For weeks now I regularly think what it is that I want to share with you – the thinking trying to bring together the intensity of the year so far: my mother’s death, the rise of Trump in America, turning fifty, landing on Paris airport two hours after bombs exploded in Brussels airport and my first snowboarding experience. Impossible. They all simply would not fit into a coherent little essay with a central meaning.
The thing what struck me about the rise of Donald Trump, is that the core of America’s Bible belt is now seemingly set on supporting a businessman to become the supreme political leader of the world’s (still) most powerful country. The trust in politics and political leaders has been waning over the same time as the power and status of the corporate world has been rising, sucking into its fold the best talents, leaders and minds available. Up to the point that a multi-billionaire is now more trusted (by some) to fulfill a political task than the politicians themselves.
But can this work? In a previous newsletter, I made the point that the crisis of terrorism is ultimately a political problem, as politics simply means how we humans go about giving expression to the whole of our social lives. Economics is only a subsidiary to this, as is religion. Whenever you start to confuse a subsidiary aspect of social life with its embracing and leading core, you’re in for trouble. And you are also in for something that will not last. That is why ISIS will not last as it confuses religion with politics; that is why a plutocracy will not last as it confuses money with politics and that is also why Trump (if ever such a corporation-minded person comes to lead a country) will not last as he will most probably confuse managing a business with leading a nation (“give me any problem, I will manage it!”).
There is another significance to Trump’s rise – which is rather personal to me – in that it shows that the last significant body of white Europeans that still prides itself in being Christian, has shifted its trust from God towards money (GW Bush was still nominally serving a religion, to Trump religion is a side-issue, ultimately used to serve his own interests). I keenly observed this development over the last two decades since white South Africa emerged from its 19th century nation-state mindset (“Christian Nationalism”) into a post-modern pluralistic reality. The established churches took a nose dive as a neo-liberal consumerist kind of Christian faith, along the American model, surged forward. If the Trump phenomenon is any indication, we might just be witnessing the last flutters of that great Christian ambition (since the rise of Catholicism in the early Middle Ages) of it being the complete political answer to the way we as humans think, live and relate (unless the unlikely Ted Cruz happens to win the US presidency!)
My mother had such a belief. Not only in the Christian faith as addressing the whole of human life, but also the conviction that all of history consists of the roll-out of an over-arching Plan, a very specific Christian plan. The onset of human-induced global warming with its potential to destroy our life here on earth, does not fit into this plan, and this inconvenience partly explains the massive efforts coming from some conservative think-tanks (and interested corporations of course) to confuse the science on climate change. With these efforts now more and more being shown up as fraudulent and intentionally misleading, holding on to the Plan has become rather problematic, so problematic that this leading body of Christians see huge numbers of their fold rather turning their political trust towards the de facto god of our age: money.
But Trump is not the only one on the rise. There is also the Bernie Sanders and similar other phenomena that reflects a new generation of people yearning for a restoration of a humane politics. For a great many people, power play and chauvinism is going out of fashion. The long term future does not lie with those who exploit fears, but with those who are showing up fear.
Talking about fears, my dear mother was hailed for her strong faith, but few spoke about her intense fears. She read many a book on the “end times,” having nightmares about calamities, beloved ones going to hell, persecution and the wrath of God – all according to his Plan. But there is no grand plan. And there is no quick “managerial fix” to the challenges facing us. We can shift from living a nervous pendulum, swinging between ecstasy and anxiety, to living a more natural rhythm between enjoyment and awareness. We need not become slaves of spiritual abstractions (gods) nor material abstractions (money). We can stay within our human skins, changing our ways where we went wrong. In this way, global warming need not be our demise.
Having said all this, now that I am half a century old and an orphan, I somehow feel I need to start honing in more on that which I have become: and artist. These messages I sent to you over the years do not quite fall within an artistic gambit. Yes, I will always be interested in the news, in history, philosophy, theology and psychology. But I do not dedicate my life to any of these disciplines. It think it is time for me to let these interests flow more and more through my creativity, in the form of poems, monologues, drawings, photography, videos and ultimately, music. My mother, who has been a great challenge to my life-orientation, the one who always prompted me to explain myself in intense and elaborate (rational) ways, has gone to rest. I realize now that Christianity is probably the most elaborate rationalization of spirituality there has ever been. There are excellent people who keep a critical dialogue going with Christians, doing a much better job than I am capable of. My life span and energies are limited. My feeling is that I should now focus more fully on those forms of expression that goes beyond (or below) the rational.
More bombs will explode on the Old Continent, more refugees will drown. More people will be killed like flies in all the forgotten battlefields of exploited parts of our planet. More ice will melt on the poles and more deadly methane released into the atmosphere. More dollars will be spent on nuclear weapons (has Obama lost his otherwise very sane mind??), more consumer propaganda will infiltrate every corner of our lives. Me, with my gifts, along with Joke and her gifts, can better speak to all of this as creative beings (she knows this better than I do!).
What has all this got to do with snowboarding? Nothing at all, haha. But all that falling on the soft snow of the Alps recently reminded me in a powerful way that the quality of my life from here on will certainly also be determined by how physical I am.
It is going well with us. I would like to extend a big, heartfelt thank you to all of your messages and sharing’s, both with my mother’s passing and my fiftieth. If there is one thing that I have learnt through all these years of living a precarious and unique kind of life, it is that we are mostly human through other human beings. Ubuntu. Faith, genius, money, heaven and hell – these intensities are secondary to a beating heart and a human embrace. Every time we fly to the moon, we’ll need to come back to this: to be what we are, no more, no less. So much depend on it.