the mugging

January 27, 2009

Just found a twitter message from Jake Belder sent 12 days ago which reminded me about “the mugging”. So, here’s the official eye-witness release, but first, some background:

A mugging: Similar to being pick-pocketed in that you also loose the contents of your pockets, especially cellphone and money, with the exception that it’s not very good pickpocketers, so they need to ask you for the contents. Since the owner of the content is usually not very keen on handing it over, some form of persuasion is usually used, in most cases this being a knife, although instances of other weapons have also been documented.

South Africa: Well, let’s just say that police are swamped, and we have a lot of muggings, and to get hold of the muggers (similar to a bugger) is quite difficult.

theology: the question I’m wrestling with: How do I think theologically about the mugging?

Now, the story:

Was fixing my info at the department water and electricity in the inner city of Pretoria, stopped in Du Toit street. I had this two car guards who offered to watch my car, and to put money into the parking meter should the traffic cop come around (I didn’t have any coins with me, forgot about the fact that the inner city has parking meters). I told them to leave it, and went my way. 15 Minutes later I was back, and was told that they had to put in R2 for parking, because the traffic officer was coming to check the cars. Knowing hoe this works I went to the meter, and told him that it wasn’t true, since the meter didn’t show anything. I got into the car, and on closing my door, realised that I was in trouble…

The door wouldn’t close, the two guys was keeping it open, and putting a knife against me, asking for wallet and cellphone. I’ve decided long ago that if ever I get into this situation, I’ll simply hand it over, it’s not worth playing with your life and health. They took my phone and cash, threw back the wallet and ID, and told me to drive. All this happened in broad daylight, in a busy street, but this simply stood over the car door, and nobody noticed, or did anything. So I drove.

The story could continue with my experience of the South African Police Service, which was both positive and negative, but I’d rather stop the story here to do something else. How do we reflect theologically on this? How do we react as Christians to this? This is a few of my thoughts.

  • Violence can never acceptable. I find myself comfortable with the theology of David Bosch, talking about the church as an alternative community, standing in the tradition of third way theologies. What these kids did was wrong, and should be fought, but in an alternative community kind of way.
  • But that’s just it, this was kids. About 17 years of age. Obviously scared of what they were doing. They grew up in a world condoning violence, in our movies, where the violent is many times the hero, in our societies, where violence is acceptable, in South Africa, where we have become quite desensitized to violent crimes.
  • They are part of an oppressed system, which is popping out in ways where the oppressed (read, the poor) are oppressing (trough violent behavior) the oppressor (read, those who keep the system which keep the poor poor in place). Did I deserve what happened? Maybe, maybe not. But I gain from the system which keep the poor poor, even though I try to fight it. I can’t help but also symbolize this.
  • Still violence is wrong, and should be fought. Still other grew up in similar circumstances and chose a different path.
  • So what do we do? We change the world for kids who grow up, we make it a place that doesn’t cultivate kids like these.

Oh, and we remember that it’s not a race issue! No matter what they thought when mugging a white man, I can’t blame it on blame it on black people as a group.

That is some random thoughts. I realised that we still have a lot of thinking to do regarding violence.


7 Responses to “the mugging”

  1. Jake Belder Says:

    Glad to hear you’re alright. I’ve had several friends who have been mugged in similar conditions (in Chicago and in Toronto). It’s tough to think through these things and you’ve got some good reflections here. For so long we’ve been lacking good responses to violence (and I know that being North American I really can’t understand what is happening in the South African context). It’s interesting to me how it is such a struggle for the Church to deal with some of these issues.

  2. cobus Says:

    Jake, I appreciate your sensitivity for the South African context, but North America has other instances of violence just as bad as ours. Can I only talk about violence now that I’ve experienced it? Was my thoughts on this irrelevant before? Maybe I’ve gained some emotional markings because of the experience, maybe I’ve been forced to think about violence for once, but then again, the stories of others have forced me as well, and my thoughts wasn’t changed much because I experienced it first hand. So no, friend, even though you are North American, the example of Jesus’s compassion for people that you follow make that you can maybe understand more, and therefore take part in searching for a way to respond as well…

    On another note, we’ll be hosting a conference at the center for public theology on violence next year, I’ll be reviewing some literature on that during this year, maybe I’ll do some writing as well (on a side note, we had the discussion on this the afternoon after the mugging, and although the professor arranging this didn’t know about what happened, the conversation did take on a somewhat different experience for me on that day 🙂

  3. Steve Says:

    Thank God you are OK.

    There’s a guy who comments on my blog sometimes, his blog is Skyldings in the mead hall, and he was shot by hijackers.

  4. Jake Belder Says:

    I didn’t intend to come across as alleviating myself of the responsibility of thinking on the issue just because I’m North American. Not at all! My intent was just to say that there are things in the South African context I don’t understand, and don’t want to ignorantly claim to understand. No, you’re right, there definitely is violence in the North American context as well (particularly in the United States, much more so in the past, but still present today). I long to hear Christians in this context reflect on it as well, but unfortunately there is a large degree of cultural accommodation that leads to Christians turning a blind eye towards things like that, just like the rest of society does.

    Anyway, just wanted to clarify. Thanks, and I look forward to your upcoming thoughts on the topic!

  5. tiaan Says:

    Oh my soul!!!! Hoe is dit moontlik dat ek op jou BLOG hiervan moet uitvind??

    Okay, ek gaan nou maar my stuiwers in hierdie beurs gooi, omdat ek nou al self twee keer deur so ‘n situasie was: hoe kry jy dit reg om so vinnig die goed teologies te hanteer? Ek weet ons moet mos anders na die goed kyk, dis die sisteem se skuld, dis nie ‘n rasse-ding nie…
    Dis nog steeds crap.
    Dit bly verkeerd dat iemand my goed vat omdat hy so voel.
    Dit bly verkeerd dat iemand my intimideer, gewelddadig of nie, omdat hy in ‘n posisie is om dinge vir my moeilik/seer/onaangenaam/ongerieflik te maak.
    Dit bly verkeerd dat iemand hom/haarself die reg toe-eien om iemand anders fisies seer te maak as hulle nie hulle sin kry nie.

    Flippit, ou. Ek is regtig bly jy is okay!

  6. cobus Says:

    Tiaan, dalk moes ek te veel keer in die laaste jaar dink oor hoe ek mense begelei wat deur geweld geraak is… wat ek vir ‘n 16 jaar oue laaitie sê ‘n paar uur nadat ek gesien het hoe sy pa se lyk by die deur uitgedra word… dit was teologie wat ons dan ‘n deur wys wat nie na rassisme lei nie (en siende dat ek Belhar as een van my belydenisskrifte sien, is rassisme ‘n dwaalleer).

    Deur ons teologie sê ons steeds dat dit verkeerd is, absoluut verkeerd! Dalk kan ons teologies die verkeerdheid daarvan nog baie sterker uitdruk as op enige ander manier! As ons immers dink oor geweld in verhouding tot God… maar as ek iets daaraan wil doen dan moet my teologie my lei om die groter prentjie raak te sien… en vroeër eerder as later…

  7. kleyr Says:

    reminds me of my experience. i also got mugged. here’s my story -

    pictures are posted on my website too

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