Category Archives: Propositional

ideas of how things can change

Our Common Goal

“Now it is our contention that true democracy can be established in South Africa and on the continent as a whole, only when white supremacy has been destroyed.”  –  Robert M Sobukwe (2010:23)

This call from the Seventies should still be our rallying cry today. Not to say we have not made radical progress, but the call to end white supremacy is still a helpful one. White supremacy, or so-called white supremacy looked different in the seventies where whites literally ran everything, had all and exclusive access and where black people were exploited and humiliated. White supremacy, or so-called white supremacy lingers on today, stubbornly in the minds of South Africans, both white and black. This is our joint disease that affects our national health. Back then the supremacy was justified by so-called biological differences, a nonsense that has been mostly debunked.

The two notions that still plague us are, the idea of cultural superiority and the idea that material wealth and education is linked to intrinsic qualities. You just need to look at a useless corrupt fat cat today, driving a Bentley and realise that theft buys fancy suits and expensive whiskey. It is not classy, it is material profanity built on theft. When the spoilt little kids of this fat cat goes to expensive private schools, how dare they look down on and make fun of struggling kids from hard-working honest parents?

In my description of an exploitative class in the paragraph above, did you imagine a white or a black person? The answer is very important. Whichever picture you had in your head, might point you to your blind spot, whereby you need to learn to see the other side.

Today, for someone living in a shack, notions of white supremacy are real when every day, you walk past a white family in a Prado, going on holiday, getting Christmas gifts, practicing public speaking, discussing books. White wealth is a legacy of white privilege which is a legacy of white oppression and exploitation. Privilege allows certain cultures to develop and flourish. Privilege allows certain cultures to be trampled on and deteriorate. This applies to ethnic cultures, but also the specific culture in a home or in a neighbourhood. Kids growing up surrounded by gangs, surrounded by rapes or violence, they grow up in a new culture. Hatred can infiltrate any culture and hurt can become a culture of rebellion. Culture is not about cutlery and clothing; it is about shared values. Shared values and ethics that put you on a productive and developmental path is a privilege.

Sobukwe speaks of the myth of race that is used to build a myth of cultural superiority linked to colour. Nobody can deny that in todays world certain cultural traits will help members of a clan and certain cultural traits will disadvantage members of a clan; any clan. I hold that our culture should serve us and we should not serve our culture. We live in radically changing times, our groups are not geographically isolated any longer and that which used to make a sub-grouping of humans stronger and safe can today make a sub grouping stupid and dangerous. We need to change.

Our most pressing challenge is that of moving away from race, moving away from ethnicity; towards a shared humanity. This is not contradictory, as long as the notions are prioritised. Sub cultures can be used in service of a unified culture. Tribes can use their tribal heritage to serve the common good. A practical example can be the coming together of Afrikaners in a church with the vision and calling to eradicate white supremacy. That will have two legs, one being the extension of opportunity to blacks and the other being the deconstruction of internal and habitual stupidities that perpetuate racism. A black man or women who becomes successful through excellence and goodness should be top priority and something whites cherish. It would be a privilege to be part of such stories.

A tricky question in the discussion on dismantling white supremacy is that of white suffering. In theory nobody should suffer. In reality, in an equal South Africa, white poverty has to grow. That will be normal and even healthy. Whites should live in shacks, as long as blacks are living in shacks. White people passionate about uplifting ‘their own’ in a context of exploitative racial oppression need to do very serious soul searching. Let blacks look after poor whites. We have a historical burden, we have restitution as prerequisite for reconciliation; or at least the two needs to be implemented in unison.

Whites and blacks need to go about dismantling so called white supremacy in two different ways. Im not going to be PC and Im not going to be rude, but every honest South African knows that blacks and whites have different nuances and narrative we need to voice and advocate in order for our country to be equal and free. Democracy is impossible without the dismantling of so-called white supremacy- it is our call in this day and age to fight towards this same, unifying goal.

It can only be achieved if we work together. Other countries have shown that it is not something that is automatically fixed over time. We need a concerted effort, a brave leadership and a sacrificial life-style in order to be counter cultural and show the world that indeed we belong firstly to a human race.

To give up, is to have failed.

To give up is to have caused the thing you were supposed to fight.

Of Vice and Virtue

We all have things that get under our skin. One of my pet hates are seeing disadvantaged youths posting pictures of booze on Facebook. Wasting money on alcohol when you don’t have a book in your home is a symbol of much that is wrong with South Africa. I also dislike smoking more than the average person. A filthy habit wasting cash, killing lungs and polluting the environment. These are my own personal weird dislikes and provides the ironic context of what is to follow.

Dislikes aside however, I really like and believe in people. I try to grow in character and sincerity. Integrity is a journey and we can improve, we can become. Men are not born upright, we become upright through consistent and repeated choice. Having been raised in a good home and earning a decent salary I believe in sharing. I believe in giving, free money without strings attached. Last night for example  I was at a Laureus quiz and my group won, being given a R500 Totalsports voucher. I would certainly have liked to pick out something nice in Totalsports, or even buy something for my fiancé. But I knew there were people in the room from very challenging backgrounds, people who couldn’t win the quiz, because general knowledge is part of privilege, not of merit or intelligence. I knew immediately I’d give away my voucher. I’ve figured such out and I gave away the voucher, through someone else, also from a township, so I was sure not to get the praise for being the hero.

I’m well trained at giving things away. What I struggle with a bit more is not to be the hero and to relinquish control. I’m still learning to give through others so that there are three beneficiaries involved in every gift. I mostly try to give through another person, not directly to the end recipient. In such a transaction I benefit, because I practice the discipline of secrecy and being behind the scenes, the middle man benefits from learning what its like to change lives, to be a leader making a difference and the beneficiary gets the material gift. The girl who got the Totalsports voucher lost her shack in a fire last week, so the Totalsports card will be a big deal for her. Her need materially allowed a cycle of humanity to be activated.

Now, giving clothes and vouchers to someone is a shack is a beautiful story, its cute and endearing.  In contrast to the gift of clothes, a friend asked me for my credit card in a fancy hotel, having expensive wine and whiskey with a bunch of strangers. Giving my creditcard to a friend who could buy booze while talking shit till 3 am is giving that does not naturally make me feel good. Why I did it was because I knew some of the kids around the table of celebrities could not afford drinks. Still, making the middle man the big man is something I am trying to practice and I instinctively recognised this as an opportunity to stretch my ‘giving power away’ muscles. Besides that the kids could not afford the whiskey and wine I did like my close friend being the hero, being the main man. Dignity can be expressed in many ways, but I never thought my ‘tithing’ would buy booze in a luxury hotel.

Mercedes Benz, during the same week allowed us to drive their AMG’s around a track. The trust they showed us by giving us these R1m cars and ‘playing’ with them was fantastic. Allowing a bunch of NGO practitioners to drive super luxury performance cars was one of the most developmental things I’ve seen. The execs at Mercedes might have seen it as publicity or marketing but magic was released through the combination of trust and dignity.

