TUMBY BAY - Among its multitudinous and often conflicting predictions, adages, sayings and slogans the bible includes the curious assertion that “blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).
In typical chauvinistic fashion it defines meekness as a solely human attribute, preferably confined to the male gender. In the ‘good book’, women and girls, as well as dogs and cats, don’t get a guernsey when it comes to leadership.
Among the elements of meekness Christians include these attributes: righteousness, humility, teachability, compliance, patience, selflessness and willingness to follow the gospel’s teachings.
There’s lots of room in there to include rapacious capitalists, rabid evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers and the odd prime minister and president.
Just what these so-called meek people might inherit is not made clear. I don’t think the bible mentions climate change, nuclear winters or scorched earth style resource development.
Whether the earth will actually be worth inheriting by the meek is a bridge too far for me to contemplate.
That aside, there is a contrary view that I suspect the aforementioned capitalist, evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers, prime ministers and presidents secretly believe to be a more potent belief.
Peter Salmon, who runs the Ex-Kiap website sums it up nicely when he says, “He who has the gold does make the rules and that Darwinian selfish gene will ensure that the meek will not inherit the earth.”
This is a widely held view that is deliberately not articulated widely. In essence it means, “Who gives a stuff about what we do to the earth, as long as we’ve got plenty of money we can buy our comfort and survival.”
Clearly the meek inheriting the earth is an idea that needs a bit of work. Among other things it needs decoupling from wealth, gender and species.
The recent global financial crisis of 2007–2008 is instructive in this respect. Not so much because of the financial trauma it created but because of the people who didn’t even notice it.
Who were these lucky people you might ask?
They were, of course, those who lived outside the global and domestic economies and maintained a sustainable lifestyle not dependent upon money. In short, the good old bush kanakas tending their kaukau patches out in the sticks.
This fact has been pointed out a number of times by various commentators, including those who subscribe to PNG Attitude. A few learned papers have also been written about it.
Ralph Regenvanu, anthropologist, artist and Vanuatu’s foreign affairs minister, was one of the first to comment on the resilience of subsistence farmers during said crisis.
Should a larger catastrophe descend on the world, leaving financial systems mortally wounded and the environment badly degraded, it will not be the meek who survive but those people who can adapt and independently look after themselves.
Those people are most likely to be subsistence farmers living in places like rural Melanesia and plus the odd hippy dwelling in a cave.
So perhaps we need to abandon the biblical decree and update it a bit.
“Blessed are those with dirt under their fingernails and no bank account, for they shall inherit the earth” (Phil 1:1).
In whatever condition of earth the rapacious capitalists, rabid evangelists, wowsers, hypocrites, climate change deniers, prime ministers and presidents leave behind, of course.