The Apocrypha

Standard

We use the adjective ‘apocryphal’ to mean ‘ of doubtful authenticity’, but how many of us have read or even glimpsed a copy of the Apocrypha? The word comes from Greek of course, and means ‘hidden’. The Apocrypha is a collection of 14 books that have been appended to some versions of the Old Testament but are not generally recognised as authoritative scripture.

I found a copy of the Apocrypha among my grandfather’s papers. He signed the flyleaf and dated it 26/6/02, when he was 20 years old. A label on the inside cover informs the reader thus:

Extract from the Sixth Article of Religion (Of the Sufficiency of the Holy Scriptures for Salvation):

“And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…”

It goes on to list the 14 books, some of which are very short. One of the short ones is the Story (or History) or Susanna. I found that I knew the story without knowing its provenance. It’s the one about the woman, while bathing in her secluded garden, is raped by two elders who then falsely accuse her of adultery with a young man who supposedly fled the scene. God alerts a man called Daniel to the truth of the matter and instead of executing Susanna the pious crowd turns on the elders.

The story has inspired artists including Jacob Jordaens, who painted this version (Susanna and the Elders) in 1653.

SusannaAndTheElders1653

Regrettably the custom of punishing rape victims has not died out everywhere. Perhaps we should all read the Apocrypha “for example of life and instruction of manners.”

Sportsmen Behaving Badly

Standard

This is not a startling headline, is it? We’re used to sportsmen (not sportswomen, to my recollection) getting drunk, fighting in nightclubs, abusing women…

But today the Australian newspapers are full of a story about Mitchell Pearce, Captain of a Sydney-based rugby league team. Someone posted a video-clip of him behaving very badly indeed in a woman’s home, and it went viral. You can see it online if you want to know the details. It’s pretty disgusting.

My first thought was, “Oh no, not another one.” Then I looked at the clip and had a more profound thought. How should we expect newcomers to Australia – or perhaps I should say ‘the Western World’ because this kind of thing is not exclusive to Australia – to react?

I’m thinking of immigrants from very conservative cultures, including but not exclusively Muslims. Will they not recoil from the culture that produces such exhibitions? Will they not retreat into their own culture, beliefs and values? More to the point, will they not try to protect their children from such malign influences, sending them to separate schools and denying them contact with children from other backgrounds who might ‘pollute’ them?

Mr Pearce and his ilk may be promoting the ghettoisation of our society, with far-reaching and very negative consequences.

Nonce-Words

Standard

I learned a new word today. According to the Oxford Modern Australian Dictionary a ‘nonce-word’ is a word coined for one occasion only. It recalled for me an occasion when our son David was very young. Our cat walked by him, rubbing the length of her body against his leg. He giggled and said, “Fluffy just furred past me!”

Reckless Adventures

Standard

Did you read about Henry Worsley, the 55-year-old former British soldier who tried to walk across Antarctica solo and unsupported? He was taken ill after 71 days of walking, only 48km from his goal. He was airlifted to Chile for treatment but died of peritonitis.

This is a tragic story and one must admire the courage, determination and resilience of anyone who embarks on such an adventure. In this case Henry Worsley was doing it to raise money for the Endeavour Fund – a charity that helps wounded members of the armed forces.

I don’t know if the donations were curtailed because he didn’t finish the course. What I do know is that other people put themselves in some danger and incurred considerable expense in an effort to save his life. I am not convinced that such adventures, which hit the headlines because they are dangerous, are justifiable; or that others should be encouraged by the media attention that Mr Worsley and the Endeavour Fund have gained to embark on similar enterprises.

My attitude would be different if Mr Worsley’s expedition had been exploratory or scientific in its purpose. But it was intended only to move money from some people’s pockets to those of a charity – a charity whose aims I am in sympathy with, by the way – not to extend human knowledge or develop new resources.

I’m thinking like an economist, I know, and I don’t expect many people to agree with me. What do you think? Am I a narrow-minded materialistic curmudgeon who fails to appreciate the value of celebrating the human spirit? Or am I a level-headed realist who makes a valid distinction between valour and recklessness?

Being 70

Standard

Three days ago, at about 0400 GMT, I reached the biblically significant age of 70. I went to the post office to collect the last few days of incoming mail and found, in addition to a card from an old student chum, a letter from the State Government of South Australia.  I tore it open excitedly, expecting it to be a request to help with re-strategising the state economy following the end of the mining investment boom.  But it was my Seniors Card and a booklet telling me about the discounts I could get with it.

Oh well, what’s next? Aha!  A letter from the Commonwealth Government of Australia.  I can guess what that’s about.  Prince Philip has sent back his knighthood – would I like it?  I tore that open even more excitedly, to find an invitation to take part in the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program.

Parent Tumor

Standard

I don’t know if Barak Obama came up with that label for DAESH himself, or if a PR consultant pulled a focus group together and workshopped it.  But it’s a good one.  Militant islamism is a cancerous growth in the body of humanity.  That tells us what kind of treatment it calls for.

Global Debt

Standard

A shock-horror headline today said that global debt stands at US$200 trillion, which is about 3 times gross global product. A debt:income ratio of 3 is quite modest for a young couple borrowing to buy a home and a car, but for a business or a government it should ring alarm bells.  So should we be alarmed?

Someone drew my attention to a beautiful graphic in the Daily Mail, showing how 11 of those 200 trillions are lent and borrowed among the banking sectors of 16 countries.  It seems that everyone’s lending to everyone else.  Even China and Germany are borrowers and even Greece and Portugal are lenders.

So if everyone defaulted tomorrow… well, there would be a lot of individual winners and losers, but there wouldn’t be any Martians turning up to repossess our planet because we hadn’t kept up our mortgage payments.

What calms me is the fact that the headline is about gross debt. Someone who borrows $100k in order to buy bonds to the same value has given rise to $200k of debt, but their net debt is zero.  Even our heavily mortgaged young couple probably has money in a bank account – effectively a loan to their bank.