Reflecting back on these events, I realised that I was prepared by the Caltex petrol attendant that refused my offer of coffee one evening after church. I just drove from an evening service at ‘Third Place’ and while the car was filling up I went to buy coffee. It was raining and I assumed the Christian thing to do was to also offer the man helping me with refuelling with a coffee. He politely declined with a “NO thanks, Im ok with coffee, but Im running low on tobacco.” I was a bit surprised so I did what we should generally do as I asked him what he wanted? A short “Stuyvesant” settled the matter and I felt weird as I asked for cigarettes at the counter with another church member curiously glancing over to my side. Ten minutes after church I was buying ‘tobacco’ for someone according to what they wanted, not what I wanted to offer. The basics of charity and development are easy to grasp once we get it. To give cash without power is not natural however and we should keep on training. I had a hectic week with e few opportunities, with some leaving me more excited than others. All round a good week in my life-long attempt of reducing the amount of asshole in my character.

Liefde Wen (Jammer Madiba)

In this world, in this country, we find different kinds of people.
Some are fun and some are kind.
Some are sad and some are hurt.
Some are inspirational and some are courageous.

We should never allow sad individuals to hijack a conversation introduced by inspirational examples.
Septic hurt easily turns into resentful anger and cheap hatred.

Maar Liefde Wen.

Faced, face to face with a generous and kind person, someone with honest integrity, our stereotypes melt away and we recognise a shared humanity.

Madiba did not sell us out. He opened a door, he opened a door in the most beautiful way possible.
For 21 years (too)many refused to walk through into the invitation. Our selfishness stopped us from responding.
That was our mistake: we were cowards and uninspiring to the extent of killing his magic.

Let’s look in the mirror and search for courage and beauty, instead of vomiting disdain on the father of a nation. Hatred and resentment are sad expressions of cowardly frustration.

Maar Liefde Wen.

If we’re smart and brave enough.

The Colour of Money

The end of words – this can refer to the last words or the goal of words. For me the ending of words takes us into the meaning of the preceding words. In simple terms, talking is important only if there will be a time of non-talking. Dialogue as preface to action is a beautiful thing. Discussion can create or reduce distance. When my partner in love says: “liefie ons moet praat” I don’t get excited. The “ons moet praat” often opens up issues where I hurt her and my subsequent guilt makes me move away. Still, we have to talk. If its doing based talking.

I’ve been mostly silent on issues of race. Mostly because I doubt people’s sincerity. Politics, race and religion share the same temptation of intellectual masturbation and pseudo heroism. When I was young I spoke a lot. Often I spoke nonsense: a 17 year old Schalk would say: “apartheid was bad, but the developmental effect was good compared to the rest of Africa” or “God’s plans with Israel failed so plan B was Jesus and those who now reject Jesus will burn forever”. I was so smart back then, so smart and sure.

These days, I’m not so sure anymore and the things I’m surest about I don’t like speaking about. Most of my replies nowadays are tears or smiles, both of which can be filled with joy or sadness.

I have my own story. Smart people call a story a narrative, as they call talking dialogue. It’s actually funny, for the poor we speak of life-skills and the rich life-coaching. Resilience and co-creation replaced character and working together. Words are very naughty and tricky little things. We often mix words into sentences and sentences into constructs, without an appreciation and awareness where they come from. Yet every picture in our head comes with baggage. I mention this, because the topic of race comes with more baggage than a Sandton girl going camping. My story and my baggage results in my thoughts and opinions.

I wont try to represent or duplicate all the theory on race. On my journey I came across certain no-brainers though: Race is not just about colour, it has to do with power. Race is not just about the colour of skin but with the link between poverty and that skin colour, be it material or emotional poverty. Sometimes race is not about skin colour at all, but culture and ethnicity. In chats about race, we all have our ‘buttons’, those words or ideas that get’s us defensive and upset, those statements that stops our listening and activates our fighting mode. Emotional maturity and patient, respectful listening remains elusive, even amongst us so called adults. So bear with me and try to hear the whole story even if some sentences brings back unpleasant feelings.

I’m going to give a white example now, not because I equate white history with black history, but simply because I am a white Afrikaner, and I will always speak first and investigate my own history, issues and constructs. The lessons I learn or parallels drawn from that to the situation of others is something I consciously resist. Understanding my own people does however help me to open up my imagination and understanding of other people’s issues. White Afrikaners and English speakers in South Africa look the same, yet they are often very far apart. I’ll spare you stories of the Anglo-Boer war, concentration camps, derogatory action, etc. But I will tell you that my own father, a lovely and great man, learnt to speak perfect English and made a relative success of his life, but he is still insecure about white English South Africans. For my dad, at 70, the struggle continues, there is a ‘us’ and ‘them’ that will stay with him until he dies. It is 100 years after the war, the Afrikaners got out on top, took over the country, but the issues persisted. Some Afrikaners moved on and have no issues with amaBritish, others didn’t. I have a thousand times less issues that my father, but I still have issues. I love it when my black friends tell me: “I’d rather work with an Afrikaner than English, at least we know where we stand with you, you are more real than the fake snobbish English who smile in front and gossip behind our backs”. I resent white English South Africans and all whites in Europe who after years of building their empires on black slavery talk about Afrikaners and apartheid as something they had nothing to do with. When I’m honest with myself, I see my issues with whites that are not Afrikaners. The big issue is: if I meet an English person today, how do I look at him or her, what do I think and how do I act? It’s a journey.

Staying on the topic of white, I also have a relationship with my own tribe, the Afrikaners. To be honest, I’m very proud to be an Afrikaner. They way I was raised by the Afrikaner subculture I was exposed to makes me proud and I think there are many fantastic things about Afrikaners and Afrikaner culture. There are also many stupid things. I resent the Afrikaners before me for implementing apartheid, I’m proud that 68% of whites voted in the referendum to stop apartheid, I resent the millions who ignored or spat on Mandela’s gracious forgiveness, I’m embarrassed by poor Afrikaners dumb opinions and classless expressions of coolness. Today I view the majority of Afrikaners as selfish cowards who are too scared and narrow minded to go on the next Groot Trek, a Groot Trek into South Africa. Yet, when I meet an Afrikaner and instantly judge their class, intellect, style and character, I enter the same battle as when I stand before any other tribe. What is the story behind the story, why is this person like this, here, today? Will I give each new Afrikaner, not only a neutral chance, but a positive expectation in love and hope?

Sometimes I’m surprised by an English person, a Jew, an Australian or even an Afrikaner. Sometimes I’m disappointed by them. What is weird is that the good surprises I link to individual uniqueness and individual beauty. The bad experiences I bank in my racial or ethnic stereotype memory… I discover my racism when I catch myself thinking: “tipies” or “that’s not surprising” when someone does something stupid.

Considering the above, I’d have to be crazy to act as if I don’t have black racial issues and stereotypes. In fact, as I got closer to ‘black’ people I inherited further issues whereby I’m tempted to view certain tribes as arrogant, lying, stupid, violent, etc. As Afrikaner and white, I inherited much baggage about ‘black’ people. The issue is not how true these stereotypes are. Even if something might be true for 80% of a tribe of race, where does that leave you with the other 20%? Whites are trapped in a struggle where they genuinely believe their negative racist stereotypes are true. We think, yes, there are exceptions but most of them are like this and they will always stay like this. Again, what I learnt is that this estimation is a completely unhelpful and damaging exercise. Whether 20% or 80% of Afrikaners are racist, whether 10% or 90% of Zulu men beat their wives, whether 40% or 70% of Nigerians are involved in crime is not the issue, not smart questions to ask and it is a way of thinking that is fundamentally flawed. Yet we are trapped in stereotypical judgments and somehow call that realism; to what end?

