God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Fatigue and the lack of the art to think long-term

I guess nobody wants to be in the shoes of those in political office when it comes to Covid-19. Even when the theoretical threat of a pandemic was known to academics and politicians alike, Corona visited without real warning – and the Chinese system to hide unpleasant truth did not help in being prepared. Italy paid the heaviest price at the beginning of the pandemic arriving in Europe, but meanwhile many more countries experience what it means if the implicitness of daily life is pulled away from societies.

Of course in the times of social media, we have millions of people who know it better – and whatever politicians say or do, it is wrong for quite a portion of society and pepped up by fake news, ideology and outright concious lying we have arrived in split societies all over the world: those who rebel against any sort of restrictions or even questioning the pure existence of the virus and others on the other margin of society who can’t live without their daily dose of sanitizers on everything which theoretically could bring danger into their homes.

There are also massive failures to be noticed; in my country of residence I could mention :
the ordering of vaccines by the South African government and its non-existing transparency in this regard is an example for failure to live up to the duty of those in charge; there are also noticeable behaviour patterns, which warrant criticism like the visible sheer lust for authoritarian rule as presented by some ministers and the inability of thinking with logic and consistency or deliver the needed services at all.

Globally we see fatigue when it comes to rules regarding restrictions – and the willingness to adhere to seemingly every day changing rules is clearly going down. Generally besides all complexity there is one notion which seems to be present in all countries and societies:
The lack of the art to think long-term.

It does not matter where you look, the four or five years election circles in most democracies have changed the mindset of those in charge – instead of long-term vision there are only short-term thinking having the next voting day in mind – even in non-democratic countries like China there is the tendency visible to act and react rather with short-term vision pacifying people on a certain level. Gone are the days when leaders had real visions bigger than life and certainly their political life-span. Contributing to this short circuit thinking is certainly also the instant “feedback” via social media; the phrase “shitstorm” has entered the realms of communication and decision-making, and it is often not to the benefit of society.

Looking at my country of birth Germany – the currently constant onslaught in headlines promising more lockdown, harder lockdown, longer lockdown as a permanent feature is contrarily to fostering compliance and adherence to rules. The very core of being human: closeness, touch and social interactions are on the list of forbidden fruits in pandemic times – and only measured action and perspective given in positive language will bring people to endure hardship in this regard on the long run. Pushing, threatening, confusing through changing messages will spill back – making up and pretending are the enemies of compliance and peaceful adherence.

A clear indication of the state of mind is the non-celebratory reaction of the advent of available vaccines: instead of celebrating science rightfully for working hard and in short time to bring a solution to the table, in most countries the mourning and questioning of facts and advances is mind-boggling. And it should give cause to serious reflection.

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

You reap what you sow

You reap what you sow – this saying also applies to the “greatest democracy in the world” as it is often labelled. The obvious pictures of a sitting president encouraging violence while the official representation on Capitol Hill is starting the process of certifying the normally peaceful transition of power after elections and the aftermath of storming the halls of democracy and interrupting the process shocked the world and many lawmakers in the USA – except people like Senator Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley who continue to disrupt the process by means of objections. While this is legit, the concern here remains that all those objections are based on lies and fake news; those objecting knowingly and willingly hurting and damaging the process of democracy and are enablers for a president who brought to light one of the ugliest face representing democratic USA. Four years of destruction of democratic rules and traditions came to conclusion – or to a point of no return for the time to come. The USA is split in its midst – the consequences could determine the years to come.

Using the cover of democratic rules and the freedoms associated to hurt the core of democracy and to transform it to a hollow shell or cosmetic whitewash is not unique to the USA; worldwide there is a tendency to empty the shrines of democracy for power and rule with impunity. The Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Russia are only some examples of a growing number of states trying to erode democracy and with it human rights and human dignity. Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a perfect reason to introduce measures diametral to democracy or parliamentarian democracy; the danger of which is seen in South Africa with the National Covid-19 Command Council and the seemingly endless extension of the state of disaster which gives ministers predispositioned to authoritarian habits enough space to indulge in their favourite sports.

