How African are South Africans?

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by Ryan Peter
Originally published at http://ryanpeterwrites.com/2014/11/how-african-are-south-africans/

Recently, among friends and colleagues, I’ve seen and been involved in a lot of discussion on the issue of white privilege in South Africa. This discussion seems to have come to the forefront after the events in Ferguson in the U.S. I’m not going to comment on Ferguson, but I am going to talk about some of the South African discussion.

Firstly, Brett “Fish” Anderson defines white privilege at his post: i’m not sure you’re against that thing you think you’re against: white privilege.

John Scheepers speaks about why he doesn’t get a free pass on white privilege.

Stephen Murray also blogged about how Ferguson changed things for him in his post: I Repent.

Then, more recently, Nkosi Gola outlined some “Baby steps towards a really new South Afrika.” A lot of conversation happened at Anderson’s blog as a result, which he summarises at this post: Responding towards reconciliation.

Meanwhile Stephen Murray, on Facebook, stirred up the same conversation when posting this:

Reading posts by Anthony Bradley it seems evangelicalism failed in the US during the civil rights movement in the same way that it failed here during apartheid. The formal structures of apartheid are now gone but the effects are still powerfully in play, ensuring ongoing racism and unchallenged privilege. I feel like we’re at another key point in our country’s history. Will evangelicalism fail again?

And a very interesting conversation ensued. Read it here.

My one question and one observation

Out of all this I’ve had one question and one observation. My question has basically been this: why is it, in my church, have our strongest and most keen black leaders not been South African but from other African countries? My observation, in an attempt to answer this question, is that South Africans have bought into the Western individualistic, market-driven narrative in a big way. I actually think we’ve bought into it a great deal more than other African countries who are doing well, such as Botswana.

An article at The Guardian by George Monbiot helps to uncover my feelings on this subject: Sick of this market-driven world? You should be.

At the risk of generalising, I have found that many born frees (for those outside of South Africa, this refers to the generation of people who were born after apartheid was dismantled) are very individualistic in the way they approach their life. In fact, I find myself often feeling a little out-westernised by born frees. While they’re listening to Beyonce or rappers from the U.S., I’m listening to African roots and world music. (I’m a big world music fan. But I won’t deny that I still enjoy my British rock!) On Twitter most of the born frees I follow talk a lot about their career and what they’re doing, following the general millennial American trend of creating an online “brand”. They also talk a lot about iPhones and fashion and so forth. In short, the marketers have done their job well: we really believe them about having stuff.

I also find it interesting that our malls are full but our museums are not. The biggest and most important conversations seem to always be about economics. We seem to view ‘empowering’ as the same thing as ‘enriching materially’. We don’t talk much about art at all in South Africa and seem very uninterested in much of our heritage. (So much so that we had to make a day to remember it!) Modern liberals continue to insist that Western problems are our problems too. Identity politics have become the big thing at the expense of the actual community.

Western culture’s highly individualised, market-driven narrative where economical power is the point of life is failing us at every level – but yet South Africans are lapping it up. At precisely the time when we’ve needed uniquely South African solutions to South African problems, we think that importing solutions is a far better idea.

But the church isn’t helping in this respect. In fact, by and large, the church – or the evangelical church – is perpetuating the problem. On the conservative side there seems to a keenness to adopt the American culture war here. On the liberal side I feel like we’re often just speaking about American identity politics and economics. Poverty appears to be our biggest evil, but actually materialism is a far worse evil – yet we don’t address it directly. I mean, materialism leads to poverty in the long run, a fact that I don’t think I need to demonstrate. Common sense tells us it does. On a church level, it seems the most successful churches filled with people who aren’t white are the prosperity churches – or those churches who only ever teach on personal growth, personal success, and personal prosperity. By all accounts, a very American gospel. (Please forgive me, my American friends, for putting it like that!)

I’m okay with speaking about personal growth, but not to the detriment of everything else. Anthony Bradley, who by the way is a black American guy, wrote a recent blog post on how even the great commission has become too individualised. I found it insightful.

The reality of an individualised narrative is that it strips away any actual grounding for work. In other words, work becomes a means to an end for personal enrichment, mostly in the form of material enrichment. Without a work ethic that’s grounded in the reality that what we do every day has actual consequences for others, we’re really not going to think further than our nose.

This is part of why those who were colonised are now perpetuating colonial principles. Years ago I wrote an article for The Star that highlighted this point: for all our talk of colonisation, we’ve adopted the founding principles of colonisation of self-enrichment at all costs. This is not Christian and, interestingly enough, not really African either.

As a white guy I’ve dealt with my white guilt largely by noting that this has nothing to do with who’s white and who’s black but has to do with sin and ideology. We can’t talk about white privilege and how bad white attitudes are without noting that right now we’re trying to create a new privileged elite and we’re trying to ensure we’re going to be a part of it. The whole Zuma situation is a case in point: here we have a struggle hero who fought for the people and now seems to live for nothing but self-enrichment. So much so that I wonder if this wasn’t his plan from the beginning! If Nkandla isn’t a picture of colonial, white western materialistic ideologies in play in the heart of a man whose blood is as African as old Shaka himself, then I don’t know what is.

White privilege sucks and I can’t deny that power still lies in the hands of white people in South Africa – but if political and economical power matters that much to us we ought to question why we think we’ll build any differently and how we won’t just create some new injustice with some new elite. From a Christian perspective neither political or economic power is anything. We are called out of that into something far more glorious – the Kingdom. When Christians want to talk about white privilege I honestly wonder if we haven’t just bought into the wrong narrative. Since when was Jesus concerned about who had power? He was far more concerned about who knew that they were loved and valuable and he was far more concerned with how we ought to build for the future.

I guess the question of “white privilege” also just doesn’t affect me any more in the way it used to as I lost my privileges a long time ago. The first half of my adult life I felt what it was like to have no economic power and to be abused by those who do. Both the first and the second half has been full of financial insecurity and career instability. I know the powerlessness most of our country feels in the face of a government which doesn’t seem to care for anything except its ruling party and its president.

How individualistic is your theology / ideology? And why? This for me is an important question. Because it seems, by and large, from liberal to conservative churches across our country the message is the same: me.

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Baby steps towards a really new South Afrika

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by Nkosi Gola
Originally published at brettfish.wordpress.com


 

This is the most difficult question for me as it is also very important. The difficulty in this question arises from the fact that there are many acts which white people have done yet the condition of black people remains the same. Also my fear and difficulty of this question arises from the fact that justice in South Afrika has been limited into a voluntary act, which is a totally divorced and disbanded idea when reflecting the actual history of South Afrika.

