The Common Good

A South African Diary

Sojomail - June 19, 2002

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++++++++++++++++++++++ 19-June-2002 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++ A South African Diary ++++++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Steve Biko: A people-friendly world

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *A South African diary

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Philosopher's corner

 R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
     *Psych sleuth: Delving into the minds of cults

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *9/11 delivers a jump in newspaper readership

 P. O. V.
     *A proposal for peace in the India-Pakistan conflict

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Love deeply

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *To the shores of Hollywood

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *Sharing. Praying. Building Communities of Hope.

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply

 W e b s c e n e
     *Women from the Horn of Africa
     *White teachers confronting racism
	 
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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
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"The great powers of the world may have done
wonders in giving the world an industrial and
military look, but the great gift still has to
come from Africa - giving the world a more human
face."

                      - Steve Biko (1946-1977)

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B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
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A South African diary

by David Batstone

I have spent the last 17 days in South Africa along with 22 of my students from the University of San Francisco. I won't bore you with all the travel details. A few snapshots may hint at the range of emotions I'm riding my last day in Durban, before I head back to the USA.

*Last night I took to the streets of Durban with Tom Hewitt, who has been working with street kids here for the last eight years (I highly recommend his book, "Little Outlaws, Dirty Angels," wherein he relates his work with South Africa's street children). At midnight we ran across a dozen kids, ages 10-14, all black. The kids were sitting around a makeshift fire ring they had built on a traffic island on a main Durban thoroughfare. It struck me how prematurely old the kids seemed, evoking images of hobos by railroad tracks or the homeless in Harlem. But these dispossessed were pre-teenage kids. After we said our goodbyes, Tom remarked that nearly all of these kids are destined to die of AIDS unless some other tragedy does not take them earlier.

*One out of three South Africans are HIV positive. Those numbers are horrific enough. More troubling still is the government's denial of the crisis. President Mbeke has rejected an infusion of medical aid, casting doubt on the fatal gravity of the HIV virus and saying that South Africa will deal with HIV in its own African way. But several African nations have more aggressively addressed the crisis with modestly successful results. It's hard to come up with a logical reason for Mbeke's position. Then again... One of my students asked a respected South African professor and UNESCO representative how the nation could hope to boost its economic productivity with the prospect of losing one out of three of its people in the next decade. His reply: "With 40% unemployment and scarce resources, perhaps the HIV virus is actually a blessing." Can it be that Mbeke and his ruling coalition have reached the same cold, calculated decision, to force euthanasia onto the nation's poor, all in the name of the common good?

*We spent a day with Steve Biko's widow, Ntsiki, who is an inspiring activist in her own right. Part of Steve Biko's life - and death at the hands of South African police - is depicted in the movie "Cry Freedom." I've often wondered whether Steve rejected religion as he formed a radical political philosophy for Africa. Ms. Biko told me that Steve did view a European version of Christianity as the perfect ideal for colonizing and subjugating black Africans. But while he denounced religion of this sort, Ms. Biko said Steve met secretly - and regularly - with Christian liberation theologians to find meaning in black people's understanding of God. Steve often said "No nation can win a battle without faith," while stressing that faith must be seen through the eyes of those who struggle for justice, not in the vision of those who dominate and oppress.

*I met an alarming number of people here - above all young activists - who are deflated by the dearth of economic achievements delivered by the ANC. Corruption by public officials adds to the sting of ineffective economic restucturing. In Steve Biko's home township of Ginsberg, youth unemployment is at 90%. One young black woman from Ginsberg who was very active in the anti-apartheid struggle expressed her disaffection. While thrilled to cast her first vote in an election that brought the ANC to power, she said that it also would be her final vote. She no longer believed in the political process. The widespread disillusionment brought back memories of my work in Nicaragua in 1988. At the time, no one thought it was possible that the Sandinistas would lose a fair election. But I became convinced that revolutions - and elections - come down to rice and beans, not ideology. For that reason, I believe the ANC is in trouble politically in the near future.

