8 March, 2019

If I can’t dance to it, it’s not my revolution.

~ Emma Goldman ~

Though I am not a good dancer I love this comment of the great Russian-American anarchist Emma Goldman. A revolution without joy is a miserable thing. Democracies like ours are no exception – they can become obsessively politically correct leading to boredom. Democratic freedom needs to be celebrated.

In today’s Gospel (Mt 9:14-15) Jesus tells the scribes and Pharisees to ‘lighten up!’, to get over their obsessions with fasting. So, too, and particularly in light of what I said yesterday (about the greed that has marked the last twenty-five years), we need to celebrate the joyous side of our democracy. The 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 2010 Soccer World Cup both illustrate this.

1995 was pure Hollywood. (If you disagree go ask Clint Eastwood: he made a movie about it). Urged on by President Nelson Mandela (wearing you’ll recall the captain’s jersey), an underdog national team, of a sport that had very limited appeal, struggled through to a final against the best rugby team in the world, winning it in the last moments of the game. “We have 40 million South Africans behind us” said Springbok captain Francois Pienaar. And the country celebrated for days afterwards.

Though we didn’t win the Soccer World Cup in 2010, we were a magnanimous country. We welcomed visitors warmly, displaying their flags with our own. Whites who never before were interested in soccer came to matches – and joined in township parties afterwards. Even, it seems, the criminals among us decided to be patriotic and scaled down their activities.

The question I ask: why don’t we celebrate our nationhood, our unity in diversity, like this all the time? If democracy is to be more than an alternative to civil war, if elections are to be more than another ‘racial census’, we need to become truly one nation again.


Build in us

a common


and common


oh Lord,

that we might


in each other

our unity

in diversity.



Catholic Parliamentary

Liaison Office

Jesuit Institute
South Africa

Reflection prepared by and

Fr Anthony Egan SJ

Fr Anthony Egan SJ (born Cape Town 1966; entered the Jesuits 1990; ordained 2002) has taught, full-time or part-time, at St Augustine College of South Africa, St John Vianney Seminary, Fordham University (on sabbatical) and the University of the Witwatersrand. The author/co-author of a number of books, book chapters, academic and popular articles, he is a correspondent for America magazine, a contributor to Worldwide and writes for spotlight.africa. He is also a commentator on local and international radio and television. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Helen Suzman Foundation. Extramural interests include Science Fiction, Theatre, Art and creative writing, including poetry.

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Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ

Fr Matthew Charlesworth SJ entered the Society of Jesus in 2005 and underwent the usual course of studies in his formation, which took him to such varied places as Canada, France, Ireland, Kenya, Spain, Tanzania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Whilst working at the Institute, Matthew managed the background technical aspects of much of the Institute's work and was involved in the Spirituality work, completing the Advanced Spiritual Directors Training Course and the Spiritual Exercises Training run by the Institute. He is a member of Spiritual Directors International and was also a part-time lecturer in Sacred Scripture at St Augustine College of South Africa. He is currently the Director of Communications for the Jesuits in Southern Africa, based in Lusaka, Zambia.

m.charlesworth@jesuitinstitute.org.za @mcharlesworth
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