According to our history during the apartheid days, whites were beneficiaries – not because they supported apartheid or not, but because they were white. But today justice is thought to be a voluntary act, meaning those who want to live may do so and those who don’t feel like don’t have to. This voluntary justice triggers a situation where elitism amongst black people occurs; a situation where a certain number of people are turned into elites amongst many that are brutalised by the system. This voluntary justice causes a situation whereby the black people have no choice but to live through the white people’s shame, guilt and mercy.

Now all the shame, guilt and mercy of the white people will never equal the cry and brutalisation of the black people. The emotional state of white people will never bring about the change required in South Afrika where we can then begin to talk about equal opportunities. Justice should not be a voluntary act but it is something that should be done both by those willing and those who are not willing; justice should be done on the bases that it is right, not because it works (in our eyes) or not; not because it pleases, tickles and or even bruises.

Now my aim here is to try and avoid the re-occurrence of what has happened before.

Build relationships

Now on what it is that the whites should do to (catalyse) the process of reconciliation in our country. I think it is of high importance that whites build relationships with the black people and they must understand that by building these relationships with “particular” black people they are not doing anything to the overall pain of black people. The black people are united by the wound, which means we can only define them in plural form. Now there is no way that we can define them in a singular form. This means that when we’re dealing with the pain of the black people there is no black person as an individual but a black person as a unit.

Though the black people are made up of individuals, singling them out of the unifying wound is a crime. Having white friends myself, my heart is rooted to the overall wounded black person. My heart remains loyal to that wound. I will remain nursing the black wound and if our friendship leads us into a forgetting of this wound, then it is of no help, and we better understand there is no friendship in that. I love Biko’s definition of black: ”Blacks are those who are by law or tradition politically, economically and socially discriminated against as a group in the South African society, and identifying themselves as a unit in the struggle towards the realisation of their aspirations”.

These relationships should be based on conversations about the past, the present, and the visions about the future. Conversation is a crucial part of the solution but only if it does not lead to liberalism (ignorance). These relationships should be the means to sharpen black radical activism. I am aware of many white friendships that have led to radical black ignorance and I think this is one of the greatest injustices.

Conversations about the past are crucial as they are the ones that will inform why the present is in this fashion and they will bring about the possible solutions of the future. These conversations should be based on how the continued white injustice in South Afrika plays a part in the present suffering of the black person. And in that, also talking about white injustice is not an invitation of violence but a way to eradicate violence. Intentional Prayers also should be a crucial and foundational part of these conversations. I then believe that these kind of relationships are healthy relationships as they are intentional about a better South Afrika.

Activism amongst fellow whites

Amongst many whites themselves I don’t think there is a necessary voice to instigate the bringing about of the required change in South Afrika. I think 1994 has closed the door of the white people by reconciling the white people with the stolen and blood privilege. I think they need a revival of their conscience and there is no one who can do that better than their own people. I don’t understand white people at times as they’re more concerned about rhino poaching, global warming and the panda bear yet they are so quiet about the animalisation and “thingification” of the black people. And we truly need a voice against that.

White people need a resurrection of their conscience so that what they have seen as normal for years they would now see as abnormal and inhuman, and I think this white voice will be of a great help. I have seen many polls and petitions that speak about the release [parole] of Eugene de Cock and many on global warming and so on, yet I have never seen any petition – not even one – that talks of the black pain of dispossession in South Afrika.

I don’t think the release of Eugene de Cock will return the land of the black people and ultimately the dignity of the black people. This makes me to question myself: is rhino poaching more important than the black child who sleeps without anything on their belly almost daily? Is global warming more important than the low life expectancy of the black people? Will the release [parole] of Eugene de Cock heal the black wound and play a role on reparations?

Social justice should be the main conversation in your circles

According to the Bantu tribes, or should I say the Afrikan tribes, power is responsibility and not comfort. I believe if we can all adopt that then we can have a better South Afrika. In the old days it was said that it was the community that raised a child, meaning everyone was responsible for everyone else. Then it was impossible to separate the ones who have from the ones who have not. That sounds familiar! The book of Acts 2:44 tells us that “believers had all things in common” and “there was no one lacking amongst them” (Acts 4:34).

I believe that the God Immanuel, the God who is with us, is socially interested in both those who have and those who have not; and it is the duty of those who have to be sensitive to the prompts of Immanuel so that we can all say in our churches today that there is no one lack amongst us. I once listened to a preacher who was doing apologetics on a subject about poverty and he said, “The church has enough today that there would be no one lacking amongst them.” It was an AMEN for me there! It can only be the greed of some that causes others to be living under the swamps of poverty. Now because of Jesus, social justice is one of His main agendas, as found in both the Lord’s Prayer and also in the book of Matthew 25:36-46. I believe it should be one of our main agendas too, so whenever and wherever we are sitting let’s discuss social justice.

Stop supporting the DA!

[Ed’s note: The Christian Blogger does not endorse or criticise any political party, but decided to publish Gola’s piece – including this section – to offer perspective and allow space for opinion and reflection.]

I am aware that your vote is your choice. Yet if your choice furthers the black pain then look carefully into your choice again. The Democratic Alliance (DA) is a white instrument to keep the status quo in South Afrika so that the situation of the blacks (not pigmentation, but keeping in mind Biko’s definition) remains unchanging. If the DA was truly after the emancipation of the South Afrikan poor then they would have policies that are pro-poor. The required change in South Afrika today will not come from people who want to maintain the white status and overlook the black pain because it is the very maintenance of the white status that is the actual black pain. And that’s what DA does. It maintains the white status.

At this juncture we don’t need people who will say we want to solve the problem “but”, because it is that very “but” that stretches the black wound and the DA is the actual embodiment of that “but”. Also at this moment in time we don’t need pro-white organisations and their support in South Afrika as each and every structure in this country is actually pro white. Therefore supporting the DA in South Afrika is actually the instigation of the black wound. As for who to vote I will leave that to you, but the policies must be interested in what you claim to be after. The policies of the party that you are voting for must surely be pro-poor.

Change your way of life

Without fully identifying with the black pain there will never be pure, genuine and battling prayers that are projected to the black wound. There are many people who claim to be pro poor yet their lives prove to be divorced from the poor. Thomas Sankara (the president of Burkina Faso, 1983-1987) when justifying his act of having no air conditioner in his office, driving the lowest costing car, attending his meetings on bicycles, cutting a huge portion of his salary and using public services like each and every one in his country, says, “We cannot live luxurious lives yet leading the poor.” I think being pro poor should be beyond claims and be our very lives.

