God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Shitstorms….or some thoughts on social media in our days

It is amazing to follow social media and to see the storms of civil commotion and agitation from all walks of life on various issues getting people into a fever of excitement. Be it a question of racism like Mr Hards or Mrs Penny’s tweets in South Africa about entitlement and filth at the beach, be it a question of sexism like the word ” pantyprenuers” at an ANC anniversary meeting – or be it the discussions about the events in Cologne in Germany where more than 100 women laid charge against men looking like those “from North Africa” because of theft, rape and other criminal or unlawful behavior. My observations are not dealing with the matters as such but with the reactions on social media – it’s rather a search for the reasons of feeling often uncomfortable with what is posted or put out on social media. And these thoughts are indeed just thoughts, not conclusions or determinations.

It seems that everybody has an opinion and hammers the internet with this opinion, people getting into fights with each others, being disciplined, suspended, kicked out, threatened with physical attacks and other promises of revenge. Racism and sexism seems to be like a cudgel to accuse the other side not being in tune with the own opinion. Social media suddenly turns into a madhouse of accusations, threats, counter accusations and most people have obviously not only an opinion but also a remedy to avoid repeat of the perceived or real misconduct or criminal act; they know exactly how to battle racism, sexism, crime, discrimination and all the rest of it.

Seeing this in the framework of a world in various difficulties and seemingly overwhelming situations like the refugee crisis in Europe, the wars in the Near East, the battle of minds and ideologies in various African countries I can’t help the question to ask how this all ties together – what is it that make people so furious, so angry, so sure that they are right and most others wrong, so willing to defend positions, analysis, thoughts, impressions as the only valid and right ones.

My guess is it is often their own insecurity and anger and let me explain this:
It seems to me that the world is changing dramatically with all the access to information 24/7, all the constant input from politics, religion and society from the other end of the world as it would happen around the corner. Cellphones and tablets are peeping all the time announcing new messages and news. It seems to me like an information overflow – we cannot handle as human beings the constant influx and to counter it, we retreat to safe ground, either defending our own little world at any cost or running with the majority of opinions to not to lose out or been seen on the wrong side of society – in both cases up to the extreme. And if one gets “flack” – opinions suddenly are perceived as treats, as attacks and dealt with accordingly. The war of words begins…
Reading the sometimes tough and verbally violent opinions and demands on social media, the judgements without often knowing the facts and – or – just going with the flow I read in it the anger of a world getting more and more complex, offering too many options and possibilities, a freedom of choices while on the other hand governed by more and more automated systems in administration and society leaving less and less room for humanity and provisions for the individual case. Never ending information floods from everywhere in a seemingly smaller and more regulated world makes social media the perfect outlet for all the anger and frustration. The constant flow of information seems to force us to immediate reaction and comments – reading headlines on Facebook allow already for the like button and 140 letters of Twitter are enough to describe a complex situation.

Social media can be a wonderful tool to connect and to find related minds, it is indeed a great tool for social movements but as with all things it can also be used to marginalize and outcast, to create sentiments hurting people and societies but it never replaces real dialogue and the need for personal encounters. We have to acknowledge the limitations of communicating on social media – and we have to develop a tolerance and understanding that a person is more than the brief twitter or the status report – and that posting a link might be meant to stimulate discussion rather than portraying it as the own opinion. And we all know that sometimes our mouth is faster than our brain – and we have to realize that social media might be less forgiving than a spoken word retracted immediately.

So what I wish for is:
* read first and then share or post; don’t trust the headline
* think first and let anger vanish before posting
* give other posts the benefit of the doubt if possible
* raise your voice against xenophobia, sexism, racism, but in a dignified way and report it to the relevant authorities
* no tit for tats – it pollutes the social media

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

The world in which we live..

NBC Nightly News broadcast

NBC Nightly News broadcast (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am not sure that is common experience but I was always interested in putting my work and my immediate surroundings into the context of what happens around the world. And sometimes I feel overwhelmed from all the bad news coming via different news channels. But they touch me somehow and influence me in a way I am not sure I can define in a proper way.
Looking around me there is the big scandal of espionage – who ever thought Facebook is not safe now knows that there seems to be all stops pulled to gain access to all emails and chats. I never thought, that internet is safe, but knowing that there is a systematic approach to bend the law and obviously dismiss the freedom and privacy of ordinary citizens under the pretext of security brings this knowledge to a new level and is depressing.
Yesterday the pope visited the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa and urged help for desperate migrants who risk their lives getting there – I am impressed and a bit proud that humanity and a joyful approach to our faith is visible in our leadership. And it feels good that there is a sense of openness again within our church; there is a sense of being allowed to speak out freely and without fear – what a blessing.
Syria – how often have I experienced the hospitality of Syrian people and Egypt where a colleague of mine is stationed – the travesty of politics in both cases shows how little respect our political systems have when it comes to the Arabic spring and it’s people concerned.
From Europe there comes the news that two more people seems to have lost their infection after a bone-marrow transplant, these are some good news from overseas. Here in South Africa we watch with horror the ugly Mandela soap opera – where the fight about the inheritance already has begun before the great statement has even closed his eyes.

