31 July, 2020
KEEPING THE FAITH
These are frightening times. Sizeable numbers of our population, including apparently most of our political leaders, are clearly terrified of Covid. This is becoming increasingly obvious in public places, where the mood is subtly changing: people are afraid of each other and show their fear not only by their avoidance of contact but in their faces, or they are angry and rebellious. Am I imagining this, or do some people look at you in the supermarket aisles as if you were the enemy, a potential killer even? More frightening than the disease itself is this social response. The gung-ho ‘we’re all in this together’ spirit of a few months ago seems to be waning.
The media don’t help. We are constantly being given grim figures about the number of the dead, figures that are rarely placed in context. For example we are fed daily information about the mounting death toll in the US, without regard to the size of the US population: in fact the death rate, expressed as a proportion of the population, is well below that of the UK and several other western European countries. By comparison the Australian statistics are so low as to be virtually off-scale, yet our politicians make extraordinary comparisons with other catastrophic events. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to us as a nation, they will tell us, comparable in its awfulness to the world wars and the Spanish ‘flu, leaving out the horrors of polio (who remembers that now?) and the dangers of a world without antibiotics.
Yes, we should all be more discerning in our reading, but not everyone can be: we are reaping a whirlwind. The failure of our schools to teach history and logical thinking means that young people particularly are ill equipped to process the information they are fed. They accept the narrative, knowing that economic and social catastrophe will no doubt ensue, but convinced that the price is worth paying.
All this in a world largely without faith. Tragically few nowadays have any lingering confidence in the providential goodness of God. Science alone carries the mantle of divinity but it will be shown to be a poor substitute for the real thing. It is itself divided: there is by no means universal agreement on the nature of the Covid threat or the best means of dealing with it, but public opinion demands radical measures and more moderate voices pass under the radar.
When the crisis began, the Save the Children Fund attempted to break into the dominant narrative and point out that 15,000 children die every day because of hunger. 15,000 unnecessary deaths every day in a world wealthy enough to spend billions of dollars on making life safer for the relatively fortunate people of privileged societies! If the Covid emergency had moved our international agencies sufficiently, as caring human beings, to take even a few steps towards reducing this appalling statistic we could feel that the fear and suffering had not been in vain, but sadly there is little sign of change. Children in the less fortunate regions of the world will still die, regardless of whether or not we find a vaccine to safeguard the rest of us.
There is much irony in this. Governments that are increasingly comfortable with the notion of pre-natal infanticide and euthanasia are showing a touching concern for the survival of people in their 70s, 80s and 90s. I suppose we should be grateful for their good will, but excuse me if I am sceptical. A world that has lost its Faith, that puts all its trust in human ingenuity and all its hope in prolonging the healthy lives of its preferred citizens, is heading helter-skelter towards a moral abyss. God grant that we find the wisdom to see the full extent of the dangers we are facing.
‘WHY ALL THIS NEGATIVE FOCUS?’
This piece by Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute wisely analyses the destructive anger of crowds.
Sky News is a no-no to some, but Rowan Dean’s Sky News feature is the best thing I’ve seen on the so-called Cancel Culture. Includes interviews with prominent ‘victims’ including academic Prof Peter Ridd, actor Laurence Fox, indigenous activists Jacinta Price and Warren Mundine.
A SUMMER SCHOOL IN PHILOSOPHY
This is going to happen! Dr David Moltow, Philosopher in the University of Tasmania has offered to teach it in January 2021. We are looking at running it online for a wider audience. Details follow.
With best wishes always,
FOR YOUR DIARY
Our programme of speakers is in disarray after the Pandemic lockdown. I’m kick-starting it myself by offering the following:
‘The Skin of our Teeth’: Medieval Book Production
Hotel Soho, Davey Street, Hobart
Thursday 27 August, 2020 (to be confirmed)
6.00 pm, followed by two-course dinner, $35 per person (drinks not included), booking essential.
The survival of Western Civilisation is almost entirely due to the monks and nuns who copied books by hand in the so-called Dark ages and in the Middle Ages that followed. This talk will describe the methods of writing, assembling and distributing the precious documents that have come down to us. Examples of original manuscripts will be on display and can be handled.
And in October –
MR NEVILLE CLARK MC,
MENTONE GRAMMAR SCHOOL, MELBOURNE
‘A Modern Crusade: Sir Harry Chauvel and the Australian Light Horse in Palestine’
Hotel Soho, Davey Street, Hobart
Friday 30 October, 2020.
Two-course Dinner and Lecture, $35 per person (drinks not included), booking essential
Ending 400 years of Ottoman rule and paving the way for the creation thirty years later of the modern state of Israel, General Allenby’s Palestine campaign of 1917-1918 relied most heavily on its main striking force, the five Brigades of the Australian Light Horse, whose rugged riders and indomitable Walers proved to be the most effective and longest-serving of all the Allied forces in the Middle East – while throughout those storied lands of the Bible the Chaplains in particular had a field day!
1. MEDIEVAL LATIN, 11-15 JANUARY 2021
This course, now in its 27th year, offers a general introduction to post-classical Latin, poetry and prose, sacred and secular. We shall read some splendid literature that has had a formative influence on Western Civilisation. Some prior knowledge of Latin is assumed. There will be an introduction to palaeography, including an opportunity to handle original manuscripts.
2. NEW TESTAMENT GREEK, 18-22 JANUARY 2021
An intensive course in the koine Greek of the New Testament. We shall read passages from the Epistles and Gospels, as well as the Septuagint and Christian literature of the apostolic age. The course is aimed at beginners, but it is strongly recommended that all learn the Greek alphabet before commencing; exercises will be posted out beforehand to assist with that.
3. PHILOSOPHY, 25-29 JANUARY 2021
A five-day overview of the history and core trends of Philosophy taught by University Of Tasmania academic Dr David Moltow. Details under development.
All three January Summer Schools will be held at Jane Franklin Hall (University of Tasmania), 6 Elboden Street, South Hobart.
Our annual conference originally scheduled for 2020 has been postponed to 25–26 June 2021. We’ll be a year older, and perhaps wiser. It will be worth waiting for! We are looking at the possibility of running this online as well as on site in Hobart. The theme will be secondary education, with a particular focus on the development of the spiritual and religious dimension of human nature. See our website for further details.
ROME LATIN SUMMER SCHOOL, 5–16 JULY 2021
Following the success of the Rome Latin Summer School in July 2019 we aim to run a repeat in 2021 for those who missed out, and for any others interested. The intensive two-week course is a study of Roman and Medieval Culture and the growth of Western and Christian civilisation through the medium of the Latin language. It is not intended for beginners, but for those who, though new to Latin, have studied other languages and are willing to do some hard work on their own in the meantime. Classes are taught in the mornings, leaving the afternoons free for walking and talking. It is planned to include a tour to Naples and Pompeii.
This course will be taught at the Bernardi Campus of the University of St Thomas, in the Prati district west of the Tiber.