God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Observations in the times of Corona

Amazing times indeed – having to cut short a 4-week trip is something one does not do light-hearted, but the ever escalating events and restrictions are of a level never seen in my lifetime.

Pondering for days to cancel the US part of it – and then decision taken out of my hands by the US authorities. Meetings cancelled and those still happening are at distance – 1.5 m and no physical contact allowed. And don’t cough when in public spaces: anxious eyes are immediately following you, having identified you as the source of the closer coming infection. Business people with suit and surgical gloves are interesting trend setters – and the everywhere mask which has a zero effect but a feel good component of “I am doing something”.

In Germany there seems to be the threat of no toilet paper palpable – and noodles – not sure how this goes together, but I am still investigating the mysterious link between the two. Airlines change flight times and cancel flights on a regular base – it is almost triggering unease when leaving Berlin this morning and everything was done in time without changes.

But serious: I see this experience as a very healthy one – it cuts you down to normal seize again and it is hopefully a lesson for human mankind, that we are part of something much bigger, but not the masters of the universe or at least this planet and this creation. The situation gives us the chance to readjust our value system and recalibrate what is important and who is important in our life.

Nor political or financial system is able to overcome such a reminder of humility alone – we are all in the same boat – and while many display symptoms of either pure ignorance or great panic – disseminating all info on social media without even thinking to use brain cells – there are the first signs of a change of hearts and minds: “Entschleunigung” is one of the German buzz words – going slower, having more time to think and to reflect, having more time for family and friends, rediscovering values and appreciation of those around us. We need each other – we are not competition but in it together. I guess especially the latter is more a lesson to be learned by the European and US American population. We Africans might be able to contribute our “ubuntu” to these new discoveries – in a new way being heard and listened to – and not only laughed at as those having missed the bus.

Corona is a lesson to learn – and I can only hope and pray that human mankind comes out of this crisis more humble, more considerable and more decent – paving the way for more humanity and a deeper sense of being – being part of something bigger we all strive to understand in one way or the other.

We are all on the way – the mystery of where we come from and where we go to still remains and all the bugs, all the bacteria and virus are part of our journey. I am sure it all will make sense at the end…  but for the time being, I am happy just to acknowledge that the mere fact has unsettled our way of living, our way of working and the way we see and experience the world.

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

Democracy – as we know it – is coming to an end?

A lot has been said about the digital revolution and it’s consequences for the future.  And if one thing is clear by now: the digitization of society, the constant connectivity to media, news, fake news and outright manipulation is overwhelming to the normal human being brain – trying to marry most people being in the stone-age of cooping with the mental requirements needed to deal with the influx of information – false and correct ones – has failed so far.
It seems that people cannot distinguish anymore between when and where manipulation starts, bluntly false news are circulated via bots and the honest true reporting of facts. And this leads to a tiredness or even willingness to simply accept whatever fits nicely in the narrow mindset of ones own little world. People are simply overwhelmed and anxious, ready then to submit to the best offer of “black/white” populist solutions.

The rise of the liar, cheater, racist and sexist macho Donald Trump to become the President of the United States speaks volumes about the inability of people to navigate through the new area; the Brexit debate and the re-election of Boris Johnson in Great Britain adds to the insult and attack on truth.
And truth is one of the most important component of democracy: without it – the system will crash. Add the fatigue created by the repetition of lies and fake news, the abuse of social media, the still unhindered power of the Facebook and Google mafia more or less allowing and controlling what one can read and what news one receives first and in which format. Headlines are the new content, emojis and sharing buttons are the new ways to instantly satisfy emotional reactions. The so called social media “shit storm” replaces the “hang him” calls of lynch justice in the “good old days” of undisputed white racist rule of the world, too often echoed and cloned by those previously suppressed.

And this is another battle field – clearly seen if you follow US American politics: the old white men’s club fighting to remain in power at all cost, using trolls and the new weapons of digital media with all the money they have stolen and accumulated in so many years. Eight year Obama was an insult not to be repeated.
Making now Great Britain great again by leaving the European Union – the same scheme of reviving the feelings of the old great empire underlines the debate lead on the island. Overwhelmed people yearning for the good old days of power and might – of safety and security in an ever faster evolving world with more people, more systems and more decisions made which cannot be overseen and triggering anxiety and fear by the single human being. A fertile ground for clever politicians and unscrupulous leaders.

Democracy and human rights are on the defense right now, civil rights, so long and hard fought for, are in retreat mood – and while the Western World battles in the aforesaid  ways, there is a new and even more dangerous threat to all achievements of civil and non racist societies:
China’s fantasy of harmony – going hand in hand with complete control of every human being; establishing a system far worse than Orwell ever could have fantasized about: the system of social points as a system of reward and punishment, 24/7 control via cameras – seeing in action by the treatment of the Uyghurs – all this giving clear indication what complete surveillance means by a gang of politicians prescribing how you have to live and to die. History later will value high the contribution of the Hong-Kong students who fought not only for their freedom, but the freedom of so many more on this planet.

So where does this leaves us? I guess with a lot of questions to answer. I feel we are in the same situation like after the discovery of the atom-bomb: human mankind played with it in in so dangerous ways thinking of it as a tool of advance. Those in power used it on innocent civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and only afterwards humanity started to understand the ethical implications with which we are still dealing in our days. It takes a lot of time to do so.

