God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

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, , , , , , , , , ,

And the question is…

South-Africa-question“What has this all to do with your work?” – I was asked recently discussing my blog and the person questioning me noticed the hardly not to notice political overtone of the last blog entries.
The answer is very simple: the  roller coaster on the political scene influences together with the water scare and now the polony  scandal the psyche of the people around us – the madness of state capture, the midnight changes in cabinet, the economic meltdown of South Africa in the last years resulted in more food-insecurity, in more unemployment, in more emptiness, in more loss of perspective as society. Students were encouraged to demand fee-free education which is in itself a non-sense, as there is nothing for free and the result of the reckless announcement of former President Jacob Zuma of the implementation of for said “free”   education means now in return an increase in VAT and again, the poor have to carry the biggest burden.
The unstable politics of the last years have taken a toll in all spheres of society and the divided ruling party, warming up to the party of the Gucci revolutionary “Commander in Chaos” with his only hardly veiled racism and power hunger balances the hope of a better future with the new president again negatively.

Add in the Western Province the serious threat of taps running dry – it all creates a situation where people are visibly on edge and less inclined to think rational and with measure.

HOPE Cape Town developed since years already a second arm of service which aims to assist those in need not only in the medical field, but also tries to remedy social woes of troubled South African families: poverty, lack of education, early childhood development and deficits in the framework of broken communities – read drugs, alcoholism, broken families, gangs, violence, corruption – has to be tackled simultaneously with any medical intervention to be successful.
This social services and assistance arm will be further developed – a part-time social worker and an occupational therapist are at the core of those developments working hand in hand with the doctors and the social system of the state – latter unfortunately a broken system with gaps hurting and killing children as a result.

The pain giving birth to a new and democratic South Africa with all the up’s and down’s are impacting in many practical terms the work of NGO’s like ours. Strikes and service delivery protests are damaging not only infrastructure but people engaged in those activities often forget their medication, their doctor’s appointment or even to put food on the table for the family. Corruption on all levels of society makes life more expensive for those anyhow struggling to make ends meet – and if delivery of state services are chaotic it is indeed difficult to get the papers needed for e.g. registering somebody into school.

And people who have nothing to lose anymore are obviously vulnerable to propaganda and ideology which wouldn’t make sense if one would have the time and the education to ponder what is often told from politicians in public.

The world is in the moment globally a bit in turmoil, and working in the non-profit part of it means to be vigilant and vocal for all those who have no voice or are somehow silenced by food parcels and t-shirts or a free meal – popular methods of those wanting to remain in power here in South Africa.

 

Filed under: Africa, General, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, South Africa, 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, , , , , , , , ,

13th HOPE Gala Dresden

HOPE Gala Dresden - the event to be in DresdenOctober 27th, 2018
5 months to go.

Ball of HOPE 2018

Join us @ The Westin in Cape TownMay 12th, 2018

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