Sunday, January 3, 2010

Misplaced Blame

Many fundamentalist Christians today are calling for a return to what they call "biblical values", which in essence ignores the New Testament and even Christ's existence altogether - thus discarding the New Covenant entirely. They focus almost completely on Old Testament ritual laws and cry for the death penalty to be reinstated (apparently this is a "biblical value") as a so-called "deterrent" against crime - crimes which many of them feel should include adultery, divorce, "blasphemy", lying and their personal favorite, homosexuality.

The death penalty is in this case, euphemistically speaking, their holy grail - a piece of legislation that will miraculously fix everything that is wrong with South Africa (or the world, why stop there?) - a grasping at straws wrapped in the mantle of justice and authority which they claim comes from God.

So let me get this straight - in a country where the justice department is incompetent, likely to screw up in convicting the right person for the crime - may even be corrupt - and where the government is making increasingly conservative and oppressive noises, people are seriously asking for the return of the death penalty? What are they smoking?

They seem to think the death penalty will somehow fix everything. Punishing people left and right for crimes already committed will somehow prevent other people from following their example. And killing people for their crimes will teach them not to do it again. Yeah right, that'll learn 'em. They won't do that again.

Human nature isn't like that, because people think they won't get caught.

Just before the elections last year, two "Christian" political parties tried to win votes by making political scapegoats of the GLBTI community by making irresponsible claims that all that was wrong with the country today can be blamed on gay rights and their "immoral" inclusion in the Constitution. Notably, both parties support reinstating the death penalty in their policies and election manifestos - and some of their more vocal supporters advocate the same for gay people, which coincidentally, is the current trend in countries like Iran, Iraq, Jamaica and Uganda - which funnily enough can only be described as "fundamentalist", if not outright mental.

"In the case of the ACDP, the point of reference is the Bible. The Bible is a trustworthy book. It has a track record of 2000 years, has been used to fight against drug use, to pull down slavery, to promote honesty, to encourage faithful marriages, to hold governments to account and to provide a platform for the analysis of morality. The real question then is: how faithfully do the ACDP adhere to the Bible? Posted by Eric Savage"

Well, Mr. Savage, the Bible has also been used to excuse slavery and oppression, to justify eugenics and persecution, to substantiate lies and false witness - and as authority to commit murder and genocide. I would like to suggest that these people be encouraged to emigrate to Uganda or one of those other homophobic backwaters where human life has no value, and see how they like it. In fact, I take it as either embarrassment or tacit agreement that the ACDP has said nothing at all about the introduction of the Ugandan Genocide Bill, after boastful references to Uganda's "abstinence only" HIV programs over the past decade?

As far as I can stretch my plebeian brain, isn't Christ supposed to be the New Covenant between man and God?

Does that not make the modern bible, IE the New Testament - illegitimate and nothing more than a collection of hearsay passed on for 60 years or more before being written down? Let's not forget the early pope at the time of the Roman persecution, who cherry-picked manuscripts and tossed half the NT books out, and the Apocrypha which was not left out of the Old testament for the same reasons - but simply for convenience because it had not been translated from German into English at the time of the King James Bible. Does that not mean that if any of the books in the bible are valid at all (and I'm not saying they are), that these others are still valid also?

In fact more than half the problems we find IE Leviticus could be easily explained by referring to the Apocryphal texts - but since they are no longer there to set the record straight, people with a fifth grade understanding of the bible, who do not understand references to "flesh of a different kind" or "another flesh" (which as these discarded books point out, are Angels) point fingers at us.

Add to that all the cultural differences, language errors and cavalier mistranslations - causing women to be treated like servants and gay people like "abominations"! I would say the foundations of modern evangelical Christianity are built on sand... Some track record. Yes, very "trustworthy" indeed.

Moving on to other things which, broadly speaking plague society today - which these fundie groups like to blame on everything they happen to dislike - such as liberalism, democracy, civil rights, human rights - and inevitably, the pink community - or as they put it, "tolerance of homosexuality". Incredibly, in the USA a few years back, such groups blamed the devastation by hurricane of New Orleans on the very same - and yet ironically, as pointed out to them, the gay quarter was spared the devastation, while surrounding neighborhoods were all but flattened or flooded. I took great pleasure when somebody remarked: "either God has terrible aim, or you are hopelessly off the mark about God hating gay people."