I discovered that racism is most poisonous and paralyzing when discussed on broad terms, meta-narratives, bulk assumptions, abstractions and generalizations. These discussions seldom lead to life giving internal revolution and outward reconciliation. The antidote, for me is not so much in the content of the topic but the vehicle that houses the discussion or interaction. Generalizations easily paralizes and easily hurts. The antidote, is a movement to the individual, one on one level. This, let me immediately say, is not a compromise in denial of structural injustice or societal violence that needs to be addressed. No, instead of being a cop out it is the essential legitimizing act that gives credibility to the whole process. I cannot talk racial reconciliation or diversity if I don’t have my own story, my own friends and my own actions. My modelling of the end-dream is what validates all my words, all my appeals. My constant learning and changing is the engine that keeps the whole discussion real. The notion to start all racial reconciliation and integration at a one-on-one level is not an escape, it is an appropriate first step.

People throw around the word ‘restitution’ and say they won’t talk before restitution, before the average black man and white man has the same level of wealth, education and privilege. Is that a sentiment aimed at voicing frustration or a real proposal aimed at a real outcome? Restitution is not something white people need to fear. Nor is it something black people need to fear. Unless you are greedy governed by desire for power, money and increasing luxury. Poor whites, and there are many cannot make restitution in many ways, some of them don’t even have professional nor life-skills to share with others. Many whites don’t have much to share and due to their social circles, lack of education, lack of money, and self-destructive behavioral patterns, they do not even have access to ‘white privilege’. They become psychological victims of anglo supremacism, BEE punishment, renting wealthy members of their tribe, stuck in petty arguments and struggles with friends and family members and all sorts of mental traps they create for themselves, they have a victim mentality. Victims never see themselves as privileged and their lack of gratitude sucks the joy out of life. Whilst many of the challenges facing poor whites are real, like with all poverty, the add-ons, the self perpetuating destructive thought patterns and habits is what keeps them poor. I drink because I’m depressed about my poverty and the drinking escape keeps me poor… Poverty has no colour. Yet, some colours have been dealt bigger servings of poverty inducing circumstances. That is why I made a decision not to spend my money in South Africa on poor whites. That will infuriate many people, but each person must make his or her own decisions. And the first lesson of charity is that you can’t help everyone.

So, some whites will struggle with restitution due to their own material, psychological and intellectual poverty. The flip side of that coin are the millions of privileged blacks who are smart, educated and part of a middle class that could reach out and share in skills, connections, opportunities and dignity. What does the black South African with a degree, driving a Jaguar want from the white South African with grade 12 who drives an old Etios? An apology for apartheid? Friendship? Introduction into his/her circle of friends? Many white people call themselves middle class, but they are really rich. Compared to everyone. Many black people do not realize that the cash and toys they have today is way more than what the average white family had during apartheid. The “it’s our time now to eat” is one of the most distorted views and sentiments currently doing the rounds. If it is a competition between the super rich of then and the super rich of now competing to drink R600 bottles of whiskey, wear R3000 shoes, drive Ferrari’s then its fine, compete and waste your money on nonsense. 90% of whites never lived like that. We were one of the richer families in our town, yet we never bought a new car, never went on holiday and went to the restaurant twice a year. I compare that with what I see around me today in Joburg. Why do I make this point? To deny white privilege, to negate black struggle? Not at all, in fact the opposite. Back then and now if the rich, the privileged of whatever colour, spend their resources and luck on self gratification, the poor, the majority black poor, will never get their slice of the pie. Individuals need to look inside and decide what is right. If its cool to buy a Ferrari while your neighbor is hungry, then it will be cool for white and black. Entitlement is a disease that doesn’t discriminate between rich and poor, black or white. Nor is materialism and consumerism. What people often think is (and was) an issue of race or religion, was really issues of power and money, with race and religion as legitimizing excuses. If we deny this basic human tendency towards greed we will never crack the race issue. It pertains to macro-policies, structural adjustment, neoliberalism etc, but firstly it pertains to you and me, what happens in our hearts and in our wallets. Don’t run from that, white or black. Our planet either runs on morality, human right and ethics of communal care or it runs on survival of the fittest where the strongest survive. Whether Shaka chases another tribe due to greater strength, the British take control due to having guns or whether you buy a Aston Martin whilst paying someone else minimum wage; survival of the fittest and smartest will always stand in contrast with human dignity and compassion. Integrity: you cannot speak against apartheid on the basis of human dignity and then live a life based on ‘strongest and smartest will survive’. If you think people are entitled to take what they can, to make what they can without a shared responsibility, you behave the same way as a slave owner. If race is not about colour, but about power, we all have to look at what we do with our power and money. If we don’t do that the conversation, the dialogue will never have legitimacy and race discussions will always be hi-jacked by individuals with hidden agendas and selfish motives. Black or white, if you cant bring your wallet to race talks, you are playing games.

All poverty is not linked to race. In South Africa, black poverty is linked to race. The fact that millions of black people today are out of poverty and that a fifth of whites struggle with poverty is evidence that skin colour is not the only issue at play when it comes to poverty. Average white, average black stats can be a very unhelpful way of thinking. It is good to know as a starting point, but using such to stir the pot without pragmatic solutions and next steps perpetuates hatred and resentment. Sometimes we get excited with stats and new quotes. We share it with enthusiasm, but without a plan. I cannot deal with racism if I don’t gave a clear picture in my mind of what a good person looks like and what a good life looks like. Sometimes race becomes a tool to ensure we are the ones who end on top. The old masters make way for new masters and life for the poor remains the same. The poor in Africa will probably always be predominantly black, and so racial resentment is fueled and perpetuated. We fight when we don’t know how to build. And we don’t know how to build because we a) do not know what we want to build and b) are not willing to be affected personally by the new vision. Never underestimate personal comfort and self-interest.

Yet, even if we are all willing to share and contribute, there are still little foxes that can eat away at the integrity of the process. Helping in patronizing ways can be very harmful. Help in itself can perpetuate unequal power dynamics. Good intentions doesn’t guarantee the absence of wrong thinking. Yet, the learning has to come from the foundation of mutual trust and friendship. I discover wrong thinking about race, about black stereotypes every month and I will still discover many ways in which my thinking is immature and reactionary. But I can discover these insights within the context of loving friendships with real black people. These are not things to be argued about, thrown around. Humans have a great capacity for compassion and care, which leads to sincere connecting. The moment you sacrifice that in the name of resentment, being right or anger, you cut off your own leg. Which inevitably leads to more noise. If someone stands in front of me I should firstly see a human being. There are infinitely more that binds us, that we have in common than what divides us. Part of who stands before me is skin colour or gender. Skin colour, gender, sexual orientation, religion, income level and many other things will be part of my journey with this human being, but none of them can be the main thing. The thing walking through your door is neither a white nor a black. The thing has a name, the thing is a person with a personality. Missing that, will shackle you to the extent where every sentence aimed at freedom tightens the chains of distrust. Hardkoppigheid maak mens hardegat. Almal kan hardegat raak en daarom is dit belangrik om versigtig te wees met jou eie hardkoppigheid.

