18. Sep, 2016

Why are we ignoring the plight of the needy?

Why are we, much like the rich man, ignoring the plight of the needy?

Amos 6:1, 4-7; Luke 16:19-31.

I know there is a lavish four post bed in a shop in town, but I don’t know any of you who sprawl out on ivory beds! If someone told me of others sprawling out in front of the footy I may believe that story, but no one is living an opulent lifestyle. Yet there is still a great disparity of wealth in our town. …but, compared with non-Indigenous Australians, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people experience disadvantage across a range of socioeconomic indicators including education, employment and income. There is evidence that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor health and increased exposure to health risk factors.

For example, in 2008, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who were unemployed were more likely than those who were employed to be a current daily smoker (58% compared to 41%) and to use illicit substances (30% compared with 21%). Likewise, rates of smoking were higher among people who had lower levels of educational attainment (compared with those who had completed Year 12). Previous analysis also shows a relationship between exposure to health risk factors and income; as well as between educational attainment and nutrition and exercise, with people completing Year 12 more likely to eat fruit and vegetables on a daily basis and less likely to engage in low levels of exercise - for more information see the discussion on risk factors and socioeconomic status in the 2008 edition of this report.

But those stats are a little odd in themselves. They don’t tell about what low socioeconomic status is and what it means for daily living. Is being disadvantaged like Lazarus? Are poor people all covered in sores and longing to eat the scraps that fall off our tables? Certainly beggars can be choosers. When I was daily giving food in Perth, the ‘street people’ were very choosy about what they would eat. But that’s not what I wanted to say! Being disadvantaged is like being trapped – caught up in a world of chaos with no way out unless someone is prepared to help.

Chaos, stress, social exclusion, social and financial inequality – these factors damage optimal wellbeing in children because they lead to a growing chaos within Indigenous families. This disrupts the bonding between parent/child, disrupts emotional and intellectual growth. This instability leads to maladaptive behaviours and perpetuates this death-like-cycle of disadvantage and disruption. These kids grow up emotionally unbalanced and with a world view and a view of themselves, that is negative. So, being disadvantaged is like being trapped – caught up in a world of chaos with no way out unless someone is prepared to help

I think that it is very difficult to share what is ours. In many cases in the world, if the people who have gave, the people who have not will suddenly have enough. Equally suddenly, everyone might have all they need. In a way it is a cultural phenomenon for us westerners. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders are collectivists at heart. They don’t think about money in the same way (maybe as they never have enough). They don’t hoard, rather they share (and they tend to know each other’s pay day). If one has, all have.

So, what I want to ask is a challenging question on many levels: Why are we, much like the rich man, ignoring the plight of the needy?