The City Harvest scandal: Signs of a sadistic system? — Alwyn Lau
JULY 6 — Remember the subprime crisis of 2008? It was the fault of individual banks and bankers, right? It was their greed, wasn’t it? Because of them, and mainly them, the system damn near collapsed – correct?
Maybe not. Could it have been the system itself? Could it have been the very nature of capitalist profit-making markets and institutions to benefit itself at the expense of the individuals within in?
Could it be that a rent-seeking organism seeks to achieve its own “pleasure” of near-implosion and recovery because it “knows” that its subjects will do whatever it takes to save it?
Like a spoilt super-brat who enjoys burning his own toys because he knows his parents will rush to put out the flames and even buy him new play-things? Is it possible that the Market derives sadistic “fulfilment” from wrecking havoc on people, mainly the poor but not excluding the rich?
The arrest of Pastor Kong Hee, Senior Pastor of City Harvest Church has been all the talk. As usual, such a crisis produces severe division in opinion and beliefs.
Kong Hee’s supporters are going to insist he is innocent no matter what the court says. His critics, of course, have already accused him even before his arrest and will continue judging him even if he’s acquitted.
Here’s a different proposal: We should hope that Kong Hee is convicted of the crime but that he is, in fact, innocent. Why? Because this is the best hope for transforming the system itself.
An acquittal would leave the system unchanged. City Harvest would continue expanding, Kong Hee and Sun Ho would at best be somewhat more cautious, those who hate the church and the pastors won’t change their attitudes and basically everything would continue as if the arrest hasn’t occurred.
City Harvest members would hardly question the workings of a system in which a pastor can make millions whilst preaching about a God-Man who used archaic phrases like “Blessed are the poor” and exclaimed about how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Likewise, Kong Hee’s fiercest critics will keep trying to make the most of the financial game whilst berating the most effective player itself!
Again, the system won’t change. And there is nothing the average person would like more than to point the finger at the church whilst ignoring the perils of the network he/she is part of. Why not?
Because the system works precisely by promising everybody a dream, a fantasy, of treasures galore. Doesn’t matter that satisfaction never comes — the allure is enough to keep us hand-cuffed to it (just ask the rich if they’re content with their present earnings).
What, then, is the best option to produce a radical re-appraisal of the system itself? The case where Kong Hee is “really” innocent but is found guilty and imprisoned.
The decision would reveal — to Kong Hee most intensely — that personal credibility and spirituality is not a private affair, that there are impersonal forces which will make a mockery of his (genuine) claims to innocence, that the system is dangerous in itself and that even a righteous man can be taken down simply for ‘playing around’ with huge sums of money.
What would this say about the autonomous power of money and finance such that — not unlike the scheming power of death in the Final Destination movies — innocent people can be ruined “just like that”? Unsuspecting people are “tracked” and hunted down by impersonal forces that have simply decided that their time is up?
This would represent an extreme case of how individuals are frequently the victims of their very immersion in the game of the market, how it can make sense to say that it’s “not their fault” yet they’re guilty all the same.
This would not be a legal kind of guilt, but a post-legal kind of culpability i.e. loving the Establishment. Virtual guilt exploding forth in real charges and total ruin. A malevolent excess generated by our (legal and proper) indulgence in profit-making.
Only if an innocent man is “taken down” by an impersonal greed-enticing god will people begin to consider rebelling against the way things are.
Only in this way can City Harvest members (and other churches, poor, rich and mega-rich) begin to see that the ‘powers and principalities’ extend to more than demons and that it permeates the very souls of churches.
Only then perhaps can people realise the law can only protect us so much or so far and that there comes a time when the horizon of prosperity spills over into the abyss of un-decidability or “ascribed helplessness” when which that which we long for turns back upon us in violence.
Only then can the truth of the non-neutrality of money establish itself.
Kong Hee did not abuse the system, he merely used it. This applies whether or not he’s guilty. Also, and most importantly, the system was actually using him. And what’s the best way to continue using and manipulating someone without appearing so?
How does the system make itself “invisible” or seen as “neutral”? By positioning all problems within the system as being a result of individual — i.e. non-systemic — factors.
And by keeping the fantasy, of riches untold, alive and very well.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insider.