Most of the militant black pride, anti-white stuff I hear come from people who are not the poorest of the poor. They might say that that is precisely the point, the poor are too blind or stupid to speak up for themselves, so the wealthy blacks and wealthy white liberals generate a lot of noise around white privilege, racism, apartheid, colonialism, slavery, etc. You might think I exaggerate, but I often hear youths who actually complain about what the Romans did, slavery in the 1700’s and so forth. Clearly apartheid will be part of the national psyche for many years to come… We are 20 years beyond apartheid many whites want us to ‘move forward’… By moving forward, they mean of course, forget about it and leave me alone to make money and enjoy my life. It wont be left. But to what end? My family was in British concentration camps, how does that affect my relationship with English people today? Should it? It’s been hundred years. I think the answer to the question of “how many years” is simple: the years will be determined by when you feel equal to the previous oppressor. If after 3 years you feel free and equal, you can move on and look forward. Some will not feel and be equal for hundreds of years. World history has proven that. Inequality is not just a feeling however. There are vey real things that make people feel unequal: he racial mix of patrons and waiters in a restaurant, the colour of faces you see on TV, the ethnic profile of people in jail, who drives the truck and who sits on the back, and thousands of other small and not so small things. When to look forward? I personally think you can only look forward if you are willing to embrace and fix the past. Moving on, beyond apartheid or slavery, is only possible when both parties agreed the wrong and commit to walk forward in reconciliation and restitution. Fixing things is a journey and I think, a privilege. When this journey is demanded instead of invited, things gets tricky. That is why I continue to say that if you are very clear of your future picture, you will be able to choose a mature strategy that won’t become counter productive.

We all have many wrong perceptions about the other party. We can learn about that through cross-cultural friendship. Spreading the love. I wont jump for every person throwing around accusations of racism or calls for unity. For me to take another human serious, I want to see how they treat their ‘other’? How they treat their Muslim, Nigerian, Zimbabwean, Shangaan, gay or political opposition. That is how I discern and differentiate who wants to talk to me, learn with me and journey forward, and who are the ones who wants to make noise. There’s a fair share of ‘hardkoppigheid’ in me and I am no Jesus. Part of my Afrikaner heritage and war with British is a pride that won’t stand for unfair abuse. I can be soft, I can listen, I can say sorry, I can help, I can be vulnerable, but I can also say no.

Whites I speak to are also trapped in a fight. Instead of wanting to change they feel entitled to some form of fairness and justice. Here’s how they think: Blacks tell me to learn isiZulu. Yet amaZulu doesn’t want to learn English or Sotho? Some will say, teach your kids to love all people and not be racist, yet xenophobia is commonplace. They say share your money with the poor, don’t build high walls, yet the first thing a poor black man does when he buys a house is build a wall and everyone just looks after their own biological families. Sometimes I share these questions or frustrations. Yet, Goodness 101 teaches us that our decisions and morality must be intrinsic and not dependent on other people’s actions. We have to be the example ourselves. If you try and be the example and then still get accused of silly things, let that just roll of your back and don’t open your heart. That’s why we have to decide who we engage with, who we learn from, because there are many foolish people on both sides of all divides.

A confession: as I mentioned I am not perfect at all, my struggles are many and daily. Many things in my head are angry and reactionary. I want to give an example of the automatic ‘Afrikaner’ emotions and thoughts that sometimes tempt me: Here is where I get genuinely upset. No surprise, it pertains politicians and media: I don’t have a problem with the great majority of the country. But I do feel frustrated with politicians and those who echo their statements in the media. Some blacks, like the ones who wear t-shirts saying kill all whites, like to group all whites together and urinate on any attempt at growth or reconciliation. In my moments of weakness I want to ask them: ufunani? What do you want? Who wants what from whom? Who must pay and who will benefit? The land taken in Zimbabwe and bought in South Africa benefited elites, not the poor. I wish I could farm, but I know as a white man in Africa I cannot own land and a farm, some teenager will kill me and still think he has the moral high ground, that he did what was right, that the Boer got what he deserved. So, where I’m different is, I say, take all the land if that is what the majority of people want. If there is a drop in production and food needs to be imported, make higher tax and buy food from other countries. If you have political power you can do what you want. So no need for crying and fighting, vote for those that will give you what you want and take charge. Nationalise the mines, take the land, increase tax, make a white tax, double BBBEE implications or whatever. Do it. Take charge and live with the consequences. I don’t mind all of that, whatever system is in place many Afrikaners will dig in and make the best of that, we will comply and we will excel. Afrikaners are not good at being blamed. I share this paragraph to show that liberalism or conservatism are not clean cut constructs that drop into our heads from above. We, I, have to struggle with many competing thought patterns. That is okay, as long as I keep going on the journey.

In a way we are all racists. We can all discriminate based on ethnicity and we can all misuse power in selfish ways. How personal we make that recovery will set the tone for the bigger dialogue. Luckily, the power is still in our hands.

Love is not easier than-, but it is stronger than hatred.

What We Tell Ourselves

I think I can… I think I can… I think I can… the little steam train and many other stories illustrate how we ‘talk’ to ourselves. ‘Come on, you can do this’ or even ‘nou’t ek kak aangejaag’ are examples of how we attempt to order our lives by employing artificial objectivism as we assume the role of teacher for ourselves! A good motivational pep talk surely has it’s place as we encourage ourselves to run up a hill we really want to walk, a pre-rugby game ‘op-psyche’ to eliminate fear and transform our adrenalin into aggression, a ‘just stay calm’ in traffic or a ‘count to ten’ before I tell a colleague what I think of her. But the person speaking and the person listening is still the same person, and although our self-talk can assist in some ways and make a difference, the very fact that you have to say them proves that something in your heart or mind is not there, where you want to be. Speaking to ourselves can easily become repetitive, cheap and ineffective. We need to hear things on a deeper level if we want it to penetrate our patterns of thought and habit.

A better way we can consciously speak to ourselves is through deeds. I say conscious, because we are doing this automatically every single day, without realising it. Our actions and behaviour reinforces unexpressed thought patters as it solidifies in our character through deeds. Our actions first reflect our insides, but then our actions create our insides! We believe what we do. As simple as that. Surely there is a place for spiritual or inner transformation, changing from the ‘inside’ out. I’m all into and for that. The best way to live is through a natural overflow of the soul. The problem is if we find our insides to be broken or weak. One could argue that this needs fixing not by trying harder or being legalistic, yet prayer or meditation like silence, journaling and reflection are still all efforts and deeds! The end-goal should not be mechanistic obedience or artificial compliance, the end goal is indeed a heart transformed. The question is: how to transform our inner beings?

My suggestion here, no, my realisation in my own life, is that I have to tell myself what the good life is by doing it. Planned practice and discipline are the keys to unlocking doors of greater maturity and depth. That is not a new thought. We are not the first humans to be faced with this reality and choice. Yet, in todays world, in todays churches and todays seminars we prefer language and knowledge over discipline and instruction.