*Yet democracy is alive and well in South Africa...for blacks, coloreds, Indians, and whites. Maybe that alone is a sufficient endorsement of what has happened here since 1994. It's refreshing to hear so much open debate about how society should be run. An ANC community activist in Duncan Village - one of the most conflictive townships in the anti-apartheid struggle - told us bluntly that some ANC officials are corrupt and diverted funds designated to his projects. In the same breath, he spoke of his patience for the democratic process. "Building democratic institutions does not happen overnight," he noted. I also spoke with Afrikaners and Indians who believe the black majority have made a mess of things for the country since '94. Some of their critiques were credible, others blatantly racist. Most notably, these critics are not imprisoned, threatened, or economically marginalized for voicing their opinions publicly.

Closing thought: Africa is commonly viewed as a world of problems. The USA and Europe consider themselves a world of solutions. I would reposition the formula in a way onto which 9/11 serves as an exclamation mark: Our solutions are linked to their problems, and their solutions rapidly are becoming our problems.

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F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
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Philosopher's corner

I read recipes the same way I read science fiction. I get to the end and think, "Well, that's not going to happen."

======

Health fanatics are going to feel stupid someday lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

======

Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?

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R e l i g i o n   M a t t e r s
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Psych sleuth: Delving into the minds of cults

by Kevin Fagan

Name any major cult figure in the last half of the 20th century, and Margaret Singer has debriefed its victims or helped nail its leaders.

To read the entire feature article, go to:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2002/05/26/CM67534.DTL

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B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
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9/11 delivers a jump in newspaper readership

Most of the USA's biggest daily newspapers experienced circulation gains after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. This, despite an overall 0.6 percent drop in readership between October 2001 and March 2002 from the corresponding period in 2000-2001, which has been part of a decade-old trend. The average weekday circulation (in thousands, unless otherwise noted) for the top 10 papers, with the difference in gain or loss from the preceding year:

1. USA Today, 2.2 million; -3.4%
2. The Wall Street Journal, 1.8 million; +0.05%
3. The New York Times, 1.2 million; +3.8%
4. The Los Angeles Times, 985,000; -5.3%
5. The Washington Post, 811,000; +0.7%
6. New York Daily News, 733,000; +2.2%
7. Chicago Tribune, 628,000; +0.7%
8. Newsday of New York's Long Island, 577,000; +0.1%
9. New York Post, 562,000; +15.4%
10. Houston Chronicle, 545,000; +0.1%

Source: Audit Bureau of Circulations

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P. O. V.
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A road map to peace in the India-Pakistan conflict

by L. Ramdas and Arjun Makhijani

India and Pakistan stand at the brink of nuclear catastrophe. Infiltration of terrorists from across the Pakistani side of the Line of Control (LoC), the massing of troops at the border by both countries, and the increasing exchanges of artillery fire matched only by the verbal volleys exchanged between the leadership of both countries, could escalate quickly into a full-scale war. This, in turn poses the threat of a nuclear exchange.

India and Pakistan signed the Shimla Agreement in 1972 and the Lahore Agreement in 1999. In both these accords, they agreed to renounce the use of force and to resolve all outstanding issues between them by peaceful means. Never has there been a time more urgent to respect the letter and spirit of those agreements than now.

We urge the governments of both Pakistan and India to immediately step back from the brink of war and nuclear holocaust by committing themselves to the following eight- point peace plan:

1) An immediate ceasefire by Indian and Pakistani forces along the LoC.

2) Pervez Musharraf must take immediate, firm, and demonstrable steps to stop cross-border infiltration from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir into the Indian-controlled side. To ensure that these steps are being taken, an International Anti-terrorist Monitoring Group should be formed and deployed. Pakistan and India should agree to full cooperation with this group.

3) If these measures are agreed to, India in turn should make a commitment not to cross the LoC.

4) Pakistan should adopt the no-first-use policy of nuclear weapons, which has already been adopted by India. These measures should be urgently instituted within a time- frame of a few weeks. Thereafter, three further steps can be taken to ensure long-term peace. These three steps are:

5) India and Pakistan should thin down their military deployments along their common border and return to pre- December 13, 2001, levels.

6) India and Pakistan should resume their dialogue on all outstanding issues, including Jammu and Kashmir, in the spirit of the Shimla and Lahore agreements, and pick up the threads where they left off at Agra barely 10 months ago.

