God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Create HOPE in the World

Rotary International revealed last week the motto for the Rotary Year 2023/2024.
Reflecting on this motto at the beginning of the new calendar year, indeed hope is needed. Looking around into the world in January 2023 one could be frightened.

The constant attacks of Russia trying to bring a neighboring country down by sheer bombing terror towards infrastructure and non-military aims has shown no letting down on ferocity.

Brazil and the USA, followed by Hungary and now Israel continue to show how democracy can be eroded on a continuous base, and it seems that a major part of the respective population supports the move into more anarchy and oligarchy.

China’s COVID-19 politics has shown how dictatorial states irrationally govern and at the end are bringing more suffering to the people solely through nonsensical decisions filtering down from top to bottom without being questioned.

And in the country I live, the blackouts give witness to the ongoing incompetence and corruption of the nationally governing parties; failing their very own people in basic matters.

So yeah, hope is needed, and fascinating is, that Rotary does not want to give hope, but indeed create hope. This sounds like a very active approach, and an approach which is the only way to go against the wave of hopelessness and despair, people experiencing on a daily basis.

And this despair brings lots of people to turn towards populists and conspiracy theories. Being told that there is only “black and white” and one is given a clear path to walk is often perceived as the most easy way to escape the amount of challenges the world is facing.

Creating hope means now to actively go against populism and all the other woes of modern society. It means to be on the ground and to work with the people concerned by developing alternatives, by voicing reason publicly and by simple leading and living by example.

For me, as the chairperson of HOPE Cape Town Trust, the new motto is also an encouragement to do more in this regard. It seems to me one of the best wishes for 2023. Not only because it is so desperately needed. But also because I know that millions of Rotarians around the world can make a difference, joining forces with all the NGO’s and civil society institutions already hart at work.

We need a coalition of the willing, a term we know from the Iraq war, but now meant in a very positive way of goodwill and enthusiasm. We need people who put their ideologies aside and first and foremost see the person and his/her needs. And we need people who understand human rights, human dignity and the portion of freedom and self-determination to be afforded to everybody.

Looking at the challenges the world is facing, creating hope means a hands-on approach. It means practicality at work and a mixture of grass-roots approach and policies giving reason and direction.

With this motto Rotary has set a scene giving hope – now lets see how the creation of this hope looks like in real life. As a Rotarian myself I am thrilled to be part of this creation.

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

Roe v. Wade – unfiltered thoughts…

Newspaper announcing the 1973 decision

The Republican Party, the right-wingers and those deeply entrenched in a specific way of thinking are jubilant – and my Roman-Catholic Church officially lauds the decision: “The fact that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position on this issue also challenges the whole world”

I am holding my breath – and no, I am not convinced that a large country with a long democratic tradition has changed its position. Polls tell the opposite.

Obviously, the world would be a better place without abortion – but also without unwanted pregnancies and with programs supporting single moms and difficult social situations. We all know, that this is not happening; that there is a lot of lip service.

Secondly, this is not a decision born out of democracy: It is an almost fascist takeover of a democratic institution essential for justice served in a democratic society. The USA has lost since Donald Trump many facets of a functioning democratic system. Radical white evangelical fundamentalists have taken over the reins at the Supreme Court and forcing their ill convictions onto society. Candidates for the Supreme Court bend the truth under questioning in their confirmation hearing – one could also say there were lies and deceit in the run-up to confirmation. We also heard about sexual harassment and more by one of the now elected judges – and we know that Mich McConnell abused the system to avoid an Obama proposed candidate. Politics instead of justice as a matter of fact.

No, the end never justifies the means – and the hijacking of the American democratic experiment by white macho evangelical and Catholic hardliners is one of the greatest dangers to Democratic means in the USA; it is a great danger to long fought for liberties and civil rights. Fake news, lies and outright criminal activities against the laws of democracy as the hearings in Washington bring to light cannot be the base of a juridical decision of the highest court of the land.

I can’t and I will not celebrate an attack on the values of democracy. I am appalled to know that the reality is that poor women will bear the brunt and consequences of this decision – there will be illegal and dangerous options with deadly consequences. The writing is on the wall – see Alito and Thomas opinions – that other basic rights will be on the chopping block in the future.