In keeping with this theme of diverting blame, let's have a look at a recent statement which was made by the minister of Home Affairs, that a Bill to ban all forms of pornography in public media, in order to "combat child pornography" will be tabled soon.

Right, they can't stop the child porn industry, so they just ban everything - and open the door to full censorship of anything the state doesn't like the plebs to see. Didn't think of that, did ya? No, most folks just focus on the child-porn aspect and not on the bigger picture. Ah, the somnambulist plebs...

Instead of chipping away at individual freedoms and human rights in the name of "safety" and "security", OUR government should call for rooting out corruption and incompetence in the government, police and justice department, employ competent officials and efficient interpreters. What is the point of advocating living in a police state if the police are part of the problem?

For years now, cops have been murdered for their service weapons and were told in apparent desperation by "enlightened" ministers to "shoot to kill". The result? A toddler killed because he was carrying something which "resembled" a firearm, and one innocent woman shot dead because she thought plain-clothes cops trying to stop her in an unmarked car were hijackers. Considering the prevalence of hijackings in SA, who could blame her? I probably wouldn't have stopped either. Did she fire the first shot? Had she been shooting back at them? Did she even have a gun? No? Interesting that they felt so threatened by an unarmed non-hostile person that they saw the need to shoot first and ask questions later. That, my friends, is a police state. I presume no legal action is planned against these fine officers of the law? In fact since the initial news report I haven't heard anything on the subject - except that certain political figures have been vehemently denying that they ever said "shoot to kill" in the first place, popularizing the phrase "...what I MEANT to say was..." Meh.

Gone were the days when the police were both a formidable crime-fighting force and a group which some at least, could expect to display a measure of integrity. Today we have a largely unfit police service, overweight, unhealthy and fraught with corruption. Have you seen the newspaper cartoons about "Operation Get Fit" - the SAPS's new rectification program to get the coppers up to scratch? Bulbous "blobbies on the beat", huffing and puffing in spandex and falling off jogging machines or collapsing in five hour aerobics sessions? Jokes about coffee and doughnuts abound among tales of escaping crooks running rings around our "boys in boo".

Stories do the rounds of coppers not accepting complaints from certain people (depending on their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender or sexual orientation) and refusing to prosecute or investigate certain crimes. Criminal procedure is regularly flouted and case dockets conveniently disappear so that cases are dismissed. Witnesses in criminal investigations are afraid, paid off or too apathetic to come forward. Nobody wants to get involved, nobody wants to be hero. To add to the mix, incompetent interpreters foul up the evidence in court - yet go on strike to demand wage increases. Charges against prominent politicians are dropped for "lack of evidence" despite the surprising co-incidence that there is enough of the same evidence to convict their co-accused. Charges are dropped because political groups threaten to riot or invade court rooms. Convicted criminals are carried to jail on the shoulders of singing, dancing supporters. Dangerous criminals are released on parole and presidential pardons are handed out for the strangest reasons. Prisoners paroled for terminal illnesses and sent home to die "miraculously" recover and are spotted driving around in their BMW's or playing 18 rounds of golf in the pink of health. Special police squads are disbanded because they become too good at exposing corrupt government officials, in effect, their employers. And then we wonder why South Africa is being called a "gangster's paradise"?

Add to this the recent call by the COSATU president to remove provincial governments to "eliminate corruption and mismanagement" and "more efficiently address service delivery issues". Please. Connect the dots here. Is this not just a ruse to take away control of the Western Cape province from the Opposition, and to keep them from making more such gains in future elections? Reports of underhanded tactics by the ruling party to put the Opposition in a bad light abound.

If our government is so vain and power-hungry that it cannot bear to lose ground fairly, then we could soon wake up to finding ourselves firmly on the road to being a one party state like Zim-BOB-we. It still amazes me that a man who has run that country into the ground, lined his own nest while his people starved, abused human rights - and who even LOST the last general elections, is STILL being feted as "PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe" and who clings frantically to power. Maybe he also imagines that he will rule "till Jesus comes". Perhaps - the man is in his 80's, so that could be tomorrow.

COSATU, a trade union with far too much power - and the SA Communist Party, being the two cornerstones of the ANC's power - normally quiet and virtually invisible in the politics of state - are flexing their muscles a lot these days and the ANC, having recently lost nearly half its support in the form of the now ailing COPE, is keen to appease. COPE has been fairly accurately described as "same people, different t-shirt", much to the amusement of all but those wearing yellow.

