Pastor's Blog

by Rev Robert Griffith

Pastor's Blog

by Rev Robert Griffith

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Selfishness: The second virus

by | Aug 14, 2021

I can’t believe we’re still here. I can’t believe that we are now well into our second full year of this unfathomable madness – but we are, and we don’t need to be. Yes, it is true Australia  didn’t have enough vaccines when they started being rolled out around the world. But the availability of vaccines is not our greatest problem right now. Our greatest problem is the selfishness of those who refuse to be vaccinated and the many fellow Australians who are ignoring and deliberately defying the health orders which are in place across so much of our country at present.

Despite how many have already died. Despite the fear and lack and grieving of the past eighteen months. Despite all the time we’ve missed with people we love. Despite the crippling effect this pandemic has had on our economy and the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people. Despite the many businesses which have already declared bankruptcy and will never open again. Despite every desperate plea from educated people who have invested their whole lives so that we could be prepared for a moment like this. Despite all that, people are still refusing the help that we have all been waiting two years for. They are saying no to compassion for other people. It doesn’t matter to them that the COVID variants are replicating at a startling rate. It doesn’t matter that the ICUs are filling up again, that cancer patients are having to postpone surgeries due to hospital shortages, that children are increasingly getting sick and dying around the world. Nothing moves the needle of their hearts enough to perform the simplest act on behalf of millions of people they share this nation with and can help keep safe and alive.

Many of us have sat in horror before our televisions at news time as one report after another showcases the selfish behaviour of so many fellow Aussies. Of course those who refuse to be vaccinated are leading the way in this regard, but there are many others who display their contempt for all of those people who share this great nation with them by their refusal to abide by the restrictions which have been brought in to keep us safe and suppress this virus. I cannot describe how I felt as I watched over 3,000 people protesting in Sydney recently – most of them without masks – and all of them in breach of public health orders.  Even more incredulous and infuriating was the man who now infamously travelled to Byron Bay while infected with Covid and then refused tell police anything that would help contract tracers deal with the many people who could have been infected by this selfish idiot.

Selfishness is the second deadly virus impacting our nation and it may be one we just cannot overcome. It will be here far longer than COVID or its variants, because it was here before them. I wish there was a vaccine that could make these people give a damn about other human beings; that we could inoculate them against whatever toxic cocktail of ignorance, fear, arrogance, political tribalism, and bad religion that has rendered them resistant to the suffering of others.

I suppose this shouldn’t have been a surprise. I imagine their denials of the virus and their refusal to mask up and their defiance of safeguards should have tipped me off, but still I did not expect this entrenched and strident refusal to help other people, especially the many who claim to follow a “love your neighbour” Jesus. Perhaps I expected too much from Australia. When this nightmare began, I truly believed and hoped that this would be our finest hour: that we would be fully invested in one another in ways we hadn’t been in decade;  that we would all recognize our interdependence; that we would set aside every political affiliation and religious agenda and do the kinds of sacrificial acts Australia had been known for in times of crisis.

When the vaccines were launched I felt a cathartic wave of relief, believing that we would soon be living lives that somewhat resembled what they looked like two years ago; that by now some semblance of normalcy would have returned. Instead, we are facing another flood of outbreaks, another school year decimated by sicknesses and stoppages, another season of postponed visits and interrupted plans, destroyed weddings, capped funerals and yes, another wave of death. Please don’t tell me how low our death rate is compared to other nations – that cold, heartless use of statistics does nothing for the families who have just had to bury a loved one and the age of those dying is getting younger by the day. Why does this not frighten those who continue to shrug off this pandemic and ignore the measures put in place to keep people from dying?

I think the real stomach-turning thing about all this, is that it isn’t being driven by some invisible, insidious virus that floats through the air, the virus cannot infect people by itself – it is passed person to person by our family members and neighbours and coworkers: by the people we share this nation with, those we rely on to do the right thing, those our health and livelihoods and futures are tethered to. We cannot escape them or defeat them and so we are victims of them: we too will pay the penalty for their recklessness, defiance and apathy; the human collateral damage of their destructive choices will be ours, as well.

My fear is that this is going to be the story of these difficult times – not of the faceless public health threat that attacked this nation and the world – but the cruelty and selfishness of those we know and love and live with, who gave it every opportunity to ravage us, who were willing accomplices to the death and the suffering, who said no to compassion when it came calling. Until love, mercy and kindness take hold in the hearts of these people, until they are burdened with the common good of all those around them, that lack of empathy will be a sickness that will destroy us.

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