God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

A pleading president

If the situation would not be so dire, one could be more amazed about the pleading president, South Africans experienced yesterday evening on television. Addressing the nation he introduced more stringed measures to stop the out of control spiralling infection rate, pleading with South Africans while fighting tears to adhere to the rules.

It was a confession that the national government had lost the grip on infection and people; a bitter result of lockdown rules in the past which did not make any sense and at parts were unconstitutional mixed with a general distrust in the population witnessing the corruption levels especially in Covid-19 times of those in power and well-connected. Additional a police force riddled with corruption narratives and a police minister, whose virtue lies definitely not in honest police work or leadership. No improvement here from the failure of “Mr. Fix” as his predecessor. So enforcement levels and capabilities are at an all-time low. Understaffed and often not sufficient trained honest policemen are battling to remain on top of situations.

Add to this mix the strategy of keeping people dependent on hand-outs and an education system which often fails to produce matured thinking and one comes closer to the problems South Africa is governed by in our days.

The ban on alcohol sale and consumption in public was the right move, it highlights the fact that South African society at large has a drinking problem, maybe born out of the misery and hopelessness of people and the still not healed past. On the other hand there will be again a black market and some people, also well-connected will earn again the big bucks like in the times of the cigarette ban some months ago.

Where from here? The vaccine is for South Africa certainly the most promising fix in this situation; but all the commotions about late payments promise not a smooth sailing in this department. The promised vaccine for the first quarter 2021 has suddenly moved to the second quarter – and the indicated big announcements by the President yesterday still have to materialize before one can bank on it.

Covid-19 remains a challenge to the young democracy, and it continues to highlight all the failures and shortcomings of South African society. In this, we are not different from other countries. But we maybe have more to lose if we don’t get it right.

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

Truth, facts and lies

Living together as society means compromising on the way, we want to live together; it means tolerance towards the life design of my neighbour and to acknowledge the boundaries of what is still acceptable and what not.

For this to happen and for society to function we need to agree on some facts or truth, which build the base of every exploration of boundaries and limitations, freedoms and expectations.

The advent of social media and global connectivity via the internet has given rise to an ugly side of these advances which we call fake news, conspiracy theories or simply lies. This has brought us as societies, but also as human mankind in a danger zone.

For example Donald Trump lies regarding election results jeopardizes the US democracy with consequences for other countries and their safety and well-being. His lies and fake news about climate change has serious consequences for Mother Earth and the future of human mankind. His denial towards Covid-19 costs thousands of human beings their lives.

The denial of truth and the ignorance towards facts is not only in the political arena dangerous, also other organisations weaken themselves because of it. Look at the Catholic Church and its dealing with the topic “abuse”. Not acknowledging the facts brings besides pain and hurt also disrepute and a silent withdraw from many, looking for a new home for their belief system or drifting into the fake news corner and hoping that denying facts and changing the narrative rescues somehow their faith. We see this in so many instances in the USA even much broader than only in the cases of abuse or only the Catholic Church, looking at the Evangelical churches and major parts of the Catholic Church where meanwhile ideology, focusing on one aspect while actively ignoring or fighting all other not so convenient parts of reality trump (in the real sense of the word with a big T) religion and transform it into a blindly followed ideology.

Obviously fake news, lies, blind ideology have a shelf life, which is definitely prolonged by the use or better abuse of social media, the bitter flip side of something which was aimed to connect people and ended up to divide them in ways we never thought we will see. Do you recall the enthusiasm of entering a new millennium, the dream of a global village, the possibility to communicate and foster peace and dignity around the globe and the belief, that digital communication will bring all the positive goodies to the world we live in?

We are doing a detour now regarding truth and common grounds – and maybe as human mankind we are allowed to do so. But I would argue that the silent majority has now seen enough to determine the dead end and the destruction caused. Now is the time to stand up for the truth, for valid discernment and reasoning and I believe that especially religion – and religion does not mean necessarily church institutions – has a major role to play: the tradition of mystics (think Karl Rahner) and Global ethics (think Hans Kueng) and yes, the encyclicals and universal writings of Pope Francis are waiting to be more – or again – discovered and put into practice.

At the end truth will prevail – the costs to get there – that is the only thing we can determine as human beings and influence as part of societies.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Politics and Society, Reflection, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Realities

Much is written and spoken about the Covid-19 time and experiences, tons of analysis has been done and will be still done in the days, weeks and month to come, theories of all sorts have been circulating in social media; all in a diversity depending on how one views the world, but I guess we can all agree on one statement:
Corona has shown realities – unvarnished and blunt.

The reality of realising that our societies are not where we thought we are in the development of the human race is certainly one of the most important ones to mention. The expression “common sense” seems to mean so many different things and the “global village” feeling many of us prescribed to at the change of the millennium seems to have disappeared.

The advances of social media have shown their ugly face; all the enthusiasm that connectivity brings us closer together has turned into a battlefield on Twitter, Facebook and others with fake news, lies and deception. And not only that: this very connectivity and possibility threatens the fabric of societies, of democracies and question the way the world is governed in a very serious way.

And while the youngsters are being born in the world of cellphones and WhatsApp there is a whole generation of older folks battling to keep track of how the world is changing – and looking at the world as such – connectivity and internet are advantages in life many don’t have yet – the gap also here becomes more prevalent.

