Let’s put right what is wrong
Putting things right and restoring harmony is illustrated in this painting Justiꞔa by Brazilian artist Alexander Moreira. The soluble coffee and white tempera depiction of Lady Justice calls to mind what is honourable, fair, well-reasoned, balanced and right. What is sorely needed from our ANC/ Communist Party/ Trade Unions government right now. And from us. In the painting the absence of the usually prominent sword conveys a gentle and strong power (rather than an overt power) that our government must surely heed.
Over 30 years ago I enjoyed a correspondence with Elias Charcour, a priest in Gaza who wrote Blood Brothers in 1984 (It was translated into 20 languages).
He has always championed peace, unity and justice, was three times nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, and in 2006 became Archbishop of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church.
He wrote about “fighting for our dignity and freedom” which is a fight we in South Africa are now deeply engaged in.
Inherent in Elias’s thinking is unity and interconnectivity. He refers to himself as a “Palestinian-Arab-Christian-Israeli". His message has validity for us today as we hurtle as a nation towards the edge of the precipice.
“I believe that that foolish man of Galilee, Jesus Christ, had something to tell us, to tell me”.
“The momentum carried us out of the church and into the streets where true Christianity belongs”.
He refers too to the David and Goliath story, an apt metaphor for our general situation – in our cities, our towns and our farms.
We must somehow overcome all the evil actions that have been happening.
And insist that government begins to put things right.
And we are big enough to achieve this.
HOW should we campaign for things to be put right?
A careful reading of the letter from Elias Charcour below shows that he is focused on achieving peace, justice and unity, and putting things right in the right way.
Michael Ramsden underlines this principle in his talk Culture and Conflict. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DJVv7UcZjcI
Ramsden explains that if we pursue justice with a mind-set of bitterness, then even after justice is achieved, we will be bitter. If we pursue justice from a base of love and compassion, then love and compassion will be the fruit of justice achieved. The means to the end is as important as the end. And he draws on powerful metaphors from Amos 6:12 to illustrate: “Is it possible for (unshod) horses to go running on the rocks? May the sea be ploughed with oxen?”
A strident “you owe me” mentality (something that we see far too much of) feeds bitterness, and is likely to invoke resentment, fear, resistance and further separation.
A new testament parable that speaks to this mindset is that of the man released from his debt, then demanding payback from those who are indebted to him (Matthew 18). On the other hand, Zacchaeus, befriended and engaged by Jesus, made restoration far in excess of what was expected. (Luke 19)
“Those who would transform a Nation or the World cannot do so by breeding and captaining discontent or by demonstrating the reasonableness and desirability of the intended changes or by coercing people into a new way of life. They must know how to kindle and fan an extravagant hope” - Eric Hoffer, American moral and social philosopher.
I’ve been asked to produce a chapter for an upcoming Business Storytelling Encyclopaedia to be published by World Scientific Publishing Co Pte Ltd. Two story practitioners who I work with and who are both deeply knowledgeable (Terrence Gargiulo and Stévé Bánhegyi have joined me on this task. Our working title is From Walls to Bridges with Story: exploring ways of countering the societal, economic and environmental impacts of negative, belittling, divisive, harmful and false narratives. We cover the changing of predominant, existing narratives (from walls to bridges) at the nation-state, organisational, inter-relationship and personal inner levels. We are guided by Eric Hoffer’s wisdom and our principles and methodology for bridging-stories, which are an imperative, and reflect his philosophy. As do the desired characteristics of ‘bridging story’ practitioners). And by the simplicity of Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8uZgcz_WlAA)
To borrow from G. I. Gurdjieff’s ‘law of three’ as elucidated by Cynthia Bourgeault: Given a ‘for’ and an ‘against, there can be a ('and/both') reconciliation, and as a result of this process a new dimension is born. A teaching from Jesus is that if a seed (‘for’) falls to the ground (‘against’), then only with water & sunlight (a reconciling force) will there be a sprout (birth of the new). (Rohr, R. 2019 citing Bourgeault, C. 2013)
The picture that follows shows two separate swans coming together - a new and third thing transpires: the heart that they form. (Bowen, Pan. 2007) Two stories, me and you, can become a third story: we.
