A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.
21st September 2007
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One of the characteristics of an addict is denial. We do not mean to tell lies. We are just unable to face reality.
We cannot face our own weakness and dependency. We do not want to admit the pain and suffering that we are causing. It is easier to find comfort in our addiction than to fix up our lives.
But our addiction is rarely private. Humans are social creatures. The damage of our addiction usually affects the lives of others. Those who love the addict are always hurt for them. In time they are also typically hurt by them.
Most addictions spread to every aspect of life. The alcoholic, the problem gambler, the heroin user, the pornography customer cannot contain their addiction to one part of their life. Our addiction leads to one bad decision after another. Our businesses and careers falter and fail. We frequently have motor or industrial accidents. Addicts often use and abuse people. We usually destroy our own families.
Some addictions like smoking are more specific in their devastation. They attack our health (and pocket). But even this addiction affects others through passive smoking.
A just society cannot allow people to profit by enslaving others into such addiction. A loving society cannot allow its members to destroy themselves. A just and loving society must act to protect its members from known dangers.
We know that the majority of the population will not be addicted. But we also know that a significant minority of the community will. Furthermore we know the huge profits that unscrupulous people make promoting addictive behaviours. If we are going to function as a society and not just as individuals we must take some protective action.
It is not only the addict who needs rehabilitation and protection. Our families need help. Society itself needs safeguards. Future generations need to be defended from the purveyors of bondage and slavery.
Unfortunately the chief guardian of our society—the government—has been corrupted. It has itself become addicted. It is no longer able to withstand the pressure of the gambling, alcohol, pornography, and prostitution predators. Even worse, like so many addicts, it is now helping the pushers. Like all addicts it is in denial—unable to see the problem or the damage that it is creating.
The Government's dependence upon the tax revenues of these activities compromises its decisions. The political parties' dependence upon the donations from these activities corrupts their capacity to govern. The community stands defenceless.
It is not easy to come up with laws that will defend us from the predators. We do not want abolition (except somewhat hypocritically with certain drugs or in certain Northern Territory communities). So we try to develop harm minimisation strategies. But these keep being undermined by the power of the pushers.
There is very little political will to tackle the issues. Most addicts are in denial and do not want to be stopped. Most non-addicts do not feel directly affected by the problems. They have a drink and a small flutter but they control their behaviour. They do not watch pornography. They used to smoke the occasional cigarette and were able to give it up easily enough. Addiction is not their problem and they do not want their freedoms limited by other people’s problems.
While the cost to addicts and their families is devastating, the indirect costs to our society are enormous. They involve extra policing, absenteeism from work, car accidents, divorce etc. And the corruption of our governmental processes should not be tolerated. At best law can minimise damage and make the life of predators unprofitable and difficult. This is worthwhile. But we need more.
Last week two business men declared their intention to remove poker machines from their football club. It will be interesting to see if they can. But unfortunately one of them was reported to say that this was not a matter of morality but of business. The club will be more profitable without poker machines, as more people will be attracted to it.
This approach, like legal limitations, is good as far as it goes. It is addressing the symptom and may well help. But to tackle the disease we need a much more radical change in society. We need to be able to take action because it a matter of morality. We need to see this is part of the wider issue of forming a just and loving society. We need a society that is genuinely concerned for the weaker members. We need a society that is concerned for the common good as well as the rights of individuals. We need a society where individuals will forego their pleasures and rights for the sake of others.
Such a society will only come from the spiritual renewal of the populace. Sydney needs the gospel. As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.” We are too addicted to sin to face its reality. Like all addicts we are in denial.