Abortion is in civil societies a much debated issue – and obviously the sanctity of life is at stake. But so is the sanctity of life attacked by the death penalty, by wars and certainly by current gun laws. The obvious schizophrenia of evangelical fundamentalists to pick what is convenient and to ignore or even promote the opposite of the rest is breathtaking.

Once again: The end never justifies the means – celebrating the Supreme Court’s decision is ill-advised. It brings more chaos and more division to society; and more danger towards the democratic institutions in the USA. It will also cost lives.
Obviously, religious institutions and faith based groups can and should have an opinion and also participate in the public debate. But there are rules and ethics when it comes to how decisions in a democratic system are made.

If we are honest, we all have to admit: abortion will not disappear by a court decision, but by an openness of society to discuss sexuality, by means of avoiding pregnancy and by politics supporting children, single parents and families. All things, religious fundamentalists and evangelical hardliner, but also organized religion are not known for to put into practice.

Convincing people in a democracy to do the right thing (whatever that is…) is always a process of words and deeds, but also carries the freedom of those we try to convince to say “no”. We people of faith are part of this process, but in my humble view we can never support supreme decisions which are based on lies, deceit, political gambling and hardly covered intentions born out of private religious fundamentalist convictions.

The decision in the matter Roe v Wade is at the end a dis-service to the aim to avoid unwanted pregnancies and to acknowledge realities; it will polarize and militarize those in favor or against it, and it brings in disrepute the standing of one of the most important institutions in a democracy. And the victims in all this are at the end again: women.

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

Turn of an era?

We are living in interesting times; we also could say we live in dangerous times or exciting times. However, one defines emotionally current times, it is increasingly becoming clear that humanity faces difficult decisions to make on a variety of questions flocking together in one moment in time.

The Coronavirus has brought us the message, how quick our big and small seemingly stable world can crumble because of a small little virus taking over the world. The way we densify areas to accommodate more people in spaces and the way we extend our habitat into the last pockets of real nature should be reflected on if we as the human species want to have a future on this planet.

Add to this the climate change which becomes increasingly dramatic looking at the so-called eternal ice, the glaciers, the weather patterns which will not go away while elected or authoritarian politicians try to make sense of it – always having in mind that the sacrifices must be on the other site of the fence.

The Ukraine war has shown the people on the “island” Europe the realities of the rest of the word, where violence and war is a much more frequent occurrence. But it also shows how interconnected the world is now and people all around the world are suffering because one leader runs amok for reasons one can analyse, but it does not mean they make sense.

Trump, Johnson, and their likes have brought a culture of lies and fake news to the table. Amplified by social media and as predicted by warning voices, that the amount of information and communication will overwhelm our brains, we have created the best environment to create a fictional reality besides the real reality. And millions, overstrained and anxious, flee into the madness of such fictions. Looking at the USA and its current affairs – the plan of the Christian right together with those wanting to keep the white macho monopoly comes dangerously to conclusion: racism, the upcoming decision “Roe v Wade” has ramifications far beyond the USA. A country and society which is at war with itself and therefore giving rise to others like China, which is posing the biggest threat to human rights, civil rights and civil liberties.

Looking at the overall politics, many democratic systems need an overhaul to arrive in the 21st century, but it is impossible to do with the culture of professional politicians who would never survive in the real world and who have mostly their re-election at heart instead of the people. Our democracies are a shadow of what it meant when the idea was born. It is still often the best we can, but it will not be sufficient to move forward in the next years to come.

And this applies also to international organisations like the UN, being stuck in a post II World War idea and clearly not being able to develop into a tool needed in our times. Alone the fact, that a country, being the aggressor and committing war crimes has a veto power is on all imaginable levels simply wrong.

Social media and democratic structures are also more and more in competition – reading Elon Musk’s announcement that he most likely will unban Donald T from the newly purchased Twitter, looking at the power of a company like Facebook to determine what you are allowed to say or not, the logarithm and AI increasingly and often silently starting to manipulate our lives: we are at a point in time when we collectively need to come to decisions how to proceed as human beings and what values we put first.