Bowen Pan (2007) Two swans forming a heart shape (Wikimedia Commons)
In his book Intelligent Ethics, associate Luke Andreski identifies three simple moral objectives, which are based on a commitment to life – to the very essence of what we are – and to the living world. They are:
· To nurture others
· To nurture our species as a whole
· To nurture all life
These simple and uncontroversial moral aims reflect the core elements of many of the great ethical traditions of the past. More than this, their simplicity makes them an ideal tool for addressing the moral dilemmas of the modern world.
In a bigger context of our interconnectedness we have a duty to counter what separates and harms, destroys. Work for unity and compassion.
What should we campaign for?
For the purposes of this article, the focus in not on the individual, group, organisation or institution, but at the nation – state level. Massive, positive effort is required. Specifically, in South Africa. (I am not sufficiently aware of the situation in other countries).
For six months South Africa has been subjected to a harsh lock-down and pandemic regulations that have killed the economy and badly damaged the social fabric of the country, and its citizens. In light of the reported success of Sweden’s Folkvett (Trust the people to be responsible) approach (which naturally allows formation of a herd – immunity , what has happened to our people is nothing less than criminal.
At a protest rally I was struck by the palpable sense of not being alone, pride in standing up to the abuses, robbing and plundering enacted by government officials, and disappointed in the silence of the institutional churches, synagogues, mosques and temples.
In addition, Rees gives a clear perspective on other trends and threats: “…. environmental degradation, unchecked climate change and unintended consequences of advanced technology could trigger serious, even catastrophic, setbacks to society”. On necessary wealth distribution and closing the gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’: “Failure to respond to this (feasible) humanitarian imperative, which nations have the power to remedy, surely casts doubt on any claims of institutional moral progress”. (Rees, Martin (2018) On the Future: prospects for humanity Princeton University Press)
There is so much wrong that needs to be named. We need to apply our minds to the implications of unconstrained developments in a number of areas. Broadly, the three most important areas that require addressing (not in priority order and all interconnected) are:
The encroachment of biotechnology and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, if not ethically – bounded
The rapid, wide advent of technology into every area of our lives promises both benefit and dis-benefit.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution is picking up (Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, Robotics, 5G networks …). Drones and robots can make deliveries, plant crops, and kill. Face recognition software is developing to the point where emotions can be read. The more connected we are the more is known about our lifestyle, preferences, feelings, state of well-being. The more interconnected technologies become the more this becomes true.
Transhumanism flirts dangerously with de-humanisation and brings us ever closer to the AI/ Human crossover point, termed ‘singularity’. Becoming trans-human is an ego-driven goal. It aims at overcoming our physical and biological 'limitations' in order to ‘evolve’ into being ‘super-human’. Closer to perfection. Or closer to dysfunctionality?
Will information and access to us be in the hands of governments and a few rich people? Without non-technical, appropriate involvement to apply ethical limitations to technology advancement, we could be in big trouble …
Plundered resources – financial, natural, human, intellectual, social capitals
We have seen unbelievable corruption, state capture and state creep that has gone unpunished as the ANC simultaneously dismantled or rendered toothless the necessary checks-and-balances institutions. Now under consideration we have nationalisation of the reserve bank, state-prescribed pension fund investments ... The ANC, founded with the support of various institutions including the Church, is a tripartite alliance with the Communist Party and the trade unions (whose motives are not in any aligned with what is best for a "democratic" nation. The long-ongoing deployment of cadres who are rewarded on the basis for their loyalty to the party, has taken precedence over any selection to high posts that are based on competence and merit. And we have stayed silent for too many years.