I know that in my life I reinforce my beliefs and values every day. They run on momentum, so when I start to lose it, I can get more and more lost. When I make a brave decision it seems to introduce further smart choices. In this way, how early I get up on a Sunday morning and how I reflect, says something about my desire to be ‘grounded, growing, good’; and then when I had to buy a car I was aware of my temptations and desires. I could choose to act out my beliefs and not to embrace temptations through rationalisations. Having a ‘different’ friend over for dinner, knowing they can’t return the favour, might not feel rewarding in the present, but you announce to yourself what kind of a person you want to be.

The things we tell ourselves will bear fruit, they will germinate and manifest in other, unexpected areas of our lives. It’s a game of momentum and whether you play it subconsciously or consciously does not influence the fact that the game is being played; always. As in most games it helps to know the rules, have a strategy, learn the skill and execute the play.

Every deed affirms and engrains an underlying belief. So we literally choose what we believe, through speech and deeds.

What is important to me? What is my definition of the good life is? What am I committed to?
Comfort or Growth?

I make my own compass, daily, through my deeds.
We are all craftsmen.
If I make selfish or short-sighted decisions, I am making a compass that can only take me in a few directions. I am limiting my own life.

Much grace is needed.
When much grace is given,
much action is required.

Let us not kid ourselves.

It’s actually simple
and plain
for anyone to see.

Catch Me if You Can – a Writing for Whites Only

The same thing will mean different things to different people. The same sentence will evoke different memories, emotions and constructs depending on who reads it. For this reason, it is very difficult to write about race, religion or politics. My view is unique, because I had a unique life. What I can state boldly can not be understood by some and should not be repeated by others. I wonder if there could ever be a concise way to communicate the heart of my thoughts? The next few paragraphs might reveal that.

I understand Biko in a certain way. I believe his radicalism and separateness was needed under a regime where whites had all the power. I guess, the thing Biko fought for, one man one vote and all that that would entail, changes the rules of how he should be read. He spoke of sitting down at an African table. When? When Apartheid ended and we have black people running their own country, or when all blacks are richer than all whites?

Here is a question I doubt many radicals like to answer: When should we sit around the table and be brothers and sisters? I see a lot of struggling around me these days, some of it blatant, most of it hidden. When you want to struggle, it means that you normally feel ‘under’ the one you are struggling against. So for some, apartheid will never be over. For those, Biko will always be a call to fighting. As for me, I am done fighting and struggling. Nevertheless, in respect of those bearing anger and hurt, I will employ Biko in a literal sense, without considering context, and I will turn to my own people, I will write this piece for whites only. I write to whites only, because a white man dares not have anything to say to a black man… I say that with a sad smile of irony, not because I think it should be so, but because it is what I hear and read every day. So, this is for whites only, I am allowed to talk to whites, as an Afrikaner.

I have a few normative and moderate assumptions and I have a few radical assumptions. These basic beliefs I hold isolates and estranges almost every single person I come across. Let me drop the bombs and if you are still around after that we can deconstruct and reconstruct in order to find an appropriate current stance: First, although I am not a fan of historical ’Christianity’ or mainstream churches, I am a fanatical believer in what the historical figure of Jesus taught. I sum that up with don’t be selfish, live for others: to reach love, start with respect. Nothing more and nothing less. Screw the little rules and regulations. Get the big idea right. This should impact all areas of our lives, especially our work, money, families and social activities. If you are not serious about this basic move towards others, you can never understand my position. You cannot understand my politics if you don’t understand my religion, because the two are not separate and the latter trumps the former every day, every time.

Let’s plunge right into our continent and it’s realities: I can love Africa and it’s people, I can live here, my family can be rooted here for 300 years and call it home. I can say all humans descend from Africa, so my ancestors are from Africa, went to Europe and came back. I can do and choose and associate all I want, but, the reality is: as a white man in Africa I will never be at home. Not because it should be so or I want it to be so (it is obviously the only home I know), but because of hundreds of years of evil and uncivility, the chance of me being at home in Africa will not happen in the next 600 years. The price white people have to pay for their cleverness, dominance and incivility is to forfeit ever being ‘at home’. Our punishment is not BBBEE, our ultimate punishment is to never be able to be at home.

Never mind the story of the Bushman kicked out by migrants from central or northern Africa, that is not a story for us… the comparison of movement and dominance and disrespect for ‘weaker’ indigenous people will help you nothing, forget about it, it is a dead-end, simply because you are the one thinking about it. Your story, the one you can not escape, is the story of Europeans (read white) coming to Africa (read black). 300 years of colonialism will require 600 years of non-colonialism to even out. Just as 80 years of apartheid will require at least 160 years of non-apartheid to even out. I am using general figures and large statements here, not to make a specific prediction, but as metaphorical constructs to illustrate a principle. If you bully me for 10 years, then I grow up and become bigger than you, I will also bully you for ten years, but probably more, because you scarred me. If I get given a stick, but I never really grew stronger than you, I might try to beat you up for much more than ten years, because I still do not feel stronger.

Africa will perpetuate distrust and resentment indefinitely. It is just too easy for radicals to point to colour and spread hatred, fear, distrust and resentment. You have to expect that and deal with that, or leave. The fact that we can leave already infuriate others and should tell us something about privilege. Opposed to easy hatred and distrust stands love. I say love, not ubuntu, since I have heard many times that ubuntu is a construct f how black people lived together; xenophobia amongst black Africans revealed the death of ubuntu in practice. 60% of South African declared that they wil never house a refugee of war. Ubuntu, like Robert Gabriel had a great start, but is currently in danger of dying. So I stick to love, not ubuntu. Love is so much more illusive and harder to feel and live than hatred. Forgiveness is so much more elusive than hunger for mob justice. A Tutu will never win a black crowd when confronted with a Malema, no matter the merits of their intellect or lives. Until the average African is richer, better educated, stronger, smarter and more disciplined than the average white person, the ghosts of the past will not disappear. How long will that take? How long that will take depends on two things: how much whites want to protect and how much blacks want to compete. Note, I say compete- not blame or demand.

I comment here on black sentiments I see and hear, not to teach or advise any black man, but to illuminate the reality for my fellow Afrikaner. As long as black Africans feel angry and resentful, the white man will not be welcome, the white man will not be welcomed. If you are suborn, like most of us Afrikaners are, you will say I don’t need their welcome. It’s my country too, I have a right. Once you catch yourself saying that, know that you are the cause of the problem and you are the one giving fuel to black radicals (read red barrette). History does not afford the white man strength. Black people, despite 20 years of voting the ANC into Power and occupying all branches of government, do not feel free, because whites still have the money. (read economic freedom). Do’t be silly and think of poor whites in squatter camps or Patrice or Cyril. The average black is way poorer and less educated than the average white. That makes many people angry. And even if you think that anger should in part be self-directed or at their own leaders, the easy and constant target of that anger will be the whites. Most whites, by their actions and words perpetuates and gives legitimacy to the anti-white sentiment.

