The call to overcome our own apartheid

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By Dr. Bob Ocio

Isyo ug Servicio

Saturday, December 14, 2013


“OVERCOMING poverty is not a task of charity, it is an act of justice." - Nelson Mandela

SOUTH Africa was colonized by the English and Dutch in the seventeenth century. English domination of the Dutch descendents resulted in the Dutch establishing the new colonies of Orange Free State and Transvaal. The discovery of diamonds in these lands around 1900 resulted in an English invasion which sparked the Boer War.

With the enactment of apartheid laws in 1948, racial discrimination was institutionalized. Race laws touched every aspect of social life, including a prohibition of marriage between non-whites and whites, and the sanctioning of “white-only” jobs.

In 1950, the Population Registration Act required that all South Africans be racially classified into one of three categories: white, black (African), or colored (of mixed decent). The colored category included major subgroups of Indians and Asians. Classification into these categories was based on appearance, social acceptance, and descent. For example, a white person was defined as “in appearance obviously a white person or generally accepted as a white person.”

A person could not be considered white if one of his or her parents were non-white. The determination that a person was “obviously white” would take into account “his habits, education, and speech and deportment. A black person would be of or accepted as a member of an African tribe or race, and a colored person is one that is not black or white. The Department of Home Affairs (a government bureau) was responsible for the classification of the citizenry. Non-compliance with the race laws were dealt with harshly. All blacks were required to carry “pass books” containing fingerprints, photo and information on access to non-black areas.

Nelson Mandela aka Madiba

Mandela's otherwise uncompromising resistance to apartheid was the deeply held principle and daily practice of solidarity, that political quality of compassion that gives us hope in the face of defeat and clarity in times of victory. How else does a person survive 27 years of imprisonment, become the first black president of South Africa, forgive his captors and usher in the policy of national reconciliation that saved a nation from ruin? Madiba’s greatness was rooted in the irreversible South African desire for freedom, justice and dignity. He “led by following” the spirit of his own people and in doing so, led many of us to be more than we believed we could be."

Mandela is a guide for all of us working to end the injustices that cause hunger:

“Overcoming poverty is not a task of charity. It is an act of justice. Like Slavery and Apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings. Sometimes it falls on a generation to be great. YOU can be that great generation. Let your greatness blossom.”

People do not go hungry in this world because there is not enough food. They go hungry because they are too poor to buy food. They are not poor of natural causes or a lack of human capability, but from systemic injustice; from exploitation. These are frustrating times in which entrepreneurial ambition and individual “achievement” are dogmatically celebrated in the interest of corporate profits, eclipsing compassion, solidarity and social well-being. Let us honor South Africa and Madiba’s legacy by becoming the generation that ends hunger, poverty and injustice." - Eric Holt-Giménez, Executive Director, Food First December 6, 2013

The apartheid of our times

“A way has to be found to enable everyone to benefit from the fruits of the earth, and not simply to close the gap between the affluent and those who must be satisfied with the crumbs falling from the table, but above all to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness and respect for every human being.” (Pope Francis, Address to the Food and Agricultural Organization, 6/20/13)

We know how a nation gets hungry by investing more in corruption than in addressing the needs of the farmers in the countryside.

We know that there is a serious divide between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the oppressed, the haves and the have nots, the well fed and the hungry. We know how those who control the politics of governance manipulated the rules, laws and the systems such that the resources and wealth of the nation are concentrated into the privileged few.

Today we see the growing needs and continuing demands for change on matters of the corruption in public expenditure, in the access of support services and the equitable opportunities to enjoy the development of the nation's natural resources. We know how Congress and the Executive department appropriated for themselves vast billions in discretionary expenditures from CDF, to intelligence funds and to all sorts of arrangements which institutionalize the centralization of economic power thereby failing to address the needs for the greater majority.

We know how families control the political system by arrogating unto themselves political and economic dynasties in the corridors of power. We know how cronies and patronage get in a way into appointive and influential positions where decisions on matters of public interest further plunge the poorest of the poor into the slums in congested cities while vast tracks of land and resources remained denuded and raped for mining and logging operations and industrial exploitation by large corporations.

We know the Cartel and Privatization of the Power generation and distribution which leave us at nothing but pollution and diseases while at the same time charging us with the most expensive power rates in Asia despite the fact that nationalization and public funding could have afforded us renewable, cleaner , cheaper and renewable energy supplies.

The call to overcome our own apartheid

We have been called to be our own Mandela to challenge our own apartheid. We have been called to be our own Mahatma Gandhi to challenge the invasion and imperial advances by modern day oligopolies and corporate giants who rape our natural resources in the name of economic development at the expense of our environment, physical safety, well being and our self determination as a free nation.

We have been called to do a Martin Luther King to dream a dream which can make us proud as a people and a nation. We have been called to do a Ninoy to put our lives on the line for others to believe that the Filipino is worth dying for.

We have been called to look unto our less fortunate countrymen not as mere recipients of aid and donations but as an empowered people who can stand and move on to live in dignity and in harmony with one another. We have been called to change the face of this nation. We have been called on to learn from the life and times of Nelson Mandela.

We have been called to overcome our people's own apartheid, hunger, homelessness and poverty, not just as a task of charity, but as an act of justice and love for God, family and country. We have been called to pray and be personally active participants in addressing these issues so relevant and alive in our times.

Otherwise, we may never have learned.

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 15, 2013.

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