God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Why preventing a second Trump term might be a global necessity

Elections are national affairs and the saying goes that national affairs remain national. Nations insist on it; especially for totalitarian governments it is a happily used tool to defend actions against their own citizens which don’t match human rights or human decencies. And under normal circumstances elections are indeed a national affair when free and fair. But there are exemption of the rule and the November elections are falling clearly cut out under the exemption.
Why?
The reasons are divers of nature, but to name a few:

Environment: in our global connected we can’t afford any delay in changing our attitude towards climate change. The refusal of the US American President to come to the table has consequences which are far beyond national affairs. Environment is not national any more.

World Peace: The unilateral withdrawal from the deal with Iran regarding nuclear weapons is a clear sign, that international contracts are at liberty to be broken for no valid reason. We see already in Boris Johnson and the EU treaty a follower. Peace between countries is not national, but a global issue in our inter-connected world.

Truth and lies: In a world battling with the fall-out of social media imperia, which have changed the dynamics of every days’ life for almost all connected via internet, promoting obvious lies and so changing a narrative as one goes along in dramatic fashion is poison for the global village. It is an international concern if and when the boundaries between facts and distortion of magnitude becomes the new norm and is copied around the world.

Racism: The human race has come to a point where there is no justification any more for racism, white domination or the promotion of white genes as “good ones” – defending and standing for an artificial concept which has brought hurt, pain, suffering and injustice in the past is against global human and civil rights and no national affair any more.

Gender Equality: Fighting a womaniser is part of a fight for human rights, which are universal. Using and abusing women and young adolescents or making friend with people who do so – and even defending such people is a no-go. Leader of democratic societies have to be on the right side of life, when it comes to this topic. The #metoo wave has provided the clearest indication, that macho behaviour with disregard to women is no national affair any more.

Fascism: History has taught us where this leads to in a society and in a country: a leader, worshipped by followers cult-like and appointments to positions serving society with the only criteria “blind loyalty”  and inflated by pseudo-religious blessings, all before mentioned items are magnified. Being one of the most powerful countries in the world, such tendencies would be a danger beyond “America first”.

The question of Trump is not a question of party politics any more, it is not about different ways to find a way forward in a complex world. The question of Trump goes deeper and touches on core values of the human race, Trump  becomes more and more an ethical problem as he is not a leader of any small country hardly noticed in world politics but a major role player in global affairs.

The people of the USA have the right to abolish their dream of “of the people for the people”; they have the right to change their experience of democracy to whatever governmental form they wish, but in the times of global connectivity the question of environment and the value of truth as well as the abolishment of racism and inequality in all forms are not national items any more. It has become an ethical question that countries of leadership in the global village must be held to higher standards than others.

Trump has also become a symbol of a world system exposed and rattled by a digital future just beginning with social media and information exchange around the world almost in real time – nowhere to hide any more. His twitter account shows the ugly face of an unrestrained white dominant reality insisting of keeping the world as it has been.
Trump also has exposed that human mankind is not that far advanced as most of us thought we are – lies and conspiracy theories find fertile ground in so many people who feel overwhelmed with the new brave world entered by the digital revolution. So maybe a one-term presidency has the benefit of exposing the lack of human development and taught us a lesson needed.

But now we are at a point where the balance of benefit and disadvantage shifts, not only for the US American people but for the global village. Time to keep things in check – and for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the planet, for the sake of the future of the human race on this planet to avoid a second term by all reasonable means possible.

 

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

Level 1

178 days, 15 hours and 59 minutes exactly is the South African lockdown old, when I write this paragraph – and we finally – since midnight – are on level 1. For many it is time to celebrate “almost freedom and normality” and for others the danger of a vicious circle starting with too much freedom while Corona is still threatening the lives of people.

Whatever it is – taking in the news from all over the world with all the horror news and predictions or the promises of a better future and new insights: this day might be a good day to reflect on the last months; the good and the bad.

And yes, there is certainly also some good to reflect on: the speed of life has indeed dropped dramatically and many people had time to not only spend it with family, but also to think about life, humanity and the role, everybody is playing in this big game called life within the universe.

Some are left with anxieties – being forced to confront oneself and the loved ones is not always only a pleasure; realising how vulnerable one is and that all perceived safety nets can collapse has brought one or the other to stand in front of own limitations. Being helpless against an invisible enemy has its challenges.

Covid-19 has also exposed all weakness of society; in South Africa old habits were visible within military and police and government often showed a real disconnect with society; authoritarian habits and the abuse of power for ideological purposes came to the forefront. South Africa was not alone, quite a lot of politicians worldwide used – or let’s better say: abused the situation for non-health related matters. And this in a time, where social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are becoming a danger for truth, awareness of reality and democracy as we know it. The gap between poor and rich has been clearly visible and in many countries, poverty, hunger and desperation has increased.

A very complex situation indeed, but also a chance for human mankind to reflect on its status and interconnectivity with “Mother Earth”, as she is often called; and the meaning of life and its perspective related to cosmos and universe, to faith and values attached.

It will be seen whether human mankind learns out of it; it will be seen whether societies will strive to be a better sounding board between us humans, serving the purpose to foster peace, reconciliation and life to the fullest for as many people as possible.