Did you hear the calls by certain tripartite alliance members in the news to nationalize the assets of the "rich" in SA? Apparently the guideline to decide who is "too rich" is if you could possibly "use it all up in your lifetime". (They clearly underestimate the amount of money some people can use up in a single lifetime.) What a nice way to encourage capitalism and the free market - by putting a ceiling on what you are allowed to earn, own and keep for yourself - oh wait, that sounds remarkably like taxes... ehehehe.

What a wonderful way to inspire the confidence of foreign investors.

In fact, the noises made recently by the ANC's silent partner (until recently), the SA communist Party are pretty unsettling. Just about the only bright side I can see there is the cracks in their alliance with COSATU and the ANC, and the notion that the SACP might participate in the next elections on its own. Wouldn't it be nice to see that annoying little remnant of the Cold War rubbed out in 2014 by a no-show, come election day? Yup, it sure would.

Aside from this allusion to Marxist principles, which has gone largely ignored by the media and the Opposition parties, there is a rising tide of intolerance and conservatism in this country. This is taking form in the drive to deprive certain communities of equality and civil rights. Even the ruling party, most prominently our President, has jumped into the water, waist-deep, making promises last March to conservative religious groups to secure votes, and hinting at willingness to satisfy their fundamentalist urges to make other people live according to their wishes, revoke their civil rights and rescind their right to marry.

Ray Mc Cauley and Rhema's shiny new "God-Squad" today find themselves neck-deep in ANC support, and the pink community waits to see their next move with bated breath.

People who do not do as one or other faction of the ANC wishes, are slated and ill-advised public calls are made implying that they should be killed. (At least my favorite clown running their "youth league" hasn't said anything like that since his "kill for Zuma" rant some time ago.) A prime example is the comment about the professor in charge of the University of the Free State for pardoning the "Reitz Four" for their much-publicized racist acts. He was also labelled a racist for his troubles, despite the fact that he himself is not white and attempted to make a reconciliatory move. Yes, by all means, he is a "racist" who "should be shot". Very democratic confidence - inspiring behavior indeed - such things truly shame me to be a South African.

But the craziness doesn't end there.

Foreigners are permitted to wander across our porous northern borders as they like, ply criminal trades such as dealing drugs, prostitution-slavery, and the numerous cons and scams they have become notorious for - and to add to their convenience, they no longer have to bother with visas or work permits. Nice. To make matters worse, they "cannot speak English" when they appear in court and so the cases are conveniently dismissed for lack of interpreters - but funnily enough, they speak English well enough to go back to running their drug cartels and intricate scams in our cities. Before somebody accuses me of xenophobia or even racism, please wake up and realize I am not speaking about the genuine cases of asylum seekers, and those with good, honest intentions - but of the criminal element profiting from our country's good grace and somewhat idiosyncratic answer to what might be an otherwise genuine humanitarian call.

Be that as it may, if my former girlfriend from Finland had to secure a work permit and a visa in order to stay in South Africa, then so should they. She had a driver's license obtained in the EU - a first-world country with much higher standards - and for some inexplicable reason, is not allowed to drive in SA - and could not apply for a license test until she got permanent residency. In fact, it took several fruitless visits and many wasted telephone calls to the so-called "traffic dept" to find this out. Right, so you want to tell me the Nigerian traders I see at the beach-front every Sunday, driving their overloaded skorro-skorro's - sans visa or identity documents, have both insurance - and legal driver's licenses up to SA's dubious standards? I didn't think so.

And while we are on that subject, when last have we seen traffic cops on our roads? If you can remember, well, good for you - but I can't. Not in my town. Last I heard, they were on a surprise strike - like anyone would notice, seeing as they seem to be well engaged in defying authority themselves, such as the crowd of officers who attended - in full uniform and during work-time, the funeral of one of their comrades who was killed while committing a cash-in-transit heist. Inspiring, isn't it?

And here we come to the matter of armed violence. Despite overpowering evidence to show crimes are committed with stolen firearms, stolen military and police weapons - and to a certain degree, AK47's left over from the Struggle days, the government still seems intent on disarming the law-abiding licensed gun owners, and by making self-defense virtually a crime by protecting the assailants instead of their victims.

An article I read this past week points out the minor but pertinent detail that almost a third MORE legal firearms were handed in than illegal ones. What, I wonder, are we to deduce from this?

