Annual Simone Weil lecture

Join ABC Online religion and ethics editor Scott Stephens at the annual Simone Weil Lecture on Human Value, ‘We do not breathe well’: Tending the moral conditions of our common life.

Over the past three years, nothing has preoccupied us more than the air around and between us.

First came the pandemic – which made us profoundly wary of our fellow breathers, unwilling to occupy the same space lest they deprive us of the ability to breathe.

Then came the murder of George Floyd – which provoked many hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets with banners or their bodies inscribed with the words “I can’t breathe”, signifying the extent to which the toxic legacy of cruelty and contempt had condemned them to a state of moral suffocation.

Finally, the 'airwaves' themselves, the mass media – both mainstream and social – which once bore the promise of turning the hearts of citizens toward one another in mutual recognition, grew so foul with all manner of mendacity, hatefulness, contemptuousness, vanity and outright intimidation that it has become effectively unbreathable.

Under the conditions of a pandemic, we have become unreal to one another and inattentive to one another’s words. Now, as the pandemic seems to be nearing its end, can we yet recover a proper sense of what it might mean for democracy to become a moral reality?

Scott Stephens
Scott Stephens is the ABC Online religion and ethics editor, and the co-host, with Waleed Aly, of The Minefield on ABC Radio National. With Waleed Aly, he has also co-authored the Quarterly Essay 87: Uncivil Wars – How Contempt is Corroding Democracy (2022).

The Annual Simone Weil lecture
Lecture details

Tuesday 8 November, 6pm arrival for 6.30pm start
Philippa Brazill rsm Lecture Theatre
ACU Melbourne Campus
20 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy
Registration is essential by Monday 7 November as places are limited.

Register to attend in Melbourne

Thursday 10 November, 6pm arrival for 6.30pm start
ABC Brisbane Centre
Studio 420 Main Production Studio
114 Grey Street, South Brisbane
Registration is essential by Monday 7 November as places are limited.

Register to attend in Brisbane

Both lectures will be followed by a Q&A session with the audience.

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