The Common Good

The "Real" South Africa

Sojomail - August 7, 2002


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++++++++++++++++++++++ 07-August-2002 +++++++++++++++++++++++++
+++++++++++++++++ The "Real" South Africa +++++++++++++++++++++

 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *WorldCom: A nickle-and-dime operation?

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Debate: Seeing the "real" South Africa

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Mister, my God's not for sale

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *SojoMail on the move

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Remaining CEOs make a break for Mexican border

 B i z   E t h i x
     *Business executives look for spiritual direction

 B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
     *Help to invade Iraq before the USA

 C u l t u r e   W a t c h
     *Arabian baths and Last Supper menus in Moscow theme park plan

 B o o m e r a n g
     *Rabbis...and others...speak their mind

 W e b s c e n e
     *Development in Africa in the 21st century
     *Help with your presentations
     *The insanity test

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Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"The way they arrested these guys is absurd. It's a
perp walk, nothing more. These guys are not desperadoes.
They didn't shoot up a bank or a 7-Eleven."

            - Charles Roistacer, a former federal
              prosecutor turned white-collar defense
              lawyer, after WorldCom's execs were
              arrested on August 1, 2002.

[Ed. note: The average "7-Eleven robbery" nets the
perpetrator, what, $110.54? The former WorldCom chief
executive is accused of hiding $3.8 billion in
expenses, resulting in the loss of thousands of
WorldCom jobs and hundreds of millions of pension
fund losses. Yep, a real perp.]


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Debate: Seeing the "real" South Africa

Bob Schminkey, executive director of RISA Charitable Trust in Philadelphia, Pennsylavania, writes:

Like David Batstone, I recently returned from a trip to South Africa. While getting caught up on reading upon my return, I came across Batstone's short diary piece as it was picked up by "The Christian Century." It sent chills down my spine.

For the last 10 years I have spent a good part of my life living in and working for South Africa. First as a Presbyterian Church USA Mission Worker, and now as director of the RISA Charitable Trust, a not-for-profit organization that invests in job creation and transformation in South Africa. That country has become, in many ways, my home.

South Africa is indeed a country with serious problems and Batstone touches on a few in his published diary. Unemployment, HIV/AIDS, crime...we hear about these crisis points in South Africa, and when visitors go there they can be overwhelmed (as I was on my first visit) by the vast scale of the townships with people living in poverty. A bit of research and history would help our understanding, and would have helped Batstone's group understand what they saw on their trip.

Quoting only "a respected [but not named] South African professor and UNESCO representative" on HIV/AIDS may work well in a diary, but it is not responsible journalism. Without noting the current official South African policy, or discussions with South African officials, we are left with a piece that only strengthens too many Americans' racist views that the new South Africa is doomed to fail.

South Africa's answer to HIV/AIDS will not be the same as that of the USA. The history of apartheid and the resulting current economic and social conditions have led South Africa to look for answers different from here in the USA. President Thabo Mbeki has indeed been seriously misled in my opinion regarding HIV/AIDS, but he alone does not set government policy, and he has never suggested that HIV/AIDS is a blessing. I am offended that you believe, or print in SojoMail, that he could have such callous disregard for the lives of the people of South Africa.

Once the international community united with South Africans in the struggle against apartheid. Now the struggle has shifted from the political to the economic and social front, and the opportunity for witness and solidarity is greater than ever.

I keep going back to South Africa because of all the hope I see in that beautiful country and her people. The problems are immense and cannot be overstated, but the commitment to building a non-racial democracy is widespread, and so very many people are working to make that dream a reality. The fight against HIV/AIDS will take all South Africans working with the involvement of the international community. I regret David Batstone didn't experience the South Africa that I know and love, and would invite him and all your readers to come visit with me sometime to learn more about the country.


David Batstone responds:

I suppose I should feel offended. After all, it's not every day that you get called on the carpet for being both politically naive and an inept journalist.