Therefore living in Bishop Scot and claiming to be pro poor is one of the greatest lies. I think it is in these lies that leads to ignorance, such that there are many people who say they are doing something in fixing the South Afrikan problem yet all they do is rub off their own guilt. I think it is much easier to rub off your guilt by these cheap acts which includes soup (the soup kitchen justice) than it is to allow your very life to be wasted for justice. Lives being wasted is Christ being lived because love is only expressed when a life is being laid down for the next person. Therefore anyone missing out on laying down their life are missing out on the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:38) and that should be the greatest sin.

Give fair wage to your domestic helpers! Do not be limited by the standards of this anti-poor government but be pumped by the pro-poor Christ in considering the wage for your domestic helper. When you’re considering the payment of your domestic helpers think of yourself first (love your neighbour as you love yourself); would you be able to live out of what you decide to give your helper? If not then why are you even considering giving it to someone else? More especially someone who could be a single parent with at least five children. It’s pretty sad that many white people don’t even know the families of their helpers; they are not even interested in the life of their employees (helpers) outside of work. This is cruel as it proves a perception of what was once said and believed: “the blacks are as good as singing, dancing and digging”.

You should play part in the education of the children of your domestic helpers. Find out how you can help them. Be it if the help is morally, financially, emotionally or even psychological. Your help might go a long way. I do believe that you can also contribute a great deal in the local schools and help the upcoming generation to see you as humans and not as superiors and future employers, as it was previously forcefully and violently suggested and currently is inherited by the younger generation. This will help a great deal and you will be seen as a fellow human being. It will also help you when you’re walking around Khayelitsha. There won’t be chants that are following you saying Umlungu, umlungu (white person) repeatedly.

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This was written as a guest post at Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog. Brett blogs to provoke laughter and challenge and inspire and encourage and share ideas and wrestle and celebrate and mourn – as his tagline says, to really ‘suck the marrow out of life’. Follow him on Twitter – @BrettFishA

[For other conversations and engagements concerning Race at Brett’s blog, click here]

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Opiate of the masses?

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by Carl Brook | 293 words
Originally published at accedie.wordpress.com

Religion, Karl Marx once opined, is the ‘opiate of the masses.’ Rudyard Harrison’s distinction between religion as pie-in-the-sky-when-you-die and philosophy as a more ‘rational’ handle on life is, in many cases, quite true. The promise of a better, pain-free hereafter is a draw card for most religions and Christianity is no exception.

To posit theology in contrast to rational thought, however – as though one excludes the other – is a false dichotomy. For many of us (as it was for CS Lewis), it is logic that leads us to God. A look at the stars at night is enough to prompt the question: ‘where did it all come from?’ The order we see under the microscope speaks of intelligent design and, ergo, a Designer.

If theology is, in the famous words of Anselm, ‘faith seeking understanding’ then when tragedy strikes, whether in Gaza or Stellenbosch, Christians should not shrink from the tough questions any critical thinker will ask. Jesus assured his disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There is no intention that faith should avoid the difficulties of living in the here and now.

Rather than a fatalistic view of overwhelming adversity, rational religion asks: ‘Why would a good God allow this?’ For it is as we suffer these questions together that believers may dare to Hope – something an atheist will not (indeed, cannot) understand.

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Carl Brook and his wife Elma direct CFC, an evangelical mission on the KwaZulu-Natal coast. Carl also edits the e-zine of ANiSA, the Anabaptist Network in South Africa. Follow Carl on Twitter – @arewedancer.

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McKaiser and Lennox at the #GMWits debate could have been stronger

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by Ryan Peter
Originally published at ryanpeterwrites.com
1327 words


Last night, well-known Christian apologist John Lennox and Eusebius McKaiser, PowerFM talk show host and agnostic philosophical lecturer, went head to head (mind to mind, more like it!) in a debate on morality at WITS. You can pick some of the conversation on Twitter at the #GMWits hashtag and a Youtube video will be pasted later (I’ll update this blog with it when it comes out).

So what happened? It was invigorating and stimulating, as these debates should be. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was impressed with the turn-out. I loved the brilliance and civility of both speakers. However, I did feel that Lennox could have been stronger, McKaiser could have been clearer. I loved the debate but felt it got bogged down in the wrong areas.

The topic was whether or not God is required for morality. Can morality exist on its own? Or does it require God? (How you frame the question really betrays your bias, doesn’t it?) Each speaker opened up with a brief breakdown of how they came to believe in the existence or non-existence of God. Some interesting points: Lennox said that the conflict between Science and Religion is superficial and then stated, “I am coming to believe that atheism and science don’t mix at all.” From McKaiser’s side, he simply stated that he does not believe that “God exists” is a true claim and all of his philosophical study has never really produced any viable evidence for the existence of God. At the very best you can come to the conclusion there is a deity, but not that the Christian god exists, he said.

But onto the real debate

But this was a debate on morality and it’s here where I felt McKaiser didn’t address the key question I was hoping he would. McKaiser, interestingly enough, believes that objective morality exists, but it doesn’t require God to exist. That was fascinating for me. He is not a moral relativist. (He even stated that relativism is, in his opinion, highly dangerous.) But what does he ground objective morality in? The answer seems to be rationalism (or his own rationality, I would imagine, as a starting point). So the question posed to him from Lennox was, “Why do you put so much faith in your own rationality?”

Why does McKaiser believe this is a reliable base? Unfortunately I didn’t feel he answered this question or articulated his position clearly. This for me was really what I wanted to hear. But whether he dodged the question or just didn’t make it clear, I didn’t hear an answer that satisfied me (I’m using that phrase deliberately in a tongue-in-cheek way to McKaiser’s argument about evidence for God). At first he answered the question by highlighting that Lennox is thoroughly convinced of the reliability of scientific method, but makes a jump to believing that water could turn to wine. It was a brilliant challenge and Lennox didn’t really answer it directly in my mind either, but it didn’t really answer the question. I suppose he was saying that Lennox himself places great faith in rationalism, but Lennox was clear that the only reason why that is is he believes we are made in God’s image and as a result we share some attributes of God, such as rationalism.

Why does McKaiser believe people have intrinsic value? On what basis does he make that claim? As my friend Wesley asked, “If moral objectivity exists outside of God and we say rape is bad, because that person has value, who / what determines that value?” I wondered: if I must trust my own rationality for morality, how do I know I can trust it? What if I’m actually mentally ill and don’t know?

