Just a Thought - Authoritarianism.

I recently watched Michael Moore's documentary, 'Fahrenheit 11/9.

A lot of the footage concentrated on the town of Flint which was experiencing a severe water crisis. Moore uses this as a preview for what Donald Trump is capable of doing;  like now declaring a 'state of emergency', so that he can find funds to build 'the wall'. He and his advisers are not learning from history that such walls eventually become either tourist attractions, will disintegrate with time or will be pulled down. Moore also shows why he not hopeful that Robert Mueller will not save the day and that things will get much worse. There is also a clever but scary parallel between how the media reacted to the rise of Hitler. But there is a bright picture also: Moore spends time with some school students and a teachers' union to show how change is possible.

In the UK, Brexit has no exit plan, and there is talk of the need to plan for extra security measures to be put in place after 29th March - the Queen and her household have an evacuation plan! But what will Prince Philip do now that  he has no driver's license? And then there is the coming Federal Election in Australia. The mood is already toxic. And with all that in my head, here is this week's JAT -

Authoritarianism: It uses and abuses people. It destroys human freedom to think, act and live. It manipulates people and it often targets the 'marginalized and undesirable'.

It is so contrary to what Jesus of Nazareth stressed when addressing the issue of  human greatness: it is based on compassion and service. He showed in word and example how authority can be used to motivate and guide, to heal, support and call to conversion. Such qualities force me to say that some Christian leaders just don't get the message. In contemporary political and religious life there seems to be a creeping authoritarianism. It's there in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, China, USA. It's around the world. It is there in fanatic and fundamentalist manifestations of Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

Its sources lie in the cultural changes and human migration that make some leaders and governments anxious and fearful. They feel threatened. They don't hear or understand the words on the Statue of Liberty in New York : 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free'. Instead they prefer to circle the wagons, build walls, strengthen border controls and all to protect 'them against us'. Here in Australia, are we surrendering to the exaggerated rhetoric and growing influence of authoritarian leaders?  Leaders should be trusted for wisdom, intelligence, and humanitarian service. Are becoming arrogant autocrats who daily and in public use fear and anxiety as tools? Is honesty and integrity being replaced by self-promotion, deceit and dishonesty?

Here in Australia we are in an Federal election year. We are also preparing for a Plenary Council in 2020 and for a Synod in the diocese of Bunbury. The former takes up the headlines and my concern there is that creeping authoritarianism. One has to wonder what politicians are trying to really get and get away with. Professionalism, respect and compassion is waning. What might be some of the symptoms of this growing authoritarianism that history has frequently revealed in the past and which we need to take lessons from. But do we ever learn?

Ongoing efforts to intimidate and discredit the media. It is then that the line between information and disinformation is eroded and gradually disappears.

Truth becomes fake news, and the actual fake news becomes the to-be-accepted real news. George Orwell (1903-1950) predicted that years ago - 'War is peace, Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength'.

Police surveillance of 'enemies' is accepted as a necessary public service to protect 'us'. Fear mongering is stimulated and promoted in the name of national security and safety.

'Foreigners' are treated with suspicion; children and adults can be incarcerated for indefinite amounts of time in 'off-shore detention camps'.

Opposition is demonized. The Judiciary shows signs of being capable of corruption.

Authoritarian leaders gather around them followers whose reasoning is often uninformed and based on prejudiced judgments, and fierce dogmatism that rejects evidence and logic. These unthinking and infantile followers will follow any would-be dictator. Hitler once said, " What good fortune for those in power that people do not think".  What to do?

Acknowledge that authoritarian followers are extremely resistant to change. It is so difficult to reach people who are aggressive and very defensive.

We need to educate and promote a balanced education which hands on authentic information, teaches people where to find correct information and give people the skills to be well-informed critical thinkers. Here we must start in the homes and in our Christian communities where compassion and supportive gatherings are openly manifested, especially for the marginalized and oppressed.

We can't be silent. We have to speak out and help others to do the same. if something is wrong and untrue, people need to strongly and courageously speak up and say that things are wrong and untrue. Do this in community. Going alone is increasingly difficult, if not impossible, in our cyber-linked world. We need to work together for the common good.

We need enlightened  and fearless loaders. Where are they? Are you one?