Friday 27 August 2021

Order Amid Disorder

Spring has sprung! Photos taken by Dr Paul Hine in the Rose Garden this week 

In the early days of the week, it was an exercise in beauty to witness the sun rise and, with it, the amber brilliance of the morning against the animated sounds of the birds as a new day beckoned. The seasons are changing in their predictable pattern, the colder days of winter giving way to the promise of warmth and the vitality of spring. There is a cadence and a rhythm to this process: the planetary cycle that gives promise of another stage of order with the certainty of summer approaching. Even the drenching spring rains in the middle of the week added to the freshness of spring after the drier months across the winter. Deciduous trees are budding with the shoots of their summer foliage and the colours of a new season that is making its presence felt are apparent everywhere. A walk on 4th Field during this time will incur the wrath of the magpies, who make manifest their remarkable aerial gymnastics as they swoop fiercely to protect nests and the eggs sheltered in them. The symmetry of nature and the cycles of change as they come into view are arresting and profound: symbols of the order and sequential flow of phenomena greater than we have the capacity to know and control.

The patterns of daily life under COVID-19 can be a little too highly ordered and repetitive at times through the many restrictions that impose demands and limitations. Beginning each day in the Virtual Timetable Mode (VTM) brings with it the mechanical process of opening the keyboard and entering Zoom space. It is now routine, and because of it the appeal of the early days of sleeping a little longer, dressing in mufti, and navigating busy public transport routes has lost its sheen. The isolation associated with the desk, the screen, and virtual format has become a little too predictable and the lack of social stimulation beyond the home has become a challenge in and of itself. And, we have some time to go before this rigid daily order and pattern is altered, given the context of Greater Sydney and the situation across rural NSW. How we crave the opportunity to move beyond the immediacy of our respective LGAs, to create some new frontiers that will break up some of the highly regimented structure synonymous with the COVID-19 regime.

That accepted, the disorder of the world in macrocosm currently presents a very confronting and disturbing picture. Daily scenes of the crisis in Afghanistan, where countless thousands are flocking to airports and border regions to seek asylum, attest to the suffering, persecution and distress that is being felt by so many. The scenes of carnage perpetrated by ISIS overnight have been anticipated for days, but each day brings with it Sophie’s choice: to risk safety through seeking asylum or stay and confront persecution. The sheer desperation and fear that are evident is a testament to the political volatility and disorder that exists, those that are responsible for the forced evacuation of thousands to the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Australia, and beyond. What Afghanistan will look like under the Taliban rule is something very difficult to predict. The orthodoxy that accompanies rigid Sharia law imposes order of a particular kind, but in the process, its prescriptive dogmatism is a bulwark against freedom and curtails personal liberty. The consequences for those who oppose the strident demands of theocracy are severe and far-reaching

The instability and disorder of Afghanistan is replicated in many other regions throughout the world. The threat of civil war in Tigray continues to loom, with up to five million people at the mercy of conflicting forces that bring such instability and hardship on a daily basis. Across the arid and conflict-riven landscape of Africa – Ethiopia, Sudan, Mozambique, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and many other countries – over 70 million people are in need of acute aid on a recurrent basis. The impact of climate change, disease, locust plagues, military takeovers and systemic corruption exacerbates the enormity of the situation for those who are subjected to it. In Yemen alone, a country of 29 million people, over 24 million – in excess of 80% of the nation – requires aid as a result of political and military conflict and famine. And the disorder in troubled regions across the world intensifies daily. Let us keep in our prayers those who are so deeply and adversely affected by it

On a very different note, the College received confirmation during the week that it has been unconditionally re-registered by the New South Wales Education and Standards Authority (NESA) for the next five years, based upon the quality of documentation and evidence that was submitted earlier in the year. While the information arrived in a bureaucratic memorandum, at the time of inspection the College was commended for its response to all aspects of the registration process. My thanks are extended to the many who contributed to this over a six-month period, that now sees the College unconditionally approved to deliver the educational program until December 2026.

As we confront our own daily challenges with COVID, let us be grateful for the order we enjoy In Australia, when compared to so many troubled regions throughout the world.

Dr Paul Hine