...and now it's 5:30am, so I thought I'd update you with some of my thoughts from the past few days. Conversations with my friend Tom Smith (@soulgardeners)have been deep and thought-provoking. Here's some of what I wrote in my journal on Saturday morning:
Sitting in a Seattle Coffee Company shop in a mall in Johannesburg. It could be any mall in North America. Very strange. A country now governed by blacks, where the minority whites still control the majority of the economic resources. Also a growing black middle class who, in Tom's words, "Don't give a shit about the poor either."
This is causing me to rethink my belief that racism is the root of it all. I'm becoming more and more convinced that the root is an inherent self-centeredness, a lack of concern for the other. It's easy for us to hide this fact when the injustices we focus our attentions on are thousands of miles away. Then they almost become a philosophical curiosity as opposed to anything that will actually require a change in the way we live. As someone once said, the indicators of the health of a society are the sizes of the cracks it will allow in it. Think of our own homeless ranks, our own first nations reserves. Ah, but those are somehow different, we say. How?!
I'm sitting in a coffee shop in a mall in a city where 1.5 million people live in squatter's camps. As Tom says, when it all happens in such close proximity, "You can't hide from it here." And yet in a way we do. Sitting in this mall, I hide from the camps, just as when sitting in my home in Vancouver I hide from the homeless there.
Another part of the conversation this morning centered around the impact of the "theology of apartheid". Many, many people believed that God put some people in castles and some in the gutter, so some are content to live where they are, believing God has put them there. "Predestination economics", if you will. And if you believe God makes some people poor, well then those poor people need somewhere to live, so you grow comfortable with the notion of the squatter's camps. It's not a far stretch from there to apartheid. The poor often believe this too, which makes them susceptible to the health and wealth prosperity gospel, which seems like the only "God" way out of the mess.
I guess in a nutshell it's become clear to me that "systems of apartheid" exist in many places and in many guises. But, it's easier for us to point or fingers at the problems "over there" than to take a look at what we may be complicit with.
Today Tom will introduce me to some of his friends in the camps, then we'll head out to the Amahoro gathering location, which is apparently about an hour away. More later.