Blacks will remain distrustful and hateful at large. Unless miracles happen. Mandela was maybe one tenth of a miracle, but because there was no white Mandela that could lead white South Africans to a grateful response to kindness and mercy, the next black leaders were naturally less miraculous. White people found in Mandela, relief. We never had the consciousness and intelligence to publicly express our gratitude in words and in actions. We took grace for granted. Perhaps due to stupid right wingers who said this was our country which we built. Reality check for whites: we didn’t give anything up in 1994. We should have. Not being pro-active and voluntary, is now coming back to bite us. Roelf and FW stopped the madness, that was their job. There was no-one to grab the white imagination and lead us into true integration, sharing and reconstruction. Mandela came forward, people applauded, but no one joined him. Where was the white leader to match Madiba in brave moral leadership? In a microcosm this still happens every day in South Africa. Individuals grow and become enlightened, they make the Madiba move, they reach out. But being new at it, the lack of reciprocity, the persistence of blame and spreading of hate, soon makes the young human rediscover their white or blackness. Again, trapped in colour. Humanity lost. How many good people don’t give up? Besides being victims and prisoners to crime, we are all in prisons created by our skins.

These paragraphs created context for and eluded to my next big belief: as a white person, you don’t deserve anything. The saying ‘the world doesn’t owe you anything’ is particularly relevant for whites in Africa: This country does not owe you anything. Your tax money is not there to build you roads, it is there to fix the mess of apartheid. Whether JZ builds Nkandla or schools, does not change that. If blacks want to take Potch university or Stellenbosh, give it to them, make it English. That already happened to the RAU where I studies, that is now the infamous UJ. If you want an Afrikaans university, build it yourself, without state subsidies. Let is go… We are in a time, and era where many crazy and silly things will happen. A mix of protest and Chivas, shacks and Maseratis will characterize a phase of mixed excitement, confusion, party and funerals… until the drunken honeymoon is over and things become normal and pragmatic. That time of rational rebuilding is not here yet. And don’t expect it to arrive soon. People are still angry and hurt, they feel they ‘deserve’ some relief after years of torture. Give them a break.

The big question the state of affairs leads us to ask is: where does this leave me as white person in South Africa? Let’s get the easy answer out of the way: if it is all too much for you, leave: go to Australia, England, USA or wherever you feel you will be happy. If you stay because you think SA is still the place on earth you think you can have the highest quality life for the least effort, then stay but shut the fuck up about black people. If you stay because you feel called to do so, either by birth loyalty or religious beliefs, then there are some avenues to explore that can help you on your journey. I find myself here, in this paradoxical place where I can hear myself say: ‘I belong here’, although I also hear a voice in my head reflecting hidden sentiments of Mzansi saying : ‘you do not belong here’. This tension of being home, but not at home has more of a nagging and niggling effect than we realize. One can quickly feel sorry for yourself, but smart people know that the easiest way to look stupid is for a privilege white to feel sorry for themselves amongst a word of suffering black Africans. So swallow or hide the self-pity, quickly, before you look stupid. Feeling sorry is one of the things we lost in the repayment of our past sins.

It is my opinion that, as a white person, you can only make sense of staying in South Africa, if you believe in a bigger, better picture and if you are willing, no, dedicated to making that work. The trick is, that this better bigger picture is a mental construct, a picture in our heads. That is what you stick to, believe in, fight for. The white man’s struggle is to keep the dream alive that one day, we will be able to sit as brothers, equal around an African table. Perhaps envisioning a Mendela-esque figure serving us communion of bread or pap, with wine or black label as we share our humanity. To keep the dream alive, we need to be prepared: the reality that you face around you every day will shit on the dream. Criminals raping and stealing, taxis driving like selfish bastards, poor people too poor to know they are littering, corrupt tenders buying Ferrari’s, loud mouths and empty heads with red barrettes, marching and dancing masses, corrupt politicians, disregard for courts and law, denial of media freedom and balance, extreme poverty of millions, unemployment, bad roads, failing electricity, scarce water, mall robberies, HIV-Aids, drunken denialism, football games starting late because fans can’t show up on time, hilarious accents on TV reading elementary speeches so slow you can’t keep up or quotas in sports teams… these are all things white people will see, or think they see, and if any of these affect your belief in the dream of The Rainbow Nation, then realize this: you are not believing in the dream, you are still trapped in expecting a reality in the material word around you, that suits you.

If you get upset by things around you that the majority of black people are not getting upset about, you should realize that instead of believing in a beautiful dream for ‘one-day’ you are in fact projecting your immediate desires onto a situation that can not satisfy your demand. And projecting unrealistic expectations too quickly onto a situation or a person is a sure way to make things worse. As a white, you need to learn to take a punch, without retaliation, getting angry or feeling despair. That is how you keep the dream alive- by giving it up. For now. Please don’t think I’m a schizophrenic person devoid of feeling. This giving up on the dream is terribly sad and painful and the extent of sadness depends on the extent to which you have and are willing to fight for this dream. It’s bloody sad, that’s why it’s so easy to get angry and depressed. Still, we can not remain children who throw our toys when we don’t get our way. We have to grow up and be smart. The first step in this smartness is to make changes in our expectations and time-lines.

If being smart was easy, everyone would have been smart. So here is the tricky part. Not expecting the dream today does not mean not expecting the dream. I said it’s tricky. Knowing and being prepared today to face tough and silly things does not mean we do not look out for beautiful and good things every hour of every day. Not expecting gratitude and kindness does not mean we do not look for every opportunity to be kind and grateful. And here the tricky context of white survival intersects with an old truth: the darker the surrounding the greater the light from a flame. The very thing that wants to make you give up becomes the thing that draws you to the dream. The very thing that wants to make you feel abandoned, scared and hopeless- becomes the thing that activates hope, courage and dedication. These things can not be sustainably faked. You need a very deep commitment and resilience born from gratitude and self-knowledge, or the winds of change will upset you as it’s discomfort trumps its potential. In a way, Mzansi only has space for radicals, radical believers of good and beauty. If you believe in beauty and goodness with 70%, our country will defecate on that you think you hold dear. If you believe in beauty and goodness 100%, nothing can affect your love and humanity, because you believe more in the ideal than in your expectation of an immediately happy life.

We cannot change the big picture. We don’t have to change the big picture because the pig picture will always reflect the sum of all the little pictures. One of the first bridges one has to cross on the road of making a difference is to realize how very small our influence is and how little we can achieve. In a sense you have to give up, before you can start. Don’t read that to fast, it is excruciating to give up on your desire to make good. Once we have left the childish desire to change the world behind, we can engage our immediate reality with more clarity. As a whitey, you will meet different kinds of black people, there are not just blacks and clearly realizing different types and groupings will help you survive and thrive. There are different groups of whites and blacks in response to and depending a myriad of situations. The one I want to elaborate on now deals with the legacy of colonialism and apartheid. Most people will agree that white privilege exist. History left white people in a position of power and advantage. Despite a black government and BEE, what is between our ears, leaves whites privileged and to use a more blatant word: lucky. We are privileged, not because we are inherently stronger or smarter, that is just the way history played out, that one racial group devised structures that benefited them in the long run. That structuring was not morally justifiable and today we face the predicament where our strength is our problem. Blacks are happy to talk about privilege, but none wants to call it what it is: strength. Strength is the manifestation of power- whites and blacks could do well to be real and blatant about the problem, if they wish to move on with authenticity. To this problem, of white power, black people will react in different ways:

1.) Some will deny it, the very idea of admitting whites are privileged, connected, educated, strong or smart bothers them and they will say ‘all is equal’ let’s play. 2.) Some blacks will admit the privilege and differences and blame whites for it while refusing help or collaboration. They say whites caused the problems, so only blacks can fix it. Whites should not try to help. 3.) Some blacks will affirm white privilege and ask whites to assist them reach an equal level. 4.) Some blacks are too poor and destroyed to articulate any opinion on the matter, they just try and survive without engaging all these constructs.

