As the French say, Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose. The more things change, the more they are the same.
There I was on Saturday afternoon. Hungry again. It seems like I've been doing this 40 Hour Famine thing for half my life.
And I was watching my son play basketball. Richard's first game. In the Boronia Buffaloes, under eights. Cute, eh? Seems like it was more than 10 years ago I was doing the same. Watching my other son in the Hong Kong International School under-14s.
Just like his brother before him, Richard covered himself with glory by the happy strategy of being mostly where the ball wasn't. Another deja vu, because that's how I played rugby.
To be honest, I find comfort and security that some things just keep on keeping on. History repeats itself. Sometimes that's a good thing.
There are some universal truths. And a few experiences that everyone must go through for themselves. Like your first game of competitive team sport.
And some others that are worth preserving and celebrating year after year. Like the 40 Hour Famine.
When so much of life seems to be changing fast, it's nice to feel connected to a few things that are the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.
On the other hand, if you had told me a few years ago that I would be giving advice to the AFL, I wouldn't have thought it possible.
But when Essendon footballer, Michael Long, finally allowed his resentment to overwhelm his patience and blew the whistle on racism in sport, World Vision found itself part of the response.
I've learned a few things about racism in recent years. Most of it I learned overseas.
As I have talked with oppressed and suffering people I began to discern a common pattern.
It goes like this:
An oppressor group emerged. Sometimes they invaded. Other times they just got to be the biggest cultural group in the nation. Sometimes both.
The oppressor group took away the people's homes, sometimes destroying them, often relocating the people.
The oppressed people lost most of their possessions.
They were crowded together into refugee camps, or reserves.
By one means or another, often under apparently reasonable excuses, families were split up.
They were policed by military style forces, or government officials. Often a Ministry for their affairs was created. This created rules to control their lives. Limited or no self-government was permitted. Where it existed it was highly controlled by the oppressor group.
Myths were created about the oppressed people. They were labelled as dangerous and deviant (terrorists, barbaric, savage, lacking culture, lazy).
Very often the myth was created that the oppressed people had no true society before the oppressor stepped in.
Some years on, the oppressed society became increasingly violent. Most of the violence was internal. Crime rates, especially crimes such as murder and assault, were 20-50 times greater than in the mainstream society.
This tended to confirm the myth that the oppressed people were lesser beings.
Often radical groups emerged and attacked the mainstream society. This confirmed the myth that they were dangerous.
The oppressing society appeared to put money into services to help the dysfunctional community. Much of this money appeared to do little good. Stories were common that the money was wasted.
Drug abuse (usually alcohol) was common place. This confirmed the myth that the people were lazy or incapable of self-control.
I didn't have to look too far to see that the same pattern exists in Australia. Although, to be frank, it took me a while to believe it. Beams in our own eyes are usually harder to see than specks in other's.
This blindness is common everywhere. I wondered how people in oppressing groups could not see how their language, their media, and their behaviour were all rooted in racism.
Then someone pointed out a racist joke. One I had made.
I was shocked and offended. I didn't mean to be racist.
Of course, I didn't mean it. But that did not make it less racist.
I begin to see the built-in racism within our society. Women are more conscious of it, I have discovered, than men are. I am sure I know the reason for this. Women are also the victims of built-in unconscious oppression.
As uncomfortable as it is for many of us to admit it, our society has built-in racism. It is even in our language.
When some commentators said, "It's just part of the game" they were being more accurate than they imagined.
Thankfully, we do not have to accept evil just because it is part of the game.
Praise God that he is giving us new insights these days. We can see how our society encourages and rewards conformity. And how it discourages, and punishes the non-conforming minorities. The blacks, the disabled, the migrants.
A truly inclusive society will learn to overcome this built-in tendency. Within the Kingdom of God "there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him." Romans 10:12
With Ray Walker's help, and the involvement of the chaplains to the AFL clubs, World Vision has played a small part in bearing witness to the Kingdom of God in which there is an equal place for all.