There would be so much more to list – the role of religious institutions and their failures, questions of how the global economy is working, questions of the interaction of so-called “developed / developing” countries in relation to the so-called “first world” – whatever that really means when looking at it more in detail.

We need to have more conversations – and when I say conversations I mean really engaging with each other, listening to each other and recreating a culture of engagement. Social Media should assist and stop creating millions of keyboard warriors and bots pushing their point of view in a way which defies the word “communication” and triggers rather aggression and violence.

We need to realise that putting average or professional politicians on pedestals because there are no better ones, or because they have a specific gender, sex or skin colour does not really help but often obfuscate the wanted outcome.

The world of our days offers so many tools and possibilities to reach out and connect; we need to make more out of it, and we have to learn to use it wisely if we really want to come out with a perspective for us humans as part of this world we are living in. We owe it to the next generations that we turn this obvious transition time into something which is worth living.

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

Still lots of questions…

Insanity is the word I am finding the most appropriate looking at the situation in the Ukraine – especially looking at the history. Helplessness and failure are following on place two and three.

Since Ukraine eight years ago – after a pro-European protest movement toppled a Kremlin-backed president – turned more to the West, the conflict is simmering between NATO and Russia on Ukraine.

We all knew that there was talk after the disintegration of the UDSSR that the western countries will not expand their military alliance towards the Russian borders; even if it was never signed off formally.
I am sure the elderly amongst us still recall the attempt of Russia to install rockets on Cuba in the sixties, and the threat of a nuclear war from then-president J.F.Kennedy, arguing that his country cannot allow such weapons close to the border reaching US territory.

Nothing has changed in this regard – and listening to Angela Merkel back some years stating, that Vladimir Putin lives in his very own world – indicating that this world was far away from any reality.

So my question after rightly condemning the attack with all arguments and emotions – also recalling my visit to Odessa and other Ukrainian cities and worrying about people I met – so my question would be how we can leave the black/white scenario and come to an honest analysis asking the hard questions:

When politics is the art of the possible – was it really necessary to flirt with the NATO membership of Ukraine – which, in fact, was years away?
When politics is the art of the possible – has nobody noticed the brutality with which Zar-like Putin tried to reconvene the “good old times” of a Great Russia – killing every dissent, allowing even for state sponsored murder outside Russia – completely ruthless and without hesitance?

Taking the Crimea was the next step of Putin to announce to the world that he will not allow for the expansion of NATO; and if we are honest, the soft reaction of the West – being dependent on energy from Russia – was rather an encouragement, as in his world, weakness will be used as a sign of reinforcement that he has the upper hand to do, what he feels is appropriate.

Of course, the Trump presidency weakened any hard stance on Russia worldwide – the earlier super-power, now in the grip of fake news and its own battle to remain white male dominant and partly living in a world which is as abstruse and far away from reality as the Russian leader’s one.

And for those really watching closer, the war against Ukraine has another danger for the future: look at China’s reaction: While standing with Russia, China still insists that borders should be respected – but we all know, that the country does not consider Taiwan a country – watch the space. A very unholy alliance is being formed by Russia and China – threatening the very fabric of human rights, civil liberties and the individual freedoms.

So what to do?
Sanctions are threatened and executed – and realising the money flows before the war started, Moscow has prepared itself for quite some time bringing money back into its country. Cutting the SWIFT link would be the sharpest sword, but looking especially at Germany and the Netherlands – it is doubtful that sanctions are called which hurts the own countries. So I guess it will again be those not so much hurting ones – obviously called different by politicians needing to reassure themselves. One has to sound harsh and determined. Too little too late?

So what to do?
Listening to Putin’s indeed on madness bordering speech ordering the invasion, it is clear that common sense will not work and that the limitations of politics as an art of the possible are very tight. As long as the USA flirts with another round of madman Trump and his fascist tendencies, love for fake news and adoration for dictators – like it or not – helplessness will remain the topic of the day.

As long as Europe is still struggling to understand what it really wants and to consequently lives it values and strengthen its determination to be a beacon of hope for democracy and the rule of law, speaking with one voice instead of bitching around and leaders often only trying to push through their countries’ agenda, there is always the gap people like Putin will abuse for own gains and for the own agenda.

