Slanting Views from Recent Journeys

Recently, I had to make two trips to the United States, with the need for penance in terms of my carbon footprint only getting more urgent! The first was a visit to the United Church of Christ and the most recent was to the annual gathering of the American Academy of Religion. Both have been very worthwhile journeys for different and connecting reasons. Here are a few “slanting” excerpts that have nothing to do with the purpose of my travels.

On the first trip, I picked up a copy of what then was a recent issue of the New Scientist magazine. Two articles caught my attention. The first was an editorial about how to handle the many sea wrecks with their dangerous oil contents under the sea. What really caught my attention was the suggestion and the terminology associated with the suggestion: that there is a relatively cheap way of stopping the corrosion and consequently the leaks of what is part of the dangerous wreck at the bottom of the sea. The term is sacrificial anodes, which are already standard on oil rigs and which are used to delay the day when something must be actually done.

The other item that caught my eye was a story about a commercial road to be built in Tanzania in the north of the Serengeti National Park, and which will cut through the migratory route of two million wildebeest and zebra. With protests from various group, the PM said that all he can offer is an unpaved part of the road for the animals to cross as part of their migratory route. You would agree with me that from this story, Zebra Crossing has certainly taken a new meaning in Tanzania.

Both stories offer two powerful images to speak to our present time and the numerous challenges before us. The idea of sacrificial anodes speaks volume to our present economic demise and the foolish wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of many lives (civilians and soldiers). We have developed this very strange habit of not wanting to make tough choices and decisions and to clean up the mess we have created. Instead we seem to major in sacrificial anodes that provide us with a way out, albeit momentarily – delaying the day when we must actually act. Churches are no exception: in terms of my own church, sacrificial anodes are in abundance in our desperate need to deal with our ecclesial shipwreck. In the meantime, we attempt to create small spaces or crossings to provide a way out (as we drift further from reality), again only temporarily and in the meantime we continue to carry-on with all our madness and illogic. “Business as usual” seems to be the only orienting metaphor of our existence. Change tends to be brief and temporary before we soon re-inscribe the very system and way of being that we wish to counter.

At the heart of our proclivity towards “business as usual”, while postponing the actual disaster is our enslavement to an economic system that has neither time nor sympathy for the weak, vulnerable or poor. Its mantra is the survival of the fittest! And this brings me to my most recent trip to the USA (Atlanta). On the way back I had so much time to “play with” that I arrived very early at the airport. My departure lounge was where all international flights leave from. One of the flights –to Rio de Janerio was terribly overbooked – almost 15 extra passengers!!! Capitalism in its most crass form then displayed itself over the public address system as the airline needed to get people to volunteer not to travel on that day but on the next day (as it was the last flight to Rio on that day). Thus passengers were firstly offered 400 dollars, hotel & meal vouchers. But there were no takers or maybe the crowd was thinking about the kind of scene you will witness on the “Deal or no Deal TV Show! After about 10 minutes, a second offer of 600 dollars, hotel and meal vouchers and then some takers. Yet there was still the need for 4 persons to drop out and again the offer goes up to lure the customers. There was a sudden rush as the gamblers in the crowd decided this was it!

Mindful of the need to purge myself of taking any high moral ground, I will endeavour to allow counter cultural anodes to keep me grounded to the fullness of life and living vision of that Galilean-Palestinian Jew who dared to be different and got nailed for it!

copyright © November 9,2010

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