Hall #6 Are we neighbours?
So here I am, standing in the next hall, getting even more confused. For I’m hearing voices in my head. One Voice, at least: that of Land. An artwork in this hall sets me thinking; it’s a painting of the parable of the Good Samaritan, and I can’t help but see Land as the traveller, set upon by thieves – mining corporations, governments, land developers, farmers, housing commissions and spiritual groupies – who take and take what they want and then move on, sometimes leaving Land half dead.
The Good Samaritan Vincent van Gogh 1890 Kröller-Müeller Museum, Otterlo
I grieve at this sight and wonder what to do – rely on existing regulation? Lobby to strengthen environmental protection, maybe at a cost to economic growth and development? Convince myself that this is just the nature of the world in which we live; there are some winners and some losers, and there’s little we as individuals can do about it? It’s just a matter of finding the right balance, isn’t it, to maximise the Common Good?
I take a closer look at the painting to see if it can give me any guidance, and am rewarded with even greater confusion. For now the traveller has taken on my appearance. I am the one wounded, and it is Land who is restoring me – feeding me, offering me its mineral wealth, providing spiritual sanctuary to me, giving me a home – all at a cost to itself. Is Land, then, already acting as a neighbour towards me, ministering to me as I journey along life’s painful path?
I pause to let the implications of this question sink in.
Jesus told the story of the Good Samaritan, in response to the question Who is my neighbour?, asked by a hostile audience familiar with the command to love your neighbour as you love yourself. They despised Samaritans. Yet, begrudgingly, they admitted that the Samaritan acted as a neighbour. This admission was so counter to their world view.
I don’t like the direction in which this line of thinking is headed. Should I work to heal Land at a cost to myself? An easy way out would be to regard the land just as an object, with the voices in my head being merely the product of an overactive imagination. After all, isn’t this the accepted worldview of Land?
Maybe this is ‘passing by on the other side’, like the people who chose not to help the wounded traveller, but, I rationalise, there are good reasons for this sensible pragmatism. Taking the emotion out of the issue helps to find the right policy ‘balance’. A nice neutral policy approach. I cannot regard the land as ‘neighbour’, for that injects both feelings and the interests of a new stakeholder into consideration of the right policy balance, that might threaten the accepted goal of economic growth and development.
But the voice from below won’t be silenced. Justice! it cries, as did Wilberforce in seeking to end slavery. The voice in my head gently asks Who is your neighbour? I stop. It’s time to have a break; this wander through the Exhibition on CSG mining is starting to overwhelm me.