Democracy as we know it will have to change if with the advances of new technologies and the digital possibilities – the ways we organize societies, the way we disseminate information and allowing people in power to communicate in a globally connected world in an ethical and just format has to be on trial. Our thinking, our acting, our living conditions, our sense for the world has changed dramatically and it is time to catch up with this development before real disaster struck out of the incapability to acknowledge and act on these changes. But one thing remains: The truth must be the underlying factor of all developments.

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

H&M racism observations

I am aware that for some in South Africa the mere fact that a white person is writing about racism is seen as inappropriate – but I am also aware that in the madness of emotions and seemingly permitted violence by a political leader and self-styled revolutionary one cannot stay silent on this topic. Therefore – even knowing the danger of being misunderstood and attacked some observations on the matter who made headlines in South Africa’s news the last day.

H&M’s advertising of a “black” boy from the North of Europe wearing a hoodie with the slogan “Coolest monkey in the jungle” caused consternation and mood swings in South Africa – culminating in trashing some outlets by brave EFF fighters supported by their political leaders who conveniently forgot that upholding the constitution is their duty as Parliamentarians.
There were also voices who saw the ‘racism’, but called for other means of protests while others could not see the “racist” point in this advertising.

As we have the freedom of expression in this country I dare to say that I personally don’t see racism in this hoodie story – but I see an insensitivity of the company looking into the South African markets. The question of race triggers here on the Southern tip of Africa lots of emotions – partly rightly so when we look into the history of country, but partly also clearly abused as a political tool and an excuse not to engage with one another on sore topics.
The accusation of “racism” is meanwhile a convenient tool to justify violence, looting and personal attacks – or, as just mentioned and demonstrated with the EFF’s action and comments of the self-styled “commander in chief” a political weapon to create instability, havoc and protest actions aimed on destruction.

I am aware that looking into the painful history and the question of healing will stay on top of the to-do list of South Africa for the next generations – the question of land and wealth distribution will linger and has to be addressed in the same way. We can only conquer those questions without creating new injustices if we listen to each others pain and guilt, despair and aspirations, hopes and nightmares…

South Africa stood 1994 with Madiba’s dream of a rainbow nation as a symbol of a global hope to lead the nations in overcoming injustice, racism and discrimination in a peaceful and dignified manner – we owe it to him and all those who gave their lives in the struggle that we don’t allow for cheap and quick unjust solutions but to remain an example the world can follow. It is a pains-taking task, the temptation to act out of emotions and to go for the quick fix will not lead to a better world and life for all.

Racism is ingrained into the history of humanity – it is a very stupid concept as there is only one race, the human race. But as a Catholic theologian I am also aware that history is full of those errors of judgement which lead to unspeakable terror – 100 years ago in my church democracy was from the devil and who ever advocated religious liberty was quickly outside the church. In the Middle Ages you lost your life using common sense not compatible with the church.
So looking into the past and acknowledging the unspeakable is the first part – accepting painfully also that for those gone there will never be a chance to compensate or to make it right. But we can learn out of it and make it right for our generation and more important for the generations to come – but abusing this past to great havoc and to continue to bring renewed separation to those living now means to prevent them to live their lives to the fullest. Instead of hate and division we have to forgive others and ourselves and work much harder to overcome inequality, discrimination and  all other stumping blocks for a brighter future for all.

Yes, there will real racists still be out there  – but let us leave them stand in the cold of their own hearts and dark corners – social media shit-storms just elevate them unnecessarily and make them heroes in their sick constituency. Some thrive of it like you can see with Donald Trump and other right-wing white machos.

South Africa – the cradle of mankind – let us work hard to make it a place where the human race started to acknowledge and to live as one – all equal under the sun.

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

Mad new world… some observations…

Coming back from the USA to South Africa it feels like an unreal travel mirroring the craziness of today’s world. Whether South Africa or the USA – it seems that there is a competition on political incompetence and stupidity, paired with a brazen ignorance and a silent majority of people allowing to be governed by self-absorbed nepotists promising salvation from all the woes of modern society and bringing back the perceived greatness of history or a historical dream. Lethargy and open revolt, violence and complete retracting from political life: reactions differ but one can feel in both countries the unhappiness and the insecurity peeking out of the pretense of being either for or against the ruling class.

It seems the pendulum of embracing a global village is going in the opposite direction of creating barrier and frontiers again, protection and walling-off. In the USA paired with the denial of climate change and attacks on modern sciences the future looks indeed bleak.
Maybe human mankind is entering a new phase of evolution where the old ways of story telling, the old ways of explaining the world and the old ways of living a comfortable life with the status quo inherited by the forefathers is simply not carrying anymore.
Maybe the inequality within the existing world order, the unfairness of trade and economics paired with the possibilities of interconnection via modern social media creates a situation where humans feel overwhelmed – leading to falling prey for perceived strong leaders promising the world and delivering only what benefits themselves.

This global situation seems to be made more complicated by local inconsistencies and problems – in South Africa it is the dream of many to make the wrongs of the past right within a life span, failing to understand that the past can’t be changed but act as a teacher for the future and reparation has its limitations. In the USA the unsolved questions of race inequality and a limitless capitalism linger forth and it seems that in both cases the willingness of those in power to change tune is very limited.

Trying times – complicated times – times of change and maybe a time which will proof – or not – that human mankind is able to learn and move forward, not only in technology but also with hearts and minds.

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

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