Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

40 Days: Commonality


Welcome to 40 Days, a reflective journey for Eureka Street subscribers beginning Ash Wednesday and running through until Easter. Each week we’ll bring you a reflection on a theme, followed by some reading from our archives to help you reflect more deeply throughout the week. You might read them all at once, or sample one each day of Lent.

Our third reflection is from Andrew Hamilton SJ, and explores the theme of ‘Commonality’. 



Some of the most poignant images of the late eighteenth century are of the fencing of common land in England and Scotland and the ruins of homes left upon them. The privatisation of the commons has been defended because it made the land economically more productive. That may also be true of the replacement of small farm holdings by large companies today. The expulsion of tenants, too, provided the proletariat for the mines and cotton mills of the Industrial Revolution and produced great wealth. But the human cost was great.

The intrusion on the commons for private profit and economic efficiency has continued in our society. Public housing is replaced and sold to private owners. Public land is also alienated for private enterprise. The internet is plagued by advertising. Public hospitals and health care are increasingly supplanted by large commercial providers.

In the face of such developments we need to treasure such unfashionable concepts as the commonwealth, the common good and the houses of commons – the places for deliberation and decision where what is in the common interest is given priority over the benefit of the few. At a time when human life can be both changed irrevocably and ended by destructive weaponry, climate change, developments in AI and genetic engineering, our societies need to develop places and practices of discernment in which we can give precedence to what makes for human flourishing over what serves sectional and private profit. 

These themes have been often discussed in Eureka Street. Some of these pieces from our Archives might be of interest. 




What makes a site sacred?

Andrew Hamilton writes, ‘Is it really reprehensible to laugh at such violations of property rights? Jesus seemed to display a similarly cavalier attitude to property. He told his disciples to go fish for the temple tax he owed. He attacked the economic base of Jerusalem when he whipped the stall holders out of the temple. He also told a story about a crook manager whom his master praised for cooking the books in order to ensure his future employability.’ [From 2006]

Read more here. 


The continuum of spatial justice in Australia

Cristy Clark writes, ‘Arguing for greater public access to green space in Australia can lead to some fairly radical debates around the legitimacy (and desirability) of enclosure and the importance of protecting and claiming the commons.’ [From 2020]

Read more here. 


Can you hear the gilet jaunes sing?

Sue Stevenson writes, ‘What is more romantic than people who have been told by those who hold all the legal and economic cards that they should just hustle; people who live in the most socially isolated, community-deficient and emotionally straining time of our species' history, who have so much to be scared of and so much to give up on and so little of the community we are wired to require, getting up Saturday after Saturday and taking to the streets to be tear-gassed?’ [From 2019]

Read more here. 


A perfect stranger’s perfect gift

Maureen O’Brien writes, ‘Always open to seeing something deeper in the most ordinary events, I continued to muse on what had prompted the young man to hand the flower to me. He could just as easily have handed it to the friend I was walking with. We were both about the same age. To a stranger there would have seemed very little difference between the two of us.’ [From 2016]

Read more here. 


Our future is public

Andy Lynch writes, ‘Life in 1850s Melbourne was by no means just or stable, but the response to instability serves as a useful blueprint to the world of 2014. In the face of a fivefold population between 1851 and 1861 and insufficient resources, the response was not to shut out, but to create and 'throw open' the society to new ideas and spaces for human flourishing.’ [From 2014]

Read more here. 


Coastal communion

Gregory Day writes, ‘We rolled the ute down the hill towards home in neutral, quite content I think then with our station in the season, and also with the diverse rituals that would lend some kind of richness to the cold winter of southerlies ahead. Perhaps Patrick was thinking more of the call of the ball and the larkabout teamwork of the Saturday mornings, but as we pulled into the driveway I was simply looking forward to revisiting, thanks to him, the call of the humble church at night.’ [From 2011]

Read more here. 





Andrew Hamilton is consulting editor of Eureka Street, and writer at Jesuit Social Services.

Main image: (Getty images)

Topic tags: Andrew Hamilton, 40 Days, Lent, Commonality



submit a comment

Similar Articles

The changing self

  • Gillian Bouras
  • 20 March 2024

Times are changed and we are changed with them. As societal norms evolve, from fashion to expressions of freedom and political attitudes, how does each of us adapt while preserving our core selves? 


We must work so that all can rest

  • Andreana Reale
  • 18 March 2024

In today's 24/7 Grind Culture, rest has become rare. Rebuilding a healthy culture of rest will involve supporting workers with decent wages, campaigning against companies that exploit employees, and investigating supply chains that use slavery and exploited labour to produce their products.