EVERY COIN HAS TWO SIDES

A COIN HAS TWO SIDES

The recent “Economist” lists a few interesting examples of the positive side of negative trend. One of them: about 1,000 Pubs are closing every year in Britain. In the affluent countries of OECD, 25% of 16 – 24 years olds do not drink alcohol; about 20% decrease since 1998. Not only they consume less alcohol, but they do less drugs, less sex, harm each other less often, and break fewer rules “Young people are behaving differently from previous cohorts.” No longer hedonists. (January 19th, 2018, p. 53)

The above weekly says, one of the reasons for this is the effect of social media: “technology has changed people’s behaviour.” We of the certain age who struggle with new technologies sour-grape about young people wasting too much time on devises, ignoring the real world. However, the article points out the flip side. Young people are busy looking at little screens and have less time to ‘sin’. Also since everyone has a smart-phone, children are more connected with parents. Apparently, 15 years old boys in 28 rich countries have found it easier to talk to fathers; albeit in mere 170 characters. Thanks to smart-phones also, parents know where kids are.

Another trend on the list is the influence of immigration. Young people are ethnically more divers in Western countries. Immigrants come from Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. British psychologist Ann Hagell says, often “immigrants arrive with strong taboos against drinking, premarital sex…. and think only paupers send their children to work.” They work very hard and sacrifice themselves to educate children. Evangelical Christianity has strong influence on some African and East Asian communities. So their youth take less alcohol and drugs, and follow stricter code of ethics. Against the backdrop of increasing secularization, they retain strong attachment to their faiths, which stirs up suspicion even hatred. However they ally themselves with the churches that oppose abortion and homosexuality.

Every change is like a coin with positive and negative sides. German has a convenient word for it: “Schlimmbesserung” which means the negative side of an improvement. It’s like the fact that invention of letters diminished memory capability. There is also a positive effect of a negative change. Therefore it is important to recognize that the debate should be ‘both.. and…’ not ‘either…or…”

Three ingredients of a successful society are, compromise, co-existence, and respect.

Tadashi (Tad) Mitsui
Lethbridge

Four words for love

FOUR WORDS FOR LOVE
– Luke 15 and 1 Corinthians 13 –

Can you love someone you hate? Yes you can: love is complex. “In the world of four letter words, Care is short of Love, but just beyond Work.” (Anne Boyer, “Canadian Art” – 2018 Winter Issue.) You can not put a dynamic life force like love into the prison of mere one word. Jesus told parables and stories not theology. (Luke 15) Otherwise, he simply acted on it. When Jesus was asked what to do with the adulterous woman who stood in front of him, he just hunkered down, kept doodling on the ground, and did not say a word. (John 8: 1-11) Perhaps for us, art and music are better media to communicate love than mere words.

Although it is quoted as the “hymn for Love,” oddly the First Corinthians chapter 13 in the King James Version of the Bible does not speak about “love.” It says “charity” in its place. Why? In Greek lexicon, you will find at least four words for love. Three of them are in the New Testament. The Biblical scholars who worked under King James decided that “charity” was closer to the original Greek word “agapeh” meant to convey.

The fact that there are more-than-one word for love is a problem for English speakers, because love is so central to Christian teaching; there should be clear without any confusion. Lack of clarity due to short of the right word is the reason for ambivalence about love in our culture. Inhuman acts are committed in the name of love. I don’t think that the writers of the Bible were confused. They knew exactly what they were writing about; it’s why there are four words for love.

Forgive me writing Greek letters. I wanted to show how the four words looked different representing different concepts, though it is one word in English. They are agapeh – αγαπη, epithumia – επιθυμια, eros – ερwσ, and phileo – φιλεο. It shows the complexity of the most important value of the Christian faith. Perfect goodness is not simple: love is complex. But it is pure and simple in real life. This is why Jesus told parables to teach love. (Luke 15) This challenge is affecting our behaviours often resulting in the abuse of the word and deeds; like making selfish demand in the name of love. Maybe we should stop talking about love but live the life like the stories in the Bible.

English is not the only language with problems of “love” word. Sesotho, an African language for example, has the same problem: “lerato” means desire and love. However, Buddhism clearly distinguishes them with different words, desire is “bon’noh” and self-giving charity is “jihi.” The question is whether those four Greek words present irreconcilable difference or they are related and can grow into perfect goodness. Can selfish desire turn into selfless act of pure love? Can greed become generosity?