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Some assumptions

So I’m left to play a bit of a guessing game on McKaiser’s position. I wondered if McKaiser was going to bring up some sort of Kantian model for his position, but he didn’t go there. I wondered if he was going to bring in society and “nurture”, or evolutionary arguments, but he seems to reject either of those. It would seem to me that he takes rationality for granted. Where does rationality come from? What is the standard for rationality? Where does that standard come from? Does it come from an external place (society?) or an internal place (EQ?). Is this really about cosmology? (For example, the universe is an ordered place, and therefore we are naturally inclined to orderBut of course, the drive for order has resulted in some pretty immoral actions!) Is this really about the conscience? And where does that come from? McKaiser obviously wants to avoid anything that sounds like an inner light or mysterious “knowing” or a soul or even the “heart”, or something along those lines, and talking about the conscience might force him in that direction (and besides, it seems the conscience can be tweaked).

I realise the limits of this sort of debate in terms of time and structure, but I really didn’t feel satisfied by the end that this was answered. Yes, I know my own presuppositions but try my best to be open-minded.

Usually arguments that say we don’t need God for morality seems to venture around the idea of how we “ought” to be. (Lennox brought this up saying it seems people move from “is” to “ought”.) We “ought” to not need anyone to tell us right from wrong, but we all know the world is not like that. (Lennox’s statement that atheism in particular has no argument for the problem of evil was an interesting one.) Simple observation tells us that not all people are rational and not all societies are rational – including some religious ones. So where is this grand objective rationalism coming from?

Obviously, given my beliefs, I would agree with Lennox that it comes from something external and bigger than us, built into us as part of our very make-up. That, of course, is God.

Two common answers

There are generally two common answers I find to the question of “If it’s not God, what are you basing your rationality on?” The first is, “It doesn’t need to be God” and then we need to know what it is. Unfortunately, like last night, I never quite find that people who hold that position really get to what it really is. The second is, “Why does it need to be God?” which doesn’t answer the question. That answer is really just being the irritating mountain man seer who only ever answers your questions with a question; or a psychologist who is trained to just ask you questions to help you come to your own conclusions. That doesn’t work for philosophy, though.

Lennox could have been stronger last night and could have pushed this question harder, in my opinion. Yes, there are some questions he didn’t really answer either, but what I really wanted to hear addressed wasn’t – not to a degree that satisfied me, at least!

The point of debate

But don’t get me wrong – I learned a lot last night, which is the point of this sort of debate. It’s about learning, not about winning. All the smack down comments on Twitter and some of the blogs I’m expecting to see today I think will miss this point. Some people seem to go to these things pre-deciding who will “win”. What’s the point of that? You’re never going to learn anything like that.

There was no clear winner last night (there seldom is) but there was a ton of stuff to think about and consider from both sides, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It didn’t get into ridicule zone (which I was afraid it might) and the crowd was fantastic too. Thanks Eusebius and John for an invigorating, enjoyable evening!

LAST LAUGH: Someone put a Dianetics book from L.Ron Hubbard on McKaiser’s seat when he wasn’t looking. Chuckled at that!

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Ryan Peter is a writer and novelist from Johannesburg and the editor of The Christian Blogger. Follow him on Twitter – @RyanPeterWrites.

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Race – What I would love my white friends to hear

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by John Scheepers
Originally published at brettfish.wordpress.com
1478 words


One of the most insidious forms of racism or paternalism is to take the voice of another away from them. I do not intend to speak for black people in this post and so rob them of their own dignity and humanity. You see, I am white and so I can only ever speak as a white male. While I can resist speaking for another I can choose to speak with another so adding strength and tone to the richness of their own voice. So this is not a post speaking for black people but just one white person speaking to another choosing to join my voice to speak with those who are not like me.

I am like you: I grew up a standard white guy in the 80’s. Life was good on my whites only beaches. Education was excellent at my whites only school. I loved the freedom to ride my bike all over my whites only suburb and play in the streets unsupervised. My family were not wealthy and my parents worked hard to put food on the table. But we did enjoy the benefits of my dad’s job reservation, brilliant medical aid and standard working hours and conditions. Not to mention relative proximity to our work. I also sometimes find myself thinking of these days as the good old days and wistfully wishing for a similar childhood experience for my kids. Except the whites only part because my kids aren’t.

But the truth is there was (and in many cases still is) a radically different childhood story for most people in our country. The system of apartheid was as brilliant in its execution as it was evil in its intent. The economic and social system was a masterstroke in creating social instability. And the resulting poverty, migrant labour, absent fathers, informal settlements, crime, forced removals, gangsterism, substance abuse, lucrative trade in contraband, imprisonment, restricted movements, shootings and a live for the moment hedonism through sex and violence, bears testimony to its effectiveness. Not forgetting the humiliation of the “Bantu education” system, designed to create a race of inferior servants to serve white privilege. While the law books may have been wiped clean Bantu education is alive and well today in the hearts and minds of millions of South Africans throughout our land. Ah the good old days…

And yet… I am not like you: Please can you stop assuming that because I share the same pigment as you that I also share your political, racial or cultural views. I cannot tell you how many times complete strangers have given me the “boys club” wink or nod followed by some disparaging remark about “the blacks”. You don’t know me, so please do not presume to know what I think or feel. If the criteria you are using to make your comment is the colour of my skin, then please look deeper. I am not like you.

The world is profoundly white-centric: White is normal in our world. Do you know what skin colour is? Do you know what the standard language of instruction is? What is the international language of business? An educated person is someone who has grasped the intricacies of a western education system. Our lives are governed by a western/white concept of time, achievement and community structure. Yes that is just a reality and there is probably nothing I can do about it. But wake up! This world is not an equal world. It is a white-centric world where white people have set the standards and the norms for all of us. Is it the best system? Who says? Who gets to make that call? Even biblical characters are normally assumed to be white. Even some of our cherished biblical virtues we might find to be more white and western virtues than actual biblical ones…

I am not an idiot because I do not vote for your particular political party. Politics in South Africa is far more complex and nuanced than many of my white friends care to acknowledge. Our history has made it complex. That history still informs life today in deeply significant ways. We are a young democracy with many challenges and many obstacles. There is no singular saviour in South African politics. The charge often levelled at black people that they vote unthinkingly for the ANC is possibly true for many people. But how many white people vote unthinkingly for the DA?

