Letter: Income disparity is a threat to democracy | Letters
To Editor: My heart and mind have been to South Africa this week. On Monday I woke up to an avalanche of news from my friends and members of former congregations in Durban and Johannesburg about the country “set on fire” due to mass protests, looting, arson , vandalism and violence of all kinds. Why? Well, it begins with 400 years of imperialism and colonialism – in and of themselves, the pillaging of entire peoples on a global scale by force of violence. Second, it continues with the imposition of apartheid, white supremacy in South Africa – again by force of violence.
These historic legacies have created in South Africa one of, if not the highest, income disparity indices in the world, whereby the vast majority of the country owns the least and a small elite minority owns most of the land and land. wealth of the country. The ingredients of historic violence and theft combined with massive economic inequality has led to a context in which a catalyst just needs to ignite a conflagration. This catalyst is the “political intrigue” of a corrupt, ethnocentric, populist and narcissistic president (Jacob Zuma) who, after repeatedly ignoring the laws of his own country and disregarding the decisions of his judicial system , unleashed anarchy in order to “gain” its legitimacy. Yet protests and looting quickly left the realm of politics and became much more of a bread issue for the poor (“Give us our daily bread,” Matthew 6:11). Grocery stores were hit the hardest during the chaos as people went hungry.
The United States and South Africa both have constitutional democracies which are fragile and must be protected. The two countries share histories of colonialism and white supremacy. The trajectory of income disparities in the United States is in the same direction as that of South Africa. Both have had executive leaders who disrespect the judiciary and are ready to propose, incite and facilitate insurgency using populist passions and fears in order to preserve power (“fight like hell “).
If I read the biblical gospels, I read of imperial rule (Romans); I have read huge income inequalities (Lazarus at the Rich Man’s Door, Luke 16: 19-31); I have read populist passions (“Crucify him”, Luke 23:21); I have read examples of selfish leaders whose interests are not those of the people (Massacre of the Innocents of Herod, Matthew 2: 16-18); I have read of violence and death (crucifixion, Mark 15:15). Mourn the Beloved Country (Alan Paton). Mourn the beloved countries (South Africa, United States of America and Palestine). “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The Reverend Dr Scott Couper,
The writer is pastor of Center Congregational Church, UCC, in Brattleboro.