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August 24, 2007

What Does Selfless Service Really Mean?

Filed under: Culture And Society — Vasilios Theodorakis @ 6:00 pm

People often miss the point of their ‘Judaeo-Christian faith’ especially in regards to ‘selfless service’. We ignore what our belief systems tell us to do and instead do what makes us feel ‘warm and fuzzy’. In the end, free will (for better or worse) ensures we all ‘believe’ what we want to believe, even within our own religion’s framework. And even if, believing it means we’re prepared to die to prove the world is flat.

Though we all do this (to some extent), all that really counts is what we “know to be true”, i.e. that which exists beyond belief and which presents itself “after the dark night of the soul” (after your Faith has been destroyed by doubt and reconstructed using material that you “know to be true”). Let me put it another way – to quote Seth in the movie “City of Angels” – ‘some things are true whether you believe in them or not’. The problem is, we often ignore what we “know to be true”.

For example, you can construct as many layers as you want to hide the facts, but reality and existence are not changed by those layers. Just look at all the misery in people’s lives, even though they’ve constructed and surrounded themselves with layers we now know as lifestyles! One can choose to live such lifestyles, or one can choose not to live such lifestyles – its up to the individual – the principle behind it is still the same – free will. What doesn’t change however is that the “lifestyle” doesn’t alter a person’s underlying reality.

A friend of mine, recently raised the fact that she knows her ‘ego wants it (life) to be more sensational and more exotic’, so she’s making decisions accordingly. “The ego wants it (life) to be more sensational and more exotic…”? What path have we convinced ourselves to trundle down? Is she for example, about to make decisions that will lead her into “selfless service” or into “having an adventure and feeling good about herself”! What I don’t understand is this, if one REALLY wants to work with the needy, what’s wrong with helping the poorer Indigenous Communities in one’s own country. I can count on one hand the number of schools that teach children their Indigenous Language and English, their Culture and Mainstream Culture, etc. especially in countries like Australia. Few here, want to work with or even respect this country’s original people. No one wants to LEARN their language, and it continues to be an indictment on this nation as to how many Indigenous Australians are not treated as equals!

We should be ensuring that our decisions (regarding selfless service) are part of the solution, not part of the problem. I’m sick and tired of “community workers” going into other contexts across the globe (i.e. other countries), perpetuating the colonialist model of the 19 Century, setting themselves up as the experts and teaching the “locals” how good things can be. I’ve been through this again and again with misdirected social workers and I can’t stand the outcome – both the inflated egos and the downtrodden locals. If one wants to go down this path – no one can really stop them, but they shouldn’t expect others to support an action that patronises another group of people. This approach has already been perpetuated by far too many Westerners. If one ignores history, because they think its boring, one risks making the same mistakes again and again.

Copyright © Vasilios Theodorakis 2007

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