Who Jumped The Queue?

David Mansfield

I had an inglorious, undecorated, involuntary and very short military career.

Although it was almost 40 years ago I cannot forget one incident. I was on a training exercise in the mountain ranges west of Sydney. We had stopped our war training and queued up for hot drinks and high carbo’ army ration biscuits. 

I was near the end of the long line of hot and hungry, tired and thirsty ‘birthday’ soldiers pouring strong tea into mugs and heaping in loads of sugar.

When my turn came I used up the last of the sugar, much to the disgust of the supervising officer behind me in the queue. He looked hard at the empty sugar bag and then fixed his narrowed gaze on me as I was stirring my tea.

When he was sure my wallaby-scared eyes were locked in the headlights of his very black, in fact, all-black glare, the words came out like sniper fire. “You %$#!” he snarled. And then he turned his back and walked away.

I trudged away, having lost my desire for the steamy sweet tea, looking for a bush I could crawl under to grieve over my greed and decry my impending dishonourable discharge. He was right. I hadn’t thought of those behind me in the queue. I had only thought of me.

The word ‘greed’ has all the feel of foul language. More multi-syllabic words like selfishness and self-indulgence soften the blow – a bit.

But greed? Me? You? The Yanks maybe, but good old egalitarian, be there for the other bloke, one for all and all for one, Australians?

God’s word, not surprisingly, has lots to say about this gutsy, gritty five-letter word. And it’s not pretty.

 

·     A greedy man brings trouble to his family (Proverbs 15:27)

 

·     Be on your guard against all kinds of greed (Luke 12:15)

 

·     No immoral, impure or greedy person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Ephesians 5:5)

 

If a country represents 4% of the world’s population but consumes 25% of the world’s resources (even with a vulnerable underclass), is there a greed problem lying behind the rhetoric of truth, justice and liberty?

But I don’t want to pick on one country, for that’s not the worst of it. If 2% of the world’s population consumes 50% of the world’s resources, and 10% consumes nearly 90%, doesn’t common sense say that it is unsustainable and downright unconscionable?

Here in Australia, if your assets (property, big ticket consumables like cars, hobbies and household wares, shares, superannuation) total $61,000, you are among the richest 10% in the world; and if your assets total $500,000 you are among the richest 1% in the world. Most Australians are in the top 10% and most baby boomer middle-class Australians, like myself, are among the richest 1%.

Seems that property takeover by boat people back in ’88 (1788, not 1988) proved to be very rewarding! Oh, for the days when it was fashionable to be a boat person.

Weren’t our forebears lucky, and weren’t we lucky that our forebears were lucky, to have been near the front of the queue when the sugar bag was big and bulging and before anyone realised that there was or would be a queue or that the sugar bag may not have been infinite?

Or did our forebears jump the queue with some help from the technology of the time. Gunpowder will always gazump a spear. Didn’t you hate people pushing in to the tuckshop queue at school and don’t you hate it in heavy traffic?

On an Australia Day a few back Michael Leunig posted a very poignant cartoon in the Herald. The cartoon was captioned THE BIG DAY OUT (as band festivals held in our cities on that day go by that name). Leunig drew two figures, one scantily clad holding a spear, and the other in British uniform pointing a musket menacingly at the first figure and yelling “GET OUT!”

But, is it now possible that the sugar bag is getting low, that the sweet stuff is running out?

Is it possible that we are ignoring those behind us in the queue, even our own children and grandchildren and the grandchildren we hope our children will have and enjoy as much as we enjoy them?

Is it possible that we are not only ignoring those behind us in the queue, but those beside us in the queue, who, hang the sugar bag, would be happy to have their tea straight or with just a dash of milk?

Is it possible for the 10% of us gorging on 90% of the world’s resources to ask, “Can we stop this madness?”

Is it possible, for example, and just for starters, to cut our consumption by 5, 10, 20, or in some cases even 50%, and give that percentage to help the world’s most vulnerable people?

Is it possible to replace the ugly face of greed with some big bulging spoonfuls of grace and generosity to those behind us and beside us, those our forbears pushed in front of, and those who have come later than us to the queue? Not to mention those who are queue-less.

Dam the greed and let grace flow!