God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Why preventing a second Trump term might be a global necessity

Elections are national affairs and the saying goes that national affairs remain national. Nations insist on it; especially for totalitarian governments it is a happily used tool to defend actions against their own citizens which don’t match human rights or human decencies. And under normal circumstances elections are indeed a national affair when free and fair. But there are exemption of the rule and the November elections are falling clearly cut out under the exemption.
Why?
The reasons are divers of nature, but to name a few:

Environment: in our global connected we can’t afford any delay in changing our attitude towards climate change. The refusal of the US American President to come to the table has consequences which are far beyond national affairs. Environment is not national any more.

World Peace: The unilateral withdrawal from the deal with Iran regarding nuclear weapons is a clear sign, that international contracts are at liberty to be broken for no valid reason. We see already in Boris Johnson and the EU treaty a follower. Peace between countries is not national, but a global issue in our inter-connected world.

Truth and lies: In a world battling with the fall-out of social media imperia, which have changed the dynamics of every days’ life for almost all connected via internet, promoting obvious lies and so changing a narrative as one goes along in dramatic fashion is poison for the global village. It is an international concern if and when the boundaries between facts and distortion of magnitude becomes the new norm and is copied around the world.

Racism: The human race has come to a point where there is no justification any more for racism, white domination or the promotion of white genes as “good ones” – defending and standing for an artificial concept which has brought hurt, pain, suffering and injustice in the past is against global human and civil rights and no national affair any more.

Gender Equality: Fighting a womaniser is part of a fight for human rights, which are universal. Using and abusing women and young adolescents or making friend with people who do so – and even defending such people is a no-go. Leader of democratic societies have to be on the right side of life, when it comes to this topic. The #metoo wave has provided the clearest indication, that macho behaviour with disregard to women is no national affair any more.

Fascism: History has taught us where this leads to in a society and in a country: a leader, worshipped by followers cult-like and appointments to positions serving society with the only criteria “blind loyalty”  and inflated by pseudo-religious blessings, all before mentioned items are magnified. Being one of the most powerful countries in the world, such tendencies would be a danger beyond “America first”.

The question of Trump is not a question of party politics any more, it is not about different ways to find a way forward in a complex world. The question of Trump goes deeper and touches on core values of the human race, Trump  becomes more and more an ethical problem as he is not a leader of any small country hardly noticed in world politics but a major role player in global affairs.

The people of the USA have the right to abolish their dream of “of the people for the people”; they have the right to change their experience of democracy to whatever governmental form they wish, but in the times of global connectivity the question of environment and the value of truth as well as the abolishment of racism and inequality in all forms are not national items any more. It has become an ethical question that countries of leadership in the global village must be held to higher standards than others.

Trump has also become a symbol of a world system exposed and rattled by a digital future just beginning with social media and information exchange around the world almost in real time – nowhere to hide any more. His twitter account shows the ugly face of an unrestrained white dominant reality insisting of keeping the world as it has been.
Trump also has exposed that human mankind is not that far advanced as most of us thought we are – lies and conspiracy theories find fertile ground in so many people who feel overwhelmed with the new brave world entered by the digital revolution. So maybe a one-term presidency has the benefit of exposing the lack of human development and taught us a lesson needed.

But now we are at a point where the balance of benefit and disadvantage shifts, not only for the US American people but for the global village. Time to keep things in check – and for the sake of humanity, for the sake of the planet, for the sake of the future of the human race on this planet to avoid a second term by all reasonable means possible.

 

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

Can a Catholic vote for Trump?

I know:
This might be a strange or even outrages question to ask but it is one which drives me since month being a Catholic priest and watching US politics from afar, talking to US American citizens and seeing the ripple effect of US American politics changing the way the world used to work and the value system attached to it.
This might also be a strange question insofar as religion or faith should not prescribe for any voter whom he or she in her conscious decision decide to vote into office. Politics can be a dirty business, there is no one in this field who can claim for himself or herself a halo of sainthood during holding office. And it is good practice in many countries, that pastors or churches can’t give and should not give guidance to their flock whom to vote for in the sacred duty of electing office bearers.

There are indeed often many different political solutions and most of them have a sort of bloom hovering over them – there are so many different ways to see a matter and to decide a matter.
So my question is not touching on policies of a party; it does not question superficially the party affiliation of Catholics. For me the question is much deeper located as the current President of the United States has proven to  use lies and distortion as tools of governance, and he is clearly living in a world of his own – accused of racism and being a womaniser. Reading his tweets paints a perfect picture of the man in office.

So the question is:
How much of lying and self-absorption is allowed for the highest office, a democratic country has to offer?
Where is the limit when those faculties interfere with the greater good of a democratic society in a way damaging exactly these goods and the values attached to human decency, democracy and human rights?

I took note in the last days on social media that prominent Catholics for Trump argue his stance of pro-life as the all overriding factor – in my humble opinion ignoring that being pro-life not starts and ends with pregnancy but should include the track record touching on environment, asylum seekers, death penalty, racism and many more topics where life is threatened. Honesty, respect are other pro-life values not to be missed out.

