08 November 2009


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

14 May 2009

Slinging mud and stuff

Appearances may fool some, but after the pretense of civilised elections, the knives are out between the governing party and the official opposition in South Africa. Mud and stuff are being slung at each other's leaders in the most brutal terms. Especially the performance of members of the ANC Youth League and some of the more scruffy cadres of rather dubious past - ex-MK - leaves one fairly dumbstruck at the apparent true nature of some of these commentators.

The Star gave a colourful direct quote of the most recent commentary by the above parties. On a more sombre note comes the rather sinister undertone of remarks by said ex-MK members. Threats of making the Western Cape Province ungovernable if the leader of the Western Cape and official national opposition, Ms Helen Zille, does not toe the line and co-operate with the government. Granted, her commentary on the new president was rather blunt and not helpful in the wobbly new democracy of South Africa, but the reply from the ex-MK members was downright outrageous and squarely in the gangster league.

Such remarks as those by the ex-MK members would be met with law-suits for libel anywhere in the First World. The underlying mentality that can produce such verbal diarrhea is cause for more than medical concern. Left to such an electorate the country will for sure go to the swine on a highway. To accuse of longing for an Apartheid past those of us who yearn for civilised order, is utter balderdash; reeks of hyperbole and pays clear evidence of an extremist mindset.

To observe such extremist support for the new president with his overtones of clansmanship, leaves one sleeping with one eye open and puts us back, in some respects, 200 years or so in the turbulent history of this country.

26 March 2009

So you think you can tell

So the government of South Africa has denied entry to the Dalai Lama into South Africa. At once the controversy of Tibet has reached into South Africa. So Pres. Motlanthe, Mr de Klerk and Archbishop Tutu, and all of you distressed and torn, from Facebook to Bejing, so you think you can tell which way the moral stones should fall. Can you tell which it is: A man of peace, a freedom fighter, or a terrorist? Do you think you can tell?

So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?

And did they get you to trade your heroes for ghosts?
Hot ashes for trees?
Hot air for a cool breeze?
Cold comfort for change?

And did you exchange a walk on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?
How I wish, how I wish you were here.
We're just two lost souls swimming in a fish bowl, year after year,
Running over the same old ground.
What have we found? The same old fears.
Wish you were here.

[lyrics by Pink Floyd]

Notwithstanding the outspoken indignation of messrs de Klerk and Tutu, and the rest of the so-called free world, one cannot help wondering where ends the Dalai Lama's divine walk and starts his subservience to Western interest in unsettling China's relentless rise. Indeed, we may very well count more than two lost souls in the fish bowl. Who can tell Heaven from Hell when it's someone else's backyard? When does the smile turn into a veil; at what point does the trading start? How far can one tread the thin line of passive resistence? And where lie the blue skies then?

12 March 2009

Tut tut tut

Although this author is no subscriber to conspiracy theories, it is sometimes difficult not to sense a certain unease about the impact of so-called Jewish lobby groups in the USA. For the size of Israel and its precarious existence, substantially propped up by American subsidies and all sorts of support, its influence is rather disproportionately heavy - especially in American business and politics, which some may argue, is essentially the same thing. Take the latest little tantrum thrown by several pro-Israel special interest groups: Mr Charles W. Freeman Jr. had to withdraw his nomination for a top intelligence post, under duress of pro-Israel lobbies not entirely impressed with his past and current viewpoints on Israel.

Quite frankly, Mr Freeman's viewpoints align rather well with a broad majority of the world outside of the USA and certainly not only those maliciously intent on destroying the troubled state of Israel. But somehow, it is not politically correct or wise to criticize Israel while having any presence on the public scene in the USA. So much for objectivity and free speech. Even worse for the interest of the American people.

To be joined at the hip to any other country is never sound and neither is it sane. Unconditional support does not belong on the political stage - it is something for romantic relationships between love-sick partners. Especially when a country commits acts of Apartheid and oppression against a tiny, struggling and disenfranchised nation such as Israel commits with impunity against Palestine, dares a country of the presumed stature of the USA not dabble in "unconditional support". There are deep-seated reasons for the unhappy condition in the Middle-East and the blundering creation of Israel in 1948 and its rambunctious escapades since then - especially 1967 - are firmly at the centre of those reasons.

To provide "unconditional support" given such circumstances is folly. At least, anywhere else but in the USA, it would be folly. But somehow the pro-Israel lobbies seem to have surprising impact and influence over there. Mrs Clinton for all her merit is rather too cozily attached to such lobbies. Her recent state visit to Israel, holding hands with the Foreign Affairs minister of Israel, was just a bit too intimate for formal international politics and somewhat sickening to say the least.