This is a challenge of translation. The Bible is the document written in Greek from the oral traditions originally spoken in Aramaic and Hebrew. All Bibles are translations. The Church in Rome translated it into Latin and called it “Vulgata” meaning it is a vulgar version

Every time a word is translated into another language, the scholars of languages have to choose the word closest in meaning to the original. There is none meaning the exactly the same as the original, because languages are the product of different cultures and histories.

So what is “love” according to the Bible? . The word in the Corinthians chapter 13 represents the perfect love, and it is “agapeh – αγαπη.” I suggest that we take the first letter of Paul to the Corinthians as the standard representing the true and godly love and evaluate other love words.

Let me begin with the most popular and yet often abused word. It represents erotic and/or romantic love. Εροσ – eros became so closely connected to sexuality that by the time New Testament was adopted as the authorized holy scriptures (Canon), it was banished from all church vocabulary. It was replaced by another Greek word, epithumia – επιθuμια. Greek philosophy defines ‘spirit’ good, and ‘physical body’ bad. This Greek dualism corrupted the Hebrew view of the body and spirit being one and the same.

I think this is unfortunate because in ancient Greece, circa 500 B.C., thinkers like Plato used the word eros to mean an irresistible impulse for beauty and perfection. Sex was only a tiny part. I think it is a pity that our natural yearning for beauty and perfection was so degraded in common understanding of the word. It is a source of ambivalence about our body and sexuality. All are God’s creation and good. (Genesis 1) Sexuality is godly. Jesus loved – epithumia to eat with disciples. (Luke 22:15) We have to remind ourselves that for Jewish mind there is no separation between mind/spirit and body. A healthy mind dwells in a healthy body. When a body ails, so does spirit.

Natural love in Greek is “phileo” as in “philo-sophy” (love of wisdom). Friendship, brotherly/ sisterly and parental love, all fall into this category. (Matthew 19:37) It is a natural emotional and often passionate love. It is also self-giving love. When you love your child, you would sacrifice yourself for the love of your child. But it is spontaneous and natural; has to be given up for higher purpose. (Matthew 10:37) Love your parents but you may have to stop loving them if such love prevents you to follow a higher goal. This is why you find puzzling sayings of Jesus like Matthew 10:37. John 21: 15-17 is interesting: Jesus asked Peter if he loved (phileo) the master. Peter said, “Yes, of course…” But that was not enough, Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” In other words,”You have to prove it with deeds.” Phileo must be elevated by action.

Lastly, agapeh. It is the godly love as in “Love your enemy.” It can be against natural instinct. (Matthew 5:43 – 48 and Luke 15) This is why Jesus uttered impossible to understand words like, “You can not be my disciple if you love your father, mother, brother, or sister.” (Matthew 10:37) Agapeh love and phileo love are two different things. You must love (agapeh) ones you don’t love (phileo). Jesus from the cross asked forgiveness of those mocking him, torturing him, and killing him?

The most chilling words I heard recently were victim impact statements in the trials of a murder and of a perpetrator of multiple rapes: “I hate you.” I totally understand that sentiment. I have such a problem with one man who murdered several friends in South Africa. Can you demand forgiveness from the families of victims of the Holocaust or from “Indian Residential School” survivors? We don’t quite understand the distinctions between different loves therefore can not agree to love enemies. The important question is: “Can one kind of love grow into another kind of love?” Can Eros become self-giving Phileo such as parental love? I suppose it is possible. From time to time, one hears of incredible grace of forgiveness – an example of true Agaphe: such as Nelson Mandela.

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Idol worship: a big mistake

NOBODY IS PERFECT
When you admire a person, you make him/her an idol; a bad mistake. You should know nobody is perfect. We must not make anyone a god. Saints are not gods. Heroes make mistakes.

Recently, some of us are having difficult time understanding the leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi. We admired her so much that we gave her Nobel Peace Prize and Honorary Canadian citizenship. Why doesn’t she stop violence against the Muslim minority Rohingya? Should she be stripped of all those honours?

I can list many examples of the same mistakes: Ugandan President Yoweri Moseveni who saved his country from the butcher Idi Amin; Rwandan President Paul Kagame who brought order after the genocide of Tsusis. Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who ended the minority white rule in Rhodesia in 1980.

