God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Covid-19 Lockdown & Trauma


Trauma100 days of Lockdown, I have written and tried to summarize it in my last blog – but one topic, which needs to have its rightful place in an extra blog entry is something, most have not spent too much time on:
The trauma, this crisis and the lockdown has caused for most of the people, and the trauma-related consequences as an individual or as a society – in the case of South Africa anyhow adding to all the burden of a past still not healed.

Being threatened by an invisible enemy is already difficult to comprehend for many – but taken out of normal life completely is a complete other category of trauma:

Think of those living alone and suddenly for weeks without real social contact and maybe nobody to turn to;

think of those whose security was family and suddenly they were not allowed to see them, visit them, be with them, when they became sick or even died;

think of those who were exposed to police or military brutality, suddenly made a criminal after a life without any running into trouble with the law.

Think you those who had been forced to live in an abusive relationship for weeks without being able to run away;

think of the nightmares of the kids not really understanding why all is suddenly so different;

think of the people in townships who were asked, often without real explanation to distance themselves from each other, to stay home in a dense environment without income, food or perspective.

Also think of the people in the health sector fighting every day to keep patients alive and feeling at the same time threatened by the small little virus themselves and consequently their loved ones.

Life, as it has been for many born as “free” suddenly changed in a way, they never could have imagined; and those who have lived through wars and famine – how much déjà vu have they experienced in the last weeks. And not to forget here in South Africa all the limitations during apartheid times – again confined, berated, told what to do by politicians so far away from reality and enforced by a security cluster resembling in parts past experiences.

Being helpless and having to surrender to an apparatus run by people who have allowed, willingly participated or gained from the so-called lost years of state capture and corruption in South Africa creates another trauma.

And for those following world politics there is another trauma to add in the shape of a Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Xi Jinping, Victor Orbán, Rodrigo Duterte and others, showing that human mankind has certainly not reached the point of reasonable development, most of us would have thought we have developed. It’s shocking…

TraumaTrauma must be addressed and worked through – and here would be normally also religious institutions coming into the picture besides the professionals – but the mere absence of leadership in this sector in this time of crisis in so many countries created a trauma itself, but that might be a topic for another time.

Individual and collective traumata – this crisis is so much more than just a health or economic crisis…

 

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

100 days of lockdown and counting

Here in South Africa we are reaching the mark of 100 days in lockdown; certainly a time to look back and reflect on the result.

The lockdown was introduced for the first 3 weeks to prepare the nation for the onslaught of the virus – then extended 2 weeks further to finalise readiness. Going to lockdown level 4 the first discontent became clear between government and society: rules which did not make sense, authoritarian behaviour of ministers, a National Covid-19 Command Council which defies our constitution, criminalization of more than 200 000 people for “breaking the law” of the lockdown. At the same time a rise in gender based violence and farm murders; and obviously the stealing from government coffers never stopped really and on reflection – and there was more than enough time – it was blatant clear that buying alcohol or cigarettes is more criminal than stealing billions of Rand. The ideology of the ANC government was highlighted by the fact, that the national Minister of Social Development tried several times effectivly to block NGO’s from feeding the hungry and assisting those left behind. Only the ruling party hands out goodies. The latest episode of allowing politicians tainted by the VBS scandal to return to office underlines business as usual.
Arriving beginning of June in lockdown level 3 we see currently that the Eastern Cape and also Gauteng starts to show a lack of preparedness – that all the talk of flattening the curve and giving time to prepare was not used appropriately. The attempt to abuse the health crisis to force ideological driven economic reforms surely contributed to unemployment and poverty. Some sectors like the tourism and hospitality industry is still held hostage by a questionable competent Minister of Tourism and a BEE ideology, which served the few and left the majority in the darkness of poverty.

Covid-19 has exposed South Africa in many ways – the brutality of the military and police in the first weeks of the lockdown left people dead – and the unwillingness of the authorities to investigate reminded many of the Apartheid times attitude. The ignorance of democratic and parliamentary rules by those ruling the country gave witness on how fragile our new democratic system is. The gapes between those with money and those in poverty were exposed in dimensions often only addressed when election time is looming. The attempts to illegally occupying land and the somehow and often brutally looking reaction of the state showed how helpless situations can become in finding a meaningful solution. The mere fact that the Western Province – led by an opposition party –  is without any doubt the best organised province in this crisis, did not really help in the situation as the race question and the entitlement of the ANC does not allow for anyone is better as the liberator turned politicians. Lastly Covid-19 showed how often disconnected politicians are from the reality of ordinary South Africans.

