God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

At the end of the year….

I guess, most of us agree: this was a specific difficult year for societies and in politics. Looking around in our world, there seems to be little hope for 2022:

In the USA, we see a country struggling to keep democracy alive and fight off a sort of white male fascism driven by a Republican Party not ashamed to base politics on lies and deception.
In Great Britain, the Brexit promises have failed in a big way and the current Premier seems to have difficulties with truth and honesty, let alone clear policies.
In Russia old demons of power and might through military means aka Putin style becomes dominant and endangers world peace looking at Ukraine.
China demonstrates its willingness to go the extra mile to kill everything which smells like civil rights; only look at Hong Kong.
Europe throws part of its values into the Mediterranean Sea by letting people drown in exactly this sea and looking at Covid-19, the switching on and off of parts of Africa without common sense does not give the impression that values are universal.

The corruption in South Africa continues, and those fighting within the ANC for power are still pretty safe of prosecution. Even the admission of the President that state coffer money was used for party politics does not draw any consequences – business as usual.

Covid-19 and the vaccine story has divided families and societies – and the virus laid open the impossibility for the human race to act jointly and with common sense in a complex world.

Environmental questions remain to be answered with urgency if the human race wants to survive and have a future.

So 2022 starts with an exceptional package of “needs to be addressed” – and if we would only look at the big picture we could fall into depression.
But there is always our small world within the big picture. There is always the magnitude of kind acts, of friendly and supportive smiles, of acts of goodwill, and if the late Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu is to believe – all those acts will at the end form the safety net rescuing and changing the world to the better.

There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t wait for any divine force to make it happen here on earth, we have to do it ourselves with our hands and our hearts.
Let’s be honest:
the world will exist even when the human race disappears – the world, our environment and the universe does not need us – we need to relate to all of them in a healthy way. And we only can do this, if we learn much more to understand each other as one human race only being able to thrive and survive if we limit ourselves not only in the amount of human beings living at the same time on earth with limited resources, but also much more share common values not only in theory but in practice.

We have to be much more attentive to this – and we have in church, politics and society to understand much more, that being a leader is not about a career and power play but service; we have to examine our systems of governing and our structure of living whether they serve life and well-being of all or only an elite. We have to understand ourselves as a part of nature, and our fellow brothers and sisters rather as a support system we depend on within our environment. Furthermore, we have to watch out, that our systems and AI are not so perfect, that they don’t allow any more for the diversity human mankind represents. Perfect systems, or rather almost perfect systems, are endangering individual lives and livelihoods.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; there is the prospect of a good future, there is the constant dream not only of a rainbow nation, but a rainbow world, a rainbow human race – a unity in diversity – a connectivity which can be felt when one is attentive and open to it. We can’t leave the world to the doomsday activists nor to the Querdenker or those using and abusing the world and humans for their own advantage only.

Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and hearts but also knowing that the majority of people of goodwill have to connect more to advance humanity, decency and civil freedoms carried by joined values for all.

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

A visit to Nuremberg

Visiting Nuremberg on my trip through Germany, I was invited to walk the site of the Nazi Party rallies – learning about the size, madness and logic behind an area featuring several huge buildings either unfinished or now crumbling , a parade street and the Zeppelin field for deployment of hundred-thousand of people to listen and worship the “Führer”.

Listening to our guide, I once again realised how mass events can be tools of dictators and fascist leaders to melt the individual into a mass, triggering unison reactions whilst the individual stops thinking.

It reminded me the spectacle of the Chinese Communist Party in Peking we just witnessed, celebrating 100 years of Communist dictatorship in a mass spectacle, carefully choreographed. Add the parades in North Korea or Russia, but I guess one cannot forget the trial runs of Donald Trump and his events in this regard: people forged into a mass forgetting reason, proper thinking, and they act as one body in the direction those in charge wanted them to go.

Nuremberg has once again reminded me of the perverted ways of designing a world according to a leader or party’s vision; it has reminded me again how important it is to resist even traces of phasing and manipulating and equalizing the thought mechanisms of the majority.

In this context I think about Hong Kong and Crimea, but I also reflect on Hungary and Poland; it comes to mind also the greatest nation on earth, as the citizen of the USA call themselves. The Republican Party in the USA shows how fast a usual democracy supporting party can drift into almost fascistic and manipulative shallow waters, following one dominant person while punishing anybody daring to disagree.

As supporters of democracy, we have to be on guard and as human rights activists we have to resist attempts to curtail or diminish human rights and human freedom. Democracy and freedom are no fast selling item, but values to be fought for every day. And they are values we should be grateful for every day.

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

A _________ New Year

What should we wish for the year 2021? Should we wish for a better 2021 – or a healthier one? A more successful or a normal one?

At the end of 2020 I guess we all are sitting with a variety of feelings and emotions and trying to find words adequate to end this extra-ordinary year and to envision our wishes for the new year rising up at midnight. We have lived through a year which will ones be marked in history books as a year of the Covid-19 pandemic – and people will read the figures of death like we read and studied it in history about the black plaque or the Spanish flu. All, what remains from the suffering of people, of tears and fights for life will be numbers and cold facts. And life has moved on….