Covid-19 has mirrored us as individuals, as members of society, as social, religious and political persons a lot of true colours; the question is whether we are able to act on it or just try to go back to the good old ways.

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

Signs of anarchy

Anarchy is defined as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems. The action of the political party EFF in the last days as a result of an advertising of the company Clicks has shown all signs of anarchy:

Elected members of the National Parliament called for “attack” of their “fighters” on the company and shops resulting in fire-bombing, destruction and clear signs of violence against employees and customers. In many cases police stood by, a clearly different approach recalling the demonstration of employees of the tourism industry, protesting peacefully and in accordance with Covid-19 regulations being treated with water canons and tear-gas.

An almost silent governing party giving room for such violence without clearly speaking out and instructing the national police to not only prevent but also arrest those inciting violence is a clear sign that anarchy is tolerated when it serves an ideological purpose.
Let’s be clear:
In a democratic society violence, incited by Members of Parliament is a no-go. MPs caught in the act must be arrested and disciplined, those executing the “attack” must feel the full force of the law. Democracy provides clear opportunities to deal with racism; violence is non of them.

Nobody defends the insensitive and racist advert allowed by the company Clicks to be posted;  a company which has generally great transformation credentials: BBBEE Code 6 or transformation rating 6, 60% black employees, R8.3 million annual investment in bursaries. As it is known at the moment, there was no plot, no intention and the decision makers were certainly not “whites wanting to provoke”.  It was one of this preventable oversights, which should never have happened in our times. It was a complete unacceptable move which shows how much work is still in front of us to create a society without race categories.

But to counter this unacceptable advert with unacceptable tactics and allowing a small party which was almost not present during the Covid-19 crisis to seize the moment for renewed relevance, allowing some wannabe revolutionaries to speak for the black majority of society in violent terms while the country seeks healing is completely contra productive. And simply not acceptable if we as society are serious to allow the laws of the land and the constitution to govern our lives.

The last days clearly show that the small opposition party of the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters are not willing to adhere to the rules of our new democratic South Africa and regard it only as a play ground to be used when it fits the bill. The shameless attacks on the previous public protector on social media, the argument, that touching a woman means nothing in terms of GBV shows the unsettling truth about those in charge of the party. If we allow this to prosper, we allow for the demise of democracy and the rise of Idi Amin style leaders seducing aspiring youngsters to follow a path of bullying and destructing.

Besides corruption and the National Democratic Revolution ideology, this would be another threat for the development of South Africa as a non-racial society where equality and quality of life are a given for all who live in this beautiful country. Our developing democratic structures are simply not advanced enough at the moment to withstand such onslaught long-term.  We have to find ways to confront racism in ways leading to healing and reconciliation, not confrontation. But we also have to find ways to confront those, who abuse the right to protest in their violent ways.

We need more voices of reason, from society and faith communities, also providing the space to confront and heal in a civilized manner.

 

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

Reclaiming the City??

In South Africa, especially the Western Cape and Cape Town the question of redressing the past is a hot topic. And lot is written about the recent so-called “Tafelberg School” judgement and as usual the war of words is between those who feel Apartheid spatial planning has to be rectified and the City of Cape Town is not doing enough and those who defend the City of Cape Town’s handling of the sale which is now stopped in its track. Movements reclaiming the city want available space being used to diversify the population and to make it affordable to live in the city and its direct surrounding suburbs.

Not denying the ills of Apartheid spatial planning and the question of redressing it I fail to understand the way it is proposed by activists for many reasons.

The first is the pattern of trying to redress the past in focusing on the city which is already highly densified; in parts more than roads and services can handle.
Secondly Covid-19 has clearly shown the disadvantage of high density in cities – pointing rather than to the fact that the cities of the future will have to have more central hubs where people want to live and work.
Thirdly I believe that a future can’t work within the old patterns of thinking.

I understand all the emotions, the real ones and the ones produced for a purpose; but emotions can only be the trigger point for developments – they are not very helpful when strategizing and executing to reach the goal.

So instead of claiming the city back my question would be how we can create more central hubs within the greater Cape Town area where people want to live and work. What kind of institutions or landmarks could be established in other areas than the inner city attracting people of all heritages wanting to live and finding work around them.
Putting the Zeiss Museum or the stadium at the Waterfront or its proximity was not a really clever idea  – they could have been a focal point in other areas of the Greater Cape Town area attracting tourists, business and people wanting to live close to such a landmark.
Reclaiming the City sounds in this context like trying to use old frameworks and outdated thinking for a future which should be so different – redress should happen in creating those new spaces which are attractive and conductive to people from all skin colours.
Creating several hubs will lead automatically and naturally to a diversity in population without creating costly court actions, hurt emotions and old pattern thinking.
Young activists should work together with modern city plans to avoid learning from those who don’t want to leave their backwards turned thought motifs.
If not the yearning for a better future the practicality and common sense demanded by the Covid-19 pandemic should guide any further city development: More hubs, more space to live and work stretched out instead of densified areas just for the sake of an unjust and ugly history. Reclaiming means in this context not to create a mirror of the past, but space to live and strive for a just world giving redress to those who live now. And to ensure equality and a life to the fullest for all.

To have everywhere in the Greater City of Cape Town area the opportunity to live and work – this should be the aim of the game. And in following this aim the historic parts will change automatically as part of the whole.

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

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

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

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