There are two groups therefore that wants you to do nothing when it comes to rebuilding. They might want to ignore you, they might want to punish you or they might want to take your things. They are tricky groups to deal with, because although it is easy to say ‘ok, I won’t help you or mix with you, good luck’, others will be more aggressive and you will have to decide when to flee, when to protect and when to hand over whatever they want. I think, at times we have to do all of the above. Yes, you can take my university, yes, you can take my farm, no, you cannot take my house or car, no you cannot have my wife, I won’t talk to you about my feelings on this matter, no, I can’t become stupid or unread on your behalf, no you can’t hit me, yes you can strike, but I can avoid that, etc. Many tricky responses and decisions needed in reply to the black people that think you are not good and who will not ask you for collaboration. The biggest danger is to respond to this group with equal animosity or aggression. Don’t get angry. Take the metaphorical punch. We will need to sacrifice many things. And we need to know exactly what we are not willing to give up. For me, getting a job from government is not a human right, sometimes you must even except a hijacking or housebreak for pragmatic and survival reasons. But as a white person you are still a human being and although there are many more areas to pay back, there are also areas where we can say no. Sometimes I will listen to generalized accusations and insults, because it helps to bring about healing. Sometimes, I will walk away from hatred, because it is not good for anyone. These two groups that wants nothing from whites, do not really want nothing from whites. They want a lot, they just don’t want to give the whites the satisfaction of giving it, not to mention the satisfaction of being asked. I have sympathy for that, because I am a stubborn individual and my natural inclination is also towards this type of proud hardkoppigheid.

Although I should be able to give a warm, sympathetic and sincere smile to the above group and wish them well in their homogenous struggle, I should never allow their sentiments to affect the way I behave to the other two groups. Just as no arrogant white person can speak on behalf of all other whites, so no clever black person can speak on behalf of all other blacks. It’s funny that those who criticize the most (on either side) normally does and sacrifice the least. In fact, before I listen to people, I want to see how they organize their lives and how much they sacrifice for who. Of the two groups that do not prohibit whites from helping, the easy group is the third, the one that point blank says: I want to learn from you and connect to you until I catch up or overtake. This group can be engaged and helped easily. When it comes to them the burden is on us, to strive towards equality and not perpetuating power and patronizing paternalism. When we help we fight for our own freedom and we have to be humble helpers learning as much as we teach. How to help without harm is a long topic by itself, but at least there are two sides that wish to collaborate.

The last group, that of poor and uneducated blacks that say nothing as they try to survive requires lots of wisdom, discernment or plain guesswork! Some, although they don’t know how to say it or are too scared to ask, needs your help as fellow human being and you should help. I will give three examples: an injured person hit by a car lies next to the road bleeding- you help, even without being asked. A disabled or desperately defeated person requires food, clothes or shelter for survival, you have abundance- so you help. A person who has been brainwashed all whites are bad and who fears white people might need a sign of humble compassion so you reach out, pay school fees, make an anonymous donation or react in a way you feel shows reasonable human response, you make the first move across historical and racial divides. Then there are others who might be trapped in poverty, but they need to find ways to lift themselves up by themselves or that needs to be lifted by other black people, so they can become free from feelings of racial inferiority. Sometimes we have to do nothing indeed.

Here lies the secret: do not allow one group to influence your reaction and response to another group. If you feed a sick homeless person, don’t assume a young black academic needs anything from you. If a black diamond tells you whites should leave blacks alone, don’t let that stop you from making friends or giving money away. Treat every single person, every single face in front of you on their own terms. Respect the individual in front of you and respond appropriately to his or her opinions, needs or desires. “Take it or leave it”: can you say that without resentment? Can you be praised or insulted wearing the same smile of compassion and love on your face? As members of the white tribe of Africa, we have many issues and shadows to deal with. Extraordinary braveness is required to conserve our own humanity, not to mention the humanity of those around us. Anger and frustration, fear and despair speak of weakness- we need to grow up and be so strong that we can be weak.

So, to the angry and confused whites, let us learn to lay down our lives. Most of us claim to follow Jesus. We need to decide if Jesus is fake or if He is everything. Our country takes away the middle ground, you and I will be crazy Jesus freaks or practical atheists. I don’t always know which one I am, or even which one I want to be. But I know what I don’t want to be: I do not want to be a practical atheist living for myself and my small group of biological or linguistic clan members. I want to follow the Famous one who modelled love for the Other- Who died for others. Ironically, as an Afrikaner (not being a Jew) I am the Other He died for.

Can we proclaim to be Christians and not follow Him? In South Africa, we need to decide if we will be seduced by rhetoric of rights and demands or if we want to follow Jesus and live for others, picking up our cross every day? There is no better place to live as a true Christian. It is all or nothing. You are either self focused and live to preserve your own little group, or you are inspired by Jesus who reaches out and beyond- sacrificing everything. Jesus is calling you: ‘catch me if you can’. He won’t stop loving and reaching out, no matter how you cry or complain. Get with the (His) programme or stay behind. Walala wasala, if you sleep you stay behind. We do not have great white leaders today. Each of us have to take up the responsibility of stepping out: in response to Jesus’ love and Mandela’s grace- as a white Christian South African, you have to lay down many natural inclinations and start the hidden journey to love. We have to take our old ideas of Afrikaner culture and language to the cross and discover new ways of being, just like our forefathers did when they got on a boat, from Europe to the Cape, we need to prepare ourselves for a journey into a new world. The door to the new world is respect. If you respect yourself, learn to respect others. Don’t be naïve, don’t be hard.

I will try to run this race. Saying this is a commitment, a scary declaration that I will try. To my white Christian counterparts: I won’t beg you, nor will I wait for you. Catch me if you can. Walala wasala.

To any black brother or sister that were insane enough to read through these ramblings of a lost Umlungu, my overall sentiment to black people is the following: catch us if you can, and for those who want help, I will try to give my best for you to overtake me. For those who do not want my help or friendship, see you on the other side.

