Archive for January, 2009

Engaged signal

Posted on 18 January, 2009. Filed under: The world |

To my loyal readers, all 4 of you, yes mom, you too: I have not forgotten you. I just have to focus my attention elsewhere until the first week of February – classes to prepare, 3 more exam papers to study for (the first is behind me, thank goodness) a big presentation, and a house full of visitors this coming weekend!

I’ll be blogging away come February, griping about DVD players in cars, confessing my own bigotry, sharing my wit and brilliant insight into life with all and sundry. Till then, feel free to leave a message, I will be checking in.

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The legacy of George W. Bush

Posted on 9 January, 2009. Filed under: George Bush, politics, The world, USA | Tags: , , , , |

I’m going to miss him, that 43rd president of the USA. Like I sometimes miss Princess Sarah. The one from Wasilla, not the one from York. Always good for a laugh. Chief-cook-and-bottle-wash George is not as funny, but he always provides one with food for thought that leaves you somewhere between “amused” and “bemused”. Or “bedonnerd.” (Good Afrikaans for seriously p***ed off) Ever courageous, GW displays equal ease flirting with stand-up comedy and global catastrophe alike. He elicits a wide range of responses from me, ranging from the mostly negative – contempt, despair, loathing, hilarity, nervousness, fear, perplexity. And of late, as January 20th looms larger and larger, and I watch GW’s desperate attempts to re-engineer his legacy, I feel pity, wait, can it be, almost a sense of compassion for the man.

“So once I shut down my privilege of disliking anyone I chose and holding myself aloof if I could manage it, greater understanding, growing compassion came to me…” Catherine Marshall

Compassion not only for him, but also for his wife and daughters.

Now stop scoffing, and let me explain. Legacy, you see, is an important concept for me. Stephen Covey said:

“There are certain things that are fundamental to human fulfilment. The essence of these needs is captured in the phrase ‘to live, to love, to learn, to leave a legacy. The need to live is our physical need for such things as food, clothing, shelter, economical well-being, health. The need to love is our social need to relate to other people, to belong, to love and to be loved. The need to learn is our mental need to develop and to grow. And the need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution”

I believe most sentient people (and no, that is not tautology,) have thoughts about their legacy. I certainly do. And more so as the years go by. And I’d like to assume that for most of us, the overwhelming characteristic of legacy is positive. Making a difference. For the better. On the people around us; family, friends, colleagues. For the lucky ones, it is about improving our communities, our societies. And then there are the exceptional few who are given a chance to improve the world we all live in, at a national, or even a global scale. Many have the intent, but few manage to grab the opportunity. For me, becoming the president of the USA seems to imply the intent, and infers the opportunity. GW got that opportunity, not only for 4 years, like his father and Carter, but for 8 years, like Reagan and Clinton. All of them left a legacy, some of it better, some of it worse. Reagan and Clinton left more of a legacy, it seems to me, than Bush I and Carter. Probably because they had twice as much time. But the greatest legacy, I fear, is that left by Bush II. Unfortunately for him, it is a legacy of infamy, rather than fame. And I have to believe that a man who served his country both as a governor and a president, aspired, at some stage, to leave this world a better place.
I also believe the man is in constant denial about the cataclysmic extent of his inadequacies. But that is his defence mechanism. And he undoubtedly needs one. For without the denial, there can only be misery. Imagine holding Pandora’s box in your hands, and then opening it. How do you live with yourself? How do you look in the mirror after that? How do you face your wife, your children, your friends, your neighbours? The world? Depression, black and ominous, always threatening to shroud you. Just there, in the periphery of your consciousness. How to hold it at bay, if not by ignoring it? By unsheathing denial, that Excalibur of psychological survival.

This denial has to extend to his wife. In an interview on Fox News the last Sunday of 2008, Mrs. Bush said she knows her husband’s eight years in office was not a failure. Because how do you look at your husband, if you cannot deny this truth?

