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, , , , , , , ,

Shadows of the digital age

I am not sure how you felt when you first got acquainted to a computer, a laptop, a cellphone or opened your first Facebook Account and discovered the 24/7/365 open world of connectivity and news. It was exciting, it felt that a new dimension was added to life and a window of opportunities, better understanding and freedom was knocking on the door.
I don’t know how much has changed for you, but meanwhile the flood of information, the stress of the constant music making gadgets, wearing headphones or earpieces and talking loud ahead while eating, walking, working and running around adds rather to stress than to the delight of being. Permanently being available – always knowing what happens across the globe can develop in a burden rather than a blessing. Because like in the newspapers: bad news travel fast, radical opinions making headlines and very often all the drama of the world popping up in front of the eyes masking the greatness and joy of real life.
Politics has changed dramatically and with more or less unrestrained possibilities to lie and cheat and fake news a new breed of politicians is turning the possibility of broad communication into a weapon of disinformation and manipulation.
And not only this: looking at the USA: being exposed by social media of often racist and macho white attitude, a new cult emerges bending laws and human decency to defend indefensible actions and by doing so destroying values most people thought we had secured for the future. Lots to digest for the normal human being, either forced instinctively to run with the crowd or withdraw into a little private world to avoid despair. Fencing the own little word creates its own discriminations and dehumanizations.
Another way out of those shadows of the digital age is absolute control like China tries to enforce it for their citizens. But giving the power to decide what I am allowed to now and then finally to live for is surely not compatible with the civil freedoms and the human dignity, many fought for through the ages.
There are lots of shadows of the digital age – the world transforms in a massive way and challenges the ways we humans perceive reality.
Interesting times, challenging times, times not for the faint-hearted, but we will be only able to create a future for all if we realize and confront the shadows now and don’t allow a group of people to not only match, but outperform Georg Orwell’s 1984.

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

Fake News – Lies and Politics

Traveling from Africa via Europe to the USA I can’t escape the impression, that on all three continents fake news and blunt lies from politicians and other socially high-ranking individuals seems to become a global norm.

In South Africa I do understand the reason why there are so many people in society and politics, when caught in action or corruption simply start to lie with a straight face – even if the evidence is overwhelming. I guess it has to do with the times of apartheid where those oppressed had to learn to make a straight face while lying to the oppressors. Like getting accustomed in those times as a liberation movement to get everything for free which translates today in shameless corruption, so it seems there is a history which translates into lying without regret or bad conscience – and looking at some of the younger generation it is to fear that it got transferred to those who only know from history books what apartheid looked like.

In the USA a completely self-absorbed, egocentric and mentally autistic president paired with a last stand of white macho-behavior and white male dominance creates the poison of fake news – being then adopted and refined by Russian entities in a way threatening democratic process in its core.

In Europe anxiety about refugees triggered in Great Britain one of the greatest lying campaign in living history – promising e.g. millions per month for the ailing health sector in the clear knowledge that this would never happen. Amazing how those who pleaded with those arguments for the Brexit after the vote tried to disengage and leave the mess for others to sort out.

Reading social media coming from the AfD party and other right-wing organizations it seems that people learn quickly how to turn the truth around or how to mix truth and fiction in a way that distorts facts and leaves the reader at best confused. The way to see reality only through one pair of glasses and to refuse to walk in the shoes of others makes it even more militant and anti-democratic.

For me – the anxiety of a world to complex for most minds and anxiety for a foreign, emotionally not-known danger coming via strangers at the shores are the root source for those falling prey to all the fake news and even voting for those who lie without blushing and the question is: where are we heading? Is there no redemption or turn-around possible? Is there no way out or what will be the end of it all?

I am convinced that churches, religious organizations and NGO’s are here the first to stand up against fake news and falsehood – there are values not bound by denomination or creed which can be used to stand firm against a distorted world view made of fabrications – to call a spade a spade and to withstand the temptation to despair or give up or give in the current situation. I have to acknowledge that some churches e.g. in the USA support the current president, but looking closer one sees that faith has turned ideology and only the shell is called a denomination of faith.

Taking away the anxiety, taking away the fear and giving a meaning and sense to what is happening is the utmost duty of any faith – being ambassadors of hope and warriors against xenophobia,, fake news and violence is a natural consequence of working for the good of mankind. In this sense those entities play a far more important role within society than just the one limited to their respective chosen tasks.

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

Madness translated into perspective

I guess there are not a lot of people who are not worried about the madness politics is presenting almost globally: be it the constant onslaught of a self-absorbed fake news producer like Donald Trump, be it the raw emotions raving through Germany when it comes to the questions of refugees, be it the bizarre battle in Bavaria about crosses in all state institutions or the renaming of the Ministry of Home Affairs into “Heimat-Ministerium” – the list could continue endless.

All those madness is an expression of a somehow deep down felt insecurity of the human race looking into the future. It seems that most people experience an inner anxiety which translates into yearning for the “good old times” or the “strong man” , holding on to what is known while not being able to clearly seeing what will come.

And what will come is tremendous – it has consequences so far-reaching that those anxieties have to be taken seriously – even if it seems that politicians are yet not able to really grasp or understand the magnitude of changes coming. Or if they do, they are not honest with the people on the ground.

The digital revolution which is unfolding in front of our eyes will be much more profound than the industrial revolution or any other which has shaped human mankind. It completely changes the way we work, we feel, we act and we plan. It makes it necessary to look with completely new eyes how people are organized, how countries and states are functioning, how democracy or a dictatorship is working, how wars are battled out. Whoever has watched Mark Zuckerberg giving testimony in front of the US American Congress speaking about the Facebook Community which spans around the globe will have gotten a glimpse how mind-blowing social media and inter-connectivity of people in reality is. Additionally artificial intelligence will shape our path into the future in a way most ordinary people can’t imagine. And not only those with money will rule the world, but also those writing the algorithms on which we more and more base our decision-making process.

The “fake news” debate and the Russian interference – the bots in social media and the personalized streamlined news of Facebook with targeted advertising is the starting point of a manipulation spree which promises to intensify in many different ways. All the health and activity monitoring watches and gadgets slowly change the way you think and act and motivate yourself.

Ethical guidelines for those writing the algorithms and programming the computers are urgently needed to avoid what will make Orwells “1984” novel a cheap copy of reality.

This also means that the way, Africa is developing has to be seen in a different light – the argument you hear often that Europe is so developed in democracy and other portfolios because it took so much time to come to today’s state of affair will hold no water anymore for the emerging states on the continent as time has to be factored out as a necessary part for such development. Developments in the area of digital progress are too fast.  And there is something else:

The intensity with which the human race tries to destroy the very fabric of the planet and makes it inhabitable is mind-boggling – just watch how the USA in the moment turns the clock back on recent achievements. We might be able to kill ourselves and our environment before we even have a grasp and we are ethically on top of a digital development which just begun.

If we want to succeed as the human race we have to pull on one string when it comes to cut down on destroying the planets resources – and we have urgently start to rethink the way we organize ourselves – how we want to keep up the core elements of democracy, good governance and social achievements globally. We need to develop ethical guidance in the digital mine field we are about to enter.

And we need to understand in Africa, that looking too much into the past we miss the train into a future where this continent should play a major role instead of chasing a history which is needed to learn lessons, but not to get stuck in. A fine balance where once again too many emotions will not help the cause.

Donald Trump and there-likes are the last stand of a chapter in human history – white male dominant racist – which comes to a close and nothing will change that – except when we continue to allow further destruction of human decency, academic wisdom, religious tolerance and all the parameters needed to keep our planet breathing.

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

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