God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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