Unfortunately democratic rules are not a guarantee that always the noble people are standing for election and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown almost worldwide, that human mankind is very much susceptible to crazy theories and fake news as well as a black/white world view. It seems that there is a collective tiredness to go for freedom, which includes the responsibility to weigh choices every day. It is easier to be told what to do and not to do; it is easier to submit to an order and run with the crowd, it is easier to look away when those, who are “not me” falling prey to unjust actions or coming short.

Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are virtues to be guarded every day – it has a reason why the US American Constitution determines the day and even the hour when the sacred duty of certifying the results on national level has to be executed. Ceremonies in this sense are not old-fashioned, but a reminder how fragile the achieved way of governance, how fragile societies and self-determination as a people are.

May the pictures we saw yesterday on TV streaming from the USA be a reminder how quick certainties can vanish – add this to the Covid-19 pandemic and even the most laziest thinker should start to realise the wake-up call of our times for humanity, dignity and human rights, but also the well-being of the human race as such. Honesty, truth and other agreed shared values must be back as fundaments for the way forward.

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Human Rights Day

The world is celebrating Human Rights Day today – and just listening to Amnesty International and other human rights organisation we can learn, that the question of human rights seems to be in deep crisis.
The “black lives matter” movement in the USA, the pictures of immigrant kids being separated and being hold in cages in the land of the free, the GLBTI free zones in Poland and developments in Hungary indicate that this year, we not only see the usual suspects when it comes to violation of human rights, but an expansion to members of the European Union and the USA, which ones was partly seen as at the forefront in the fight for democracy and human rights.
The question of immigration policies in Europe and the USA, but not to forget SE Asia contributes another dark shadow on the promise to uphold human rights in our global village. The killing of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi and the non-consequences for Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) highlight the demise of basic international understanding what constitutes human rights – and by the way human decency.

Social media and fake news are definitely also a thriving force behind the advent of more and more human rights violations and while the so-called “West” is busy with itself, China appears more and more keen to demolish any trace of human rights within their territory as clearly to be seen in Hong Kong.

What is shocking how in the open and without shame those violations are taking place and how little resistance can be seen countering it. Human rights often seem to become a sheer whisper in the arena of politics when countries deal with each other. Trump era and Covid-19 seem to have ignited a wave of shamelessness and blunt disregard for this topic.

This has to change; otherwise we will lose all what was achieved when it comes to human rights worldwide. It was a long way of ongoing battles and compromises – we are in danger to plunging back into the dark Middle Ages….

Filed under: General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , ,

Snow from yesterday

Schnee von gestern” – “snow from yesterday” are yesterday’s news – so a German saying – and today we have moved on after World Aids Day. For 24 hours the pandemic which killed roughly 33 million since the beginning of the pandemic while 76 million have been infected in the same timeframe took somehow centre stage again.
In the times of Covid-19 with so far 1.5 million death such days of memento are somehow subdued, people are too busy with the current worldwide pandemic. So the day passed more quiet than normal due to restrictions – the usual suspects gave press statements and those in the field did their duty to remind the world, but even this felt half-hearted and at times decent to not get into competition with the headline creating Corona.

For me, World Aids Day was a day of reflection on how the AIDS pandemic would have played out, if not “only those gay people” would have been hit at the beginning but everybody.
What would have happened if President Ronald Reagan had put aside his misguided religious views and acted properly and in line with his duties to protect every citizen.
What would have happened if care, worry and empathy had prevailed and not the feeling by many that they called it on themselves with their appalling lifestyle.
How many lives would have been spared, how much suffering would have been avoided? Do we care to reflect and learn out of it?

Working in the field of HIV/AIDS more than 20 years I sometimes wonder how this country I live in would have evolved without the pandemic shattering the dreams and hopes of so many South Africans till this day.

Looking at Covid-19 in South Africa, there was this déjà vu – the same mechanisms kicked in – panic, fear, uncertainty in overdrive in the health sector, stigmatisation and it took time to settle down in the health sector and reason prevailed, and now, in current times, almost carelessness on the streets in the face of the second wave.
Of course, in this case, vaccines are in reach, even if we learned yesterday that the South African government is very late to secure those for the country and pay their dues in time. Being late was also the trademark of this government in times of HIV – so nothing new on this level.

And the question remains: Have we learned out of the AIDS pandemic enough to rise to the occasion?

Filed under: Africa, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , ,

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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