Moving from Me to We
Scripture: Acts 16:6-10.
Do you think we will see an end to the strife on the waterfront? For nearly one hundred days we have had crisis on the Australian waterfront. The conflict between Patrick Stevedores whose four employment companies have gone into liquidation, the Maritime Union of Australia whose 1500 members have been sacked for inefficiency and rorting of the system, and the Federal Government which had legislated to achieve waterfront reform, has polarised the participants.
In the middle are courts, lawyers and judges of Australia, the Port Authorities, the Police who are expected to implement the Law but who are vastly outnumbered by the pickets, the National Farmers Federation who are threatening to bring their trucks to bust the blockade, 400 non-union workers who have been employed and are quickly exceeding the handling of containers by unionised labour, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, international trade unions which are banning the handling of Australian cargo, a bunch of politicians who have a great deal to say about their political opponents and individuals who have all the answers as heard on radio talk-back.
The Unions are fighting with pickets closing down the workplace, using the methods that were successful in 1890. Their leadership have no new ideas hence they encouraged the rorting that everyone despises. The employers have asset-stripped the companies of the workers legal entitlements, a reproduction of the old bottom of the harbour schemes of twenty years ago. The Government has legislated and will use police to enforce the laws.
There is not a new idea of how to break the cycle of lose-lose. It is simply stale-mate, confrontation, push and resist, argue and bluster.
Jesus gave us a misunderstood command: "love your enemies and do good to those who despitefully use you". His teaching is a powerful command that is a rebellion against history, and the lose-lose methods being employed today. The waterfront is using the principles of the Old Testament mentioned by Jesus:
Matt 5:38 "You have heard that it was said, 'Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.' 39 But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well."
Jesus says we should confront wrong doing in a positive and life-affirming way. The situation He faced was during a time of economic hardship, with bitterness and hatred, people in debt and work not available, people repossessing goods, even down to clothing, with enemies oppressing workers and using the legal system to win. Here is resentment, hatred, bitterness, refusal to give an inch. The teaching of Jesus is not a lose-lose, nor a win-lose situation. It is a third way.
The dispossessed and the deprived do not allow themselves to be humiliated. The back-handed slap on the right cheek was a means of humiliation. Jesus says not to cower or hit back. But instead say: "Try again. You cannot humiliate me. You hitting me doesn't achieve anything!" That takes the initiative right away from the attacker. If they take you to the court and have the legal system strip you down to your coat, give them your pants and shirt as well.
"March out boldly in your underpants! They look stupid for using the legal system wrongly and you have the initiative. If they use the law of the country to force you to do something, do twice as much. They are caught off guard because you are utterly unpredictable and leave them wondering if they could be sued for doing what they have."
The teaching of Jesus is different, practical and can break the stale-mate. In the present conflict, there seems to be only two alternatives: one side will win, and the other side will lose. Whoever loses will obey temporarily until they once more seek to defeat the other side. Is there a better way? Jesus says the ways of resisting and submitting with aggression and violence are not the only alternative: there is a third way; a way that is neither fight nor flight. It is a way that retains human dignity and begins to change the power equation. It is the way of win-win.
Today church spokespersons call for more debate and giving way in a win-lose fashion, proclaiming usually one side's policies. Those spokespersons are as dull as every other commentator and not one has given the answer of Jesus. The only one coming close to the Christian answer in thinking laterally is Alan Bond, who in jail, has time to think.
What would be a Christian answer? It requires the united church leaders to stand on the wharves together and say: "Stop this confrontation. Think of all not just yourselves. You wharfies pool your redundancy and buy these bankrupt stevedoring businesses. Develop a profit-sharing business with each of you being share-holders.
That will give you work plus the incentive to work efficiently. You will earn wages and also make profits for yourselves. Old rorts will be stopped by your mates who would see their own incomes decreasing. It needs $4 million to buy out the companies. You and the MUA have that. Buy them out!"
The Government should be happy seeing its labour-market reform in improved efficiency. The wharfies have their jobs and their entitlements and they will work with greater efficiency. Patrick's will have covered its losses and Chris Corrigan will have protected his shareholders investment. John Coombs will be happy to see his union members back at work. The international unions would call off their boycotts. The farmers will see their produce being shipped more efficiently.