When Mugabe brought in the North Korean 5th Brigade and bombarded and slaughtered the minority Matebele people, we did not condemned him. We said nothing because Mugabe was a hero. We in the west praised those African leaders then, but now they are embarrassment. They were heros, but now they are power hungry dictators. They must not stay on the pedestal. But why didn’t we condemn them, then? We haven’t admitted our mistakes.

When I was a part of the team tackling famine in Ethiopia during the 1980’s, we were criticized by many “progressive” people in the West who supported the independent movement of Eritrea called “EPLA.” It’s now one of the most brutal regimes that produces many refugees who are trying to cross the Mediterranean sea.

We in the western countries do not have all that clean record either. Are we not lucky that King Edward, the Queen’s uncle, abdicated? He loved Nazi Germany and admired Hitler. What if he hadn’t? The controversies about names and statues abound: Father of Confederation John A. MacDonald, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, etc. Now some Oxford University students demand the change of the name “Rhode Scholar” because what Cecil Rhodes did in Africa.

Historian Margaret MacMillan raises an interesting question in her book, “The Uses and abuses of history.” She mentions the Pope apologizing for the Crusade and admitting that Galileo was right; Bill Clinton apologizing for slavery; and Tony Blair for the Irish Famine. And she argues that learning from history is dangerous, but we must learn from it, because no human is perfect.

Ten Commandments

ETHICS ARE BASED ON RESPECT – Exodus 20: 12 – 17

Christians believe that the most important rule that should govern the relationship with others is LOVE based on Leviticus 19:18. However, the Ten Commandments suggest it is RESPECT. It is not a contradiction. Respect is a starting point that paves the way to love. “You can take a horse to water, but you can not force the horse to drink water.” Respect is like “taking a horse to water” to create the condition that will lead us to LOVE.

Respect stops you to commit murder, adultery, theft, dishonesty, envy and greed. And it begins with appreciating your parents. Acknowledge that your parents brought you into the world and therefore give them respect. It is not a matter of choice. Without parents, there is no ‘me nor you.’ Respecting your parents, even imperfect ones, means you are affirming your own existence. Not respecting your parents is to deny your own existence. That’s a starting point. The remaining five rules are deeds as the result of respect. They are necessary rules for our own survival in the interdependent world.

When you read the Old Testament however, you will find the Ten Commandments demanding observance of those six rules hypocritical. The commandment, “Thou shall not kill, steal, commit adultery, lie, nor be envious,” was required only among the Israelis. They were gratuitously violated otherwise. The God of the Old Testament freely allowed Israelis to not only ignore them but often were encouraged to violate them.

The same is true today. There are many excuses to disobey the six Commandments. In fact, despite the universal acceptance of the Ten Commandments as the fundamental rules for any decent human being, they are shamelessly ignored and violated. War, capital punishment, under-cover police operation, espionage, and competition in the market motivated by envy and greed should be all illegal among all children of Abraham – Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Ten Commandments are the basis of our ethics and legal systems. But that is not the case. Why? Why you must not murder your fellow citizens but can kill your enemies? How can you explain that?

It’s the contradiction stems from the conundrum caused by the juxtaposition of specific and universal. When you say, “Charity begins at home,” you recognize the universal importance of charity, but you have to begin practising it specifically at home. The circle begins small but must expand. When it is not big enough, the contradiction exposes itself. When you say, “I love my country.” your statement is based on your limited experience and specific knowledge of people and communities you know. You do not know whole of Canada and all Canadians. But you can not claim to love Canada if you do not love some Canadians you met and the parts of Canada you know. Your love of the country begins at home. Specific and universal are one undivided continuum . There can not be one without the other. You can not claim to love Canada if you hate your home town.

Jean Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.” He does not know life. We are not alone. We exist because of others people. In an African language, there is a saying, “ Motho ke motho ka batho.” It means “ a person can only be a person with people.” That is what Nelson Mandela called, “Um Buntu.” Interdependence is the only viable way for us to survive as a species. This is why welfare of the whole community is vital for us. “A man is not an island.” So when you recognize the importance of interdependence, you know that respect other persons is also critical for our survival. Respect is not only an article of moral ethics, it is an indispensable ingredient of the recipe of life. No one can survive if the community you live in is not functional, where members want to kill and/or deceive each other. Guns do not guarantee your safety.

