I am not long back from a fabulous few days in Perth, Western Australia. What a beautiful city! I was there for the annual conference of the Society for New Testament Studies, being held for only the second time in the Southern Hemisphere in 68 years of meetings. Each day we travelled from accommodation in the central city to Murdoch University. On the one hand this was a beautiful journey as we crossed the Swan River, on the other hand we experienced a well integrated, efficient transportation system which, frankly, NZ cities could aspire to! The warmth of Perth in the middle of winter was impressive too ...
I will probably have more to say about insights gleaned from the conference and people met there over the next few days. But my thought for today is about the transference of wealth. Perth is a city which exudes wealth, measured by new roads, fast trains, gleaming buildings and a general air of prosperity. Each day we passed the nearly completed Fiona Stanley Hospital-a large complex built with that air of prosperity which says "no corners cut here; nothing but the best." Before my eyes the economic story of modern Australia was being illustrated: as China's mine, it has been on a good earner, and the income has paid for an infrastructure which countries like NZ (at best we are China's farm) can only envy.
Transference of wealth here is partly about transference from country to city (apparently 90% of Western Australia's population lives in Perth), from dirt to dollars and from the labours of a few miners to the households of a vast population of other workers supporting the mining industry. But mostly the transference is between nations. China needs iron ore and coal, Australian mines supply it, and cities such as Perth prosper. Yet what China produces is sold to many nations. The machine I write this on and the one you are reading it on likely were made in China. Wash your socks or your dishes tonight and it could be in a machine made in China. In the case of computers, an American corporation like Apple also benefits. A superb irony of this kind of reflection is that wealth is distributed in the modern capitalist economy with China as a pivot point in a manner unforeseen and unintelligible to Mao Tse Tung!
Today, here in NZ, is Social Services Sunday. This morning I heard a good sermon on recognising the needs in the world around us, particularly by getting close enough to people to recognise their needs. But might it also be true that we will assist the meeting of needs by also recognising the complex manner in which wealth is transferred around the world in order to work out effective ways of insuring local access to that wealth?
One irony of life in my country is that we measure our wealth in terms of our scenic beauty. We feel we are better off living in a beautiful country and we don't mind earning a few bucks from tourists willing to pay money to also share in the scenery. We get grumpy when politicians suggest that we might exchange a bit of the scenery for more dollars via mining. But a visit to Australia is a reminder that the benefits of mining are impressive.
Have there been any sermons in NZ today urging the sacrifice of tracts of scenery in order to increase the monetary wealth of our nation so that we might better help those in need here?