God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A visit to Nuremberg

Visiting Nuremberg on my trip through Germany, I was invited to walk the site of the Nazi Party rallies – learning about the size, madness and logic behind an area featuring several huge buildings either unfinished or now crumbling , a parade street and the Zeppelin field for deployment of hundred-thousand of people to listen and worship the “Führer”.

Listening to our guide, I once again realised how mass events can be tools of dictators and fascist leaders to melt the individual into a mass, triggering unison reactions whilst the individual stops thinking.

It reminded me the spectacle of the Chinese Communist Party in Peking we just witnessed, celebrating 100 years of Communist dictatorship in a mass spectacle, carefully choreographed. Add the parades in North Korea or Russia, but I guess one cannot forget the trial runs of Donald Trump and his events in this regard: people forged into a mass forgetting reason, proper thinking, and they act as one body in the direction those in charge wanted them to go.

Nuremberg has once again reminded me of the perverted ways of designing a world according to a leader or party’s vision; it has reminded me again how important it is to resist even traces of phasing and manipulating and equalizing the thought mechanisms of the majority.

In this context I think about Hong Kong and Crimea, but I also reflect on Hungary and Poland; it comes to mind also the greatest nation on earth, as the citizen of the USA call themselves. The Republican Party in the USA shows how fast a usual democracy supporting party can drift into almost fascistic and manipulative shallow waters, following one dominant person while punishing anybody daring to disagree.

As supporters of democracy, we have to be on guard and as human rights activists we have to resist attempts to curtail or diminish human rights and human freedom. Democracy and freedom are no fast selling item, but values to be fought for every day. And they are values we should be grateful for every day.

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

You reap what you sow

You reap what you sow – this saying also applies to the “greatest democracy in the world” as it is often labelled. The obvious pictures of a sitting president encouraging violence while the official representation on Capitol Hill is starting the process of certifying the normally peaceful transition of power after elections and the aftermath of storming the halls of democracy and interrupting the process shocked the world and many lawmakers in the USA – except people like Senator Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley who continue to disrupt the process by means of objections. While this is legit, the concern here remains that all those objections are based on lies and fake news; those objecting knowingly and willingly hurting and damaging the process of democracy and are enablers for a president who brought to light one of the ugliest face representing democratic USA. Four years of destruction of democratic rules and traditions came to conclusion – or to a point of no return for the time to come. The USA is split in its midst – the consequences could determine the years to come.

Using the cover of democratic rules and the freedoms associated to hurt the core of democracy and to transform it to a hollow shell or cosmetic whitewash is not unique to the USA; worldwide there is a tendency to empty the shrines of democracy for power and rule with impunity. The Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Russia are only some examples of a growing number of states trying to erode democracy and with it human rights and human dignity. Add to this the Covid-19 pandemic, which is a perfect reason to introduce measures diametral to democracy or parliamentarian democracy; the danger of which is seen in South Africa with the National Covid-19 Command Council and the seemingly endless extension of the state of disaster which gives ministers predispositioned to authoritarian habits enough space to indulge in their favourite sports.

Unfortunately democratic rules are not a guarantee that always the noble people are standing for election and the Covid-19 pandemic has shown almost worldwide, that human mankind is very much susceptible to crazy theories and fake news as well as a black/white world view. It seems that there is a collective tiredness to go for freedom, which includes the responsibility to weigh choices every day. It is easier to be told what to do and not to do; it is easier to submit to an order and run with the crowd, it is easier to look away when those, who are “not me” falling prey to unjust actions or coming short.

Democracy, freedom and the rule of law are virtues to be guarded every day – it has a reason why the US American Constitution determines the day and even the hour when the sacred duty of certifying the results on national level has to be executed. Ceremonies in this sense are not old-fashioned, but a reminder how fragile the achieved way of governance, how fragile societies and self-determination as a people are.

May the pictures we saw yesterday on TV streaming from the USA be a reminder how quick certainties can vanish – add this to the Covid-19 pandemic and even the most laziest thinker should start to realise the wake-up call of our times for humanity, dignity and human rights, but also the well-being of the human race as such. Honesty, truth and other agreed shared values must be back as fundaments for the way forward.

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

World Aids Conference in Amsterdam

After a conference is always before a conference – but after attending this years World Aids Conference it remains to reflect on what was achieved and what does one take home?

World Aids Conferences are for me always places to listen – to step back from constantly producing or standing in front of an audience but to remain in the back of auditoriums and conference rooms to listen and learn. This year was not different, hearing how other organizations work and applaud their achievements and listen to their worries and concerns is indeed a much appreciated learning curve.

Not all looks good – so we learned in the five days: in over 50 countries worldwide the numbers of new infections are rising again and especially in the Ukraine and Russia but also the Near East we see numbers climbing. In South Africa the numbers seemed to stagnate when it comes to new infections – a situation known since years without a real explanation. There is less money globally to spend on HIV related issues and the 90-90-90 goal of UNAIDS is definitely at risk not to be reached.