Are there any positives? Indeed, they are: the amount of readiness to assist within civil society was amazing, the partnering of more affluent areas with townships a blessing for many. For those having the permits to go and work the ability to get to and from work without standing for hours in the rush hour contributed certainly to the well-being of the drivers. We learned that lots can be done from the home office, for many, the time of being forced to slow down gave time also for reflection on what is really important in life. The virus taught many a lesson – and the virus was in my humble opinion also a “sign of the times” which I hope churches will exploit more and more. Being not system relevant must have come as a shock for many church leaders, as the insight, that people can live good lives without going to church every Sunday. Worship can take so many forms – and especially for clergy there is much more to reflect on relevance and role in the religious sector.

If we had a government with more common sense and less ideology our lockdown would end and the only reasonable tools would be applied to go forward: wearing a face mask, physical distancing in crowded situations, testing and tracking, quarantine and isolation for those infected. Emphasis would be laid on those measures and our economic would be given the chance to avoid a complete meltdown in many sectors. The message of being together in this and caring for each other could allow for the healing and overcoming racial divides; this virus has not only exposed the weakness of our society but is also a chance which until now not really has been taken up by those entrusted with governing the nation.

South Africa has until now not matched the worst predictions which stood at the beginning of the pandemic. The numbers are still reasonable and some would argue the economic lockdown has more negative consequences than the virus ever can have. The judgement is still out, but looking at the rise of unemployment, retrenchments, closures of business and downgrading of our system the future looks indeed bleak for many haunted by poverty anyhow.

So where do we stand after 100 days of forced lockdown? Opinions will differ on the past – may there be more common sense, empathy  and meaning for the next steps out of the crisis by harvesting more the good things happened in the time of need.

Filed under: Uncategorized

All was done to the best of the ministers ability

On Friday the Western Cape High Court dismissed an application to declare the lockdown regulations in South Africa invalid and the National Covid Command Council unconstitutional. It walked a fine line making it clear that it was “not for the courts to prescribe to government how it should exercise its mandate in those circumstances.” And given the backtracking of President Ramaphosa regarding the NCCC he clearly avoided a different outcome by changing tune about the role of this structure of government.
While many people were upset with the ruling I thought it was a fair legal assessment – time and circumstances and the persons involved are creating automatically the limitations of actions. I even think that the confusion and intent not to do harm to society was genuine – but ideology and the always backward drifting thinking of national ministers made the case for using and abusing the situation to change the game as such – with all the useless discussions on cloth, cigarettes and other limitations tossed at the life of ordinary South Africans.
Fact remains that lives were not only disrupted but the balance of lives and livelihoods massively disturbed – millions without work and millions will be out of work and income because of the action our government took to fight the virus.  We are still in lockdown and looking at the destruction of the tourism industry and the application of BEE in questions of compensation there is the question of race and racism, the demons of the past, underlying very present in the actions of government in a crisis.

Common sense dictates that the virus will be with us for the years to come; common sense also tells us that lockdowns don’t work on a long term – and instead of hampering the economics much longer government should concentrate on things which simply are the only existing weapons in the fight against the virus:
hygiene,
wearing a face mask in public,
keeping a distance in crowded places,
testing and tracing as much as possible,
motivated hospital staff and enough equipment.
Those measures should be on top of government’s list – those are all things which could be done by all South Africans with a little bit help here and there. Motivation and encouragement instead of finger wagging would help to achieve a collective effort. An effort which would allow for moving out of lockdown, but also leaving behind all the politicising of the Covid-19 crisis.
The numbers of daily new infections per 100 000 inhabitants in most districts of South Africa don’t indicate the need for a further lockdown – they indicate the need for awareness and for taking the people on a road of recovery they can feel, sense and be part of. Looking at other countries like Germany, the magic number for stricter intervention is 50 new infections per 100 000 persons – only the City of Cape Town would fall under more observance applying such measurements.

Covid-19 has laid bare the inequality of society, but also the ideology driving most people in power trying to control every aspect of ordinary South African’s life. It was and still is a time of temptation for power-hungry ministers and party structures; the attempt of Minister Zulu to control the feeding schemes of NGO’s being the latest one. Covid-19 is a chance to unite South Africans and to start the healing process for a society still yearning for it overcoming using and abusing alcohol to escape the pain as a collective by the quantities consumed as a nation.

The fight against Covid-19 calls for abolishing the old systems of thinking in struggle terms, in race categories – its is a chance to create a new narrative born out of crisis, but for that the ability of ministers must grow exponential.