But I am sympathetic to your position. Truly. I know what it feels like to be so committed to a cause that any kind of criticism feels like a vicious attack.

In many respects, it's no different from the faithful Roman Catholics who wrote in angry that I was undermining the social justice work of the church by chastising bishops and pastors who betray their flocks. Or well-intentioned Jews and Christians who called me "anti-Semitic" because I condemned Ariel Sharon along with Hamas for terrorism against civilians.

In your case, you fear that my calling attention to crime, unemployment, and HIV/AIDS will only reinforce a "racist view that the new South Africa is doomed to fail." It's apparent that you do not disagree with me that these matters represent a real crisis for South Africa. Rather, it seems the point where we diverge is our understanding of "witness and solidarity."

Revisiting my piece in SojoMail [06/19/02], I can reaffirm with all candor:

*HIV/AIDS is an epidemic on a massive scale in South Africa (roughly 1 out of 3 people), and the current government is failing miserably to adequately address it.
*The country is facing unemployment of 40%
*The ANC is not meeting the hopes of many young people, including those who live in black townships.
*Democracy is alive and well in South Africa.
*The experiment of building a multi-racial society is refreshing and inspiring.

Have I betrayed "the cause" because I raise these contradictions? Would I be more truly in solidarity with the people of South Africa if I would understate the problems and lift up the revolutionary goals of a new society? I think not. I would rather opt for awareness.

Awareness means discovering the ideas, skills, and strategies that permit success in a given location. It means making decisions that are conscious of the options that are set before us and where they are most likely to lead. It means intentionally creating the kinds of communities that allow us to live with dignity. It means supporting those who suffer.

Revolutionary ideology cannot replace awareness. Because we still wake up in the morning and find ourselves Here.


                   Get your own copy.

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bring you SojoMail each week.


S o u l   W o r k s
Mister, my God's not for sale

We have no more right to consume happiness without
producing it than to consume wealth without producing it.

                    - George Bernard Shaw

If you want a good, stiff spiritual test, go into your favorite store some day - preferably when there is a sale - and see if you can walk straight through, looking neither left nor right, and come out unscathed. It may sound unbelievable, but it can be done.


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
SojoMail on the move

Total subscribers who have opted to receive SojoMail:

August 1, 2001:      5,820
December 1, 2001:   15,848
August 1, 2002      26,252

Our phenomenal growth is almost entirely from your word of mouth.
Who do you know who should join our community?



The second gathering of Word and World: A People's School
will be held in Tucson, Arizona, Nov. 9-16, 2002. The
main theme of this school is social justice movements
throughout the Southwest from the time of the Spanish
conquest to the present, as well as the spiritual significance
of the Sonora Desert. Word and World is a popular institute
designed to address the need for theological pedagogy
between the seminary, the sanctuary, and the street.

Contact: Deborah Lee; (520) 670-9048;


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
CEOs make a break for Mexican border

El Paso, Texas ( - Unwilling to wait for their eventual indictments, the 10,000 remaining CEOs of public U.S. companies made a break for it yesterday, heading for the Mexican border, plundering towns and villages along the way, and writing the entire rampage off as a marketing expense.

Calling themselves the CEOnistas, the chief executives were first spotted last night along the Rio Grande River near Quemado, where they bought each of the town's 320 residents by borrowing against pension fund gains. By late this morning, the CEOnistas had arbitrarily inflated Quemado's population to 960.

Law enforcement officials and disgruntled shareholders riding posse were noticeably frustrated. "First of all, they're very hard to find because they always stand behind their numbers, and the numbers keep shifting," said posse spokesman Dean Levitt. "And every time we yell 'Stop in the name of the shareholders!' they refer us to investor relations. I've been on the phone all damn morning."

So far, about 50 chief executives have been captured, including Martha Stewart, who was detained south of El Paso where she had cut through a barbed-wire fence at the Zaragosa border crossing off Highway 375.