You are not colour-blind: I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this one. Mostly from people whose friends all look like them as they hang out in places and live in areas where all the people mostly look like them. If you live in South Africa, colour is an issue and we need to learn to engage with it with integrity, honesty and humility. The claim to be colour-blind in my opinion is normally a plea to pretend everything is ok so we can ignore the hard conversations and escape to our white ghettos of privilege. Or in its worst expression it normally goes something like this “I don’t see colour but…(insert disparaging remark about why black people do not live up to your expectations of how society should work).

White privilege is real: if you are white you have and continue to benefit from the system of apartheid and its continued influence through attitudes, accrued social and economic capital as well as the continued crippling effects of apartheid policies. You are regarded as smarter, trustworthier and harder working, until proven otherwise, if you are white.

Many of us may not have committed the sins of our fathers in the implementing, supporting or perpetuating of the apartheid state. Nor were we guilty of courting evil’s shadowy twin sister quiet acquiescence. But all of us who are white have benefited and continue to benefit from those sins. White Economic Empowerment was after all around long before Black Economic Empowerment. So we may not in one sense be guilty of any crimes. And you may resent the idea of being held accountable for other people’s sins but what we cannot deny is that we have benefited from those sins. And while you could make a case for being not guilty, I would suggest that we have a far greater calling than proving our innocence and that is grabbing our responsibility to put right the sins from which we have benefited. How? Now that is a question we must ask together and a road we must be prepared to walk together if we are to emerge with any true answers.

If you are a Christian and you think talk of racial reconciliation and politics is taking away from preaching the gospel you need to read your Bible again. The story line of the Bible is not simply about saving souls for heaven. It is about the restoration of all things through Christ. It is about the restoring of true humanity, of dignity and of brotherly love. Sin deceived us with its promises of freedom, self-actualisation and satisfaction and instead led us into creating a world of injustice, hatred, prejudice and individual gain. Jesus has come to rescue us not in order to take us away to some disembodied heaven in the clouds. He has rescued us not only from the punishment for our sins but he has invited us to join with his far greater and more beautiful story of redemption, restoration and healing.

One day he will restore all things but now his kingdom has broken into history and he calls us to live new lives, lives that embody his kingdom of justice, mercy, peace, joy, beauty and reconciliation. Racial and national reconciliation is at the heart of the gospel. And we in the church ought to be leading the way. Our Saviour is the one who is so unlike us, so truly superior to us and yet he laid down his life so that we might live, so that we might be restored to God and to one another. And so the gospel leads us in this to lay down our lives for those not like us, to serve, to love, to give up our rights and privileges so that they who are not like us might also be restored to God and to us.

[For more great conversations on Race from all kinds of different angles and perspectives, click here]

***

This was written by John and published at Brett “Fish” Anderson’s blog as part of his “taboo topics” series. John is a Capetonian who drinks his coffee too strong and talks too loudly. Books are his drug of choice. He believes the Gospel of Jesus is the good news our beautiful country craves. Follow him on Twitter – @John_Scheepers. Follow Brett on Twitter – @BrettFishA.

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I’m not sure you’re against that thing you think you’re against: White Privilege

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by Brett “Fish” Anderson
Originally published at brettfish.wordpress.com
1793 words


A lot of people, yes white ones [like me], switch off when we hear the term ‘white privilege’ [please don’t!].

Some people, yes white ones, get angry when we hear the term ‘white privilege’ [please don’t!].

But I sometimes wonder if it is because of a misunderstanding of what people who talk about ‘white privilege’ mean when they do so.

So please take a deep breath and try and approach this piece with fresh eyes [forget what you think white privilege is and see if what I am suggesting it might be is something worth engaging with] knowing that this will at the very most scrape the top of what is a deep and wide barrel. Because I am a white male and live in South Africa I believe it is essential for me to try and understand something of this description of ‘white privilege’ that follows.

So let’s look at a couple of official definitions:

“White privilege (or white skin privilege) is the set of societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of colour in the same social, political, or economic spaces (nation, community, workplace, income, etc.). [Wikipedia]”

“White privilege has been defined as unearned advantages of being White in a racially stratified society, and has been characterized as an expression of institutional power that is largely unacknowledged by most White individuals.” [Neville, Worthington, & Spanierman, 2001]”

I feel like the term and the idea of ‘White Privilege’ is one that is too complex to explain simply, but at the same time, that it is really helpful that we try to come to at least some understanding…

I feel like this cartoon does a good job of depicting the problem. People who benefit from ‘White Privilege’ tend to have an easier path through life or some area or aspect of life, whereas those who are not white have the odds stacked against them to varying degrees and extents. When you are a circle and have made it easily through a hole that is circular, you tend to expect things to be as easy for everyone else, not necessarily noticing or realising what the same task might mean to someone of a different shape.

I asked some people for their definitions or understandings of ‘White Privilege’ and this is what they said:

Andrew Enslin: I see white privilege as the belief that 20 years of a 60/40 relationship makes up for over 40 years of apartheid.

Alexa Russell Matthews: White Priv Def: The things in life that I only know I have once i realise that my friends of different colours don’t assume that they have, or have a reaction to which my peers and I don’t always understand…

Susannah Prinz: this probably won’t work in the context where you are now and it’s not the exact question you are asking, but since you were just in this fair city i’ll share anyway: one easy example that sums up my white privilege? even though i am in the ethnic minority on the street/neighborhood where i live (being white), i can fairly assume that if i ever break minor traffic, etc laws, i will not get a second glance from a police officer…much less be pulled over, harassed, ticketed or worse. why do i think that? not from my car- which is old. not from my flawless driving- because i drive way too east oakland around here. simply because i am a white woman. (and in addition, i have absolutely *no* fear that i would be pulled over or stopped by a law officer without legitimate reason.) i could list a lot more reasons, but that’s one that instantly comes to mind.

Lara Harler Lahr: System if advantage based on race

Gayle Evers: White privilege is like being right-handed. You live in a world subtly and not-so-subtly geared to accommodate your needs, while completely ignoring the existence of others.

If you have a bit of time to dig a little deeper into this, then I would encourage you to read these three articles that came out of Stanford which look at the same concept from very different sides that I shared a little about in my post titled, ‘I will not apologise for my white privilege’ a while ago.

For those who have less time, this cartoon will give some idea of one clear way in which ‘White Privilege’ manifests in the world today.

I saw a similar idea demonstrated on a picture that read, ‘If we discover that the Boston Bomber is white, no-one is going to go around saying, ‘All whites are terrorists.’ White Privilege.