Will this happen? The church leaders are remaining silent. Only the courts are speaking. Everyone involved wants to win not think the Jesus way. But the reality is, in this dispute, everyone is losing. And they will continue to lose until they stop talking about I and me, and learn to speak about us and we. One of the greatest distances ever covered is the distance moving from thinking about me to we. We see in the development of human personality how that growth must occur.
1. Little children quickly learn the word mine. They say it about their bottle of milk, their blanket and their toys. As they grow older they will snatch and hit anyone who threatens to take what is theirs. Unions and companies have not yet grown beyond this stage. They are still in the little children's selfish, possessive stage of owning everything.
2. Older children have to learn to share even though they do not want another having what is theirs. They must learn sharing is a mature response.
3. Young marrieds learn they cannot have their own way when they have a partner to please. A good family life requires sacrifice of personal wants for a partner's needs. Independence changes to inter-dependence. Those who do not learn this lesson soon part. Better to win a successful relationship than a personal argument. Move from me to we.
4. Parents soon learn their children have their own schedules and lifestyle. Parents must think, not of themselves but of their children. Not your pleasure but meeting their needs counts. Parents of older children have to learn not win every battle with their children for they must not be always losing.
5. Society must learn to see each issue from the perspective of how everything effects us, rather than me. Immature and selfish people add nothing to the community. The world of nations has to look at issues like the environment, global warming, war, racism, poverty and hunger from the same perspective. It is we not me. We live in a global village.
There are some interesting verses in Acts 16:6-10 "Paul and his companions travelled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them."
Some see this passage as geography v6-8 where Paul journeyed. Some see this as a great "hinge" on which the history of the church turned. Paul wanted to go East, but the Spirit of Jesus made him turn West. So Christianity turned from Asia to Europe. Some see this as how the Spirit of Jesus guides people today v9. Other stress the missionary call of a man from Macedonia pleading for the Gospel v9-10. A few see the first verses of this section is the end of the history of the early Church which the author Luke had gleaned from talking to the people who were involved. Luke 1:1-4 From now, Luke writes what he sees as an eyewitness. The passages before speaks about they. Now he speaks about we. Luke goes with Paul to Philippi and apparently stays in the new church with Lydia and the other women and the Roman jailer. Then they go on and the we passages cease until Paul returns to Philippi later. Luke then leaves to go with them to the exciting conclusion to Paul's missionary journeys. There was a growth from he and they to we. We must grow from lose-lose and from win-lose, and from lose-win to win-win. We most move from me to we.
Stephen Covey, best selling author of THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE PEOPLE and THE 7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE FAMILIES, spoke in Sydney recently on how we need to think win-win. To demonstrate, he asked the biggest, strongest man to step onto the platform for 5 minutes of arm-wrestling with him. This was an amazing demonstration.
Covey declared himself exceptionally fit, stating that he had never been beaten anywhere in the world. He puffed up his own strength and humiliated the other very large man, making him obviously determined to win. He then asked half the audience to each give a dollar everytime one competitor forced the others arm down.
There was a lot of cheering from each half as the two men faced each other. At a signal both men grasped arms, and the audience-man forced Covey's arm down. Then another round of grimacing and straining as both men tried to get the others arm down. The crowd cheered their particular man on. Covey let his arm go limp and his opponent won. Covey quietly said to his opponent, "If we let each other win we will both earn a lot of money." So the opponent then let Covey win. Then Covey let the other man win. Quickly the score raced ahead. They both racked up wins. Time was up. Then Covey said to the audience: "How much do you owe each of us?" The crowd laughed. They understood. Co-operation pays more than confrontation. Win-win is always better than win-lose.
That is what our Government, stevedoring companies and unions still have to learn. The third way, the way of Jesus, preserves their dignity, allows men to work and companies to function, efficiencies to be gained and everyone to prosper. There has to be a better way than what is happening at the moment. Christian leaders must promote the way of Jesus. It is the only lasting way to industrial peace and to personal effective living. The way of Jesus is as relevant as today when we think win-win and move from me to we.
Gordon Moyes 1999
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