When a community is small, there must be respect for family, friends, and neighbours. But outsiders must be repelled, therefore the rules that are essential within a community do not apply to outsiders. They can be ignored and other rules must be followed. So do not kill your neighbours but may have to kill the outsiders. But as the size of the community become larger, those rule must be applied to the larger number of people. This is how tribal laws become national, national become international, and international to universal. Same rules that have to be applied to humans will have to be expanded to include animals and plants when interdependence of all creatures are recognized to be essential. The world we live in can continue to exist only when all rules become universal.

Now briefly the specific rules:

Respect your parents: this is not a matter of choice, it is given. You don’t choose your parents, likewise you don’t choose the Creator. You deny God at your expense. The stupidity to deny your origin will lead you to your own ultimate demise.

Do not kill: killing other people is an act of suicide in the interdependent society. When you respect another person, you are exercising an art of survival.

Adultery is an act of disloyalty: when your impulsive pursuit of self-interest takes over, your are not behaving according to respect. A community where there is no loyalty will not live long.

Theft is the result of lack of respect for the boundary between you and other persons. In many societies where sharing is the norm, there is an understanding that sharing is different from theft. Theft is an act as a result of lack of respect for other person’s boundary.

Deception is the result of ignoring truth for selfish interest.

Envy and greed also is the result of selfish pursuit ignoring the need for the interdependent community.

There can be many other examples of the ways to exercise respect, but the author of those rules were restricted to reach and stop at the number “10″ as the number for the perfect laws. Therefore, the number can be altered. In fact, many followers of the ancient Jewish traditions later added and expanded the scope of moral ethics. Christians did the same such as Seven Deadly Sins.

However all rules must be based on love because it is the sum of all laws. (Romans 13:8 – 10)

WE BELIEVE IN ONE GOD

WE BELIEVE IN ONE GOD – What does it mean? –

The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20

Laws in the Old Testament are published in two different formats; many of them are in the form of stories. The Ten Commandments, however, are another style which is a listing of code of conduct item by item. Listing format in the Western legal tradition is first found as the Code of King Hammurabi of Mesopotamia (1554 B.C.) It predates Moses by about five hundred years and is a precursor of the Ten Commandments.

For many of us, the list format is easier to understand than stories because it is short, pointed, hence clear. Our laws are promulgated as itemised lists. The story format is ambiguous and is left to interpretation. However, it is debatable if list is more effective. In later years people like St. Paul questioned its efficacy. (Galatians Chapter 3) Be as it may, it is very important to recognize that the principle of the rule of law was introduced at the time the arbitrary power of the monarchs was on the rise. The Bible has always been sceptical about the power exercised by humans. Remember the story of the first King of Israel Saul? God was not sure if any human should have power over others. (I Samuel Chapter 8) Rule of Law rejects the notion of arbitrary power of human: no one should be above the law.

The Ten Commandments are actually amplification of two basic principles: The first principle is that there is only one God, or perfect truth. Secondly, the ethics of interpersonal relationship is based on respect. However in ancient days, numbers had meaning and ‘two’ had to be avoided, because it meant division. Laws must not contradict each other. Thus two fundamentals were expanded to make a list of ten rules. ‘Ten’ makes it the perfect law.

I. The first and second commandments – verses 3 – 5:

The verse 3 and the verses 4-6 are two sides of a coin. There is only one God and anything conjured up by human is an idol – false god. Because of this belief, Christians during the time of the early Church were persecuted and/or killed for not recognizing the divinity of the Roman emperor. They refused to pay tax because it was called an offering to a god. Likewise, twenty centuries later my father was detained from time to time during the Second World War for not publicly acknowledging the divinity of the Japanese emperor in his sermons; the act considered to be treasonous as was interpreted as a rejection of the authority of the military. The military were considered to be the instrument of a god the emperor.

Christians and Jews believed they had to refuse any recognition of human power to be divine and insist that anything human was temporary and could be wrong. That was the basis of the second commandment; prohibition of idol worship. (Verse 4 – 6) We must recognize that this is a refusal to accept any assumption, hypothesis, idea, image, and theology of God to be absolutely true. Many religions, though claim to be monotheistic, often appoint a certain human figure and/or institution such as church hierarchy, pope or prophet and bestow upon them the ultimate divine authority. We believe they are also idol worship. No human can be god and possess ultimate truth.