While we experience worldwide more and more leaders being relentless and shameless in pushing through their agenda, one can observe on the other site those politicians without really a point of view and determined to be political correct, whatever this means. Most political systems allow meanwhile for people who never have worked, finished a training or study, and they would never survive in the real world, but the chance of being a life-long politician comes to the rescue. A combination which is simply not working on a long term.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it throws at us a lot of questions, a lot of challenges, a lot of question marks. And as painful it is, we have to stand up to all of it.

A war in Europe – like the pandemic it triggers in us a lot of emotions, a lot of fear and anger, a lot of desperation, and it shows a lot of limitation of what we can do to stop it or deal meaningful with it.

War is always a defeat for humanity, a defeat for politics, and a defeat for the entire human race. It screams for healing and ethical answers.

I don’t have those answers, but all the questions should push all of us to dig deep into ourselves to find the bits and pieces contributing to an answer as societies which holds a meaningful future and limits the craziness of war and hostilities. Because at the end, war and hostilities make us all to be losers.

To read the mind-boggling speech of Vladimir Putin ordering war, please click here.

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

At the end of the year….

I guess, most of us agree: this was a specific difficult year for societies and in politics. Looking around in our world, there seems to be little hope for 2022:

In the USA, we see a country struggling to keep democracy alive and fight off a sort of white male fascism driven by a Republican Party not ashamed to base politics on lies and deception.
In Great Britain, the Brexit promises have failed in a big way and the current Premier seems to have difficulties with truth and honesty, let alone clear policies.
In Russia old demons of power and might through military means aka Putin style becomes dominant and endangers world peace looking at Ukraine.
China demonstrates its willingness to go the extra mile to kill everything which smells like civil rights; only look at Hong Kong.
Europe throws part of its values into the Mediterranean Sea by letting people drown in exactly this sea and looking at Covid-19, the switching on and off of parts of Africa without common sense does not give the impression that values are universal.

The corruption in South Africa continues, and those fighting within the ANC for power are still pretty safe of prosecution. Even the admission of the President that state coffer money was used for party politics does not draw any consequences – business as usual.

Covid-19 and the vaccine story has divided families and societies – and the virus laid open the impossibility for the human race to act jointly and with common sense in a complex world.

Environmental questions remain to be answered with urgency if the human race wants to survive and have a future.

So 2022 starts with an exceptional package of “needs to be addressed” – and if we would only look at the big picture we could fall into depression.
But there is always our small world within the big picture. There is always the magnitude of kind acts, of friendly and supportive smiles, of acts of goodwill, and if the late Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu is to believe – all those acts will at the end form the safety net rescuing and changing the world to the better.

There is hope, there is a light at the end of the tunnel, but we can’t wait for any divine force to make it happen here on earth, we have to do it ourselves with our hands and our hearts.
Let’s be honest:
the world will exist even when the human race disappears – the world, our environment and the universe does not need us – we need to relate to all of them in a healthy way. And we only can do this, if we learn much more to understand each other as one human race only being able to thrive and survive if we limit ourselves not only in the amount of human beings living at the same time on earth with limited resources, but also much more share common values not only in theory but in practice.

We have to be much more attentive to this – and we have in church, politics and society to understand much more, that being a leader is not about a career and power play but service; we have to examine our systems of governing and our structure of living whether they serve life and well-being of all or only an elite. We have to understand ourselves as a part of nature, and our fellow brothers and sisters rather as a support system we depend on within our environment. Furthermore, we have to watch out, that our systems and AI are not so perfect, that they don’t allow any more for the diversity human mankind represents. Perfect systems, or rather almost perfect systems, are endangering individual lives and livelihoods.

There is light at the end of the tunnel; there is the prospect of a good future, there is the constant dream not only of a rainbow nation, but a rainbow world, a rainbow human race – a unity in diversity – a connectivity which can be felt when one is attentive and open to it. We can’t leave the world to the doomsday activists nor to the Querdenker or those using and abusing the world and humans for their own advantage only.

Let’s welcome 2022 with open arms and hearts but also knowing that the majority of people of goodwill have to connect more to advance humanity, decency and civil freedoms carried by joined values for all.

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

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