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Showing posts from 2012

reactions to a massacre

My last few blog posts have been discussing ‘what’s wrong with shooting a bunch of protesting miners’… and the bigger picture considerations when assessing what led to the massacre ata Lonmin mine in Marikana, South Africa a few weeks ago.
Previous posts in this mini series covered: 1. Democratic principles; 2. Human Rights; 3. Cultural violence; and 4. Structural violence.
In the final post in my short series, I will be exploring the reactions of South Africans a bit further – at least the aspects that have amazed and concerned me. I might be throwing the cat among the pigeons, but here goes...
5. ‘us’ and ‘them’- or ‘ubuntu’ vs ‘white guilt’ The term ‘Nation-building’ is frequently bandied about in political and intellectual circles in this country. I would prefer to speak of community-building, since national identity and patriotism are problematic, twentieth-century terms more likely to start wars than build a sunny shared future for us all. Disputed terminology aside, however, what we h…

Digging even deeper - Structural Violence

Continuing from my previous blog posts, this is the fourth installment in a short series discussing the massacre of a few weeks ago at a Lonmin mine in Marikana, South Africa. I have felt that the general discourse (if discussed at all) among average people has been ‘what’s wrong with shooting a bunch of protesting miners, when they had been violent and even apparently committed murder (two policemen were killed in the preceding week)?’ Well, a lot, actually.
In my previous posts I have discussed the most obvious levels first: 1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES; and 2. HUMAN RIGHTS. Then the previous post started digging a bit deeper into.... 3. A CULTURE OF VIOLENCE In this post, I will be digging even deeper… and this is where I start to really step on people’s toes…
4. Exploitation and ‘Structural Violence’: Taking another look at my admonishment in the preceding post to ‘build peace’ rather than ‘increase security’ (i.e. arm yourself/ protect your property/ militarise the police further…): peace…

The Lonmin massacre – digging deeper

Continuing from my previous blog posts, this is the third installment in a short series discussing the massacre of a few weeks ago at a Lonmin mine in Marikana, South Africa. I have felt that the general discourse (if discussed at all) among average people has been ‘what’s wrong with shooting a bunch of protesting miners, when they had been violent and even apparently committed murder (two policemen were killed in the preceding week)?’ Well, a lot, actually.
In my previous posts I have discussed the most obvious levels first: 1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES; and 2. HUMAN RIGHTS. In this post I will start to dig a bit deeper....
3. A culture of violence From the preceding post discussing ‘rights’, the ‘right to bear arms’ is an example of a controversial ‘right’ – it is seen by many as essential to ensuring your own protection, and is upheld in countries like the U.S. However others are vehemently against the idea because of its destabilising effect on a society (for more on this, refer to my earl…

Human Rights or Mining Rights?

Continuing from my previous blog post, ‘Today I am crying for Africa’, this is the second installment in a short series discussing the Lonmin massacre of a few weeks ago, and ‘what’s wrong with shooting a bunch of protesting miners, when they had been violent and even apparently committed murder (two policemen were killed in the preceding week)?’ So many levels of wrong... I discussed the most obvious level first: 1. DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES. In this post I will look at another rather obvious level…

2. Human Rights – incl. Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ESCR) Most people would agree that everyone is born equal and free – theoretically at least. This is what all our ‘human rights’ and international agreements are based on. Our modern world, for the most part, at least pays lip service to the concept of all human life being equally valued and human beings having certain ‘inalienable’ rights.
Exactly what ‘rights’ these are, is often hotly debated between cultures and even within count…

Today I am crying for Africa

Today I am crying for Africa…crying for a love lost. Crying for the rainbow nation I once believed in. Crying for the shared future I no longer want to be a part of.
I wrote these words well before the tragic events of a few weeks ago – the police killing of 34 striking miners at Marikana (and injuring of another 78). I am appalled, although not at all surprised by the events that played out there last week. What I am far more surprised about is the reactions of many of my fellow South Africans – or in fact the LACK of reaction by most.
I am embarrassed to be a South African sometimes… and never more so than to have heard more discussion in the past weeks about the return of that ridiculous melodrama, ‘Dallas’ (ironically about the so-called glamour of people in the mining industry – yes, those very high up in the food chain)… than about the tragic events (and the terrible conditions that have pushed workers into embracing such violence) in our own local mining industry.
‘What’s so wrong…

Compassion under pressure

The entire goal of the spiritual life is compassion – as Meister Eckhart emphasised, “if you were in an ecstasy as deep as that of St. Paul and there was a sick man who needed a cup of soup, it were better for you that you returned from the ecstasy and brought the cup of soup for love’s sake.”
I fail this test frequently. And not because I am in ‘an ecstasy’ too great to tear myself away from and serve my fellow human beings…no, nothing as wonderfully spiritual-sounding as that… Most often it’s because I am too busy, ‘not in the mood’, distracted, irritated or self-absorbed…
Compassion takes time, energy and the willingness to become involved in something that might snowball into something much bigger than you at first anticipated. Sometimes I just don’t feel I have the energy to ‘go there’ with a particular person or situation I am confronted with, usually at an inopportune moment (like when you are on your way to work, or already late for an appointment…)
Is it even ‘reasonable’ to e…

Community and courage

I am looking for a community and society I can introduce our daughter into with pride. This isn’t it.
These recent words of mine on facebook elicited many responses from friends and family - mostly those in South Africa – either saying I should move to their neighbourhood as it has good schools and churches, or that the perfect community does not exist...
I found these responses most unsatisfactory, and here‘s why:
A ‘good’ community or society is more than its schools and churches – these are only ‘good’ for those that are a part of the particular group or subculture – I want to be part of something bigger than that: multi-layered and inclusive, with a good mix of people of various races/ethnicities, socio-economic backgrounds, age groups and religious/worldviews.
Anything lacking this diversity is a subculture, an ‘us and them’ space, and often an elite or exclusive group which ‘allows’ membership based on certain restrictive criteria or traditions. Conversely, true community is open …