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

Fake News – Lies and Politics

Traveling from Africa via Europe to the USA I can’t escape the impression, that on all three continents fake news and blunt lies from politicians and other socially high-ranking individuals seems to become a global norm.

In South Africa I do understand the reason why there are so many people in society and politics, when caught in action or corruption simply start to lie with a straight face – even if the evidence is overwhelming. I guess it has to do with the times of apartheid where those oppressed had to learn to make a straight face while lying to the oppressors. Like getting accustomed in those times as a liberation movement to get everything for free which translates today in shameless corruption, so it seems there is a history which translates into lying without regret or bad conscience – and looking at some of the younger generation it is to fear that it got transferred to those who only know from history books what apartheid looked like.

In the USA a completely self-absorbed, egocentric and mentally autistic president paired with a last stand of white macho-behavior and white male dominance creates the poison of fake news – being then adopted and refined by Russian entities in a way threatening democratic process in its core.

In Europe anxiety about refugees triggered in Great Britain one of the greatest lying campaign in living history – promising e.g. millions per month for the ailing health sector in the clear knowledge that this would never happen. Amazing how those who pleaded with those arguments for the Brexit after the vote tried to disengage and leave the mess for others to sort out.

Reading social media coming from the AfD party and other right-wing organizations it seems that people learn quickly how to turn the truth around or how to mix truth and fiction in a way that distorts facts and leaves the reader at best confused. The way to see reality only through one pair of glasses and to refuse to walk in the shoes of others makes it even more militant and anti-democratic.

For me – the anxiety of a world to complex for most minds and anxiety for a foreign, emotionally not-known danger coming via strangers at the shores are the root source for those falling prey to all the fake news and even voting for those who lie without blushing and the question is: where are we heading? Is there no redemption or turn-around possible? Is there no way out or what will be the end of it all?

I am convinced that churches, religious organizations and NGO’s are here the first to stand up against fake news and falsehood – there are values not bound by denomination or creed which can be used to stand firm against a distorted world view made of fabrications – to call a spade a spade and to withstand the temptation to despair or give up or give in the current situation. I have to acknowledge that some churches e.g. in the USA support the current president, but looking closer one sees that faith has turned ideology and only the shell is called a denomination of faith.

Taking away the anxiety, taking away the fear and giving a meaning and sense to what is happening is the utmost duty of any faith – being ambassadors of hope and warriors against xenophobia,, fake news and violence is a natural consequence of working for the good of mankind. In this sense those entities play a far more important role within society than just the one limited to their respective chosen tasks.

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

2018 – Reflections

2018 has been a tough year for many people – and indeed this now ending year has had its challenges in private and in the public sector.

Globally populism and ignorance seem to have taken over the political scene in many countries – the turmoil of US politics triggered by a self-absorbed and mafia-like operating president and poised political stand-off between the major political parties swaps like a tsunami over the global village. Populist governments in Poland, Italy, Austria, Turkey as well as Hungary endanger more and more the future of the European Union. The question how to deal with refugees and immigrants and how to share resources trigger anxiety and right-wing ideology – a poisonous mix not assisting in advancing the development of the human race and society.

In South Africa the ruling ANC struggles to clean up the mess years of corruption and cadre deployment as well as looting have created – to admit guilt and to come clean is difficult for a liberation movement turned political party without having arrived mentally and structurally there yet. Additionally poverty and hopelessness as well as entitlement obviously aid those parties and movements in the country which try to exploit the situation for their either racist, fascist or communist dreams of a society far away from the rainbow nation and the dreams of Madiba. We have difficult years ahead…

The churches made also headlines – and certainly in the case of the Roman-Catholic Church it hasn’t been the ones one would like to take note of. The child abuse cases mounted and whenever one thought to have reached the peak new bad news emerged. One German Bishop mentioned that the abuse is part of the DNA of the church – trying under all circumstances to keep the picture of a holy church with hierarchical structures not allowing to be tempered with. And I guess he is right – if we really take the message of the unconditional love of God towards each and everybody serious the structure of the church, the gaps between laity and clergy, the attitude of those up the ladder, the way the church is structured and the way the church is operated has to be reflected on and ultimately change towards more participation and a real sense of being sense to simply and only pronounce this unconditional love. It’s not about a revolution to bring the structures up-side-down, but on a level where we are all on the same level looking eye to eye with respect giving others the same dignity and importance. A deep reflection of our teaching about human sexuality will definitely help too.

