A Good Friday Lament

My God, my God, how can you not be angry?

How can you be silent at a time like this?
Can you not hear the plaintive cries of your suffering Son?

You have seen it all, and from the beginning of time.

A world created as home for your children.
Reduced to deserts and wasteland,
Paradise raped by violent men and money,
machines of death and monsters
that devour resources like fried chicken.

My God, my God how can you not be livid?

A people born of your love, each one shaped in your image.
Now turned rogue and renegade,
Rejecting the life offered and embodied in Jesus.
The gentle healer is brutalised and bloody,
one more victim and casualty.
Wood and nails

My God, my God how can you not be enraged?

Betrayal and corruption everywhere.
The son of God sold for a month’s salary,
thirty pieces of silver,
Rent and groceries.
A beloved country held hostage by a criminal president
puppeteering with power while people live impoverished.

And what about us huddled here
Full of Facebook fear
WhatsApping our opinions to those who agree with us
Saying we want change
But never changing ourselves.

My God, my God how can you not be incensed?

Or are you?

Are you angry?

Is this crushing of Jesus, your violent rage?
In your fury do you need to break something,
… someone?
… him?
Are threats of brimstone damnation not enough?
Are you finally so fed up that bones must splinter,
blood must be spilt?
Do you have to unleash your wrath on this innocent man
and how the Hell does that satisfy anything?

Are you a rapist or a redeemer?

Are you frustrated and fickle,
or
might you still be the Father this bloodied dying man said you are?

We need to know God.
We need to know God.
We need to know.
For Christ’s sake God, say something!

My God, my God by forsaking him, have you also forsaken us?

That cannot be true.
It must no be true

Here’s the thing God…
If you aren’t who Jesus described you to be,
you may as well hang us on that cross with him
and be done with it all for eternity.

Father into your hands we commit our confusion.

Amen

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Coloniser or Egophrenic?

columbus

Just as South Africans are ambivalent about Jan van Riebeeck, so Christopher Columbus is an enigma for America. For some, both are heroic explorers who brought civilisation to benighted continents. But for the native inhabitants of Africa and America these “civilisations” also brought a form of disease that turned us into cannibals. That is the theory of the late Jack D. Forbes, former professor of Native American Studies of the University of California at Davis.
In his book, “Columbus and Other Cannibals: The Wétiko Disease of Exploitation, Imperialism and Terrorism”, Forbes argued that Europeans brought a mind virus which Native Americans already knew and had named “Wétiko”.

Those infected by Wétiko manifest attitudes where, Brutality knows no boundaries, Greed knows no limits. Perversion knows no borders. Arrogance knows no frontiers. Deceit knows no edges.” It is the opposite of what Africans call Ubuntu. In Xhosa it is Umoya omdaka (Bad spirits).
As one who doesn’t believe in the reality of a physical being called Satan, or in evil spirits, I find the notion of a mind virus intriguing. Even more so when I read the work of Paul Levy who builds on Forbes’ work in his book “Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the curse of evil.” (2013). Drawing his insights from Jungian psychology, shamanism, alchemy, spiritual wisdom traditions, and personal experience at the hands of traditional psychiatry, Levy shows that hidden within the venom of wetiko is its own antidote, which once recognised can help us wake up and bring sanity back to our society.
Levy translates wetiko as “malignant egophrenia” (ME). The acronym “me” is not coincidental because the disease causes psychic vision to focus on “me” rather than on the needs of anyone else. This is not mere narcissism or self absorption either. Malignant egophrenia is the disease of industrial civilisation, an economic, political, and social arrangement which requires violence to maintain itself. Every inhabitant of industrial civilisation is infected with the ME disease, but Levy notes that “full blown” Wetikos “are not in touch with their own humanity and therefore can’t see the humanity in others.”

The disease propagates through the ego’s self preservation system which projects its own darkness onto others and then destroys them with sexism, racism, xenophobia, tribalism… the list is endless. And while it is important to name evil as it manifests, its eradication begins with ourselves. We need to become intimately acquainted with our own shadow and the difference between what Jung called the daemon (guardian angel or muse) in us and the demon.

“The daemonic,” says Levy, “is the urge in every human being to affirm itself, assert itself, and perpetuate itself; it is the voice of the generative process within an individual.” Loving our creativity and nurturing it is an enormous asset in transforming both internal and external darkness. But our fears of imagined threats from others stifle us from allowing the daemon to lead us and instead we become the demons of destruction in the lives of others.

Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

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There I was on Monday night waiting for the supermoon. I had charged up my camera and planned my viewing spot above the reservoir in Lovemore Heights. My clever cellphone app told be that moon would rise at 18h56. With everything packed all I needed was for time to pass. And then I stepped outside. Not a single chink in the cloud armour covering the entire city! All I could do was go back inside, open my flask of coffee and look at other people’s Internet pics from around the world.

“So what’s the big deal?”, you ask. Well see, the next supermoon like Monday’s will be on November 25, 2035 which will find me a tad over the allotted three score and ten so I might not see it. The best supermoon this century will be on December 6, 2052 which will require some major medical advances to have me present!

What is a supermoon anyway? Well it isn’t an astronomical term. The star scientists call the phenomenon a “perigee-syzygy of the Earth–Moon–Sun system”. No wonder we prefer the astrological term first used by Richard Nolle in 1979. Perigee is the point at which the Moon is closest in its orbit to the Earth, and syzygy is when the Earth, the Moon and the Sun are aligned which occurs every full or new moon. The whole constellation was little consolation on Monday evening when I couldn’t see a thing!

As I packed away my camera it occurred to me that I had experienced an interesting parable. The fact that moi and all other moon gazing Port Elizabethans didn’t see the lunar wonder had no effect on the reality that the supermoon occurred. We simply didn’t witness it first hand.

It was the Irish philosopher Bishop George Berkeley in 1710 who imagined a park full of trees and no one there to perceive them, thus prompting the question of unknown origin some years later, “If a tree were to fall on an island where there were no human beings would there be any sound?”

Centuries later Albert Einstein apparently asked fellow physicist and friend Niels Bohr, whether he realistically believed that ‘the moon does not exist if nobody is looking at it.’ To this Bohr replied that however hard Einstein may try he couldn’t prove the existence of the moon if he couldn’t see it. I don’t know what Einstein replied then, but on Monday night I found strange consolation in knowing that the supermoon was there even though my viewing was thwarted.

My consolation was neither philosophical nor scientific, it was inspirational. Many have been the times when I have not witnessed the things I desperately wanted to see or know. Things like truth, justice, integrity, loyalty, honesty and old fashioned fair-play. These lights have been obscured and all I could see was clouded lies, obfuscation and murkiness. Yet despite evidence I have known they are there.

I suppose it’s called faith.
Looney ‘ey?

Student protests are not new

Universities are ancient institutions.  The first university was founded in Bologna, Italy in 1088  and is still in existence.  The first universities grew out of monastic schools and catered to the medieval fascination with learning that had been nurtured in monasteries.  Bologna University began by teaching law and its application to solve the problems facing society.
Surprisingly, student protests are almost as old as universities themselves.  The first record of student unrest comes from the University of Paris in 1229 and led to the institution being closed for more than two years.

bookburn2 The university, founded under church patronage, enrolled students at age fourteen and the curriculum lasted between six and twelve years.  Most students came from the aristocratic classes of Europe as tuition fees, lodging and travel costs were beyond the reach of the poor.

The Paris strike of 1229, was in response to excessive force used to quell a pub riot caused by drunken students during a pre-lenten carnival.  The students were under church protection. City guardsmen called in to enforce discipline, killed several students; some of whom had not been involved in trashing the pub.  The resulting strike saw all tuition stopped for two years and students had to relocate to other universities at Rheims, Oxford or Toulouse.  Only the intervention of Pope Gregory IX, an alumni of Paris University, saw classes resume in 1231.

Classically a university was where students went to read and learned how to apply their minds.  Universities produced thinkers.
With the rise of the industrial and technical age and recently, the electronic, digital and informational age, new skills were required to keep technology functioning.  A new form of technical education institution arose: the polytechnic or technikon.  This form of education was significantly different.  Technikons produced technicians and engineers who could maintain and service the technology in operation.  In recent decades the line between universities producing thinkers and technikons producing technicians has blurred.  In South Africa the merging of technicons and universities in the 2000’s was driven by skill shortages caused by a rapidly growing post-sanctions economy.

The nett effect of these dynamics has been that a tertiary education degree or diploma is now regarded as a ticket to a job.  That may be a misperception. Statistics SA reports that in the first quarter of 2016, 33,7% of unemployed Black South Africans were graduates, (28,3% of Coloured, 59,7% of Indian and 40,3% of White unemployed)

Underpinning student demands, International Law regards a university education as a universal human right.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states in Article 26.1 “Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.”

So if merit and not entitlement is the global criteria, the challenge facing South African universities is how to give meritorious students access to the money.