Or perhaps this one shows it even more blatantly:

The language we [and the media] use to describe events can demonstrate the effects of ‘White Privilege’ on a nation. The guy with ‘White Privilege’ is described as ‘misunderstood’ despite the horrific things he did, whereas the black guy is described as a criminal despite the horrific things that were done to him. If you change the pictures across and attribute the opposite thing to each person, then just imagine what description will be used to describe what went down.

White Privilege. Knowing you will be treated better, viewed better, granted less or no suspicion, given the benefit of the doubt…

It is so important for us white people to realise that as the big fish in this picture, we are more likely to view the world as a just place, because we don’t experience the same things that those without the privilege do. We might also be guilty of minimalising the genuine concerns/grievances of those without the privilege we have, by comparing things which are not equal to begin with, like in this picture:

The point of ‘White Privilege’ is that you started with a loaded deck. The playing fields between myself as a white person and the majority of black people did not start level.

By being born into the family I was, I gained privilege.

By living in the area I live, I gained privilege.

By going to the school I was able to go to, I gained privilege.

And so on…

Admitting to White Privilege is not saying that I was personally responsible for apartheid and need to feel bad about that for the rest of my life. It is acknowledging that because I was born at the time I was born, when apartheid was still rampant in South Africa, that I had an easier passage through life in many respects [at least in terms of opportunities and treatment].

This blog post by Manic Pixie Dream Mama, written in the aftermath of the Ferguson chaos that resulted after a young black man [Mike Brown, see above] was shot, is worth having a read as I think she explains it really well:

“To admit white privilege is to admit a stake, however small, in ongoing injustice. It’s to see a world different than your previous perception. Acknowledging that your own group enjoys social and economic benefits of systemic racism is frightening and uncomfortable. It leads to hard questions of conscience may of us aren’t prepared to face. There is substantial anger: at oneself, at the systems of oppression, and mostly at the bearer of bad news, a convenient target of displacement. But think on this.”

She goes on to list a number of things her young white sons will get to do or be when they grow up [with links to actual stories of where black youth were involved and it went the other way] and some of those include the following [As a helpful exercise, why don’t you read this list out loud to yourself, saying the phrase ‘White Privilege’ after each one]:

“Clerks do not follow my sons around the store, presuming they might steal something.

“Their normal kid stuff – tantrums, running, shouting – these are chalked up to being children, not to being non-white.

“People do not assume that, with three children, I am scheming to cheat the welfare system.

“When I wrap them on my back, no one thinks I’m going native, or that I must be from somewhere else.

“When my sons are teenagers, I will not worry about them leaving the house. I will worry – that they’ll crash the car, or impregnate a girl, or engage in the same stupidness endemic to teenagers everywhere.

“They will walk together, all three, through our suburban neighborhood. People will think, Look at those kids out for a walk. They will not think, Look at those punks casing the joint.

“People will assume they are intelligent. No one will say they are “well-spoken” when they break out SAT words. Women will not cross the street when they see them. Nor will they clutch their purses tighter.

“My boys can grow their hair long, and no one will assume it’s a political statement.

“No one will stop and frisk my boys because they look suspicious.”

She ends her post with three lines that flip this whole thing on its head. And while this is a story specific to Americaland, there is enough of an overlap for us to learn its lessons here as well:

“For a mother, white privilege means your heart doesn’t hit your throat when your kids walk out the door. It means you don’t worry that the cops will shoot your sons.

“It carries another burden instead. White privilege means that if you don’t school your sons about it, if you don’t insist on its reality and call out oppression, your sons may become something terrifying.

“Your sons may become the shooters.”

I’m not sure I’ve done a great job in unpacking what ‘White Privilege’ is, but hopefully this will give some of us some more stuff to think about. I am hoping that one or two other friends of mine will write their own piece so that we can engage and learn together.

If hearing the phrase ‘White Privilege’ makes you angry or frustrated and you want to respond by blocking your ears or running away or starting an argument, take a moment and ask yourself why that is. Is it because the conversations on ‘White Privilege’ should really not be happening? Or is it possibly because of the realisation that if this stuff is true, then there is still a lot more work to be done. Don’t be like the toilet door people.

[here are some other excellent posts i have been reading on this topic]

Brett blogs to provoke laughter and challenge and inspire and encourage and share ideas and wrestle and celebrate and mourn – as his tagline says, to really ‘suck the marrow out of life’.

***

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“Abort, and try again.”

Child

Child

by Stephen Woodworth | 674 words
Originally published at thethursdaycircle.com

Richard Dawkins inspired, yet again, a firestorm of controversy with his twitter account. Responding to a women asking for ethical guidance after discovering her unborn child has Down Syndrome (DS), Dawkins offered the following advice, “Abort it and try again, it would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice.”

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Admittedly, while Dawkins’ line of reasoning could be shot-thru by my second grade son, here are some reflections worth noting on the low-hanging fruit:

1. Dawkins is a refreshingly honest atheist. In contrast to the number of other atheists I have spent time with who refuse, against all odds, to head down this line of thinking, Dawkins is, to say nothing else, (fairly) consistent in his beliefs. If life has emerged from seeds planted on our planets by aliens (as Dawkins actually explained at the close of the film Expelled:No Intelligence Allowed: skip to the 1:30:45 mark), than why would he, or anyone else, feel the slightest tinge of doubt about taking a life.

2. I said “fairly consistent” because his belief system makes it absolutely ludicrous for Dawkins to also suggest something is “immoral.” For Dawkins to use this very term there needs to be a standard by which he measures the action he is evaluating. Keeping the child is “immoral”on what grounds? Morality, by definition, is a code of conduct, a set of expected behaviors, or law(s) that call humanity to certain actions or demand that they refrain from others. Hence, as the argument goes, if there is a law, there needs to be a lawgiver. When Dawkins suggests something is “immoral” it begs the question, whose law would I be breaking? Certainly not any law of nature. If there is no measuring rod, Dawkins cannot suggest that any action (or inaction) is ever immoral.

3. Dawkins responded later in the day to the backlash by suggesting that since abortion is what happens to the “great majority” of DS fetuses, his tweet cannot be construed to be either illogical or heartless. The majority argument is a particularly embarrassing one if you are an atheists and your view of the world is in stark disagreement with over 90% of the rest of us who are religious. Apparently, the fact that the overwhelming majority of the human race throughout history have held to some form of religious belief is not enough evidence for Dawkins to change his worldview. Nor can it let him off the hook for bad behavior.