We cannot escape the world we live in, and I sometimes wonder, what kind of influence this world has in all the needy township communities, where also news and soap operas impact on the minds and hearts of people. How does it affect the people seeing the madness of the big world and of course of their small world – the glitter of high society life mirrored in South African but also US soap operas but also the obvious corruption of their politicians, the wealth of the few who made it out of poverty and now play big shots in politics and society without being too much concerned about the well-being of their fellow citizens.

Working as a priest and working with people living with the HI virus means working in a micro – environment. It is work on the very personal level of society. But I cannot help but continue to wonder how much the bigger scenario interacts with this very personal level and how the overwhelming flood of information through all kinds of media makes life and touching each others lives more difficult and challenging.

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Simply too much to digest…?

Sometimes there are indeed times, where I feel that there is too much to digest on information and news and task lying ahead. And the world as a global village with news aired 24 hours a day – how can one escape all the horrors and the non-logic of todays madness.
Japan – as it looks just escaped a complete meltdown of his nuclear reactor but thousands of deaths and a suffering almost unimaginable for a nation on the forefront of technology. So sophisticated and suddenly thrown into a chaos which means rebuilding of a nation and its facilities.  How does it come that we human mankind never accepts that we are not able to master nuclear power and that nature can beam us back into the stone age within hours. A lesson how to be humble again I guess, but a deadly and tragic one for those living on the island of Japan.
And seeing how in my home country suddenly politicians trashing just agreed longer running terms for the old nuclear power stations shows that even these tragic events are simply used for cheap daily politics.
Libyia shows also the double standards of politics – Saudi Arabia – involved in the crack down of the democracy movement in Bahrain, is part of the coalition of the willing – bombing started with no real strategy – and thanks TV we have it live at any given time.
The world is in a constant move in the moment – by nature, by political means – and we prepare for a world tour – for those into the logistics of this tour a real nightmare as routes have to be changed amidst real-time pressure. The ongoing drama of HIV/AIDS seems to be far away when each week brings new and exciting information about the Middle East region or Japan or any other political or natural disaster. It seems impossible to work on one front to ease the suffering of people when the next problem is already on the horizon, pushed by the modern media and its online websites, which only can sustain themselves if they chose new topics every hour to bring the reader back.

Maybe because events are unfolding so fast and the spectator has no chance but to digest the newest information, it is so important that some people stick to one topic and carry it over the time, reminding people again and again that new disasters don’t put away the unsolved ones. That is one of the reasons why I cherish what Joachim Franz and his team is doing – for the last 10 years. Sticking to one topic without losing compassion for actual problems. But insisting to carry on solving a suffering, which 33 million people worldwide effects and many more in a broader sense. Maybe because we are bombarded with so many different problems via the news we have no chance to give us the time to solve one for once and for all. I am convinced that all the money spend in Afghanistan and Iraq would have brought us closer to solve the problem of HIV and AIDS . We are getting half-hearted because there is so much to digest and our politicians and elected leaders try to jump on whatever they perceive to be the best bid for re-election. A vicious circle and surely not standing in the service of human mankind.

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

01.09.2009 joy

Reading all the emails and sms today I only feel joy and surprise, that so many people take somehow part in my journey and appreciate the decision to keep me in Cape Town. It is indeed amazing how in the age of Internet news go around the world, via twitter, facebook, news-portals, newspapers, radio station – really, really amazing.
I personally feel relieved to know now that I will stay, I am looking forward to keep on working in a field I love and I am very serious about. I had this morning my first meeting with our project supervisor to plan for October and the months to come and can sense the excitement of people within HOPE Cape Town. I only can hope, that I will match all those expectations. It can be frightening to know all the tasks ahead, but also giving you that thrilling kick you need to get the best out of you.

I already today made contact with some visitors from the Archdiocese of Munich, who happened to be in Cape Town and to introduce the idea to broaden the partnership between Bavaria and the Western Cape with a bigger slice of church cooperation. And the first appointment is set when I will be in Munich beginning of November.
Plans for my travel to Germany in October also become clearer. Aachen, Munich, Frankfurt, Dresden, Bitburg, Wolfsburg and Berlin are already on the map and I hope to add some more before I have finished the preparations. Rome is also on the list, not quite in Germany but in reach when you fly from Munich..  :-). Joachim Franz (be your own hero e.V.) and myself try to get a second meeting with the Papal Council for Health Care Workers to continue our dialogue we started when we visited the Vatican last year in November.

Thousand ideas are floating around my head, but i first have to wrap up my chaplaincy in a decent way and prepare the way for my successor. He should feel welcomed when he arrives and knowing my great community here I do not have any doubt that this will be the case.
For myself, the 4th of October will be the farewell day – having Holy Mass at 11h30 combining English, Polish and German, followed by a reception and some speeches. And of course something to eat. Choir and Orchestra will perform pieces from Haendel during the service – I am really looking forward and my wish is, that after that special services people are going home and feeling good and elevated, having still the tunes of Haendel (and some thoughts of the sermon 🙂 ) in their minds. A truly inspiring service. I have asked a friend of mine, Fr. Wim, to preach on this occasion and I am looking forward to his surely well prepared sermon on that day.

I hope this farewell day is a great day with lots of laughter and memories but also the beginning of a new chapter in my life.  I am grateful for all the support in these days of decision.

Filed under: General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Reflection, , ,

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