*a person who journeys to a holy place for religious reasons

IF there is anything that I find fascinating in this world next to writing is the insistence of religion, in any form upon our attention. Bluntly speaking, like writing, religion can manipulate thoughts of those who give it their attention. Religion like writing can be responsible to build within those committed to it ideals that are positive with the underlying motive of developing the broader aspect of the society within which it is rooted. Inversely it can be destructive to the minds of its devotees if its message is destructive and meant to hurt. All religions that I have come into contact with, never mind the platform of life’s inevitabilities unto which they were conveyed to me, preach peace and love (and cunningly covertly, when the adherent goes deeper, – they also teach prosperity; which is a conundrum, for me, when it is tied with money). Flawed are religions when they drunkenly proclaim to be more supreme, holy and gallant than ‘other’ religions that exist alongside them. But why do we need religion? I suppose because deep within our self there is this undeniable yearn to belong somewhere besides our family structures, added to this there are certain aspects of our lives that remain uncontrollable and unexplainable and we find solace in ‘religion’; for religion allay fears about the unexplained. Even one who has experienced apostasy can come to appreciate the power of religion as a hearth that rally the distraught towards a communal affinity of some sort. Religion is a sideshow if it does not epitomize the aspirations of a people its wants to attract, if it suffers this anomaly it remains outside of their experience of reality. Unfortunately we live at a time whereby religion has been commoditized.



What Muhammad Yunus has recently said to South Africans and the world over is of noteworthy. He has said those of us who are in power and wealthy through business endeavors should reinvest some of the wealth that they have made back into the poorer community members of their society, especially to 1women, so that poverty can be eradicated. He has challenged South Africa to eradicate the poverty that is gripping the poor in less than twenty years.

Watching him on a television interview a day after his lecture as the main speaker at the Mandela annual lecture one got a sense that as much as one could blame him to be an idealist he has a point especially if one consider the problems that grips us today from a selfless perspective of giving that is. otherwise one could just move to another channel, but then you will be living in a glass castle.

There was another important point that he made and that is that capitalism does not work henceforth the global economic meltdown that we are experiencing. He highlighted that the rich people did not realise what was happening until they themselves were feeling the hardships of the economic climate. He hinted that there are two aspects to the human condition, the selfish aspect and the selfless aspect.

The selfish aspect is when one works to generate wealth for his or her own material comfort. The selfless aspect, allow me to expand this notion as I go along, is when one works to generate wealth for all, meaning creating businesses that generate income but the investor does not walk away with the profits at the end of the day rather they share the profits with those who constitute the business thus there is an engagement with leveling the fields between those who have and those who don’t have. Significantly such investments should be guided by one acute principle; they should be concentrated on business that will alleviate poverty not condone it!

What an interesting revolutionary thought in our time. Can those in power through commercial endeavors share their proceeds with the needy through reinvestment into other entrepreneurs lacking resources and security to raise capital?

A lot of people are bound to be threatened by this idea which seeks to eradicate poverty simply because they have been taught differently as far as survival is concerned. At the core of the teaching that they have received there is one element missing – humanity. Sharply speaking what they miss is an education about human love, to love other people, to see oneself in the entire human race, to realise that as long as your neighbor sleeps on an empty stomach one’s success is meaningless.

Here what is at issue as far as Yunus’s stance’s successful implementation in our nation is made clear and is that: people’s thinking ought to be changed in order to fight poverty. And since people have shown stubbornness in their nature it took the present global financial crises to demonstrate to them that poverty is a reality. What is a solution? If one has been following this modest commentary on one of our greatest thinkers and doers of our time the solution is that we ought to be a giving people. Yes we ought to start first by acknowledging that we cannot just take and take otherwise chaos will erupt. Global warming is one of the effects of our selfish taking from our home – Earth. As I write it is a cold winter and the Cape has experienced a heavy flood over the weekend.

Is it difficult to see right now that the results of our selfishness are at their beginnings, prancing to consume us all? You can see it when you walk around in town and realise how many people are begging and the hard stares you receive from those who perhaps may assume that you are having it easy.

We are aware of it when we see how our colleagues are never satisfied with what they earn or have. We are mostly aware of it when our children are not satisfied with what their parents can do for them, this is the parents doing of course. When the weather patterns are irregular and our house hold basic needs costs escalate dramatically.

I think we are very privileged to have had such a teaching from one of our global elders especially in a time like the present where greed has gripped the world by its throat and is choking life out of it.

The US first gentleman, Barack Hussein Obama II, has proclaimed that ‘change we can’ and we saw it happen when he became the president of one of the most powerful nation in the world. Let us learn from that strand of thinking as well as we grabble with the gigantic nemesis of all time – human extinction. And of course as South Africans let us learn also from the pinnacle of human actualisation rallied in Elder Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela as far as selflessness is concerned.

1. By saying investment should be focused on women, Muhammed Yunus by no way exclude men, this is based on his years of observation that poverty most of the time affect women in that they are the one’s who struggle with bringing up the children.

13 June

© Mmutle Arthur Kgokong 2009