03 February 2011

there was a christian, a capitalist and a marxist

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Bryan Rostron
Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Over the new year, it occurred to me I had only known one real Christian in my life. Thinking about this, it dawned on me that I’d also only met one absolute capitalist — and one true Marxist, one I’d trust to pull off a revolution and not shoot me afterwards.

It’s not that I’ve led a particularly sheltered life, having lived in — and reported from — several continents. In doing so, I have met some astonishing people, good and bad, and interviewed, or exposed, some very nasty capitalists.

But the real thing? The Christian I am thinking of, for example, lives not far from me outside Cape Town. She is a pastor and spends much of her time in the most forsaken areas of the Eastern Cape, setting up networks of “surrogate mothers” for AIDS orphans. She threw a party over the holiday period, having cashed in a burial policy in order to bring twenty of these rural women to Cape Town. None had ever seen the sea.

One Zulu-speaking lady, who also happened to be there, told me about the time she and her husband had tried to buy a house in a white area in order for him to be close to his work. My friend had to inspect the house and pretend that this dignified, educated black woman was her domestic. “When we finally moved in, the neighbours were terribly shocked”, recalled this now elderly black woman. “They complained — but apartheid was coming to an end, so nothing happened. In fact, we became friendly with some of them.”

Not that this qualifies as exclusively Christian. Many atheist left-wingers resorted to such stratagems to get round the grotesque distortions of apartheid. Nor is it her openness and simplicity, or the fact that she opens her home to people who have stolen from her before. What struck me as truly remarkable is her response a couple of years ago to a gang of teenage boys from the nearby township. They went on the rampage, stealing from fellow township dwellers. Then they murdered a man.

These kids, some of whom were 12 or 13, were driven out of Imizamo Yethu and informed that they would be killed instantly if they were seen in the township again. They took up residence, in mid-winter, among the dunes along the Atlantic Ocean. They had no way of supporting themselves, apart from occasional bag snatches. They became ragged and thin. No one — not the police, churches nor social services — was interested.

My friend, with her own money, would buy food and feed these boys in the dunes. “If I didn’t care for the real outcasts of society”, she said, “what sort of Christian would I be?” That’s not a question, I suspect, that the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury ask themselves.

The only capitalist, on the other hand, I met in London about 15 years ago. He was the other dinner guest of a young American banker and his wife. All three were baffled by my views. The argument got heated. The banker was at least prepared to admit exactly what level of deprivation and misery he was willing to tolerate in order to sustain his capitalist convictions. Mass starvation was over the limit. “Of course, if there’s a famine, one must intervene”, he conceded. “You can’t just leave people to starve.”

His British businessman friend, however, was intransigent. “Look, you want to give away your own money to stop people starving? That’s commendable — just so long as it’s your own choice and your personal cash”, he replied. “But nothing, absolutely nothing, should interfere with the laws of the free market.”

It’s useful to have the real argument put, shorn of all platitudes and palliatives. I soon dipped out of that dispute and sat back to enjoy the sight of a rich young American banker so hugely discomfited by the implications of his own ideology.

And the Marxist? Actually, until about a year ago, I used to say there were two that I would trust. But one, a white South African revolutionary, has proved so intransigent that he’s fallen out with almost everyone, including me and even, apparently, one of his own children. So I don’t fancy taking my chances of not being put before his firing squad.

That, again, leaves me with only one. And he’s now dead. It was a much-loved former colleague, the great investigative journalist Paul Foot. I once said to him, only half joking, that if I was confident that some of his comrades were as generous and non-sectarian as he, I’d be more inclined to sign up for the revolution.

Of course, Tribune readers will be able to provide outstanding examples of all three: Christians, capitalists, communists. But I haven’t personally met these fine folks. Maybe my luck will change in 2011. I try to keep an open mind.


Go to first half of today's Keiser Report for refresher....


And then you'll want to go contemplate the links here....

love, 99

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