One wonders what is left of pres. Obama's firm stance against special interests in the face of such antics as the above.

17 February 2009

South Africa: Shame on us

The truth is a double-edged sword, it is said. Well, in that case it is shame on us, South Africa. A reader of News24.com wrote in the edition of 17 February of the 'sickness that defines us'. His lament and self-conflagration were triggered by the revelation of fraud and deception by a once golden spin-doctor of the African National Congress, which is the ruling political party in South Africa.

Archbishop Emeritus Tutu wrote last year of the loss of moral compass of South Africa - the decay in society evident in acute prevalence of rape, murder, brutal assault, robbery, corruption, nepotism, recklessness, general impoliteness that have erupted in this nation.

More recently, South Africa, who held the chairmanship of the UN Security Council for a term, squandered what was left of its moral authority in confounding and fantastically senseless positions on major points of international contention ([Burma];[Libanon];[Zimbabwe]).

In South Africa, we have lost it. These days life seems aimed at the next jollification; the next quick rich scheme. Businesses often have no clue what good service entails. Customers often are rude and bombastic. About every pub along the West Coast competes for the most bar fights per night. The youngsters are becoming more conceited by the day. Respect for law and order is reflected in the extreme popularity of a renegade band called Fokof Polisiekar (Eng. Fuck off Police Car).

Our crime figures rival that of Columbia. Only war zones have it worse than certain parts of South Africa, which includes Gauteng, the financial hub of the country. The famously casual, genuinely friendly South African demeanor is mixed with a common alacrity of conduct, an insensitivity to sensibilities, which quickly can turn into disdain. Perhaps familiarity has bred contempt. High levels of latent aggression means offense is taken at even slight opposition, typically to be resolved through a bout of physical violence - really, very rough-neck.

It is not all gloom though. There are a few pockets of goodness around: Persons; businesses; government officials that still uphold proper levels of self-respect and decency. But these islands seem engulfed and threatened to be overwhelmed by a general degeneration in the fabric of society.

South Africa, quo vadis? We were supposed to be heading the other way, remember?

31 January 2009

To befriend or to "unfriend"

Right, so we have yet another new term, courtesy of the ever-sprawling Internet: Unfriend. That is, to remove a person as a friend from you extraordinarily sprawling social circle in the Kingdom of Facebook. Yes, my online spelling checker does not approve and neither do I. For one, "unfriend" is grammatically improper - un-friend implies "to friend" is a valid verb, which any proper English speaker will know it is not. "Friend" is a noun and has had sole claim to that part of speech for quite some time now. To befriend is the verb. To unfriend is neither this nor that. It's void not verb.

Now that I have driven home that point with a mallet, let us get on to the intended meaning of the grammatically unhappy term. Someone commented in an article in the NY Times of 29 January 2009 that a friends list of around a 100 persons implies an intimate circle of friends. A 100 persons? Intimate? Since when can one be intimate with a 100 persons? I can hardly keep up on normal terms with 10 and it would take some convincing that anyone else can do much better than that. I mean, I am a dedicated sort of person, you know.

But, now that I have blown my horn a bit, let us consider to be intimate or not to be intimate. Quite clearly there has been some dilution of intent here. Old story of modern times, I say. We dilute almost all things for faster gain at ever shrinking profit margins. Large turnover, small profit margin, that is. As if the experience of real close friendship can accumulate over many superficial friendships to some fat bottom line as in some business model from Harvard. What delusional rubbish!

So, should one prune the list or not prune the list? Well, it feels somewhat impolite to turn down a friend request on Facebook and rather insensitive to revoke a friend status. But then, turning down friendship happens in everyday life as part of the social code anyway. Ever since childhood one has known the feeling of being turned down by a group or a single person one would have liked to befriend. And one also stops being friends with some people. Perhaps, one should reconsider what "friend" means before applying or accepting friendship requests. It really means something more than just plain acquaintance or boasting numbers.

25 January 2009


Hope. It is the enduring quality of humanity.

Hope, as the last morsel is served and the cupboard, bare.
Hope, as on coffin mix clots of earth with tears of grieve.
Hope, in the face of rejection.
Hope, in the depths of despair.

Hope, at the birth of life.
Hope, at the gates of death.

Hope, in the anguish of torture.
Hope, at the coming of freedom.

Hope, when all is lost.
Hope, when all is won.

Hope, when even faith and love have gone.