DeChristianizing the Ecclesiocracy of South African Politics

The chosen peoples seek their promised land and will venture a great exodus with many sacrifices to acquire their land, the people seek and follow an epiphanic leader, a prophet inspired to emancipate the chosen people, so that they may come to rest, thrive and flourish on the land promised them.  If only they knew, they weren’t the only chosen, and that there were many leaders prophetized and divinely inspired, to lead. They all came down from the same mountain with instruction from on high, their people built a great tower to meet with the high, only to fall to earth concussed with unique interpretations. Many struggled to find semblance and commonality, head full of stars and glitter, yet a rare few found salience in silence and beholding eyes – often rejected as outcasts infidels, who will listen to their wisdom, when so much glorious mundanity is at stake? And so we dance a great drama, seeking justice and judgement, and yet also, freedom to rest our feet where we are planted, as many on the ground know when the dust settles, we all just want to be at home.

Initially, I thought of titling this essay, Secularising the Ecclesiocracy of South African the Polity (it would have served a similar purpose), but I realized that I wanted to raise a theme for discussion that often gets swept under the rugs of commonplace acceptance, that there is a strange Abrahamic undertone that drives most political systems (even most socialist ideologies approach socio-economic governance from an anti-religious sentiment – as though the countermeasure is in dependence on the former “theocratic” structure). I approach this essay with a “why?” Why does the Abrahamic faith still hold such invested place in the collective mindset of the people’s? And more specifically, it seems that most political parties vehemently adopt Christian axiology as their value basis – this seems to go unchecked and generally accepted as a constitution. I find it curious that there is a secular promotion in the state but whenever it comes to a massive declaration or any pivotal event marking a stand that the rhetoric easily slips back to an “In God We Trust”, “Jesus saves its people”, “this land is blessed by God”, “we accept all people and our party are honest and adopt strong Christian family values” (I fictitiously quote these from rhetorics I have heard many times before – but I cannot place them to anyone specific).

South Africa is leading up to its national election, and many party leaders are rallying to win voter’s votes. Many of these leaders are being ‘blessed’ by the nation’s church and religious leaders, and then, I cannot help but play a scenario in my mind – “weren’t we trying to decolonize the mind not too long ago” by the way Decolonizing the Mind is so 2015/2016! I mean, why the hell don’t we take this further and dig deeper, if we want social change in this country why don’t we relinquish the religion of our fathers, the religion of the colonizers, why are African’s Christian?! why is anyone religious? why? why why why?! ask and don’t merely accept blindly… and when we defect or apostatise why adopt Islam? why why why? often it seems insincere and out of symbolic rebellion against the nationalist religion. I am not questioning the heart of the religions as such, but I do question how they are being neglectfully utilised to manipulate and govern.

I rewatched the debate between Nelson Mandela and F.W. De Klerk before the 1994 election, De Klerk mentioned that the National Party is based on Christian values, and Mandela did not retaliate that position – either he agreed that a Christian value basis is the accepted norm or that the ANC truly has a communist agenda which does foresee the value of religious axiology? Of course, this is not entirely true, I am aggrandizing the point. Truth is I am not at all challenging the religious beliefs of the people, I wish for everyone’s respective happiness but I do hold a flag up for any questionable religious activity. South Africa can be quite a strange place for such things, especially when we have such a stark and diverse range of religious institutions, a majority of which adopt ‘fantastical’ (and fanatical) evangelic methods of persuading their numbers to keep with the church – I call these “miracle churches” who rather adopt the awe of divine inspired activity over “book churches” who rely on and interpret the Bible as law and/or referential guidance.

I do giggle a bit when I see political leaders receive blessing from church leaders, the same God blessing opposition leaders, I see a similar thing in Rugby and Soccer matches, when the scoring team thank God for the well-deserved triumph, both teams were thanking the same God, so I guess when one team or political loses its race, then they were undeserving or better yet, unchosen by God (may as well find a new God who can do a better job at guaranteeing victory). Why aren’t these leaders displaying their affiliation to our most renown local witch-doctors (there are still fliers being dished out at crossroads – you know it, Prof. Dudu will make all your problems go away, even when your enemy has a bigger penis than you – some things can never be cured).