It must weigh heavily on his daughters. How do you face your father, the grandfather of your future children, if you have to acknowledge the awful reality? When 8 years ago, as young girls, you watched in wonder and awe as the whole world recognized what you already knew – that your daddy was Superman, infallible and indestructible. As daddies tend to be. And now, eight years later, as a young adult, you not only know that he is not, not and not, but the whole world shares that knowledge with you. Not only that, but the monumental failures are not that of an ordinary father. His failures have resulted in poverty, unemployment, misery, division, suffering and death. For millions. What will you tell your children? You can’t run, and you can’t hide. You can only deny. Deny the legacy.

And so I have to pity George, Laura, Jenna and Barbara. Because some legacies are just not worth having.

“To show pity is felt as a sign of contempt because one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.” Friedrich Nietzsche
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Hear the children cry.

Posted on 2 January, 2009. Filed under: Africa | Tags: , , , , , |

So, while everybody is trying to convince Israel and Palestine to live in peace,  Africa  goes on being Africa, largely unnoticed, largely uncommented on.

On December 26, the day after Christmas, which for many of us means a lot more than Santa, presents and eggnog, a group of people were hacked to death at a church in the Congo. We don’t know how many, sources vary from 30, to 80, to 100, to 120, to 150. Apparently by a Ugandan rebel group who call themselves, wait for it, “The Lord’s Resistance Army”. I can only pray that they do not for a single moment mean the Lord as in Him, God. But then, given the general prevailing madness, who knows?

These people, mostly women and children (as usual) were hacked to death with machetes.

Hacked to death.


To death.

It doesn’t quite sink in, does it? We are so insulated, few of us have ever seen death up close and personal. And when we have, it’s usually in a peaceful, sterile setting. In a hospital. Sickness, old age, heart attack, cancer.  Not the kind of death that comes in vivid technicolour with smells, people urinating and defecating in fear. Shouting, screaming, howling, begging for mercy. Fear, hysteria, desperation, terror. Children, old people, men, women. Trying to get away, running, being blocked, herded like cattle towards certain death. Mothers clasping babies to their chests. Begging, for themselves, for their children. Children separated from parents, alone, terrified, calling, crying, not understanding how there can be something this horrible in the world. Not understanding how a mother or a father can’t protect them from this. No instantaneous death. Bleeding, an arm or a foot already hacked off. Scramble away. A kick, something broken. Another cut, more blood, more pain, more fear. How long till you wish, not for the salvation of life, but for the salvation of death?

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.
Benedicta tu in mulieribus,
et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Iesus.
Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,
ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc,
et in hora mortis nostrae.

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Laugh or cry, you choose.

Posted on 2 January, 2009. Filed under: Cuba | Tags: , |

Being South African, I have a warped sense of humour, sometimes. Coping mechanism, I suppose. I also manage to fall around laughing at my own jokes. Someone has to laugh at them, and I fulfil the need in spades!

So there’s this joke about the old farmer going to the bar for a few shots. (Those of you in the know, picture the Dortsbult Bar. Oom Krisjan Lemmer et al.) So times are tough, the economy is rapidly being sucked into a black hole, and money is tight. The old man, quite a few shots of mampoer later (the local fire water), tells the assembled audience that, in order to save money, he’s going to teach his horse how to live on air alone.

Over the next few weeks he implements this plan, slowly giving the horse less and less food, until he finally stops feeding him altogether. About a week later, he’s in the bar again. “So, Oom, how is that horse doing?”  asks one of the young men.

Says the old man: “Nee, neef, it was going well, man. But just as I got the horse trained to live without any food, it died.” 

So when I read this week that Raul had told Cubans that they would have to tighten their belts, I had to laugh.

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    Welcome to my personal soundboard, where I can muse (you might call it ramble on) about things that interest, irritate, infuriate or impress me. In time, I hope this will lead me to understand the meaning of life, the universe, and me.


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