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4. Finally, Dawkins apologized this morning in his personal blog. The act of saying “I am sorry,” experiencing remorse, grappling with one’s own conscious, and concern for human relationships opens a Pandora’s box full of questions and comments related to the metaphysical world of the inner life, as well as the exploration of the origins and existence of guilt. Added to this is the above-mentioned analysis of how an atheist might determine what is moral or immoral in the first place, and Dawkins’ simple 140 tweet looks more and more like a window in the morally bankrupt world of atheism.

But far more important than these philosophical arguments is the fact that there are many parents around the world today who are finding out this week that the tiny fetus growing in their womb also has DS. While I think Dawkins would like us all to pretend that we are brains disconnected from hearts, choosing logic over emotion, I prefer to live more holistically. Our emotions are not an aspect of our humanity that simply “gets in the way” of making wise choices, they are always the means. Every decision we make is emotional. In regards to abortion, those effected by our decision are voiceless, we are left to make the decision for them.

No life is a mistake, every person is unique gift to the world. Dawkins is emphatically wrong to suggest that there is ever an opportunity to simply “try again.”No human being is merely replaceable, especially the child you have created. Let them live, let them show you.

***

Stephen Woodworth is the Director of Spiritual Formation at Toccoa Falls College and the Associate Coordinator for the International Theological Education Network (ITEN). Read more from him on his blog and follow him on Twitter – @Steve_Woodworth.

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Brains and Bibles

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by Stephen Murray | 673 words
Originally published at osweetexchange.com


The supremely talented journalist and writer, Marianne Thamm, has a piece in the Daily Maverick giving us a statistical snapshot of South African atheism. Unsurprisingly the average South African atheist is white, male, educated and relatively wealthy. They seem to have a preference for Facebook over Twitter (it’s hard to argue in 140 characters!). Much of the survey serves to show that your average atheist is, well…average. So Christian cultural warriors you have even more reason to be afraid now – they look just like you, albeit a bit smarter! And that bit about being smarter sent my mind on a tangent that I’ve held a mishmash of thoughts on for some time.

Both the South African study, and similar studies in the US, have come to the same conclusion, namely that atheists are, on average, better educated than religious folk. Thamm, in her piece, although rightly noting that the exact nature of the relationship between atheism and education is complex, suggests that perhaps atheism is higher among the educated because of greater exposure to information, and greater ability to navigate “existential choices”. That may well be the case. But I suspect at least one other factor is at play, particularly here in South Africa.

Many forms of contemporary, pop-evangelicalism (arguably the dominant form of Christianity in South Africa), have a hard time mixing brains and Bibles. Pulpits across the country bear witness to a distinct lack of intellectual rigour. Public, intellectual Christianity, is hard to find and almost non-existent in popular media. Even countries with higher levels of unbelief, like England or Australia, appear to have more public theology in the popular media than we do here. The current state is somewhat in conflict with church history where often pastors and seminary professors have been at the forefront of cultural intellectual pursuit (think Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Lewis etc.) I think much of this can be traced to over-spiritualized understandings of verses in the New Testament that appear to make a dumbed down version of the faith seem spiritually superior (cf. 1 Cor. 1:17-21). I have suspicions that those verses don’t actually mean what you think they mean.

As a Christian pastor of a congregation, where almost all the members have degrees and post-graduate degrees, I don’t advocate for improved levels of intellectualism so that we can outwit the atheists. Frankly I have little desire to outwit atheists. I advocate for improved levels simply so that we can raise the general level of spiritual discourse in the country to that of the public sphere. In my own context, I aim for these levels simply to keep up with who is sitting in front of me on any given Sunday. We can’t have good public theology if we’re always starting on a lower rung of the ladder. The irony is that Christianity has ample resources for intellectual pursuit, more so than any other religion on the planet. We have 2000 years of scholarly input and development. How many South African pastors and religious leaders are tapping into those resources as they lead others in the faith? My general impression is that certain branches of Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and even a few mainline Anglicans and Methodists have been conducting considerable intellectual pursuit in the advancement of faith, but it has remained largely in-house, rather than a full blown public theology. For the large swathes of evangelicalism and pentecostalism (both these streams can be found, in great number, inside Anglicanism and Methodism), that many Christians in our country inhabit, the closest we get to intellectual rigour, is to invite the travelling apologist to visit our church for an apologetics weekend once a year (and then we often get something about people riding on the backs of dinosaurs).

Without a growing harnessing of the richness and depth of the Christian tradition, in all it’s intellectual glory, it’s no wonder that many educated people in our congregations, when faced with multiple “existential choices”, soon become ill-equipped to see that Christianity makes a substantive claim to be one of the front runners.

***

Stephen Murray is a Presbyterian pastor from Cape Town who blogs at osweetexchange.com. He also calls himself a long-suffering, but dedicated, Arsenal fan. Follow Stephen on Twitter – @StephenMurray.

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Death as Reality – Letting Go of Madiba

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By Simanga Kumalo | 1015 words
Originally published at philippacole.wordpress.com


Ed’s note: The following is a reflection from Philippa Cole’s supervising minister, Simanga Kumalo, on the reality of death and our cultural, religious and political reluctance when it comes to letting go. Philippa Cole blogs at philippacole.wordpress.com. It was written on 18 July, 2013 (obviously before Mandela passed away).

Rev Kumalo prays for Nelson Mandela – 18 July 2013

Dear Colleagues

I have just arrived in my office from taking part in a big Mandela Prayer meeting at the Mandela capture site in Howick Pietermaritzburg. We had close to a thousand people. The event has been organized by the Premier’s Office, the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council and other community organizations. It is not surprising that we had the premier, and other provincial leaders. I had been requested to do a special prayer for Madiba who is still in hospital and for his family. What huge and an intimidating responsibility. What does one say when praying for Mandela, such a great figure in our land or even on earth. The prayers that have been offered for him in the past months by the nation are that he must get well and go back home. Very few people have been brave enough to pray for him to go and rest in the bosom of his forbearers or God depending on one’s religious orientation. There are a few reasons for this and I would like to share those with you.

