Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


There's nothing virtual about Future Shock

  • 10 July 2006

We recently received some comments from a longtime reader from New Zealand, who misses Eureka Street in the print medium. He admitted that he is struggling to adapt to online media, which he says are strong on allusion, but weak on focus.

Online publishing puts us in touch with many conversations. But there is a danger that it will sever the necessary link between our awareness of the cultures and debates in the world, and the humanity at the core of our being. It's 36 years since Alvin Toffler co-wrote Future Shock. Speaking to Phillip Adams on the ABC last week, he reiterated his view that humanity and technology are in a state of collision.

Our Kiwi correspondent reflects on his own country, which was last month transfixed by a case of domestic violence in which two babies were killed. Allusion helps us make sense of such violence and tragedy. But there is a danger that it will divert us from a focus on effective solutions. Toffler speaks of the role non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have in helping to achieve what governments fail to accomplish.

One such NGO is the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), In this issue of Eureka Street, Kent Rosenthal shares his first-hand experience with JRS in Haiti, where corruption and ineptitude in government and business make for intolerable living conditions in which migration to the Dominican labour camps represents a better life. Advocacy is what NGOs are about. Advocacy is not merely solidarity, but the engineering of change that fixes living conditions and provides for human dignity.

Haiti impinges little on our world, but the problem of broken and unscrupulous governments is universal. Closer to home, there is some light on the horizon in East Timor, with the weekend's appointment of Jose Ramos Horta as Prime Minister. Paul Cleary, who worked for former PM Mari Alkatiri, implies that the appointment is one small step towards making East Timor viable. And in Australia, the St Vincent de Paul Society's John Falzon makes it clear that the the Welfare to Work legislation that took effect on 1 July represents a major setback for the dignity of this country's poor. Click here to download an MP3 audio version of this editorial.