Why we exist

Glen Beasley reflects on SOFiA’s raison d’etre.

SOFIA aspires to the courageous exploration of ideas, which often necessitates scrutinising institutions, questioning the myths and challenging the assumptions of a “lucky” country that may have enjoyed unsustainable privilege and wealth for way too long. Inevitably, we have had to explore alternative ways of seeing the world and understanding our place in it. Our conversations unashamedly draw on the disciplines of history, philosophy and science. We are open to what culture, religion and the lived experience might have to teach us. I would like to think we may have learnt a few things along the way, because it appears as though we Australians don’t cope too well when some of our institutions and our orthodoxies, our National myths and our Aussie character, are found to be hollow.

You’d have to have your head up a hollow log to not be aware of the many current news items that continue to shake our confidence in Australian institutions and our belief in the fundamental decency of the Australian character. Failure to act on climate change, national security issues, politicisation of the Referendum on the Voice, the PWC scandal, the disturbing accusations surrounding a national war hero, the reluctance of Australian institutions to pay compensation to sexual abuse victims, just to name a few.

As little children, we knew that Mummy and Daddy were there to look after us, the Policeman is there to protect us, the doctor is there to keep us well, and the priest is there to tell us about God.  As we grow older we learn that none of these things are totally true, and some of these things are not true at all. Hopefully, as we mature, we develop the capacity to respectfully question received wisdom, popular opinion, common sense, and (perish the thought) even our own opinion, without becoming aggressive, defensive or uncomfortable. Maybe, along the way, we develop the language and the tools to speak out in a considered and an informed way on matters of purpose and meaning.

If being part of SOFIA has helped us develop some of these skills, then we could have done far worse. Australia could use more people with these qualities.

Disclaimer: views represented in SOFiA blog posts are entirely the view of the respective authors and in no way represent an official SOFiA position. They are intended to stimulate thought, rather than present a final word on any topic.

Photo by Uta Scholl on Unsplash