Today I just wanted to explain a little bit about the #LetsPraySydney initiative and one of the reasons I was inspired to create it. I am sure most of you have heard at least one TedTalk in your lives. They are inspirational and educational. A few weeks ago Ted hosted Pope Francis on the Ted2017 series.
In true @Pontifex style the pope delivered several thought provoking truths of which one particularly resonated with me.
He said "Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the "culture of waste," which doesn't concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people." This touched a raw nerve. I knew this to be painfully true. Even more so in our own city Sydney. Several months ago I was privileged to celebrate my birthday on Sydney's streets with people who call the subways, alleyways and parks of Sydney their home. For many it was not a choice. What dawned on us ( my husband, kids and me) was that most of the people we spoke to were such well mannered, charitable souls who wouldn't even keep a gift for themselves if they felt someone else could use it more. We saw the face of humanity many a time that day. We also saw the tired and weary faces of hunger, and of disenchantment. Regardless of how society and City councils serve them with food and blankets, their mere growing existence in our first world economy is evidence that we as a society have failed them miserably. Then there was the Opal card fiasco! It is a great example of what Pope Francis calls 'the techno-economic system' that puts the product (and profit) first and the person last.
When I started out in Sydney 4 years ago one could pay money and purchase a single use or multiple use ticket for travel. We knew exactly how much the trip would cost even before boarding the train or bus.
Then over 2 years I saw Opal roll out. What shocked me was the speed in which they not only brought in the opal system but that with which they completely annihilated the existing one. London, another massive city, married its various travel options so seamlessly to offer an excellent service that the Opal pales in comparison.
Now why do I say this? Most of you reading this would have had absolutely no issues with the Opal system, and I'm sure it is extremely efficient when it works as it should. But there many who wont be reading this - and probably never will because this is an online blog! These people inhabit the real world of bricks and mortar, cash and loose change. They read newspapers and brochures written on paper (if they can even afford them). I am not always in a hurry so I see them. I see them in local shopping centers struggling with self check outs and other self serve kiosks. I saw these same people after the Opal roll out too. The elderly struggling at opal kiosks, ticket stations and in front of ticket vending machines wondering where all the staff had gone and whom to ask for help; the railway staff having been reduced to skeleton strength. The worst part of the opal system is that it is neither owned nor operated by the railways and thus any issues with the card cannot be sorted by staff on the ground. Many were flustered, upset even and didn't want to show it. Dignified folk made to feel inadequate through no fault of their own. They may have been your mums, dads or grandparents even. We wouldn't know.
Has there been any study done to see how the current tech advances have imapcted our senior citizens and other vulnerable sections of society?
I know change is well intentioned (at least to someones pockets) but is it well thought out? Do businesses and governments (MyGov another case in point) even think of our less tech savvy brothers and sisters - most of whom are some of the most vulnerable in society?
Are we as a society pushing them into the brink of non- existence? These are the questions that resurfaced in my mind after reading the transcript of Pope Francis TedTalk a couple of weeks ago.
I agreed with the Pope. Overconsumption on one hand is destroying our planet and a lack of solidarity and connection with those around us are making us more disconnected. Inequality is treated with the bandaid of handouts which would not have been even necessary if they were not driven out of existence in the first place. Pope Francis always asks big things of us. We answer his wonderful insights with great applause but continue on our merry ways as a self destructive society with fewer meaningful relationships and increasing loneliness and isolation. Not just the disabled and the elderly, studies show our society in its entirety is increasingly vulnerable to shocks and stresses http://www.100resilientcities.org/cities/entry/sydney#/-_/
Let us pray to God to help us see the real challenges and problems faced by the most vulnerable in our society.
Let us look at what we can do to build resilient local communities.
Let us learn how to collectively care for our common home, the earth, by growing more of our food locally, by harvesting rainwater and using more solar power.
Let us find ways to reduce our consumption, moderate our food intake, maximise our physical activity and live healthier lives.
Let us learn to use technology to help but not to hinder.
Let us yearn to reach out into nursing homes and care homes and offer companionship to the elderly citizens of our community.
Above all, let us build good family relationships alongside great local communities who watch out for each other. Communities that make all families feel included especially those with special needs children. Let parishes become hubs not only of prayer, but also hubs for social engagement, support and companionship.
I believe Prayer can harness the power within us, to reach above and beyond what we are now as a society. Loving, sharing, praying individuals can grow healthful, caring and resilient local communities. Communities that you and I will long to belong!
Let's Pray Sydney!