I could go on to list more challenges but it would be unfair to 2018 not also to mention all the good things having happened, all those who worked to build up more humanity, to create more love, to stipulate more joy and to make sure those less fortune have a chance to more life and fulfillment.  All those volunteers, those working with NGO’s and foundations, those who seriously assisted and helped fellow neighbors, welcomed strangers, stood up against discrimination and upheld the human dignity for all. Not to forget initiatives to keep creation in balance and to fight for the future of mother earth. And there might be the one or other politician and leader having the plight of the people at heart, who did the utmost to uplift his fellow men and women.

I guess, modern technology, social media and advanced possibilities of communication make us more aware of what is going on in the world – but all these advances can also be used to create more possibilities for political leaders and movements to control society and suppress different opinions. China is an example of a dangerous modi operandi which will make Orwell’s 1984 a cheap copy of a future reality.
It also helps fundamental militant movements to recruit followers around the world and manipulate them to become violent attackers within so-called free or perceived hostile societies. Words matter – therefore I believe we should never combine the words “faith” and “fundamentalism” – because if faith is mainly fundamentalism and militant it has developed into an ideology – and it is ideology which makes people blind for realities. Faith only supports more life, supports more love, supports more hope – ideology kills people.

May 2019 be a year of reflection and turn around strategies – populism, ideologies and ignorance will bring us nowhere – and let’s be clear: mother earth is not depending on us human beings – we depend on her for survival.  Let reason rule and insight into the Divine in whom we live and prosper. There is always hope I guess…

A blessed New Year – don’t forget to be a blessing for others around you.

 

 

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

Beyond understanding

Beyond understanding and inhumane – certainly not wise nor in the tradition of the great religions of this world: the way certain countries deal with the refugee crisis. Instead of realizing the magnitude and desperation of the situation, but also the historical challenge, politicians in the USA and Europe trying to hold on a world which has long gone and hold no water anymore for the dire human tragedy in the times of a digital revolution bringing the pictures of good or cruel deeds onto the surface of social media – and consequently into the homes of everybody. And the reaction can be so different:

There are those who grasp somehow the magnitude of the challenge, who see the tectonic shift in how the world moves combined with the plight of human creatures yearning for a decent life without war and unrest or economical hardship giving their kids no chance in life. And there are those who – by all means – try to keep a world view up which is long gone – but in desperation they support a white, male, European and North American dominance ruling the world with an economic system which pays lip service to real development while cementing superiority of a white macho- first-world mentality with a degree of variations.

Added to this is a “trump-ish”style of “me and my country first”attitude making landfall also in Europe – really believing that the structures of country boundaries and societies are set in stone and have to be protected by all means necessary. Amazingly even studied people like academics and journalists seem to fall for a static world view. Ad a fascist tendency in some countries or the call for a strong man – believing that a political messiah like Orban in Ungarn, Trump in the USA or Kurz in Austria can rescue the little world view a loud minority holds against a silent majority and the mess beyond understanding is ready to rule lives. Not to mention the resurrection of the brown mud represented by the AfD in Germany or there-likes in Europe.

No, as long as only the next election is eyed for and populism replaces real politics – as long as a world order favors those who have and disadvantages those having nothing anyhow – as long as we don’t tackle the problems jointly and understand that we are meanwhile a global village having to learn to understand each other and live with each other – the circle of violence and war, of unrest and power play, the circle of winners and losers and the rule of a Western white macho male society will continue to dominate daily lives. And this costs lives every day.

It is time to understand that the way the systems work will not hold water under the bridge any longer – and that the attempt to keep an old world order in place at any cost will not only cost lives, but it will simply not work at the end. The longer we wait to understand this, the longer the suffering of those who remain at the bottom of the old order.

Steps into a new world order are needed:
A new world order which recognizes the failures and mistakes of the past, which recognizes history,  which understand the inter-connectivity of all people of the one and only human race and which puts the environment as a top priority on the political to-do-list. A new world order balancing the need for stability with the acknowledgment that nothing is forever and development means always also movement to new shores.
For that we need politicians and leaders with a vision – not “Kurz-sichtigkeit” or a view limited to the next election date or – like in the case of Donald Trump, decisions only made looking to please those who have elected him – without any appreciation whether this hurts the rest of the world or not.

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