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When Madiba dies

Mandela’s birthday is coming up on Thursday and people are being asked to donate their time to help others. Mandela is still in ill-health, and it seems his death may be announced at any moment, despite claims that he is recovering. With the world waiting for Madiba’s death, some here in the Netherlands have asked me what would happen then. Some (white) people seem to think that Mandela being alive is the only thing stopping the blacks from forcibly disowning or killing the whites in South Africa. This is nonsense of course.

Here is what I think will happen:

The entire country will mourn. Blacks, whites, coloureds, Indians, Chinese, everyone, will mourn. We will be one race: black with mourning.  For a very long time we will be a country in despair. Our GDP may take an appreciable hit.

But we will not erupt in chaos. We will be united in our morning, as we are united in our admiration for this great man. We will come together as we have not come together since 1994 because to do otherwise would dishonour the memory of this man. Mandela may die, but his ideals will outlive him. They will but gather strength from his death.

It will feel as if the entire country is attempting to attend his funeral (because the entire country will attempt to attend his funeral, or at least get in the vicinity). There will be tears and wails. There will be television broadcasts. Condolences will stream in from across the globe.

Mandela will be elevated to something like Sainthood. No bad thing uttered of him will be thought true. This I find a pity. For Mandela is a human being who has made mistakes. He is an example for us all, but we need to recognise his humanity. In time history will remember him as a man with a story that started long before his release from prison.

Some (read: the ANC and the Mandela family) will try to use his memory for their personal gain. I am not worried about them. They are but bit players in the grand story of the new South Africa that started with the first step Mandela took out of the Victor Verster Prison in 1990. They are overshadowed by greater ideals, by the larger strides that South Africa has made and will continue to make in spite of them. Mandela is not for the Mandelas. He is a symbol to the whole world. He will be a symbol long after he dies and long after bickering politicians and grandchildren are forgotten.

When our mourning has ceased, there will be no great announcement. There will not be a massacre or a festival. We will simply continue building our imperfect but ever hopeful country.

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A closed-minded Card

There has been a lot of controversy around the upcoming movie adaptation of the novel Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card. Card is a vocal critic of gay marriage and a member of the conservative Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints – he is a Mormon.  There has been a campaign to boycott the movie because it would help fund Scott Card and indirectly his anti-gay campaigns. The very liberal Huffington Post has expressed somewhat mild views on this topic here and I want to give mine.

My initial reaction to this was just to leave the man to his opinions. He has the right to express them and to campaign for them. Does it really matter if a good work of fiction was produced by a mind that differed with you in some important aspect?  Does that suddenly negate the value of the work? If Scott Card had been silent or at least less public about his opinions you would have been none the wiser. You don’t need to like a writer (or an actor for that matter) to appreciate their work and you certainly don’t need to agree with them.

People seem unable to accept that someone with such conservative views can produce such universally accepted works of art. This is a fallacy of course. Just because you have conservative views does not mean you lack imagination. It also does not mean that you are closed-minded. Being open-minded is about a willingness to listen; it is not about which opinion you happen to hold. There are many closed-minded people on the side of gay rights and many open-minded people who oppose it. I cannot speak for Mr Card, however.

That said, even I, as a somewhat conservative Christian, would feel uncomfortable supporting this campaign which produces adverts such as this one. I would still, however, defend the right of this organisation to exist and to make these advertisements. I voiced my views on gay marriage in this post (in a nutshell: I think it should be made legal independently of Biblical views on the matter).

If you want to boycott the movie feel free to do so. I, however, will watch the movie (and I plan to read the book) because I respect Mr Card’s ability as a writer. He can make money from his work because it is good. What he does with that money is his concern and I shall oppose it by other means.

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When no one should decide

I related in a previous post why I thought that abortion should be made legal. My contention was that the government should not be making the decisions. I thought that people would be able to make far better decisions for themselves. Here, however, is a case that defies that logic.

Here we have an 11-year-old girl raped by her mother’s boyfriend with her mother’s knowledge, who is now pregnant in a country that does not allow abortions. The girl is too young and too traumatised to make her own decisions. The government has its own dogmatic stance and does not seem to care for the very real health risks this girl will face. The mother has shown herself to be unworthy of caring for mould, much less a child, and so should have no say. There is a grandmother, but allowing this decision to be taken unilaterally by her could still leave the girl scarred for life (having your child killed on your grandmother’s order can be emotionally debilitating, probably). What if there were no grandmother?

No one is fit to decide. And yet a decision needs to be made. Perhaps a special committee can decide independently of the government (like a special court for deciding what needs to be done). This committee could take into account the views and beliefs of the girl, the relatives of the girl, and the medical risks to both the girl and her unborn. This is, I think, the least horrible of the options. But it is far from desirable.

It’s a situation to break your heart.


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Praying in a Church

In February a Russian punk band called Pussy Riot got into a Cathedral in Moscow and performed a punk song , actually a prayer to the Virgin Mary, called “Our Lady, chase Putin out.” (Read about it here and here).  I understand it was somewhat lewd and it was sung in a holy area where only priests were meant to go. It probably startled the priests, infuriated them. But they deserved to be startled. And so does Russia, where Putin’s reign is, by all accounts, tyrannical, and where the church is doing nothing but help it along. In my opinion Pussy Riot had entered a place long defiled and prayed publicly the prayer the church should be constantly praying all through Putin’s reign.

Three of the band’s members are on trial, with little hope, it seems of it being fair. They could face seven years in prison. Putin’s grip on the country is still strong. It may be a long time before their prayer is heard.

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