The social teaching of the Catholic Church gives the state a positive moral function as an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights and build the common good. Its purpose is to assist citizens in fulfilling their responsibility to others in society. In today’s complex society citizens need the help of government to fulfil these responsibilities and to promote the common good.
In the times of Covid-19 the role of government has even become more crucial in guiding and unifying people and sectors of society. The ethics of solidarity will become in the future a much stronger pillar of Catholic social teaching – a solidarity which will have to override purely national interests in the connected world of today.

So once again the questions:
Where do we draw the line as Catholics believing in the sanctity of life, in encountering Christ in every fellow man and women, seeing the imprint of the divine not only in every brother or sister of the human race, but also in our environment, in nature and creation with all the diversity it entails?

Where do we draw the line observing abuse of a position in a society with democratic values, when exactly those values are undermined, annulled and circumvented – while at the same time God is invoked numerous times and a way forced to get a photo op in front of a church using police, tear-gas and force – bible firmly hold in hand?

There should be a line in the sand…

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

Never give up

Indeed, it is a challenge in our days living in South Africa to balance good and not so good news – and more than once I have been made aware that my postings are rather unbalanced on the not so good news when it comes to Facebook and Twitter.
And I recognize it is true from the outside; even with the biggest efforts to find here and there also good news, the situation in South Africa is bleak at the moment and the battle of national government against common sense, the ignorance for the plight of the people, the frustration bursts manifesting in illegal land invasion, the ongoing corruption of the connected and the sheer insensitivity of South Africa’s President in trying to keep the peace within the ANC instead within South Africa leads to times of desperation and trauma.

And it questions for many also the very foundation of our chosen political system of democracy. The promise of bringing prosperity and freedom to all has not been fulfilled; we are rather seeing politicians playing according to a prescribed book still not having internalized or started to deeply value its content.

Yesterday, the official farewell ceremony for John Lewis, the civil rights hero from the USA took place and the ceremony was guided by his own words, which may hold the key also for our situation in South Africa, where Covid-19 has laid bare all the wrongs and unfinished business of the young democracy:
“When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something. Democracy is not a state. It is an act, and each generation must do its part to help build what we called the Beloved Community, a nation and world society at peace with itself”

As said, Covid-19 has laid bare all the unfinished business of the current South Africa – it has shown the inability of most of the current leadership to adept to the values of democracy and the rule of law, it showcases the continued zest for enrichment for the connected and the disconnect between those, who once fought for liberation, but now literally forsake their former ideals to enjoy the perks of a perceived victory, leaving the masses behind, only to be really recognized in election times.

It is exactly this time when giving up is not an option, as such times of deep crisis make or break the future of generations to come. It is a time to voice concern, to lay open the wrongs, to speak out with force, but at the same time to pick up the brokenness of ordinary people and giving them a chance to live, to learn and to prepare for a better life for all in this country. It might seem to be a fight against windmills – it might to feel like Sisyphos rolling the round stone uphill; at the end it is the only way to counteract the ideology and failure of freedom fighters turned overstrained politicians, partly with a taste for entitlement and perks.

Democracy is an act – it is doing the right thing; working and fighting for the rights of those having subscribed to it. One does not need a political post as democracy calls each and every citizen to contribute to its functioning. For this to happen people must learn its ins and outs in theory and practice; they must be upskilled in this important field and then given the space to exercise their democratic freedoms and duties.

And we should never forget that there are many good people in this country, who want the best for the country. It calls simply for the art to connect, to build a network of goodwill and hard work – never giving up the hope, the dreams and the aspiration for South Africa being a place where the constitution reigns supreme and the people of the land live in peace and harmony with themselves and each other.

 

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

Shadows of the digital age

I am not sure how you felt when you first got acquainted to a computer, a laptop, a cellphone or opened your first Facebook Account and discovered the 24/7/365 open world of connectivity and news. It was exciting, it felt that a new dimension was added to life and a window of opportunities, better understanding and freedom was knocking on the door.
I don’t know how much has changed for you, but meanwhile the flood of information, the stress of the constant music making gadgets, wearing headphones or earpieces and talking loud ahead while eating, walking, working and running around adds rather to stress than to the delight of being. Permanently being available – always knowing what happens across the globe can develop in a burden rather than a blessing. Because like in the newspapers: bad news travel fast, radical opinions making headlines and very often all the drama of the world popping up in front of the eyes masking the greatness and joy of real life.
Politics has changed dramatically and with more or less unrestrained possibilities to lie and cheat and fake news a new breed of politicians is turning the possibility of broad communication into a weapon of disinformation and manipulation.
And not only this: looking at the USA: being exposed by social media of often racist and macho white attitude, a new cult emerges bending laws and human decency to defend indefensible actions and by doing so destroying values most people thought we had secured for the future. Lots to digest for the normal human being, either forced instinctively to run with the crowd or withdraw into a little private world to avoid despair. Fencing the own little word creates its own discriminations and dehumanizations.
Another way out of those shadows of the digital age is absolute control like China tries to enforce it for their citizens. But giving the power to decide what I am allowed to now and then finally to live for is surely not compatible with the civil freedoms and the human dignity, many fought for through the ages.
There are lots of shadows of the digital age – the world transforms in a massive way and challenges the ways we humans perceive reality.
Interesting times, challenging times, times not for the faint-hearted, but we will be only able to create a future for all if we realize and confront the shadows now and don’t allow a group of people to not only match, but outperform Georg Orwell’s 1984.

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

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