*By the way, I am pitching a great comical sitcom idea for any producers out there, we need a show about our most beloved Drs and Profs (so-called traditional healers and thaumaturgists) who, in each episode, deal with one of those “concerns” they are so good at fixing, and throw in a bit of political power fair and vanity games for good measure… think about it and let me know if you are keen on it.*

Ok, back to politics and religion. I know it is not the norm to casually reevaluate one’s entire religious belief system, but surely it should be open for questioning and critical reasoning? Because, when your political leader says that he/she adopts Christian values are you sure what those values are or are you merely agreeing on the normative basis that because you are Christian that all Christian values should be accepted? I am sure you don’t entirely agree with me on this, simply because you know that different denominations have different views on Christian doctrine. Now, what if you say, “well, at least it is Christian.”, what about your Muslim, Hindu, African Tradition brothers and sisters, do their value systems not count?

It is one thing to approach the world with your own value system, but let us reconsider when that value system is instilled in communities, institutions, nationally, and even globally. The world is clearly not at peace with each other, somewhere along the line we lost track of the essence of the value system and narrated difference as meaning a threat or categorical separation.

If you read up to here and am asking “I wonder what religious category he falls into?” then I will assertively announce that you are missing the point. And if you are now asking “but what is the point? then let me state it in question format here away from the grey zones of rhetoric. What is the essence of your religious belief, beyond and through your political orientation, your religious institution, and a long line of hearsay narrative? I ask this in the same way I am asking you whether your neighbour can be Christ-like or loved even though he/she is not Christian? can your neighbour be a brother or sister of peace even though he/she is not Muslim? If we allow ourselves to look beyond the institutionalized and even nationalized religious orientation and ecclesiocracy, we may actually recollect that the religious basis has a contemplative dimension that initially inspires a sense of wisdom to see others as they are – with hearts of love (in there somewhere – which doesn’t mean we should all hold hands and sing songs of universal praise, look at Michael Jackson, he liked to hold hands, little hands…). But wisdom is essential, and one of the first steps in cultivating wisdom is listening before we rattle our mouths off, listening with a vast discerning horizon so that we can acknowledge religious (and political) uniqueness yet see through the narrative and find the essential golden thread that binds us.

Anyway, this became preachy. My intention is actually to criticize the underlying religious institution of colonized Africa, and I ended up discussing finding a golden mean as an axiological common ground before chasing after theatrical political and religious leaders. Yes, find the essence of your religious (non-religious, gnostic, agnostic, etc) value system and try not to invest in an identity of segregating difference – I mean, that is pretty much a socio-cultural and psycho-religious Apartheid, and rather find a wisdom-centred secular Gesaamdheid (Ubuntu), right?

Having our leaders make a public display of their church favour does not make them special in the least, even when they receive honorary pastorship or prophetic vision of their true calling as the return of the Messiah or that the Volk should rally in their millions to pray for God’s grace to change the socio-political landscape and bring its people back together (and for them to remember that they are once a chosen people). It is fine to pray, your faith is okay, but it does not make a difference to what is happening on the ground, in our interactions, in our service delivery, in our infrastructure, in our corruption (heck, they might even justify divine corruption one day “I took the money because it is holy money from the church, and I was chosen by God to liberate the people, and and and…). Almost every ethnic group in South Africa is trying to lay favour with God to help them out, and praying for the nation may have some metaphysical significance (better safe than sorry I reckon), but it is a bit sad that we resort to that alone when the shit seems to hit the fan, as though we become desperate for divine intervention – no wonder these “miracle churches” make so much money, the people are craving for so-called tangible results. The political leaders see this and many of them find a ripe avenue for persuasion.

So people, think about it please, whether it makes a difference to your vote or not, what does this colonialising God mean to the way you make your decisions? The same God that US president Trump was being blessed by, is the same God that is helping Venezuela into the maelstrom that it now is in, the same God inspired Julius Malema to envision the EFF as the second coming of Christ, just as the same God is backing the ANC in its *inevitable?* victory, and the same God is calling the Afrikaaner people to speak up and fight for their right to exist… and, taking a few steps back, the same God (under a different tongue) inspires a wide variety of Muslims across the globe (whether peace-loving or fanatical), I cannot say that the same God inspires capitalist-communist China in their activities, YWYH does not live in that country… (sorry, a snarky joke, God does live there, but he is heavily persecuted).

Really, all I am saying is that we should reconsider the role of the institutionalized religion as it is in the institute, state and nation, and look back to the “heavenly” homes in our hearts (the contemplative wisdom mind in our being) and how does that project into the world around us and among each other.

Okay, that is all I have in this pre-election essay… whatever it is, come what may.

Hey, so last insert, here is a meme circulating the digi-sphere (not political, but certainly religious, make of it what you will):

Four fundamental truths about faith:

  1. Muslims do not recognize Jews as God’s chosen nation.
  2. Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.
  3. Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of Christianity.
  4. NG Kerk members do not recognize one another in Teazers.