It is now less dangerous (and more legal) to break into a house while the occupants are inside with the intent of robbery or murder than it is for the victim or occupant to shoot such a person in self-defense. Armed gangs regularly hit shopping malls with military precision, and brazenly shoot it out with coppers like they are in the wild west, regardless of how many innocent bystanders get in the way. ATM's are blown up with mining charges or dragged bodily out of their mountings by armed gangs, demonstrating incredible inventiveness and determination. Cash-in-transit heists significantly increase the risks of just going to your neighborhood mall and hijackings make stopping your car in your own driveway - or anywhere - a life-threatening reality.

I admit farm killings are usually the priority of the right wing nationalist groups when it comes to discussions of crime - but it has to be said that right-wingers are not the only ones being murdered on farms. It is interesting to note the removal of a highly effective, experienced and established volunteer force military commando system some years ago - and its replacement with the usual incompetent police "service" we all know and enjoy in the cities. I also have to question if the state really is doing all it can to combat crime, having deliberately disbanded the most effective deterrent against this form of hate crime - depite warnings of the consequences. A very healthy state of affairs.

And speaking of health, our domestic recently had a knee-replacement operation which was completely and utterly botched through an incompetent surgeon at a provincial hospital and an indifferent "free medical" service for the poor. To add insult to injury, she was on a waiting list almost ten years before reaching the operating table. Apparently the genius in question over-tightened the screws, making bending the new joint very difficult and painful. Almost a year later, she is still battling to shuffle about with a walker like somebody much older than her sixty years, and I cannot remember when last I saw her smile. Oh yes, I can - it was before she went to have that knee op in February.

Complaints and appeals to redress this problem have continued to fall on deaf ears - and concern for our domestic, who has been with us since I was at high school - makes me wish I could tighten some of the good doctor's screws myself. These days all they do is prescribe more pain medication and tell her to come back another day. Apparently the only way to rectify this problem is through more surgery, and considering she had to wait almost ten years for the botched operation in the first place, I question whether she will still be alive by then!

Early last year, my ex-girlfriend had to undergo a minor operation as part of her transition. As she had no medical aid, this was done at our local Provincial hospital, which was an escapade of note. Despite the theater being in good order, all three elevators were out of service and so we had to use the stairs. Her ward was on the sixth floor. Fun. Add to that, the temperament of the nursing staff was appalling. I experienced much rudeness and ill-manners from the ward sister, presumably because of our sexual orientation or gender identity, but at least I had the satisfaction of giving him an earful. On leaving that afternoon, my partner had to walk out of the hospital - after a bilateral orchidectomy - down six flights of stairs, before we could get her into a wheelchair! What a far cry South Africa is now from the days when our doctors and hospitals - including that one - were among the best and most sought after in the world...

How many times do we hear of people dying in the static queues waiting for treatment? If that is to be a harbinger of the suggested National Health Insurance, then this country is far worse off than we think. In fact, they can keep it. But somehow, there is always money to splurge on sports stadiums and causing chaos by modifying our city road network for that stupid and utterly pointless soccer world cup, and fancy cars of a million or more Rand for government officials - and the sick thing is that they can actually come up with reasons to justify this added insult to the person waiting to die in a queue in some dirty provincial hospital or rural clinic, sitting on the floor in a puddle of piss and blood.

This protracted failure of the government to save the day and restore order and good practice undermines its own credibility and creates an atmosphere where militant racist, sexist and even religious fundamentalist right wing lunatic fringe groups such as the long-dormant AWB suddenly see a future for themselves again, and re-activate.

Quite a state we are in, wouldn't you agree? Ask my ex-girlfriend, she'll tell you. Up until she came to this country in 2008, the only bars and security gates she had seen were on TV. She used to think locking your front door and car and holding onto your handbag while walking down a public street in broad daylight, or keeping it in sight while in a restaurant was just paranoid and a silly waste of time. Until she came here, the only news reports of murders and serious crime she saw on TV came once or twice a year and usually from somewhere else, and not every day. And yet to us, the scary thing is that we not only take it for granted, but sometimes we even brag about it.

It is interesting to note that certain crazed fundie groups of halfwits, founded on fairy tales and gospels of hatred still take the time to assert (quite seriously) that the deplorable state of our - um, state - is to be blamed on tolerance of homosexuality. Thank you, Fred Phelps, Errol Naidoo, Peter Hammond, the ACDP, CDA and Ray McCauley and his NILC.

Yes, I can see how bringing back the death penalty will fix all that.


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