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I was reading the newspaper here in Australia this morning, and there were a few articles about suspected terrorists. I found myself instinctively sympathising with these people as though they were innocent victims, and it shocked me. I realised that a few years ago, although I would not have joined a lynch mob against a terrorist suspect, I probably would have accepted that they were just reaping the fruit of their own violence (or that the courts would release them if they were innocent). But these days I start thinking of them all as innocent victims. Why?

Isn't it because the laws have been so changed and abused in Australia and elsewhere over recent years that it becomes obvious that justice is NOT going to be done. Certainly some guilty people are going to be punished, but the public will never know who was really guilty and who was not, because the law now allows our government to jail (and in other ways deny the human rights of) innocent people WITHOUT evidence. People like David Hicks would not have earned a lot of sympathy from me a few years ago. After all, he undeniably volunteered to kill other people in a war in Afghanistan, and when one does that, they have to expect that they could also be killed as a result of their actions. But because he had not broken any Australian (or American) law by doing so (After all, we ourselves were on the side of the Taliban shortly before Hicks was captured.) he has been held indefinitely at a prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Both the American and Australian governments say that it is justified precisely because he IS innocent. And he is not alone in that camp.

Camps exist elsewhere around the world, where torture is so extreme that several (if not many) people have died from the results of it. Even if we could accept that torture is acceptable under some circumstances, we can be pretty certain that not everyone who has been tortured in these camps is guilty. After all, if they were, and if it were possible to prove it, we would simply bring them home, put them on trial, and then have them thrown in jail when they were found guilty.

What I'm saying here is that faith in the justice system of Australia and America has sunk so low that it is hard to distinguish the innocent from the guilty anymore. While some people have no trouble jailing, torturing, or killing a few innocent people in order to get at the guilty ones, many others like myself are more inclined to regard them all as victims of a cruel and unjust political system. When this happens, only the guilty can benefit from it.

If the Australian and American governments want anyone with a conscience to respect them, then they have to take serious action to wipe out the widespread abuses of human rights that are taking place in the West at the moment.

But there is something deeper than that which I want to say.

This lack of shame about such evil practices is symptomatic of something we have been predicting for decades. We have talked of a day when it would no longer be regarded as necessary to wear a mask of decency in order to express the evil that has, for centuries been suppressed in Western society because of past commitment to Christian principles and ideals. We have been saying that the best we have in western government at the moment is a hypocritical pretense, aimed at satisfying the demand for truth and justice that leaders have assumed exists in the hearts of the masses. We have said that, when the leaders discover that the masses themselves are also hypocrites, that they no longer have any real desire to do what is right, it will no longer be necessary for anyone to wear masks.

Well, that's where we are now, unfortunately.

There are individuals, of course, like ourselves, who are shocked at the return to political barbarism, where hatred, racism, greed, and dishonesty are not only tolerated, but actively promoted by our political (and often religious) leaders. But for the most part, the general public sees it all as "normal". And in a democracy, it is the majority that calls the shots.

An example of this widespread selfishness can be cited in England, which is also a part of the same spiritual malaise of the West. It was, until recently*, officially considered by ULTRA, the official body regulating organ transplants there, to be proof of mental instability for someone to even contemplate giving a kidney to a stranger. Since mental instability is grounds for not approving a donation, no such operations were ever allowed to take place. This same cynical assumption with regard to anyone donating a kidney to a stranger pervades much of the western world. Why? Because selfishness is seen as the norm, and altruism is seen as aberrant behaviour. (*It was partly as a result of our own campaigns against this position that the rules were recently altered; but the same general attitude still pervades the system, and our very existence is being attacked from other quarters.)

In the same paper this morning, there was a columnist criticising the Australian Labor Party for refusing to admit that its proposals to counteract global warming would cost huge amounts of money. The depressing thing about the article was that everyone could be seen as so selfishly myopic that any serious attempts to deal with this approaching horror were obviously going to fail. The Australian Liberals (not really liberal, for those who don't know, but rather the rabidly right-wing party in Australian politics at the moment) have long been opposed to signing the Kyoto Accord for the simple reason that it would cost too much to the big multi-national corporations that support the Liberals. The Labor Party is happy to expose the folly of the Liberal Party position, but lacks the backbone to admit that it is going to actually cost the taxpayers if we are going to make any headway in cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. They lack the backbone, however, because they know that they will not be elected if the truth about the cost were known. But the columnist who was pointing this out was, in some ways, the most disgusting of all. Rather than champion a call for serious action, despite the cost, he was only concerned with telling his readers that they may as well vote for the Liberals, because the Labor Party was gutless.

What they all were seeing is that the masses of society don't really care about the welfare of their children, much less their grandchildren. All they want are better interest rates on home loans and more entertainment to fill their spiritually empty lives. Yes, the masks have come off. It's everyone for themselves now, and the politicians and newspaper columnists and religious leaders and you and I have to count our own costs if we are going to oppose the trend.

The article did go on to say that Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, had the courage to tell the whole truth (i.e. that action needs to be taken, and that it is going to cost us quite a bit); but they pointed out that the only reason Bob could be honest was because he was never going to gain control of the government anyway. After all, those people who really care are such a small minority that anyone who is serious about getting ahead in politics should just concentrate on offering the public bigger and better 'circuses'.

There are some who can, in all sincerity, campaign for Bob Brown, as though our problems would be solved if we could get him in as Prime Minister. But my own approach is to concentrate on attitudes and actions which will enable us all to survive spiritually in such a spiritually destitute world. There have always been opponents of the truth; but today they are more in power than ever. Along with Bob Brown, I must say that real change, the kind of change that is going to save this planet, is going to cost a lot more than what most people are willing to pay. And true idealism is ultimately going to cost us our families, our friends, ojur possessions, our reputations, and even our lives. It's not a popular message, of course, but for those rare individuals who are still hungering for the truth, I am sure that they will hear the ring of truth in it.

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