7) As a part of the dialogue process, India and Pakistan should form a joint technical commission to explore and recommend how the mutual commitment to no-first-use of nuclear weapons can be verified and maintained.

8) Why not a Shimla-II? It would be truly fitting if this could take place on July 12, 2002, the 13th anniversary of the historic Shimla agreement.

*L. Ramdas is former Chief of Naval Staff of India and Arjun Makhijani is president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research in Maryland. For more info, go to: http://www.ieer.org

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S o u l   W o r k s
+++++++++++++++++++
Love deeply

Love all that has been created by God, both the whole and every grain of sand. Love every leaf and every ray of light. Love the beasts and the birds, love the plants, love every separate fragment. If you love each separate fragment, you will understand the mystery of the whole resting in God.

                    - Fyodor Dostoevsky

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C u l t u r e   W a t c h
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To the shores of Hollywood

by David Robb

When filmmakers ask the Defense Department for help, they have to submit their screenplays to Phil Strub, the head of the department's film and TV liaison office in Washington. He reviews them for accuracy and to determine whether they will help the military's recruiting efforts. Hollywood's top producers regularly trek to Strub's office, pleading for assistance. Strub has clout. If he likes a script, he can recommend that the Pentagon give the movie's producers access to billions of dollars' worth of military hardware - ships, airplanes and tanks. But if he doesn't like a script, the producers will have to make the changes he recommends if they want the military's assistance.

For the full story on the new movie "Windtalkers," and to learn whose vision made it to the screen, see:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54632-2002Jun14.html

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S o j o C i r c l e s
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Sharing. Praying. Building Communities of Hope.

Sojourners is organizing groups that meet bi-weekly to share issues of faith, to listen to stories of peace and war, to pray for the healing of souls and of our world. Won't you join us in building a community of hope?

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If you are interested in participating in a SojoCircle, either as a leader or as a member, please contact us at SojoCircles@sojo.net.

To find out more about SojoCircles, or to see a list of those already formed, visit us at www.sojo.net or call us at 1-800-714-7474.

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B o o m e r a n g
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Jon Franz writes from Atlanta, Georgia:

Jim Wallis' call for the "practical necessity of disavowing and dismantling nuclear weapons" sounds wonderful on the surface, but it is naive and impractical in the world today. The leadership in places like North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya - to name a few - are not reasonable negotiators in search of peaceful options. They have demonstrated that their words cannot be trusted. Nuclear and chemical weaponry is their only hold on power. They will not peacefully give up this power simply because "it's time for sanity" to prevail. They do not operate from hearts of compassion for their own people or the people of the world. While the same could be said of many in Washington, we have a Constitution that empowers the voting populus to vote out our leaders who don't measure up. These nations do not.

As long as a chemical and nuclear threat exists in the hands of evil leaders, it is imperative that we, who operate from a more reasonable and compassionate platform, maintain the ability to answer with a like threat. It is the only language the wicked seem to understand.

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Rabbi Mark Kiel writes:

A nuclear first strike has long been our policy. During the Cold War when the Russians outnumbered us in troops and conventional war weapons in Europe, we told them if they launch a massive strike against us, we would nuke them. Don't you think, that in that case the policy was sound? Of course we dealt at the time with a rational enemy in control of its own country.

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Mike Brislen writes:

Pakistan and India seem to be on the brink of war. Has anyone noticed the incipient racism among the media and Western governments? Now that two non-White, non-Western nations are armed with nuclear weapons and may possibly go to war, we hear comments such as "They don't seem to understand the consequences of nuclear war." Are South Asians simply less intelligent than the rest of us? Are they so irrational that they will probably launch nuclear missiles at each other?

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John Roberts writes from Houston, Texas:

Now that priests are perpetrators of pedophilia, I don't hear words like "disgusting animal" and "monster" as has been used with pedophiles in the past. I've always believed that American society is as much responsible for the spread of pedophilia as the perpetrators themselves. Instead of treating it as a psychological aberration brought on by trauma and encouraging those who are disposed to pedophilia to receive help in dealing with it, we concentrate on new ways to prosecute and persecute. We dare them to show their faces so we can shame them in every way imaginable. I recall when a man in our congregation was accused of sexual abuse (though there was no hard evidence I believe he was guilty and I think the priest did, too). He was asked to leave the church. He lost his job and a year later he died living on the street. There was no memorial service.