So what to wish for 2021?
Maybe that whatever we learned in 2020 might influence how we live the rest of our lives and that we pass it on to the next generation?
Those paying attention learned certainly in practice how fragile life can be and that all the promises of politicians, faith leaders and our own convincing of stability can fail in a split second. We all knew it in theory, some have experienced it in their own life, but as a global society it was a first for many.
We also learned that our political systems failed their people badly:
China, Communist and dictatorial governed failed the world in containing the virus – the system did not allow for bad news to spread and forced people to hide the truth. Even now in the aftermath, journalists who exposed the lies and cover up are sentenced to prison for years.
The capitalistic systems and democracies also failed their societies – in the USA, the system of the people for the people had produced an egomaniac sexist white old leader making lies fashionable and in his orbit the virus was marginal at best – ignored most times with horrendous consequences for people. In the European Union in March suddenly every country ran amok and the “union” part of a common response was thrown out of the window in no time. The political culture of thinking only in election cycles hindered and hinders till this very day a plan lasting longer than the next election. Visionaries are rare in our times when it comes to parliamentarians.

We also learned that anxiety and fear creates conspiracy theories and that a small minority can get a grip on media and social media, making a rational approach almost impossible. Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and Covid-19 failures are in part also products and results of the negative side of social media; Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Instagram and WhatsApp need ethical guidelines and controls. If one thing is clear at the end of 2020: human mankind is not that advanced it thought it was – and maybe this knowledge may assist us in another dilemma we face: earth warming and environmental question.

We are part of the ecological system called earth – and we need all the layers and fine-tuned working mechanisms of nature to survive – our 2020 fragility might be the last warning sign for the human race to hold in and reverse course, to become a bit humbler again in how we see and approach our environment.

Coming back to the original question what to wish for 2021:

May 2021 be the year of reflection and turning our lives and lifestyles around, may the vaccine not be the entry door to going back to the normality we left in 2020, but a positive booster which not only fights a virus, but our questionable attitudes towards ourselves, our societies, our environment and our world as such.

May 2021 bring us next to physical health the mental health we need to clearly see our interconnectivity on so many levels. May it bring prosperity based on considerateness for those around us and the ambience we are living in.
May this prosperity be a shared one.

May 2021 the year of practical realisation that we are all in this together, as one human race starting to create a world without racism, starting to heal what has to be healed in this regard so urgently.

May 2021 be a year of more humanity, more decency, more considerations and more true life for all.

Filed under: General, 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, , , , , , , , , , ,

Flatten the curve?

“Flatten the curve” is the slogan to be heard all over the world – and South Africa was following the stringent measurements which keeps society at bay in so many countries. But instead of balanced measurements South Africa opted for the more Chinese approach clamping down as at many movements as possible even prescribing in detail what items could be sold or not when venturing out to go shopping. Police and military was sent out to enforce the lock-down, and they continue to try to stop any unnecessary travel of citizens.
Having a day when death by police brutality wins against the number of death through the Coronavirus certainly tells a story on its own. There are many questions whether physical distancing is working in the high density townships of South Africa, even more whether the ban of cigarettes or fresh air and some exercise really make sense.
But there is another question lingering in the air which is of equivalent or even more important:

Does the “flatten the curve” approach is feasible in a country which just was downgraded to junk status; a country economically falling apart, unemployment on a very high scale, more people on social grants than in work and a national debt exceeding 3 trillion Rand and going up to 4.5 trillion in the next years?
How long can a country, after years of state run corruption and the current constant lingering in no-man’s land of real decision-making in this regard flatten the curve before it is economically and socially broken beyond repair in the lifetime of those anyhow currently struggling?

Virologists tell us that without flattening the curve the death toll would be very high but the virus run out of steam in a couple of weeks while flattening the curve will save thousands of lives and prevent the collapse of the anyhow weakened health system. South Africa has seen in the Aids Pandemic what it means to lose people on a daily base in their hundreds. It can vouch for the tears and pain of an almost lost generation and the ignorance of a government towards its people. This time no one can complain about any ignorance – being prescribed what you can buy is the opposite of ignorance – one almost has the impression, there is never a middle ground in South Africa.

So the question is how to balance all this in a way which makes the most sense? How to take the people with on the journey beating the virus without destroying the future of the country economically?
The Covid-19 pandemic and how to react is a question in the crossroads of economic and ethical questions, it wonders our approach to life and meaning of life. And it certainly makes unmistakable clear that human mankind is not the master of the soil but part of something much bigger, part of the lot which we call the universe.

This is obviously not only a question for South Africa but the world as such. Nevertheless, in a country with its very unique and painful history, its still open wounds of the past and its attempt to walk as a democratic society, the challenge to balance remains.
Authoritarian solutions like in China are not adequate nor copies of the sophisticated European systems – we South Africans should have “ubuntu” as the baseline to find our own way to deal with the curve.

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

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