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.