It is natural that we want to know perfect beauty, perfect goodness, and perfect everything; happiness, love, power, justice, peace, or pleasure. Because we don’t know or have never seen what that perfection is, humans decided to call it “god”: Plato called it “ideals.” Many people, except Christians, Jews, Muslims, called anything amazing, beautiful, big, merciful, or powerful ‘god.’ Today, many people believe money, profit, and wealth as such the most important therefore god-like. Therefore, there are many conflicts among gods. Though monotheism began as a tribal God of the Jews, rejection of idiolatry eventually led it universal monotheism. This is the meaning of rejecting idols: All things imagined or perceived by humans can not be perfect and ultimate. Therefore, search continues.

The belief in One God is the motive of all enquiries and never ending search for truth. It means no hypothesis nor imagination should be termed as complete and final. Hence monotheism is intrinsically doubt-driven; so the search for truth never ends. This is the reason why monotheism, the Jewish-Christian-Islamic tradition has always been the primary mover of scientific pursuits. All scientific conclusions are hypothesis and are discarded with a new discovery. Jewish Albert Einstein made Christian Isaac Newton redundant. Likewise all human search for the ultimate reality never ends.

Belief in one God means an unceasing search for absolute truth. It is why it is called “belief” or ‘faith” not knowledge, because no one possesses it. Jesus said, “Nobody has seen the wind, nobody knows where it comes from. We only know it is there because we feel it.” If you claim to know it, that is no longer belief or faith, it’s a knowledge. Once it is a knowledge it is no longer eternal, because it is limited to the capacity of a human brain. Faith is like rendez-vous; ‘waiting for a lover.’ You wait because you believe the love you are not yet 100% sure exists but continue to wait because you trust your lover. The great philosopher, Socrates, said, “One thing I know for sure is that I know little.” Here faith and science have a common ground. Since we know little, we keep looking for it. That is the life of a believer.

Faith is a journey, not ownership; nobody owns God.

The third and fourth commandments: (Verses 7 – 11)

The third commandment is not a mere prohibition to swear. It prohibits any action in the name of and/or on behalf of God. None of us has a complete knowledge of God therefore has no right to act in the name of God. We are seekers. Just like scientists never stop to seek secrets of the universe, and artists search for beauty, we seek the truth. And the search never ends. We can never assume that we possess answers. Life is a perpetual process of search. But alas, so many people claim they know God and speak for Him! They are all liars and idol worshippers.

The fourth commandment regarding Sabbath is often misunderstood. We must take note that the word Sabbath comes from a Hebrew word ‘shabbat’ which means ‘rest.’ The idea that Sabbath is the day of worship did not come from Ten Commandments. It comes from the synagogue and the church in their institutional need for the people’s support . It recognises an importance of rest – break from routine. It is ‘holy’; the word simply means ‘special’ or ‘different.’

Racism is ubiquitous

LET’S ADMIT IT: WE ARE RACISTS.
African Canadian actress, Rita Devereux, opened a workshop on racism with a following statement: “We must admit we are all racists. However we must never act on it.” If “racism” is too harsh a word, could it be “prejudice” or “fear of unknown?” Anyhow, racism is common.

Racism between Chinese, Korean and Japanese, for example, is not spoken about often but is there. When the Very Rev. Sang Chul Lee, of Korean ancestry, was elected Moderator of the United Church of Canada, he was asked if he had ever experienced racism. He said, “Not in Canada, but in Japan.” I knew a psychiatrist in Japan. He had to hide his background because of the prejudice against Koreans: even his wife hadn’t known it.

We must admit that racism is ubiquitous. One hears whispers about it between Blood and Cree nations. But we must treat it like cancer. We must acknowledge it’s there, lest it raises its ugly head unconsciously. If we acknowledge it, we can work on it: NEVER act on it. All of us are still learning to live with many unknowns in the Global Village to become one human family. We fear differences or unknowns initially but it’s natural. My daughter grew up with African and European friends in an African university community. One day, she was absolutely frightened when she saw a group of Chinese agriculturalists who arrived as foreign aid specialists. They were the first North-East Asians she saw aside from her parents. I had to remind her how she looked in a mirror. Funny but true.