It is a silly joke, but hey, how about we recognize each other a bit more, whatever our differences, open eyes and ears may better see and hear our similarities and the core commonality (be it this precious earth, this precious life, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the love we feel). 😉 Happy voting, whatever your decision may be – just don’t vote for those fucking dagga hippies, their eyes are bloodshot and they eat too much!

“My Moral-Compass has no Needle, its the Simplicity of Cool as the Blue-Note of Mindfulness”

The key to finding a happy balance in modern lives is simplicity.

Sogyal Rinpoche [The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying]

This statement by Sogyal Rinpoche, in Chapter 2, Impermanence, of Part 1: Living in The Tibetan Book of Living & Dying, may seem pretty straight forward off the cuff (bordering on the feel-good motivational cliché), but it actually bears profound weight – meaning, besides its hermeneutic context, it has contemplative actuality when its existential truth is sincerely empathised with.

In this article I discuss how such a happily simple statement can have a superior influence on one’s life and deeply inspire a proactive sense of direction. I also discuss (through a gentle deconstruction) how the contextual hermeneutic of my current autoethnography taps & tunes in to the theme of *simplicity* bearing a notable mark in its axiological presence. Further, I discuss the pivotal importance of oscillating between the axiological elements of disciplined ethic and contemplative aesthetic as markers of a diligent-focused yet contemplative-tranquil life.

Okay, so before I possibly get into any semantic details or philosophical ramblings, I heed an intuitive voice (a voice I have been working on paying more attention to) that keeps reminding me to try start with my own narrative first. [Note: This contemplative listening to my narrative process acts as a means to cut through an often cryptic language that I have perpetuated for as long as I can remember – the contemplative narrative is a tool here, aiding me away from potentially confusing myself and the reader].

It seems as though certain themes and topics have been accumulating over time, surfacing and submerging as life proceeds in its dancing flux. I have been drawn to elements in life that often bear a mark of impermanence and simplicity – from a fascination with Death (and its frightening realness), to Japanese Wabi-Sabi aesthetic, to certain Jazz scores (that I attribute to design, music, and art), and my long love with varieties of spirituality (especially the contemplative life of monasticism as well as the radical – often unconventional – approaches of the yogi/wanderer/hermit/wizard etc.). I guess, my intrigue with these things have been reminders to me that I should let-go sometimes, appreciate this human life for its relative shortness, deeply think about things other than my social profile or planning the next 10 years of my life.

This intrigue also seems to be a necessary counteractive to my inclination to over-complicate often menial matters, or getting caught up in the soap of political-economical hypes. In fact, a good reminder of appreciating the simple-life is a good dose of meditating on the reality of Death’s presence in this life; and if we think it to be far from us currently we are sadly mistaken – Death is present in every aspect of life – from the moment a child is born it is born into its gift of death, those prize roses you planted last season may perish in the coming winter, the person you see and project in the mirror is certainly not the same appearance you had 10 years ago, not to mention 5 minutes ago, and we will lose our beloved-ones (especially your beloved-self). This may sound macabre but, and borrowing a note from Sogyal Rinpoche and so many good teachers alike, the presence of Death does not mean that life is not precious and worth pursuing, if anything, Death should inspire one to live (and not casually wait for dreams to come true until we are already one foot in the grave).

Back to the axiology of simplicity. Axiology is a broad philosophical branch that mainly consists of two subsets, namely 1) Ethics, and 2) Aesthetics. Beside being a broad study of value systems and how they are approached and presented, my intention here is to return the attention of axiology to a ‘way’ life is lived. Hint_ Hint_ *The Middle-Hand Path*… Yet, what I wish to point out is that I am not placing a golden stamp of certification on an ethical guideline with a marketable aesthetic package – although I do sense that in some social perceptions this may come about whether I like it or not. Rather, what I am pointing toward is a middle-point philosophy between an ethic and aesthetic; as well as between a transcendant and existential (with certain pragmatic clauses), in other words, in the so-called way of simplicity there is ground for ethic and aesthetic guidance. Rough example, We can approach simplicity in Design of our technology to simplicity in Being Mature and Being Intercommunicative, simplicity in our Business models, to simplicity in our lifestyles.

