Anglican priest and passionate advocate for human rights Father Rod Bower spoke recently at the Happiness and Its Causes conference in Sydney.
He campaigns against unjust society and all justice, he says, is social.
Father Bower grew up in the country – everyone was related to everyone else in some way.
During his childhood he learned that he was adopted, leading him to question if he really belonged in this community.
At 15 he left to take a job in a butcher shop in Newcastle. Again, he didn’t feel he belonged in the community, but did what he had to do to fit in. And that's not, he says, the same thing.
He would sweep the footpath outside the shop every morning and take a few moments to catch up with an old school friend who would wait there for his bus. A new manager questioned him one day, with the words: "You speak to black fellas, do you?”
From that moment the ashamed teenager took to sweeping after his friend’s bus had left. He had learned from a young age about the domination system, where it’s harder to fit in if you don’t tick the right boxes.
"A just society doesn’t ask its people to change, it evolves to include them."
Fitting in, he says, is not belonging.
“A just society doesn’t ask its people to change, it evolves to include them.”
He talked about the recent controversy involving Israel Folau – about competing rights.
Both the church and the LGBTI community have rights. So how do we accommodate them?
The answer, he believes, lies with the ways of the aboriginal people of this land. For 65,000 years they lived here, and found ways to resolve their conflicts.
We share a common humanity in a common place, and we have to live in the same civic universe. Same-sex marriage has been made legal, but there are so many other injustices: the gender pay gap, the treatment of refugees.
We also have to live in the same economy – currently an economy of “not enough”.
“The opposite of poverty is not wealth, it’s enough.” We need to shift the economic paradigm.
Our domination system needs to change to a culture where people belong just by being humans sharing a common place.
“Happiness is a just society.”