It is to hope that the current times are for many times of reflection – how we see us in this world we call home as a human race, how we want to live and develop. Especially the churches and faith-based communities are here asked to leave the nitty-gritty of theological sophistry aside and take on the challenge of joined ethical leadership much needed in such reflections.

Realities might be seen different in such a reflection, but there has to be a baseline of values, of truth and humanity, which governs any meaningful debate and discernment on the way forward.

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

Signs of anarchy

Anarchy is defined as a state of disorder due to absence or non-recognition of authority or other controlling systems. The action of the political party EFF in the last days as a result of an advertising of the company Clicks has shown all signs of anarchy:

Elected members of the National Parliament called for “attack” of their “fighters” on the company and shops resulting in fire-bombing, destruction and clear signs of violence against employees and customers. In many cases police stood by, a clearly different approach recalling the demonstration of employees of the tourism industry, protesting peacefully and in accordance with Covid-19 regulations being treated with water canons and tear-gas.

An almost silent governing party giving room for such violence without clearly speaking out and instructing the national police to not only prevent but also arrest those inciting violence is a clear sign that anarchy is tolerated when it serves an ideological purpose.
Let’s be clear:
In a democratic society violence, incited by Members of Parliament is a no-go. MPs caught in the act must be arrested and disciplined, those executing the “attack” must feel the full force of the law. Democracy provides clear opportunities to deal with racism; violence is non of them.

Nobody defends the insensitive and racist advert allowed by the company Clicks to be posted;  a company which has generally great transformation credentials: BBBEE Code 6 or transformation rating 6, 60% black employees, R8.3 million annual investment in bursaries. As it is known at the moment, there was no plot, no intention and the decision makers were certainly not “whites wanting to provoke”.  It was one of this preventable oversights, which should never have happened in our times. It was a complete unacceptable move which shows how much work is still in front of us to create a society without race categories.

But to counter this unacceptable advert with unacceptable tactics and allowing a small party which was almost not present during the Covid-19 crisis to seize the moment for renewed relevance, allowing some wannabe revolutionaries to speak for the black majority of society in violent terms while the country seeks healing is completely contra productive. And simply not acceptable if we as society are serious to allow the laws of the land and the constitution to govern our lives.

The last days clearly show that the small opposition party of the so-called Economic Freedom Fighters are not willing to adhere to the rules of our new democratic South Africa and regard it only as a play ground to be used when it fits the bill. The shameless attacks on the previous public protector on social media, the argument, that touching a woman means nothing in terms of GBV shows the unsettling truth about those in charge of the party. If we allow this to prosper, we allow for the demise of democracy and the rise of Idi Amin style leaders seducing aspiring youngsters to follow a path of bullying and destructing.

Besides corruption and the National Democratic Revolution ideology, this would be another threat for the development of South Africa as a non-racial society where equality and quality of life are a given for all who live in this beautiful country. Our developing democratic structures are simply not advanced enough at the moment to withstand such onslaught long-term.  We have to find ways to confront racism in ways leading to healing and reconciliation, not confrontation. But we also have to find ways to confront those, who abuse the right to protest in their violent ways.

We need more voices of reason, from society and faith communities, also providing the space to confront and heal in a civilized manner.

 

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

in between travels

Traveling between Europe and South Africa sees in the moment a clear competition: which country has the most outrages politicians, the most stupid public debates avoiding the real question of long term sustainability of our societies and environments. Adding the big brother from the US sometimes one even does not know how to close ears and eyes from all the thunder of underdeveloped ideas. Add some blue haired so called influencer and the panopticum of political and social surrealism matches Salvador Dali’s paintings or even goes further.

What is it that people are losing their minds and running either behind a single messiah with short term memory or flocking behind the easy black/white solutions which never will solve any of our complex problems. Or, like we see more and more in South Africa, use violence and intimidation to get what one wants and just now without delay.
My guess is still that the anxiety over an overwhelming digital and digital connected world makes people being so afraid that they even intelligence don’t stop the degradation into instincts learned as we still walks as Neanderthals this earth.  We are in the mental stone-age of the digital revolution – and we behave like it on almost all levels of societies – it’s like a pandemic running its course and nobody really notices and if, one looks at it like the rabbit in front of the snake: don’t move – freeze!

The sacredness of life, the beauty of living this earth, the diversity of nature, the freedoms so many people fought and died for – all those are becoming victims of this point in time.  And churches, so much busy with themselves and their own history of failings trying to maintain a bit of moral order are not realizing that the real questions have moved so much further from the question what happens in the bedrooms of people.

Well, this weekend we are celebrating Pentecost – we celebrate the good Spirit of everything living and existing on this earth, in this universe – and maybe looking at the scale this compares to the aforesaid problems might enable us to put things again into perspective. This Spirit has three virtues: faith, hope and love – and maybe bringing them to the forefront again there might be a way out of our seemingly endless circles of short and inadequate answers – hope, faith and love are long-living – they are channels to life and to freedom we urgently need to rediscover.

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

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  • RT @DeanMacpherson: Mbeki really putting the boot into Cyril over EWC. Interesting timing of this letter surfacing. Clearly he must believe… - 4 hours ago

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