Pending legislation includes:
· No environmental assessments needed for gas pipelines, electricity corridors, and more
· Proposed removal of the requirement on SARS to prove intent with regard to information submitted on income tax, VAT and other returns. If you make a genuine mistake in your tax declarations, SARS can unilaterally deem this to be of criminal intent
· 5G network towers may be erected on private land (including residential), and property owners may not charge an access fee and are liable for any damage to the tower and other infrastructure (At one stage India banned cell towers near schools, hospitals, prisons, because of potential radiation effects - but that is not even a consideration here·
· Censorship of any criticism of the Government
Trampling on unalienable human rights, and sewing disunity
More and more are seeing that the Swedish approach and absence of harsh and prolonged, debilitating lock-downs and command and control measures based on fear - mongering, pseudo-science and faulty prediction models, has worked. Without destroying economies, social fabric and lives.
Our Bill of Rights, when last I read it, includes many citizen rights that are being derogated (abused) by the CCCCCC. (Covid-19 Command Control Compliance and Capture Council). A better description than the official National Coronavirus Command Council.
These include inalienable and unimpeded rights to work, life, equality, dignity, the absence of discrimination (including on the grounds of age), freedom of movement, freedom from degrading treatment, freedom of thought, expression, privacy including protection against search and seizure of home, person, and correspondence, ownership of land and no expropriation without compensation, the right to information held by the government, freedom of worship …
Instead we now have a military-like command and control 'leadership' that influences and directs how we think, feel and behave, at every level, that is biased against certain population groups, and deliberately sews disunity.
There is a real chance of an undemocratic shift to a communist model. Ex-president Zuma’s ex-wife who heads the National Coronavirus Disaster Management Council has said that the pandemic “… also offers us an opportunity to accelerate the implementation of some long agreed upon structural changes … These opportunities call for more sacrifice and – if needs be – what Amilcar Cabral called “class suicide” ….’. (Hoffman, P. 2020)
Cadre deployment has been practiced for years now. Comrades are rewarded for their loyalty to the party. This selection criterion takes precedence over competence and merit.
(The Marxist Cabral led the revolutionary guerrilla war for independence against Portuguese Guinea, West Africa. His solution requires doing away with capitalism and adopting the non-colonial values of the masses. Hoffman, Paul. Advocate. (2020) Survival of the nation trumps the revolutionary transformation of the economy 2 May 2020)
The killing of farmers as a visible, ideology-fueled, symbolic “struggle” strategy designed to whip up hatred, and badly hurt ‘colonialists’ is a related activity that has remained a deliberate ANC strategy. Not only do they not admit that the “Kill the farmer” war song and slogan constitute hate speech, they have continued to refuse to acknowledge escalating white farm killings (except for a little while under Mandela) as a priority crime; instead they hide or fudge statistics. This has been the case during the Mbeki, Zuma and Ramaphosa eras. These killings have no place in a civilized, democratic society. They deserve priority crime status because:
· the struggle is long over,
· the attacks occur frequently,
· many if not most of the victims are old,
· the attacks are brutal and grisly,
· they disrupt and reduce our food supply in a time of economic depression,
· they are contrary to social cohesion, and dangerously divisive.
- statistics about who owns the land stem from false audits. In a recent development a municipality offered to repay a debt of billions of Rand to Eskom, by transferring ownership of 129 farms from themselves to Eskom!
It is shocking and an abomination that the "kill the boer" hate campaign continues by commission and omission. Society at large and key institutions (including the religious) have stayed silent. Shame!
Beyond disrespecting our constitution and trampling on basic human rights, this government shows scant regard for the value of life itself.
Ukulungisa is an African concept, essentially meaning a chance to put things right, restore order, aspire to higher things. We should not lose this chance. Let’s do it.
Further reading is available at:
The Swedish model
Touch trumps unsocial distancing http://storytellinginbusiness.blogspot.com/2020/07/touch.html
The new abnormal
Our constitution mocked