victoria 3128.
Our thanks to all those who have renewed their subscriptions to SPC, or made a donation. We rely on your generosity in what has been almost entirely a probono effort since we began our public forums in 2006. If you would like to help support us, click for a membership form or a donation form.