"She would have gotten away, but she was stopping motorists to ask for marzipan and food coloring so she could make edible snowman place settings, using the cut pieces of wire for the arms," said Border Patrol officer Jennette Cushing. "We put her in cell No. 7, because the morning sun really adds texture to the stucco walls."

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B i z   E t h i x
Business executives look for spiritual direction

by Jane Lampman

With his Silicon Valley firm in a deep financial hole, "Tom" faced a quandary. His partner in a joint venture was pressing him to close a deal with their top customer by promising results that couldn't be assured. Tom didn't feel right about it, but closing the deal would put his company - and his family - back on firm footing.

In distress, he brought the situation to a monthly gathering of top executives who discuss problems within a spiritual context. A vigorous discussion on management and on what the Bible had to offer gave him what he needed - the clarity not to shade the truth. "I'll be able to live with myself," he told the group. His company lost the deal.

To read the entire feature, link to:


B u i l d i n g   a   M o v e m e n t
Help to invade Iraq before the U.S.

"The plan is to get there when the bombs start falling. Actually, we'd like to get there before the bombs fall, so they don't," says Claire Evans of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT).

CPT, an organization committed to reducing violence by getting in the way of aggression, is set to send its first Generations for Peace delegation to Iraq in October. CPT invites applicants 21 and older, and especially encourages seniors to join the multi-generational effort, which includes intensive training in nonviolence. While in Iraq, the delegation will live among the Iraqi people, protect civilians and the infrastructure necessary for their survival, and serve as an alternative voice to the media.

The Generations for Peace effort is co-sponsored by Voices in the Wilderness (VITW), a campaign to end U.S. sanctions and a continuous delegation presence in Iraq since 1996. Generations for Peace is one of several affinity groups supported by VITW's Iraq Peace Team, a well-connected movement with an well-designed Web site currently soliciting applications for a September delegation.

For information on the Generations for Peace movement, contact Christian Peacemaker Teams, (312) 455-1199, or visit For more about the Voices in the Wilderness Iraq Peace Team campaign, visit


C u l t u r e   W a t c h
Arabian baths and Last Supper menus in Moscow theme park plan

A Chechen real estate mogul, an Israeli exporter, and a
Russian poet have come together in a grand plan to build
a Bible theme park in Moscow. Under the plan, children
will be able to visit a replica of Bethlehem's Church of
the Nativity and play in an Egyptian fortress, while their
parents taste the "dishes from the Last Supper" and enjoy an
Arabian bath. The park, billed as an entertainment Bible Land,
is to open its doors in 2005 and occupy 32 hectares in western
Moscow, its developers said at a news conference in early July.

                        - Ecumenical News International

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B o o m e r a n g

Michaela Patel writes from Melbourne, Australia:

Thank you, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, for your article on the Shehada assassination [SojoMail 07/31/02]! It's encouraging to know that there are Jewish people out there who can see the bigger picture and are not scared to present their views.


Rabbi Mark W. Kiel writes from Emerson, New Jersey:

...Waskow is a pacifist who believes terrorists should be fought with arrest warrants and kindness. He trusts the pronouncements of the sworn enemies of Israel, and from his safe place here in America wants Israelis to turn the other cheek. It does not occur to him, in his consideration of all the possibilities, that the bombing was a blunder, which some of the press also reported. Waskow is hardly a reluctant prophet. When the towers went down, Waskow's immediate response was: let's not strike back, let's love our enemies, let's look for the root causes of their anger and hatred for us. In other words, we are to blame. Does that mean that we deserve what we got? Of course it doesn't, but its pretty close to saying that, just as his Sojo comments now are pretty close to saying that Israel deserves the terror it endures constantly.

I am no supporter of Sharon but neither am I one of Waskow's groupies. What no one seems to have asked is do mass murderers get a pass when they hide behind women and children. Now that our country is planning something to bring down Hussein, if we should listen to Waskow, the murdering dictator of Iraq can do all his killing from schools, hospitals, and mosques. We can die happily knowing we are on the moral high ground. No thanks!


Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom writes from Jerusalem, Israel:

The demographics in "By the Numbers" [SojoMail 07/31/02] are somewhat misleading because they count the number of Israeli settlers who have moved into the Occupied Territories, but omit the *much larger* number of Palestinians and Druze who became refugees when the territories were occupied in 1967 and are prevented from returning till this very day. Please give your readers the fuller picture.


Ken Humphrey writes from Middletown, Conneticut:

I guess I need to dissent considerably from Lee Alley's defense of the wealthy and their good works [Boomerang 07-31-02]. As I've read of Bill Gates and his contributions to causes, I find myself contrasting the amount he gives to his massive storehouse of wealth. The ratio is pretty puny. We also have to take into account the Microsoft treatment of its workers. It's my understanding that Gates and his commercial empire resort largely to temps and "contract" workers and basically do their darndest to avoid paying livable wages for ordinary workers and would fight to the death to avoid unions.

As to the earlier robber barons, again, let's weigh the ruthlessness with which they acquired their wealth, all the little people and businesses they ran roughshod over, the way they corrupted government and courts, etc. And much of the donations of the heavily funded foundations go toward projects that favor the rich more than the impoverished. My impression has been that studies of foundations and their projects often are beneficial to the wealthy class.


Michael Redmond writes from Keller, Texas:

While it is certainly true that the ultra-rich have used some (albeit a small part) of their wealth for good causes, it should be understood that: a) many times that giving is done for the tax advantage or good PR and b) doing good with money obtained by bad means does not exonerate the giver or the means. This argument is a slightly different one used by many people to say that when the outcome is good or for a good cause, any means are or should be acceptable.


Rev. Hans Tokke writes from New York, New York:

RE: Nancy Buchan's letter to Boomerang [07-31-02].... I appreciate Nancy's sentiment about the radical preachers who have no salve in their saliva and consistently and corruptly spew venom at the poor to display their patriot arrogance. But to lump us all into the same camp is a gross generalization of the Assemblies of God. I'm an Assemblies of God minister who is enlivened by Sojourners' discussions on justice and equality, relief of poverty, et al. There are many, many others (in the supposed "religious right") who equally share my passion for the poor and would never, ever play on the same team as the narrow-minded preacher in her small town that is used as a "prooftext" for her own dismayed mood and agitation with Pentecostals.

Next time as a good professor she ought to research her topic a little more to find those of us out there who believe everything she does and agree with her sentiments about the unwise roughneck pastor/politician/patriot in her hometown. There are many of us.


Bill Stroup writes from Jacksonville, Florida:

Gayle Holten suggests in her Boomerang letter [07-17-02] that she is a Christian and strives to live that way. She offers the substitute wording "under love" for anybody who objects to the phrase "under God" in the pledge to America's flag and republic. She also proposes that the names of a variety of religious leaders could just as well be invoked. Not the deity of the Judeo-Christian writings!

I'd rather our nation be "under" a someOne than under a someThing, and truthfully, we ARE under God whether the pledge says so or not.


Carol Wolman writes from Albion, California:

We are in a time of judgment - it is being visited upon the Catholic Church, rogue corporate executives, corrupt politicians. I pray that the judgment will extend to warmongerers and wanton polluters.


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:



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

*Development in Africa in the 21st century

The Southern African Missiological Society (SAMS) is having its 2003 Congress, to be held in Pretoria, South Africa, January 22-24, 2003. The theme will be "Church, mission and development in Africa in the 21st century." For more information on the congress:


*Help with your presentations

Have a big work presentation to prepare? The Presenters University can help. Use the site's free online tutorials, downloads, and advice columns to wow your boss at the next big meeting.


*The insanity test

You should probably consider yourself crazy if you don't laugh at this little slice of Web silliness. Make sure you have your speakers turned on.


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