It is more difficult when people do things differently that seem rude, and/or eat weird foods. When I came to Canada in 1958, I still found some Japanese Canadians, even a dentist’s family, hid their chopsticks when there was a knock on the door during the meal. I still hear hesitation when raw fish sushi was suggested. Until a hundred years ago, Japanese thought eating red meat was barbaric and yucky. So bad boys who wanted to eat anything forbidden cooked steak outside on a ploughshare, hence “Sukiyaki” – “Fried on a blade.” Franklin expedition did not have to end tragically if only English sailors ate raw fish like Inuit people.

People are different, neither good or bad. Just different. We should learn about them and their ways without contempt, disgust or fear.

CANADA – COUNTRY BUILT BY REFUGEES

CANADA: A COUNTRY OF REFUGEES

The indigenous nations accepted refugees and settlers from other lands. Newcomers were horrible to the hosts. Throughout history, invaders were often more aggressive to the natives. Nevertheless, together we built Canada.

In June, 1979, I attended an UN Conference held in Geneva to discuss refugees from Viet Nam. Canada was represented by Flora MacDonald, Secretary for External Affairs of Joe Clarke’s Federal Conservative government. She pledged that Canada would accept and resettle 100,000 of so-called “Boat People.” I was so proud of Canada. Compared to the most recent attempt to resettle 25,000 Syrians, it was quite a generous gesture. Vietnamese were such a success story. Many of them are now business owners, professionals and entrepreneurs. Vietnamese noodle soup – Pho is now as Canadian as Poutine.

Canada was built by the generosity of Indigenous people who received settlers from different continents. Many of whom were refugees: the founders of English Canada were American refugees, not migrants straight from Britain, escaping revolutionaries into the North still held by the Crown. They were “United Empire Royalists.” They laid the foundation of English speaking Upper Canada. Without them, Canada would have been a French speaking country. Many Europeans from places like Ireland came escaping hunger and poverty. We now called them economic migrants, but they were escaping intolerable conditions like refugees.

Underground Railroad brought many African descendants who were escaping slavery; Ukrainians escaping Stalin; Jewish people escaping Anti-Semitism in Europe; Doukhabors and Mennonites escaping from the persecution of pacifists; Chinese from Hong Kong from Japanese invasion and later Communist take-over – one of them became Governor General; Hindus and Muslims escaping Idi Amin in Uganda, one of them is now Mayor of Calgary; Hungarians and Czechoslovakians; Latin Americans escaping civil unrest; the list goes on.

Let us not forget Americans: many of them well educated intellectuals came to Canada because they did not want to be involved in the war in Viet Nam. Some of them constituted the corpses of the faculties of universities, including our University of Lethbridge, which sprung up everywhere in Canada since the 1960’s. We don’t call them refugees but they were.

Jesus and Mohamad were refugees at some points in their lives. Thank God for refugees who helped build Canada, and thank God for the original people of this land who welcomed them at a great cost to them.

Happy Canada Day!

DON’T CONFUSE ME WITH FACTS. WHY DO WE DENY FACTS?

WHY WE DENY UNDENIABLE FACTS

I have never understood people who don’t believe what is obviously fact. I guess it’s the case of: “My mind is made up. Don’t confuse me with facts.” On Facebook while ago, there was a very helpful graphic essay answering the puzzle: “Why facts don’t convince people.” It says in short that people’s action is invoked by an emotional impulse rather than the facts based reason. It’s like being caught up in the stampede rushing toward a precipice. You are conditioned to be loyal to the herd despite smell of death.

Even if I have all the data and hence I am convinced that a certain action is needed, I still have to be emotionally motivated to act. What moves me there is often not the knowledge of cold facts but compulsion. I can easily just sit and do nothing about what I know. What moves my emotion is a search for safety. We are, more often than not, motivated to look for security than correct logic or morality. Security feeling comes from a sense of belonging to a group of loved ones; family, friends, organizations, religions, customs, shared memories, or traditions.

This is why it is difficult to speak against the policy of the political party I have voted all my life; or to question what I have believed for a long time; or speak against someone I love and/or family and friends. This is how we come to behave against reason. Facts are often inconvenient and uncomfortable. Still some people act following what reason dictates and pay the price. How then do we manage to act rationally against natural instinct? Is it power of reason or pigheadedness?

