God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

#ImStaying

Recently the news from South Africa and out of South Africa becoming more and more scary – the brutal murders of several girls and women, the new crime statistics with an increase of murders adding with the high unemployment rate and all the other social and economical uncertainties to the impression that is is wise to pack your bag and leave the country.

Having one of the most beautiful landscapes of the world, hosting mainly friendly and helpful people, having a floral and animal world which is so special seems not to count anymore much in this scenario. Add the racist rants of Julius Malema and other so called or want to be called politicians, the playing with the constitution regarding land reform and the sheer endless stories of corruption and missing shame for the wrongdoings on the part of those who are in charge of this country.

But nevertheless: I just signed up to the Facebook group #Imstaying – even with my privilege of double citizenship I have decided for now to put all my energy into the future of this country – one South Africa for all should become more than a slogan but a reality in our lifetime – at least the beginning of it – like Moses, before dying, seeing the promised land from far.

Giving up on this idea would kill the dreams of all the young people, born free and born even more free from the next generation – it would betray the millions of people who put their hope in a better future, it would curtail the dreams of a non-racist possibility to live not only for South Africa, but for the rest of the world.  Let us not underestimate that indeed the mix of challenges here on the tip of Africa are a mirror for the world as such – even at times more complicated and intertwined than at other places. So there is the challenge of being not only the result of a peaceful Mandela moment in time but remaining the beacon of hope for the time to come.

For this to happen we have to acknowledge the dark of the past on all sides of society – history is never purely black and white and we have to find a new language to avoid the fiction of race for  future generations.  We have to square the circle – an almost Sisyphean  task against the odds of hurt and pain, and feelings of revenge and all sorts of compensation in an infinite loop. Being hurt and being able to heal, being disappointed but able to produce hope, being human and at the same time outgrowing what we thought is possible in our lifetime and with our abilities.

Dreaming big – not letting go – focusing on what is really worth it – not giving into despair – that are the points of reference when it is said: #ImStaying

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

Some reflections on racism

Traveling the world and especially the USA one can’t escape the question of racism, let alone coming from South Africa were the question of race seems to be connected to all questions of life and seemingly influencing every decision made in this country.
I guess we all agree that there is only one human race and that the differentiation into human races was and is a political and social tool to suppress or discriminate or even dehumanize people of certain skin colors – or in our days especially in South Africa, hold them accountable for past or present discrimination.
Not seeing this is in itself racist – and even if it is tempting to claim for oneself to not seeing the colour of a person – it somehow denies people of colour the inherited history and emotions attached to their lives till today.
Racism is part of what we are born into – it is what theologian would call original sin or structural sin; for example: As a white European person – I am born into a world with certain privileges – I inherit certain implicitness without being guilty of anything. But I have to deal with it – and in a time of social media, of constant exposure of racist incidents it seems to be one of the Sisyphusian task of our generation.

But how do you address it? How do you address the discrimination of generations of people, of whole societies, of whole groups within a country, of a whole continent – how do you remedy the disadvantages and horrible consequences for the lives of whole generations?

Unfortunately you actually can’t make it good again – you can only try to compensate the living but it has to be done in a way not creating new hardships and injustices. And it sounds like squaring the circle. For it to happen I guess the following must be in place:

* The ability and willingness to recognize and to acknowledge the past and the present problem of “racism” and its consequences
* To recognize the “racist” in me
* To recognize that the marginalized group must find back the freedom and pride to be – I am sure the black conscience theory of Steve Biko can be of great help
* To listen to each other in really hearing the stories of each other – to try to walk in the shoes of each other for a while to understand without discussion and debate – just hearing what is said and feeling the pain, the desperation, the hope and the aspiration
* To find common ground in redressing the injustices without creating hardship and obvious new injustices
* To find forgiveness, because the burden of the past, which never should be forgotten, can only be accepted if and when forgiveness is given and accepted on all sides
* To give your all into the efforts of walking together, being patient with each other but determined to overcome and learn out of the past

Only on this base we can strive to overcome the past and to create a future which accepts a non-racist society where new words, a new language is expression of a new sibling-like relationship where indeed skin colour does not predetermine your place in society.

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

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, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Racism – the original sin one cannot escape?

Visiting the Duke University with its vast history of racial divide and coming together there can’t be any evening meal with lecturers of history without at some point touching on the question of racism in the USA. Stories told about black movements on Duke campus – and those experiencing equality and black conscience movements in Montgomery and in other parts of the South States of the USA – for a German living in South Africa an intense evening of sharing the pain and questions arising from history and the challenges future will hold.

While it seems that my US American friends have made peace with the fact that as a white man, one cannot escape the original sin of racism purely by being born from a white mother and father -I still grapple with the fact whether it is fair to be again and again put in the structural and personal white privilege and somehow racist corner – no matter how engaged or involved one has been in healing the racial divide.

Recognizing the past, acknowledging structural privilege is one thing – making it the Cain’s mark of every white person for the foreseeable future is another. My question was on this eve and still remains whether talking in the same “termini” our forefathers have done will assist in overcoming a racist past and leading into a non-racist future. While under Obama and Trump here in the USA seemingly the topic is discussed much more prominent and controversial – so different from the usual US American way of being nice , shallow on this subject and avoiding conflict – we also going in South Africa and I guess in many parts of the world through a renewed debate on this topic. Yes, maybe it is true that we on all sides have to speak out and speaking out might even hurt – not only the listener, but also the speaker acknowledging truth we can’t allow for this seemingly original sin to linger and therefore darken the future of future generations.

Maybe the debate, the pain ,the accusations are a necessary redemption to be in the future saved from the evil of racism – maybe the revolution of social media taken note of all the racist acts and laying in bare in the public to see, to judge, to mourn, to decry – maybe all this is necessary in the development of a human civilization, which at the end only knows one race, the human race – later looking back on today’s debate and yesterdays history in sheer non-believe that racism was even a possibility to entertain for so long in history.

For me, this question remains after this eve as painful as ever – and the question-marks keep nagging how to approach a seemingly original sin which keeps on poising societies in our times. My experience at Duke University was a reminder how much had been done, and how much still has to be done – and how many circles we have already run without really moving in-depth forward on this question.

Filed under: Africa, General, HOPE Cape Town USA, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

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