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

GBV horror

stop-gender-based-violenceIt seems to explode after easing the lockdown a bit in South Africa: Gender based violence. So much so that President Ramaphosa used his last address on national TV to call it a war against women, not to forget children.
The news of victims being raped, killed, burned, thrown away next to roads and motorways are piling up while social media is used by the police to celebrate having arrested another load of cigarettes on their way to the consumers during prohibition of sale.
It is a fact we also know from other instances:
While stealing millions gives you a free pass surfing the waves in lockdown sets whole cohorts of policemen in motion. More than 250 000 South Africans became criminals during the first weeks of lockdown while thieves enjoy their time as Members of Parliament seemingly untouched.
And there lies also the problem with Ramaphosa’s appeal to wage war against the war on women: he lacks meanwhile often the political authority let alone moral credibility to be really heard and listened to.

The South African society has first to start much more reconciliation and healing before this war can be won – and for this to happen it needs credible leader and generally a leadership which does not use the past as a weapon to keep wounds open, BEE as a Ponzi scheme to enrich the connected and allow for corruption to fester and poison further an anyhow potentially volatile situation.

South Africa’s past lingers unhealed in the presence, not only apartheid, but the Boer war, the British concentration camps and not to forget the influence of faith and religion as a driver for freedom and injustice at the same time. South Africa is in so many ways a concentrated and painful mirror and an example of the woes and traumata societies and countries are going through looking at their suppressed past. A global phenomenon so visible at the moment.

Now add to this poverty and desperation and the feeling of powerlessness of many South Africans to change their situation.

This mix of unhealed historical burden and current impotence to escape renders the problem of alcohol in our society  explainable – alcohol is a very human way of trying to sooth the pain and relax the mood, but it is also a way of trying to escape reality and at the end it leads to irrational behaviour and dependency. Or addiction which is close to unruly behaviour and often violence.

To overcome, to heal, to reconcile, to move forward as humans, as society, as a human race we need moral and impeccable leadership, fellow humans whose interest is the well-being of all instead of a few and whose actions bring people together. People who then see themselves as equal, who thrive on the idea of complementing each other to move forward for the benefit of all.

To end GBV does not come cheap – but it is worth every effort and sacrifice.

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

Time to realign…

What the elections of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson have indicated looking at how they came to power; what the refugee drama in Europe with the most famous quote of Angela Merkel “Wir schaffen das” has suggested, what “black lives matter” are yearning for since years again and again –  Covid-19 now has confirmed and is confirming in all mightiness:
Our systems are not really holding water not withstanding the dawn of technology and interconnectivity, the human race has not caught up with the challenges it faces in the new millennium on so many levels. It has lost direction and momentum and like on a sinking ship everybody tries to save what he or she deemed important in the times of confusion.
It is not the year 2000 with the magic of heralding a new time in number but the year 2020 which will determine which direction the global village will take and whether it entails a unified human race abolishing the selfishness on so many levels:

As a human race – we have to decide whether we acknowledge each other as equals, or we continue to fight each other as black and white and all the colours in between.
As humans, we have to decide whether we acknowledge being part of the world around us, part of planet earth or whether we want to try to continue pretending to be master of the universe.
As societies, seeing our brokenness we have to decide how we deal with the past, with hurt, pain and memory of the sometimes unspeakable.
As countries, we have to check in again how we are governed and what forms part of our contract between those, we give the power to be our leaders for a period of time.
As individuals, we have to re-assess our values, our commitments, our belief system and our ways of life.

Politicians love to speak of moments in history, of historical times – and I guess, those who have an interest in history have asked themselves often when reading about upheaval of historic proportion how people might have felt or whether they understood the severity of their times. I guess, now we know if we pay attention.

Systems and technology alone will not save us, mighty wannabe leaders with pseudo-messianic aura will turn out like the Pied Piper of Hamelin – there is hard work to do and it has to done on all levels of societies with a strong input of civil societies and religious bodies.
It is time to unite in diversity, to listen to each other, to keep silent with each other to be able to find a sensitive way forward acknowledging the past without being prisoner of what lies behind us. A real new dawn carries the pain and errors of the past like scars, visible but not hurtful anymore, forgiven, but not forgotten.
We need to connect to our roots as the human race while stretching to touch the stars of hope and destiny leading the way forward.

It is a monumental task we are facing as the human race – but there is no alternative. We either face it or we humans will one day in spite of all cleverness be only a footnote in the history of the blue planet living on without us.

 

 

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

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