------------------

Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies, writes from University Park, Pennsylvania:

In an article [excerpted] in SojoMail [06-12-02], Rose Marie Berger writes the following:

"Philip Jenkins concludes in his book 'Pedophiles and Priests' that while 1.7 percent of Catholic clergy have been found guilty of pedophilia (specifically of boys), 10 percent of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of pedophilia."

I regret to say that the statement is baloney. I never said it, and it's not true!

In "Pedophiles and Priests," I was attacking a statistic that claimed that a proportion of Catholic priests were pedophiles on the basis that the sample was worthless, since all the men involved were undergoing psychiatric treatment. Hence, you could not extrapolate that figure to the whole priestly population. In order to demonstrate the foolishness of the argument, I cited another study of Protestant ministers UNDERGOING TREATMENT, which found that 10 percent of them were also pedophiles. By this argument, I remarked - as a reductio ad absurdum - then 10 percent of Protestant clergy were also pedophiles. (By the way, pedophilia is a psychiatric condition, not a criminal offense, so nobody can be "found guilty of pedophilia").

Every time this 10 percent statement appears attributed to me, I try to debunk it, but these things have a life of their own. I have no idea what the actual proportion of pedophile Protestant clergy is, but I would be amazed if it was more than a fraction of one percent.

I hope that clarifies my position. Ms. Berger may well be making an excellent point - that there is no evidence that abuse rates are higher for Protestant than for Catholic clergy. But this particular figure is a kind of urban legend.

*Ed. note: We apologize for passing on an urban legend.

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Arthur French writes from the United Kingdom:

A public obsession with "sexual abuse" (undefined) can frighten parents away from showing affection to their children, and that can do almost as much psychological harm as a morbid excess of touching.

I'm sad that we are not using the educational methods that could help children and adults to be more aware of their feelings, to express and share them more effectively. Those methods might reduce sexual aberrations, and, as a bonus, work on a range of other problems like bullying, sexual and racial prejudice, truancy - perhaps more. The trouble in England, where I live, is that promising methods that were developed in the 1970s have never been given enough time and money, because of a curriculum giving priority to intellectual content, and controlled by a very bureaucratic and excessive system of testing. If children had fewer mental and social hang-ups, they would give better attention to literacy and numeracy, as well as being better equipped to turn to other people for help when sexual and other relationships go wrong.

---------------------

Kathleen Robbins writes from Rochester, New York:

I appreciated (as is often the case) Jim Wallis' article about an alliance between British and U.S. churches in order to make a real difference in poverty around the world. It is possible but sometimes I feel improbable.... There are limited resources on our planet and I think it is just false to say there is enough for everyone (as some claim) without those of us in this country drastically changing our lifestyles. So we (and I include myself) need to consider what we will personally do (and give up/change) in our own lives if we really believe in justice for the whole world.

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Nicola Skinner writes from Aurora, Ontario, Canada:

Libby van Buskirk is of the opinion that America's contribution of 0.1% of its GDP is worth far more than the 1.01% of countries like Denmark and Norway. I disagree. The percentage is very important. Perhaps we should teach in our churches that rich people should not tithe but rather give a far smaller amount because their lesser offering is worth more than a poorer person's tithe. Isn't this the exact reason why the rich grow richer and the poor become poorer?

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Boomerang is an open forum for all kinds of views. The views expressed are not necessarily those of Sojourners. Want to make your voice heard? Send Boomerang e-mails to the editor:

"boomerang@sojo.net"

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W e b s c e n e
+++++++++++++++
This week's best of the Web

*Women leaders of Africa

A group of African female leaders have launched a new Web site called The Horn of Africa Region Women's Knowledge Network (Hawknet). Join in on fascinating discussions among women from Eritrea, Malawi, Somali, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Kenya. Go to:

http://www.acwict.or.ke/Hawknet/default.htm

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*White teachers confronting racism

Anti-racism.com is a thoughtful Web site focused on how racism can be confronted in schools, businesses, and nonprofits. Go to:

http://www.antiracism.com

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