Thursday, December 10, 2009

CRIKEY: What would L Ron Hubbard do? Roll up for religion at $195 a pop ...



Ah, religion — such a wonderful force for good in an otherwise uncharitable world. So many great deeds of generosity and self-sacrifice are committed each day in the name of it.

Over the weekend, I saw many such deeds on display at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, held at the Melbourne Convention Centre. My desired destination was the exhibition hall to purchase some incense or perhaps even a copy of my book on sale (at the Readings booth).

But as I approached the gates of the heavenly pavilion, some rather unheavenly-looking angels stopped and insisted I could not enter without registering for the entire Parliament.

I sidled up to the registration desk to inquire on how I could enter paradise and share in the joy, peace, love and crystals on offer. A helpful avatar seated behind the registration desk recited the following mantra:

For two sessions, it’s $100. For three sessions, it’s $150. Otherwise it’s $195 for the day.



Meanwhile, a member of the organising committee (let’s call him Dr God) approached me looking rather pleased to see me and even more pleased with himself. When I asked Dr God how much manna from Canberra the event had received, he quoted a figure of $4.5 million.

(A spokesman for the Parliament has confirmed to Crikey that these funds were sourced from the City of Melbourne, the Victorian government and the Commonwealth.)

A few minutes later, I saw a poor young earthling trying to register. He wasn’t as well-dressed as many of the international guests representing various faiths (and the way some dressed, various galaxies). Indeed, the peasant was probably dressed more like one of Jesus’ disciples or like one of the poor people Buddha first came across after he slipped out of his royal dad’s palace.

This sincere seeker of truth pleaded with the staff member to allow him in. The man was unemployed and hence unable to afford the 30-plus pieces of silver required to enjoy the company of his teacher/guru/imam/whatever. I felt like taking out my chequebook and paying for his spot, but I’d left the wretched thing back at the guesthouse.

I’m not sure what happened to the man. Perhaps he had gotten on a camel and entered the eye of a more affordable needle.

Personally I wasn’t much bothered by the price. $195 a day is quite reasonable compared to the $500 I’m used to paying just to attend an all-day professional education seminar. But this Parliament of the Gods was no professional development for lawyers.

And so it seems the money changers have turned the tables on the Messiah and taken over the temple. A poor man cannot be allowed to sit through one session and an overweight solicitor cannot even buy a copy of his own book without sacrificing much to enter so sacred an event. But it doesn’t end there. Most speakers had to pay just to appear. One volunteer who did not wish to be named told Crikey that even volunteers were charged $140 a day.

What would Jesus have said of this? Then again, what would Buddha have said? Or Muhammad? Or Krishna? Or Guru Nanak? Or L Ron Hubbard?

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf



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8 comments:

Peter said...

L Ron Hubbards would have said: "Why he Hell aren't we charging these suckers even more?"

Nicole C said...

It costs money to run these sorts of things. It costs money to be organised about the way it's run. The people attending the parliament are not poor people, sure, yet they all came together to discuss how to help the poor, as well as many other demographics, in practical and sustainable ways. It's an interchange of ideas between community leaders. It's not supposed to be a 'devine revelation' kind of preaching seminar for a beggar on the street. It's for people who already have responsibility over a charity or religious organisation to come together and share ideas, understand each other, inspire each other to continue to find better and more efficient and sustainable ways to help everyone. The system's not perfect, the price isn't cheap, yet it's better than not having such a conference at all. These kinds of gatherings are absolutely necessary, and if someone could find a better and more affordable way to run it, then, of course everyone would rather be a part of that. Also, there were concession prices; it was $52/day for a 7-day pass for students. It's not totally affordable but at least cheaper than some rock concert tickets. I'm just trying to say that of course it's not a perfect situation, however this kind of gathering is necessary if we are serious about finding practical ways of solving global problems, especially when the problems come out of people's ignorance or prejudices, and basic misunderstandings/miscommunications of intentions, etc. Establishing interfaith dialogues is not enough, however it is the first step that needs to be taken, and that has been acknowledged and repeated throughout the conference, and now the new goal is to put it all into action. I truly hope that there will be a day when the world is structured in such a way that the poor man you saw would be able to sit through a session with his "teacher/guru/imam/whatever" for free and without other agendas.

Anonymous said...

Good post. Always thought this was a bunch of crock. Fethullah Gulen was there.

At one of the first parliaments Vivekananda allegedly put the Bhagavad Gita on the table and told the others to put their sacred books on top of it. Then he pulled the BG out and all the others fell proving what? That the BG is the cornerstone? Or that he's a precursor to Hindutva fascism?

Anonymous said...

"It's an interchange of ideas between community leaders."

Bullsh*t. It was an interchange of views between unelected self-appointed people.

"It's for people who already have responsibility over a charity or religious organisation to come together"

Many of the people there are in charge of organisations consisting of themselves and a fax machine.

"These kinds of gatherings are absolutely necessary, and if someone could find a better and more affordable way to run it, then, of course everyone would rather be a part of that."

Well, for starters, do you have to have it in a massive convention centre complex?

"I truly hope that there will be a day when the world is structured in such a way that the poor man you saw would be able to sit through a session with his "teacher/guru/imam/whatever" for free and without other agendas."

That day will come when "parliaments" like this don't suck up so many resources.

Peter said...

"It's not supposed to be a 'devine revelation' kind of preaching seminar for a beggar on the street."

'A beggar on the street' - can't you just see the sort of young, middle class, private-school Lefty who'd say this sort of thing?

Peter said...

Interesting statement by Tony Abbott today:

"Well, I think there are lots of very sophisticated non-Christians who are quite familiar with the New Testament because they want to understand something of what makes western civilisation tick.

"Now, I can’t say I am all that familiar with the Koran for instance or indeed the great texts of the eastern religions but if I was the sophisticated intellectual across the board that I should be, I ought to be more familiar with these texts and one of the good things about modern religious studies courses is that they do try and familiarise people with the great texts of other religions, not jut the great texts of Christianity."

That's not too bad a worldview, wouldn't you say , Irf?

Irf said...

I cannot see exactly how the New Testament makes Western Society tick. The fact is that the modern Enlightenment was based on a rejection of the irrational dogma and imbecilic authority of the Roman Church of the time.

Peter said...

Irf, you're right. Ignorance of other people's religions and cultures is best.