Big Up from Aribinda

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Lunacy

To preface this blog, I would like to say it started as more of a diatribe, a polemic against the Catholic Church. Instead of offending Catholics, I just would like to say I am at odds with what the Pope says. I also do not officially represent the Catholic Church, the Pope, or His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama. Though my argument was hastily patched together and they are bound to be a few holes in my synthesis and melange of ideas, I believe in what I have posted here. Let's just remember one thing: Africa's uniqueness, environment, many varying cultures, problems. They are so different, it needs to be examined with a different lens and different approaches need to be taken to try and help the beautiful people of this continent. On this it all depends.

Earlier in the weeklong trip, Benedict drew criticism from aid agencies and some
European governments when he said that condoms were not the answer to Africa's
severe AIDS epidemic, suggesting that sexual behavior was the issue.

The trip opened with controversy, with the pope reiterating the Vatican's
opposition to artificial birth control Tuesday while flying to Cameroon, the
first stop on his journey.

So, what’s the old man doing? Some may say his questions about condom use are good and constructive, and yes, I could agree to a certain extent. Yes, we should question scientific findings and research. But hold on a second, is he really questioning the efficacy of condoms against the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as against so many other STDs? Hasn’t it been shown that condoms are a reliable way of preventing the spread of terrible diseases? I mean, really?

I try to make a distinction between the essence of Buddhism and the cultural
part of Tibetan Buddhism. The essential part is more or less the same
everywhere, while the cultural part may change from country to country. So
I think it may not succeed if a Westerner adopts Tibetan Buddhism in its
complete form, as practiced by Tibetans, in a Western society. It will
help if we take the essence and adopt it to the existing
-Address, 1986
His Holiness, the XIV Dalai Lama

At this point, I will attempt to detail my beliefs and expound on what I find to be correct and necessary in this day and age in Africa. Please realize that I am not trying to speak anyone’s mind on their behalf! Nor am I trying to contrast the Dalai Lama and Benedict, which would be fruitless. I am trying to interpret statements and beliefs/ideas from a non-religious standpoint, drawing from multiple sources, to demonstrate the Pope and some of his followers are confused as to what is actually happening in Africa.

The Pope, the mainline spiritual antenna of the Catholic Church. He’s picking up all wavelengths of light emanating from above I guess, then pontificating, if you will, to us, the masses. My cadres, the volunteers of Burkina Faso as well as in the rest of Africa, are probably pretty bummed by his statements about condom usage in Africa.

The pope said: “The scourge of AIDS cannot be resolved by distributing
condoms; quite the contrary, we risk worsening the problem.”

Worsen the problem? How? I mean, come on, that doesn’t make a lick of sense, particularly in Southern African countries where 30%+ of the population carry HIV/AIDS! He is right somewhere however. He mentions sexual behavior as a problem. Yeah, when people may be affected, and they are going to have sex, use the condom, don’t do what you typically would and not use the condom! His judgment of sexual behavior is what I like to think of as a culturally ethnocentric judgment. I am guilty of the same thought, where I also think that African sexual behavior may inhibit/limit/strangle their development. But I must respect their thoughts and cultural practices. Being a Westerner, I just don’t follow the same set of cultural standards. But here’s where the Dalai Lama says something good. The cultural aspect has to change, from society to society. The Dalai Lama also believes in a fusion of religion and science (good spiritual connection to one another, through community, then the peaceful development of our world through science and innovation). Benedict’s stance and dogma seem to exhibit his thought that this proven innovation doesn’t work in the slightest, which further undermines how scientific innovation can improve the quality of life.

The pope’s words were a prudent judgment of the reality. No use of condoms is
100 percent effective. Even the most sanguine promoters admit that condoms are
at least a failure 10 percent of the time. Others say 30 percent or 40 percent.
By encouraging condom use as the way of safe sex and prevention of AIDS,
increasing numbers of sexual encounters occur, people feeling that they are
“safe.” And the more sexual encounters that occur, the more cases of AIDS
result, due to the failure rates of the condoms.

This quote comes from a Catholic Archbishop of San Antonio, José H. Gomez. He is right, condoms are not 100 percent effective. But where did he come across these other dubious sounding statistics? In his column, he goes on to relate that abstinence before marriage and having one sexual partner are the ways to defend against HIV/AIDS, further advocating monogamy and its promotion. He is exactly right, these are two wonderful methods to prevent the spread of this terrible disease. But, he is only partly right. Further education and condom use should also be used with these other invaluable tools. Condoms will never eliminate HIV/AIDS, no way, not all by themselves. Education is the key, as I am sure Benedict and Archbishop Gomez would agree with me. But to completely refute the evidence that condoms, though they aren’t 100 percent effective, do not check the spreads of STDs is completely ludicrous. And are they so delusional to think kids are going to completely refrain from temptations of the flesh?! Sorry to rain on your parade fellas, but hey, the kids are gonna keep having sex in Africa.

The defamation of condoms is also a way in which I believe the Pope is trying to further decouple science and religion. They need to work together to make the world a better place. His contrarian views go against the improvement of life and scientific progress/understanding. With these statements, I posit he makes more human suffering possible, something which I, and His Holiness, are completely anathema to.

Each of us in our own way can try to spread compassion into people’s
hearts. Western civilizations these days place great importance on filling
the human “brain” with knowledge, but no one seems to care about filling the
human “heart” with compassion. This is what the real role of religion
-Address, 1995

So, the Dalai Lama states we should make religious exemptions from culture to culture. I couldn’t agree more completely. Surely what works in California and Texas probably wouldn’t go over so well in Malawi or even so well in the Marquesas. We need to allow for slightly nuanced interpretation of religious dogma given different cultural circumstances. In this way, I believe God should be what I like to call a “conscientious creator”. We have some extremes here on this planet, why can’t he change the guidelines a little to fit each situation? Is that asking too much?


Chris Dz ( said...

I agree with your arguments Mac, and have told several good christian friends that what we need is a New New testament. One that admits that we understand things better than we did 2000 years ago.
Does this external disappointment alter how you value your own work in Africa?

Sandybelle said...

Hello sir,,

it's been such a long time since i came here

every time i come here, my african love incrases, really, its a really wonderful land.. there is beauty, friends from jungles, to live peacefully, with no tools and no tv, wooww..maybe i envy you :) :) lol
life is simple, and everybody is happy..

thanks for sharing us your beautiful blog :) :)