The Australia We Want Is The Australia We Have

Well it’s official.  We Western Australians are not generous.  In fact not only not generous, we are mean spirited when it comes to giving money. We like to think of ourselves as generous, as fair-go-people.  The fact is we’re not.  

Statistics released today in the “The Australia We Want” report show that West Aussies gave only 0.24% of their taxable income to tax-deductible charities.

That’s okay, you say, we had our mining boom time a few years back, now we’re having our bust.  It’s okay to tighten our belts once in a while isn’t it? Think of ourselves a little more?

Except that statistic was for the financial year 2013-14.  Back then we were doing nicely thank you very much.  Wonder what the stats will say for the present bust time?   But a quarter of one per cent?  Low by any standards. 

And the lowest in the nation. The rest of Australia gave, on average, a whopping 0.35 per cent of its taxable income to charities.  And all of that is down from 0.42 per cent from eight years ago.

All those figures are significantly less than the USA gives in charitable donations.  The USA? Yep, the USA.  You know, that USA, that place we have poured scorn and opprobrium upon in the past few months.

The USA that is apparently broken and fractured, and beyond repair as a society. The USA with heaps of mean-spirited people voting for Donald Trump. Yep, that USA. That sullied nation is more generous than bright and shiny girt-by-sea Australia.  

And there we were congratulating ourselves on being so good.

It’s not all doom and gloom for West Aussies though. The stats say WA is the highest in the nation in other things. Like incarceration rates.  Here in this sun drenched state we have a fifty per cent higher rate of people looking at that sun through razor wire than the rest of the country. Goodness knows what it would be like if it were cloudy and miserable all the time.

The report shows that eight people per day commit suicide in Australia.  And that’s before groups like Go Gently Australia get in to full swing showing us how to do it better. 

And never mind lowering attendances and volunteering at churches, that’s just a symptom of what is happening across the culture.

The report finds that volunteering is down everywhere. Robert Puttnam’s Bowling Alone pointed out that trend in the USA nearly two decades few ago. We’re just busy playing catch up.

Community Council for Australia chief executive, David Crosbie, said the report’s revelations should concern us, and it offers the nation an opportunity to work towards the kind of future it wants. He stated:

“Our productivity and achievements are grounded in flourishing communities. In schools, workplaces, families and neighbourhoods.”

To which I would add churches. Many churches are flourishing communities. And recent statistics have shown that churches are ahead of the curve both in terms of giving financially to causes outside of church, and of the percentage of people involved in community service outside of the church.

And that reflects the USA too.  The less wealthy, more religious states in the USA give far more per capita than the supposedly enlightened, religiously disinclined states.  The poorer Republican states give more than the richer Democrat states.  True.

Of course this is exactly what RR Reno noted about the USA (yes, that bad old place) in his excellent book Resurrecting the Idea of a Christian Society.   Churches have the opportunity to demonstrate to a declining inwardly focussed culture what it looks like to live under the flag of generous, loving, hope-filled King Jesus.  And they’re doing it in the face of an increasingly antagonistic political elite.

So, sadly, we are getting the Australian future we want.  We are, by and large, a nation committed to meritocracy where you get what you deserve, and where, if I have made it, it’s all because of my success, and nothing to do with the opportunities presented to me courtesy of birth, ethnicity or privilege.

And by and large we’re self righteous about it.

We keep getting told to express ourselves as individuals; keep getting told that the individual is the prime unit of society; keep getting told that extreme individualism is not only possible, but it’s the highest good. We’re getting that Australia.

An Australia in which the vulnerable are left to fend for themselves. That’s the Australia most Australians want. Our giving proves it.

Either that or we’re content to leave it to the government to sort it out in an ever burgeoning welfare state we cannot afford.

David Crosbie concluded: “There are major gaps between our aspirations and our real performance.”

Of course that’s not the only conclusion to draw. It could simply be that there is no gap at all. Perhaps giving a paltry 0.25 percent of our hard earned money to others completely matches our aspirations.

That’s the Australia we have folks because that’s the Australia we want.