The cynical optimist

I’ve always been a cynic. From the time I was in primary school hearing about French nuclear testing in the Pacific, Aung San Suu Kyi being put under house arrest and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, I didn’t have much faith in people.

Strangely enough, this dark view of the world eventually led me to Jesus, my hope. So now I am this walking paradox, being both a cynic and an optimist.

Two weeks ago, I blogged about democracy and the need for greater participation. On Monday, a bunch of us put that into practice by meeting with over a hundred senators and members of parliament in one day.

Over a hundred federal politicians heard our message: we need to step up our game in looking out for our Pacific neighbours, helping them build resilience against increasingly common natural disasters and other effects of climate change.

The cynic in me doubts that my voice – and even the collective voice of thousands of believers under the banner of Micah Australia – can make a difference to our government’s policies. One MP is seeking a seconder for a motion to the effect that disaster risk reduction works and needs to be properly supported. Yet our aid spending is at a historic low of 0.23% of our gross national income (GNI) and could fall further still in the next budget.

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We’re now a far cry from the heady heights of 2010, when we didn’t quite get Kevin to 0.7 – but we did get him and the other side to 0.5% GNI.

The optimist in me maintains that being a voice is in itself an action that speaks louder than, well, silence. (And as one of the politicians we met with stated in his maiden speech, actions also speak louder than whingeing – amen!).

Far beyond the content of our meetings, the fact that so many of us gathered and went to the trouble of arranging and going to meetings with these politicians is an expression of the fact that being a Christian involves far more than being present in a church building on Sundays.

It involves engaging with the reality of poverty, because so many are oppressed while Australia and other rich nations have the resources to change millions of lives for the better.

It involves speaking up for and with our biblical and geographical neighbours, because there are communities sinking as sea levels rise.

The cynic sees the injustice. The optimist takes action to bring justice.

Are you a cynic? Will you be an optimist, too?

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Pacific storytelling at Voices for Justice 2016.

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