Okay, so simplicity can mean many things, and there is probably a general consensus around what simplicity is. In the axiology of the Middle-Hand Path, I draw on seven Japanese principles of aesthetic and an overall sense of Wabi-Sabi. These aesthetic principles tend to be directed toward the peripheries of lifestyle but do have origins in Zen Buddhism and the wisdoms of impermanence, contemplativity, and nature/naturalness. The seven principles are:

  1. Kanso – Simplicity (also an elimination of clutter),
  2. Shizen – Naturalness,
  3. Fukinsei – Asymmetry / Irregularity,
  4. Seijaku – Quietude / Stillness / Tranquility,
  5. Yugen – Subtlety,
  6. Datsuzoku – At Ease (a break from routine),
  7. Shibui / Shibumi – Austerity.

You may notice that these aesthetic principles are reflective of a lifestyle philosophy, embodying much more than *simplicity* as a superficial notion; rather *simplicity* as a gateway into a phronesis of Being in existence, as being radically and naturally in tune with oneself and the world, and owning-up to and embracing one’s impermanence, irregularity, imperfection and being settled into the ‘cool-cognitive-air’ of a simple life (uncomplicated yet full),,, I call this simplicity of cool the Blue-Note of Mindfulness.

It is this very Blue-Note of Mindfulness – as a tune of presence in uncertainty of life and certainty of death, as well as having a settled awareness that is both regal and playful – that acts as a presence directing needless-compass; not pointing out any designation and rather a intuitive trust in being here and now,,, listening to the opportunities of wisdom integrated with compassion constantly arising from within and out. Many religious moral-compasses tend to lead toward constructed ideologies that do not raise the necessary questions of life enough – such as moving away from the phenomenology of death toward an honest and sincere communication with death, that asks you “What am I doing with my life?” to “Am I living out the true passion of my life?” to “Am I ready for Death?”. The last question may be approached with replies of “We can never be ready for death” or “I have been investing in life insurance for the last two decades”. Both answers have their worth, so, in turn, I want to ask the rhetoric, 1) If so, why do you live as though death will not happen to you?, and 2) If you plan for your passing day in such preparation, why are you not living your life freely? Sure, these questions may not appeal to everyone, but they may give incentive to reconsider how we prioritise our lives, and how we appreciate this life, and consequently (arousing the bigger picture) the lives of others and the Other.

Taking a step back, I have seen how certain topics arise consistently in my life – through my own doing, but also through the resounding influences of others. I guess, and to avoid the common cliché here, is that the Laws of Attraction have their place. So I have taken considerable interest in the idea of developing, intercommunicating, and establishing a secular-monastic community that appeals to the founding of a modular communal environment seated in wisdom, and active in contemplative productivity and discipline (from art to innovation to permaculture to community work to,,, living a simple life). In another post (that may follow) I will discuss this secular monastic initiative in more detail, for now, I give a few glimpses into the research I have been doing – mostly within the axiology of a secular monastic environment and its productivity, as well as a contemporary curriculum and guideline for such an initiative (much of which originates with established monastic settlements of antiquity (from Christian to Buddhist… inspiration), as well as explorations into New Monasticism, Adhocracy, Metamodernism, and the inspiring work of ThePhilosopherMonk, TheArtMonasteryProject,  TheAbbeyOfTheArts, and maybe this UrbanMonk (of the many now coming out of the worx,,, I expect there will be more,,, and we will network).

I raise the above points and relate them to the concept of simplicity, because I see a need for a life that has more contemplative principles but also being able to meet the demands of contemporary productivity. I think a balance can be struck, as long as it is founded in an insight into a more comprehensive sense of reality (from the confines of intellectual property to open-platform wisdom); and this trend in mindfulness can re-appropriate its flesh in wisdom tradition into the wide varieties of contemporary lives and changing socio-philosophical paradigms.

Interesting things can happen when like-minded folk come together with a cool determination and an uncomplicated means; more so when we set a common intention driven by wisdom-seeking and wisdom-seed planting. When we invest spiritually we move closer to each other, and work better with each other, sure, lots of crap has to be filtered through first, or shifted aside, but it opens a common denominator that extends through happiness toward a purposeful being – not necessarily a being toward a something, but much more toward what already is and arises from ‘this’ (this being, this life, this purpose, this moment). The theme of simplicity can become a quotient in our interactivity with existence par excellence… as a mindfulness of the layers we project and unnecessarily attach. Simplicity (along with the other aesthetic principles) have their ethical play in our openness in listening, learning, contemplating, and interacting.

I am inspired by those who share such visions, and hope we can work together on promoting deeper senses of self beyond the self and between each other. Please feel free to comment or provide voice of opinion / support / insight.

Be Blessed As You Are.