What should be done, if the world should function and survive? The Facebook post suggests: first we must believe and persuade others to believe that we are in this together in the same boat despite the differences. We can argue until ‘cows come home.’ But never scuttle the boat. If you do we all drown. Secondly, admit that “I could be wrong.” That takes humility and courage. It is not easy: so many relationships break up because we insist “I am right and you are wrong.”
How many times have wars been fought over differences and have killed thousands and millions? The only cure for unrepentant stupidity is death.

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT

SOLITARY CONFINEMENT IS TORTURE

I was not tortured; it was not a jail; but I was driven to madness: it WAS torture. In January, 1972 I was locked up alone for three days. It was detention by the immigration authority at Jan Smuts Airport in Johannesburg.

I flew back from a conference in Dar-a-Salaam. The plan was to pick up my car in Johannesburg parked at a friend’s house, drive three hours into Lesotho, and cook supper for Evelyn, my 8 year old daughter. She was home alone as her mother had left in the morning for a conference in Botswana: not a good plan.

In the terminal building, the immigration officer took my passport and told me to follow him. He led me to a room, which was like a cheap motel. He locked the door and went away without explanation. Nobody came for three days except a frightened looking black man in a blue over-all who delivered stale food. The only window faced a brick wall: there was no radio, TV., nor telephone. Nothing to read. I had no idea why I was kept there. “I tell you anything you want, just get me out-a here:” I would shout. I banged the door; nobody came. I didn’t sleep; the whole time. The thought of my daughter alone at home at night drove me insane.

The conference in Tanzania was organized by the World Student Christian Federation based in Switzerland. I went there as Regional Director of the University Christians Movement (UCM) for Lesotho and Orange Free State. UCM was banned later that year for none compliance of a law prohibiting mixed-race association, hence was deemed subversive. Colleagues and friends were banned, jailed, or killed: non-South Africans were expelled or letter-bombed.

I learned a few things: Total isolation is torture. Also information obtained by torture is unreliable because one would say anything to get out of agony. In solitude, you must know how to face yourself – as a supposedly religious person I should have known how to look at myself calmly. It was just three days: I was pathetic: monks meditate many days alone in silence.

After three days, I was given a deportation paper, and two hours to leave the country. Practically impossible driving 300 km. My daughter was safe. The family of a political science professor took her in when they saw her alone at night.

Are we redundant?

REDUNDANCY

Once I nearly missed a flight because I got confused with a self-check-in machine and needed a help of an airline attendant. Furthermore there were fewer luggage drop-off counter; the customers had to spend more time in line. Airlines is saving money with smaller staff at the expense of customers’ time.

The Super Market self-check-out is the same for me. A 14 year old geek can handle it with one eye on smart-phone, but not this old geezer. I tried a self-check-out because I didn’t want to wait in line for just a bunch of green onions. I got all muddled up and an attendant had to come to rescue me. Here again, I noticed there were fewer check out-counters with real persons serving; another case of a business saving money at the expense of customer’s time and grief.

Is all this automation a way to make humans redundant? Thanks to mechanization farmers who constitute 1.7% of population are now producing more food than the time when farmers numbered multiple times more. More is on the way: driver-less cars, parcel delivery by drones, automated factories, self-directing vacuum cleaners. During the Cold War, there were rumours about the development of neutron bomb. Its idea was a weapon that kills humans without damaging physical assets: absolute abomination.

I don’t think Mr. Trump is right to blame trade treaties for unemployment. It is automation, computerization, mechanization, robotics that are making people losing jobs. But humans are not disappearing; if at all we will be more in number. In these circumstances, there has be a radical paradigm shift with our idea of who we are.

We have to move away from the notion of “We are what we do.” We have to accept ourselves as what we are regardless of what we do. I am a human being whatever I’m doing. When I introduce myself as a retired person, I feel obliged to find a way to justify my existence by describing how I spend my time. If I say, “Actually I do nothing,” people think I am being funny. So I say something like, “I write.” But I should not have to say what I do to win the right to occupy space and eat food. “I don’t apologize,” something like that, said John Wayne. I have a right to live and be loved by simply being alive and cranky.