Cultural Reasons

In African culture (southern Africa) you don’t pray for death to come, but rather you praying for healing. I have been amazed at the way people have been praying for Mandela. They have been offering very mixed prayers. Some pray for him to get better and go home. They even mention that they want him to live many more years. Is that realistic? This sounds selfish to me. Of course it would be good for our Madiba to live long with us, but then he must be in good health and be able to enjoy life and the fruits of his labour. Must he continue to live even when he is not able to enjoy life because of his serious health condition? Is that what we want and is that what he would like. In some African cultures e.g Zulu and Swazi, when an old person becomes [terminally] sick and does not get better, the family perform rituals to ask the ancestors and God to release him/her, so that he/she may die peacefully and live a better and healthier life in the afterlife. But because we have forgotten our culture, this has not been raised as an option, I do not know the family might have discussed this, of course this is private family business. The good news in African culture is that even if he goes, death does not mean the end of a person, but rather they join the world of the ancestors so that they are able to continuing looking after us. He joins another realm of existence, which makes him more omnipresent.

Christian Perspective

Christians in this part of the world pray for healing and this context healing is understood in a narrow sense which is recovery from sickness, nothing else. This is because prayer is understood to be an act of protest against everything that denies life and promotes death. It is built on the understanding that God is for life, not for death and God is all powerful and can heal at all times and all diseases. To pray for death is like giving up on the power of God to heal and cure. So even when it is obvious that life is no longer meaningful for a sick person people do not have the courage to pray for death as solution to sickness and pain. This is despite the fact that the Christian faith also teaches us about life after death-resurrection. When we are confronted with death, we turn to forget the importance of the theology of resurrection. We remember this theology once the person has died and we have to preach the funeral sermon or to officiate in the committal of the body to God. I do think that there is a need for a theology of life and death to be developed and taught to our people. This theology must remind us that death itself is inevitable and is another form of life in another realm, just as African culture teaches us.

Political Perspective

I have also been hearing political prayers, which call for Mandela’s recovery because we need him and we cannot go forward without him as a nation and country. The government and political leaders have also organized prayer meetings, calling for religious leaders to come and lead these prayers. Such prayers are motivated by the thinking that peace, stability and reconciliation in South Africa depends on Mandela’s presence and existence. A number of people believe that if Mandela goes there is a lot that will go wrong politically. Therefore they are holding on him not to go. To pray for him to go is also a dangerous thing to do for people will misinterpret one’s prayer just to score political points. Therefore it is difficult to know what to do in this situation.

I hope that religious leaders may gather the courage to pray that the nation and the family can be able to release Mandela for as our African religion has taught us if he lives he is with us in a limited sense, confined by space, time and health conditions but if he goes he will be with us in a much more powerful way as an ancestor, who is not confined by these things. This will be my prayer today at the Mandela capture site. Please pray for me to be truthful to myself, God and the nation as I lead the province in prayer.

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Dr R Simangaliso Kumalo (PhD) is the director of Research and Postgraduate Studies at the Ujamaa Centre for Research & Community Development. This was published at Philippa Cole’s blog. Follow Philippa on Twitter – @Philippa_Cole.

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The Right to Be Forgotten

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by Steve Hayes | 873 words
Originally published at khanya.wordpress.com


There has been increasing discussion of “the right to be forgotten” in various quarters, though you will not find it in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I’m not sure where the phrase originated, but it seems to be spreading quite rapidly, and just to make sure we don’t forget it, we were reminded of it in a recent article in the Mail & Guardian, Google and the right to be forgotten:

“On May 13, the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ), the highest court in the EU, ruled in favour of Costeja González and against Google. González asked the search engine giant to remove some unflattering links from the results that appeared when anyone searched for his name. Google refused, and so he took the company to court.

We can all sympathise with González. When his home was repossessed in 1998, a notice appeared in a local paper and on its website. Most people would want to forget such an unpleasant and embarrassing event as soon as possible. But Google’s results continued to remind the world of the repossession more than a decade later.

With its ruling, the ECJ effectively created a new legal right – the right to be forgotten. Since the ruling, tens of thousands of requests for removals have been pouring into the system that Google built for their handling. But the current solution is both deeply problematic and impractical.”

Regardless of the merits of the Google case referred to, I think the term “the right to be forgotten” is a singularly unfortunate one, because if such a right really existed, it would be the right to end all rights. If taken literally, it could mean the end of all history.

In the Orthodox Church, when someone dies, we say “May his memory be eternal.” It is part of our humanity to remember people. There is no such thing as a “right” to be forgotten, and if people want to invent such a right, will they develop a device to wipe the memories of all those who might remember them? If so, tampering with other people’s memories would be the biggest violation of human rights of all. And saying that people have a “right” to be forgotten implies that they therefore have a right to tamper with other people’s memories.

I find it hard to believe that the European Court of Human Rights intended to create such a right in the Conzalez case or any other. Whatever right they may have created, I don’t think it was the right to be forgotten.

But perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part, because according to no less an authority than The Stanford Law Review that is precisely what they did intend to create: The Right to Be Forgotten – Stanford Law Review:

“…the European Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights, and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, announced the European Commission’s proposal to create a sweeping new privacy right—the “right to be forgotten.” The right, which has been hotly debated in Europe for the past few years, has finally been codified as part of a broad new proposed data protection regulation.”

If we are to take that at face value, and there is nothing to suggest that Viviane Reding did not intend us to take it at face value, then if someone would not or could not forget someone who wanted to be forgotten, the European Court of Human Rights could order them to have a lobotomy or other brain surgery until the memory was excised, because that is what the phrase “the right to be forgotten” implies. If that is not what Viviane Reding or the European Human Rights Commission intended, then they should not use that phrase. Perhaps they should cloak it in a more vague and comforting form of words like “final solution”.

There are, for example, people who say that we should forget how bad apartheid was, and move on. Should the history of that period be excised from the history books because some people, especially those who connived at it, prefer to forget it?

When I read about the Gonzales case, I can sympathise, and say yes, there is a problem. But the problem is not one that can be solved by creating a spurious right that will erase history from public memory. And I doubt very much that Gonzales really wants to be forgotten. Does he want to be buried in an unmarked grave, where the grave-diggers are killed immediately afterwards to prevent them from ever disclosing its location? Because that is what the term “the right to be forgotten” implies.

No, I am sure that what Gonzalez wants is not to be forgotten, but not to have his face perpetually rubbed in one incident from his past as if that was the most significant thing about him. I think that that is a not unreasonable desire, but it is not “the right to be forgotten”. If that is the kind of problem that the European Commission for Human Rights is hoping to solve, then creating a “right to be forgotten” is using a proverbial steamroller to crack a walnut.

The right to be forgotten is thoroughly evil, and the sooner we forget about it, the better.

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Steve Hayes is a freelance writer, editor, teacher, missiologist, Orthodox deacon, Inklings fan, church historian, and AIC researcher. Follow him on Twitter – @hayesstw.

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