On the good side we now know for certain that undetectable means no transmission possible. And it translates in more people tested and put on treatment equals less new infections. But if the laws of the land punish HIV positive people for sexual acts or even spitting with attempted murder – who wants to be open about his or her status? Ignorant governments denying a problem with HIV in their respective country or even countries which prosecute LGBTI people or sex workers can’t count on getting the people on treatment. Politics and law are standing in many countries in the way of testing and treating and with it fostering the circle of new infections. Stigma and discrimination, also in the health sector, add to the problems of not achieving a next generation of zero new infections.

So where does this leave us? First of all with lots of fresh motivation seeing and experiencing the other round about 15000 activists, researchers, doctors, community workers, lawyers; somehow confirming that one is not alone. It is great to mix and mingle and greet and smile and clap hands and feel inspired with all those fighting the same battle.

But it leaves us also with lots of continued and new challenges – the fight against HIV is not won yet, I guess some people were too sure claiming the end in 2030 – the virus remains a nasty challenge to the world and it will not give up easily.

So San Francisco will be next in 2020 – but even there is a question mark. Many activists felt and made it heard that Trump-land is not the ideal place to have such a conference. An ignorant world leader and lots of states with ignorant state laws might not be an ideal scenario for such a conference.

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

Motherfu@#er – or summarizing an interesting year

Nobody can say 2017 was a boring or uneventful year – it does not matter where you live or work – we were all part of a developing global village story shaking the world to the core. Politically a constant fake news producer, self-styled ego-man, denialist on many fronts and womanizer was elected President of the United States and many people had to learn that between the big cities of the West and East coast are definitely not as progressive as the city dwellers – believing rather what they want to believe instead tackling the challenges and realities on the ground.
In Europe Germany stills waits for a new government to be formed while in Austria a populist youngster seems to be the savior of this country while in Poland and Hungary the right wingers demolish democratic advances and human rights achievements almost systematically. The British playing Brexit chess without knowing really where it will end and the EU searches its way through all the political pitfalls its encountered during the year.

On the African continent the looting of South Africa continued and the brazenness in the face of several court decisions and revelations about those captured by the Guptas only increased as if they would know that their time is running out. Zimbabwe got rid of uncle Bob after a shameless Grace pushed for power while in other African countries there are the usual suspects extending their welcome by changing laws and constitutions. The question of refugees from Africa to Europe continuous to be a matter of grave concern and indicates that problems are not solved but always pushed to the next big political meeting.

In the Roman-Catholic church the opposition against Pope Francis clearly tried to score points in ridiculous ways and the hardly hidden hurt vanity of one cardinal stood out as an example of unhappiness with the current way our church is steered – while Catholics as such are discovering the depth of faith in a new and exciting way – even if mercy is a concept known since the beginning of Christianity.

And all this is mirrored in the social media – where etiquette seems to vanish while emotions are running high. Lots of contributions are lacking respect or brain like this example which I choose to publish because it shows the consequence of having leaders steering those emotions, playing with the uneducated and their sentiments, leading by bad examples or supporting the wave of false or misleading information which results in a mixture of unreasonable demands, non-logical approaches, denial of realities and the fostering of ideologies we thought to have beaten long ago.

So there is undeniable a sort of chaos ruling the world in the moment – with leaders uneasy and seemingly battling to make sense and to come to conclusions beneficial for all.  Democracy seems to take some hits while social media and the change in technology and communication has completely changed the environment people are operating. And if you look to China, where they develop a tracking system for all citizens and plans to work with scores to give or take privileges like loans or traveling, it becomes blatant clear where the challenges for political systems will be found in the years to come.

All this said there is also the acknowledgment that all challenges are also opportunities. Opportunities to resist and grow, opportunities to re-evaluate and correct, to discuss and discern and to move on forging a way for more humanity, more human rights and liberties as well as dignity for everybody. So nothing is doomed or lost at all.

In this context the work of NGO’s and civil right groups becomes so more important to assist in achieving the for-said goals. They are rightly seen as a threat to governments leaning towards dictatorial behavior as seen in Egypt or Russia, let alone China. To support those NGO’s and to value their contribution to a better world remains important when we now go into the next year 2018. Good vetted non-governmental organizations with a proven track record are in the coming years the lifeline to fill and bridge the gaps of governmental work, civil society has to play a much bigger role and charity organizations will be much-needed to continue their work for those many falling through the cracks of organized societies.

So at the end it is a mixed review but not hopeless, it is full of challenges we will have to turn into opportunities – it is a starting pitch for 2018 which will make the work of all interested in humanity exciting, demanding and rewarding at the same time. May it be for as many as possible a blessed year and may the emotions express themselves in a way respecting each other.

 

 

 

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

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