Friday, September 28, 2012

"I am a pacifist, because I'm a violent son of a bitch"

"I'm a pacifist because I'm a violent son of a bitch" - Stanley Hauerwas

I share Hauerwas' admission. I am a pacifist, I try to be. Why? Well, partly because I know my own violence. The Hulk made its appearance again, and I was reminded once more of how far I have to grow in order to walk the road of true peace. For this I apologise to my Maker and to humanity at large. I write this to get it out of my system. I do not want your opinion or judgement. I feel bad enough about it already.

Natalie and I went to the shops in two separate cars, having gone to look at a house for sale. I drove behind Natalie and got caught at a traffic light. She went on ahead. When I got to the shops, the traffic was backed up and I saw a large crowd gathering as spectators for something that happened near the entrance. I immediately thought that Natalie was involved in an accident. Matt and Nathan were in her car too. Was it them? Were they OK? Then, luckily I saw Natalie peering through the crowd. Thank goodness.

What happened was that a robber stole a bag from a car, jumped in his own car and sped off. In the rush of getting away, (having just driven past Natalie), he crashed his vehicle in the centre entrance. His accomplice jumped out and ran away. The bystanders plucked him from the car and tied his hands behind his back and escorted him to the buildings, sitting him down in a empty corner.They waited for the police who only arrived an hour later. He was surrounded.

I parked my car, met up with Natalie and the boys and joined the crowd. We started making our way to the shops, when my anger got the better of me. The flashbacks of all the robberies we've had, encounters with those who trespassed on our property, all came back in a flash. I turned back, holding Matthew's hand, wanting to show him what a robber looks like. "Remember his face! Remember what he looks like! This is the face of shame! This is the face of someone who does not respect or love". And then one of the security guards asked him to phone his accomplice. He didn't want to and the guard started to beat him on his back. The smacks soon resulted in pleas to stop. Part of me wanted to intervene and end this physical assault. My anger joined in, urging the guard quietly in my mind to "Bliksem hom!". We turned and walked away with the sound of smacks continuing behind us.

I am angry. I am angry that I have to unlock three locks before I can enter our house. I am angry that I sleep poorly, jumping at the slightest sound outside. I am angry that an elderly lady was attacked and raped in her house, a few blocks from our church. I am angry that I have to hide all our valuables each time we leave the house. I am angry that there are those who disrespect other people and their possessions, and even when they are caught, are out on the streets again in no time. I am angry that this idiot could have crashed into Natalie and the boys, or some other person, hurting others because of their crime. And, no, this was not a crime stemming from poverty. He had nice clothes, a nice watch and a nice car. I am angry because I could see the same anger in the eyes of the bystanders, black and white. I am angry that this episode is going to make me suspicious again of every passer-by. Perhaps it is better that I am a pacifist. I apologise for my violence.

Friday, September 21, 2012

"We have more rights than you"

Last week I watched a parliamentary debate whereby the President answered questions posed by the opposition parties. At one point he alluded to the fact that the ruling party has more rights, simply by virtue of the ANC being in the majority. He went on to explain that because the opposition parties were fewer in number, they by default have fewer rights.

This concerns me. I understand that in a democracy, "more" means that your point of view is exercised, but it does not mean that you have more rights than those who are fewer in number. In fact, Nelson Mandela spoke endlessly about "equal rights". Be that as it may, I concede that the President did not speak in his first language, and so may have used the word "right" in a wrong manner.

But then I thought, well, if more means more rights, if we were to paddle this boat a bit further, then it must also mean the following:

There are more poor people in SA than rich, therefore we should concern ourselves with the rights of the poor;
There are more children in SA than adults, which means their right to education should supersede the poor excuse for schooling offered by the State which we see in the country;
There are more ordinary citizens on the road than those needing blue-light brigades, hence the question "Who should actually have right of way?";
There are more victims of crime than criminals, so let's give the victims more rights...

I am sure you can add to the list.

Just thinking......

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I got my ticket to New York!

One of the privileges of being an academic is that we get to travel. Now I know that many people have grown tired of sitting at airports or travelling to foreign countries, but please understand, this will be the first time I cross an ocean.

I have been to Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Botswana and Lesotho. That's it.

On the evening of Sunday the 30th, Natalie and I will be heading for NYC. I will be speaking at a conference named "Beyond the ivory towers" (making sense of academic theology), presenting a paper on redefining the church's prophetic witness. I am convinced that the church has become fixated on having a prophetic voice, but forgotten about prophetic action. A lot of my research to date has focussed on the role the church can play in building communities and standing for justice. A bit more about my paper later.

So, back to NYC. Natalie and I will be staying at a Methodist guesthouse called Alma Mathews House. I found this guesthouse per chance as we were first going to stay at a Catholic guesthouse. When they communicated that they were full (and for a moment I felt like Joseph at the, Natalie is not pregnant), I Googled "Methodist guesthouse Manhattan", and there you have it.

Obviously my paper is ready and I am all set to go, but I cannot help but plan our free time. How about, after we dropped off our bags we go to...Ground Zero, Ellis Island, Statue of day, up north to Central Park, Times Square, Empire State building....

What I want to do most is photograph the bridges in Central Park. Better get a bicycle...

If you have any other suggestions of places that are a "must experience", let me know.