Daily Archives: August 13, 2008

Unleashed: Leaving home — on South Africa today and those who wish to leave…

I am blogging Unleashed: Leaving home by Johann Rossouw, a South African philosopher based in Pretoria, and its accompanying thread, which I urge you to read too, without adding my own two cents worth, except to say I am interested, having heard much through Sirdan and from other sources, and casting my mind back to a time when I worked with many South African Jews. I think it is sadly only too true that Thabo Mbeki in an infamous speech in 1999 wiped Nelson Mandela’s “rainbow nation” off the table; while there are still those carrying that torch forward, such as Desmond Tutu, the path of South Africa since 1999 goes a long way towards explaining the softness shown to Robert Mugabe in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

portrait_naiker South Africa’s Complex Challenges (by Seth Naicker) from the God’s Politics Blog is also worth looking at. That’s him on the right, still carrying the torch.

People are feeling the pinch of living in a South Africa where democracy has seemingly celebrated a capitalistic culture that does very little for a large population of impoverished people in this developing country. Within an environment where democracy is in need of a social consciousness, reform is needed for the large majority of people who have been denied their rights to basic needs of education, housing, water, etc.

There are several more complexities that South Africa is dealing with, related to a failing democracy and a government that is losing sight of the vision for which it was elected. The complexities of corruption, fraud, arms deals, the Zimbabwe crisis, unemployment, HIV/AIDS, violence and crime, children living on the streets, extreme poverty, etc., are those foremost in my mind and in discussions I have been having with people working in development, child and youth care, corporations, churches, and mosques.

People are facing outrageous hikes in costs on their home loans, where monthly repayments have doubled in just two months. Prices of meat and vegetables, oil, rice, and maize meal have escalated so that a low-income family cannot afford to even purchase toilet paper and bathing soap.

However, among all the chaos of my current-day South Africa, there remains a mystical faith that propels people in the most adverse circumstances to look forward to a brighter day. I have found it most difficult at times to understand how people in such dire straits could still have the audacity to hope and have faith that things will work out right. That mystical faith, with which I have come into contact in the land of my dreams, encourages me, challenges me, and changes me. It further centers, conscientizes, and mobilizes me to continue believing, striving, pursuing, and demanding transformation that will ensure a South Africa that is caring for all its people: citizen, immigrant, and refugee.

Very much a Christian is Seth, of course…

On the broad issue of which South Africa is a part, and indeed of which Australia is a part, my slow ongoing reading of David Day’s important history Conquest is reshaping my views. I do commend it to you all. Day does not come at the issue from a religious viewpoint, and the review I have linked there is rather unfriendly — it appeared in the NY Sun — and its sticking point is this:

One also need not be a supporter of Israel to sense that Mr. Day’s discussion of its history is offered up in an exclusively negative context. From Mr. Day’s account, no one would imagine that the Jews had a connection with Palestine in some form or another for some 5,000 years, that early Jewish settlers often bought rather than stole Arab properties, and that Israel fought numerous existential wars against autocratic neighbors that sought to liquidate Israeli democracy and with it all traces of Jews in the Middle East. The 1 million Arabs who vote and participate in contemporary Israeli politics — uniquely so in the otherwise autocratic Arab Middle East — surely enjoy a much different status from the Untermenschen who were slaughtered en masse by Hitler’s Wehrmacht. There is also something jarring in reading about the plight of the Aborigines, Palestinians, and Native Americans juxtaposed with similarly brief accounts of Hitler’s Final Solution. Orders of magnitude, then, are of less importance to Mr. Day; thus the 4,000 lost along the Trail of Tears take their places alongside the million-plus butchered in Rwanda, apparently as proof of similar barbarism on the part of the supplanting society.

I find this unfair to Day, and I’m afraid too that while I can be accused of having been in many ways a supporter of Israel myself, I, not unlike many Jews in fact, have to concede that the issues Day raises on Palestine and the State of Israel are real issues. The author of that review is really nailing his colours to the mast, I would have thought. Realising that there have been and are big moral and practical issues wrapped up in the reestablishment of a State of Israel does not make one an antisemite. Jews had a connection with Palestine in some form or another for some 5,000 years is true up to a point, but also extremely  tendentious. It certainly is no justification for much that has happened since 1967.

But here of course we have one of the world’s thorniest issues, bedevilled at every turn by fundamentalists of many stripes, most of whose assumptions are historically suspect, even  nonsensical. You see, Abraham is, was, um, a legend — literally, not in the everyday sense. No doubt about it… Many aspects of that legend and its playing out through Judaism, then Christianity, then Islam, have been and continue to be inspiring, but many have been pernicious. The more literal the clinging to the legend, the more pernicious the heritage tends to be. It is a troubled heritage… You may as well base a national claim, or a theological claim, around Robin Hood. That’s the inconvenient truth of the matter, by which I have now offended many people in the three major Book religions…

Back to David Day…

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Posted by on August 13, 2008 in Africa, awful warnings, Bible, challenge, Christianity, fundamentalism and extremism, History, humanity, Islam, Israel, Middle East, Postcolonial