 

The Division of the Pursuit of Happiness

Division of Labour is in a way natural and no one can argue the efficiency.  We produce more and the average person has access to more for cheaper.
I’m typing on this laptop which thousands of individuals made, each doing his own part.
I’m sitting in my flat, which hundreds of specialised people built. Using electricity, generated and distributed by thousands more.
My house was financed through a bank, with even more individual cogs in a big wheel.
The clothes I’m wearing is also a result of the division of labour.
All the above occurred, not because I wanted it, but because others derived a plan as to make a profit. That is, they orchestrated production of goods in excess to enable bartering and stock up on currency.
I can never escape this preoccupation. First, the economic goal was meeting needs, but the process, once it got going did not only meet needs, it created needs.
At what price? Obviously the market puts a monetary price on every singe item that is excess to the producer. The buyer (the wanter) sells some of his own exxcess (time and skill) in order to purchase the excess of the seller.
At what human price?
An ever increasing division of labour turns individuals more and more into machines. It is inescapable and I won’t argue with the relevance and force of the market.
I will however, argue and resist the dehumanising affects the system has on me.
As a spiritual person it is good, in some ways to travel light and not be too anchored, too rooted.
Yet, as a human it is also important to be rooted, to connect. With people and process. That is why even the wealthiest of individuals still have hobbies. The immitation of being involved in a complete process nurtures a hidden part of our humanity. Growing your own vegetables or gardening is perhaps the best example.
Here in my flat, suspended in the sky I make a some symbolic attempts at resistence:
I planted and nurture a few plants. At present I can see new fruits forming on the trees. It is a cyclical process of life and death. The plants and their fruits grow so slowly, but it is beautiful and miraculous in nature.
This morning I baked bread again. Sure, I did not grow the wheat or sugar cane. I did not produce the yeast or salt. But every step closer to the process serves its purpose of grounding my soul. The sight of the dough expanding, the smell of the bread baking and the satisfaction of cutting a freshly baked bread does something for the human inside of me.
All of us cannot be subsistence farmers. Well, we can, but it won’t happen. So I’m not advocating an Amish extremity. I’m advocating a balance. A rhythm that merge a bit of slow into a fast paced division and bartering of labour.
When I was young I told my dad I don’t want to learn how to wire an electric plug. I told him I will make enough money as lawyer to pay someone to do it. It was such a seminal conversation. My dad had the patience and grace to allow me to discover these things by myself. I didn’t get a speech. Only during my first year in Mozambique, at 19, did I start to experience the pleasure of doing things with my own hands. Today when I see Builders Warehouse buzzing with clueless yet excited individuals on a Saturday morning, I know that I am not alone.
Unfortunately Facebook, video games and the television is cheap numbing device that keeps humans from realising all of this. Ironically, TV, Facebook, playstation, magazines, clothing, beer and restaurants exist due to individuals devising excess production to eat our money! They don’t care about us wasting hours and keeping our minds numb. They care that someone pays for the TV, the decoder, the movie, the shoes, the bling, the music, the beer. They produce in excess through the division of labour so that others will spend their own excess (in the form of currency) on these products. Some products are obviously better or less harmful than others. Hats off to the bastards that get you to buy cigarettes and shooters. The price we pay for consuming useless things is a bombardment of advertising that floods and pollutes our minds to the extent of us not realising it.
We need to learn to say no to some things before we are allowed to say yes to others. What do you say no to? What do I say no to?
As I get older, I want to move away from the spectacular, the comfortable and the quick.
I want to discover rhythms of slower and deeper moments.
Shaving with my old fashioned cut-throat razor is one of these things, like bread baking or gardening that slows me down. By activating my hands and seeing a tangible complete outcome or result of a particular labour I am connecting myself with a way that I think is healthier and more human, more humane.
We are all in pursuit of happiness. So this is not a point of morality or spirituality; although it might affect both.
For some the pursuit of happiness entails new shoes, music videos, beer, smart cars, fashion, gossip, fast foods, walking in the mall or watching TV shows.
For some it entails creation, reading, growing, traveling, writing or cooking meat on a fire you made yourself.
Mostly it entails a weird mix of all of the above.
I won’t say one is right and one is wrong. If putting mags on your car and smoking cigarettes makes you genuinely happy; go for it.
My point is that I think the system sells happiness as a shallow by product of entrepreneurial profit drive. Our happiness are automatic assumptions derived from the market that creates, advertise and sell products that are easy to like… The super rich rely on our uselessness and ingeniousness to consume what they create for us.
My way to escape some of that is to do very basic things that are holistic rather than dissected.
My pursuit of happiness hopes to do basic things well and to derive satisfaction from integrated processes. Why? It makes me feel grounded and in touch. And being grounded in my body and outside, grounds my heart and mind, which in turn allows me to think more clearly.
And being smart and wise (one day) is a non negotiable in my pursuit of happiness.

The Bearable Shortness of Being

There is only one thing each person has to discover. There is only one thing that each of us should comprehend deeply, that we should ‘get’ or ‘catch’. The one thing that will change everything else is if you understand how short life is. Grasping how short my time on earth is will change everything.

Our concept and expectation of time is instinctively on auto-pilot, but seldom articulated. We adapt our behaviour automatically based on our expectation of time. If you go to an exotic island on a luxury boat and you know you have two days to spend on the island, you will behave in a completely different way than you would have if you shipwrecked on the island and expected to be stuck there for 30 years. We behave differently when we know our ride is waiting. And despite our contradictory expectation of indefiniteness – our ride is in fact waiting.

Once we realise how quickly we grow up, how soon we leave behind the cuteness of being a toddler, how quickly the uncertainty and arrogance of a teenager passes by, how fleeting those students years are, how fast the next generation grows up and how quickly our bodies remind us that we are set on a very particular path of outward decay; then we realise that our journey on this planet is shorter than we thought. Years fly by. We realise all of this when we look back and realise that time is running out and we never realised the crazy ambitions and dreams of our youth.

Every day is followed by night and each sign of life is mysteriously intertwined with pending death. This can be depressing, ugly and sad, or it can just be what it is. Once we know how short our time in these bodies are, we can let go of some of our vanity. Once we realise how short our stay on this planet is we realise that we can own nothing and that everything is gifts. A gift not given, but loaned. Once you get to borrow something for a short time, you learn to hold it in the correct way, to look at it in the right way. People, experiences, nature, places, art, music, achievements, or whatever- these are all temporal gifts that will come and go.

It seems our ‘natural’, perhaps animal instinct is to act as if time is endless. We gather and build and hold onto things as if we will live for 2000 years. We hold onto people as if they will live forever. We cling to ideas as if the changing of minds and truths threaten our very being. We are mostly in denial of how fast life is flying by. Why? Maybe because if we realise the loss of what has gone, if we articulate the failures of wasted years it will place us in front of such a clear mirror that we would be forced to re-evaluate our ideas, our world views, our patterns our behaviour and our choices. We subconsciously think that if we sneak along in mediocrity nobody will notice- not even ourselves.

But we know.

We get glimpses.

We need brave and courageous friends to help us fight for the rays of life that we are so so accustomed to avoid.

Time is ticking… We are getting old. Each day a hundred ungrasped opportunities pass away.

Let us not get trapped in cycles of desperate pettiness. Let us not get addicted to pathetic patterns of  perverted self-love.

Life is short.

We get one chance and we’ve lost half of that already…

 

 

 

 

 

I have an urgent obligation to search out and appreciate every drop of beauty, to juxtapose evil and sadness with beauty and goodness so the latter can be illuminated even in the presence of the former.

Love Bribes

Africa, and in particular my years in Mozambique taught me this: that bribery and self-interest makes the world go round. Have patience and I will explain.

In a time when it was very difficult to transport goods from Zimbabwe to Mozambique a smart guy called Florencio was selling Zim cement in Mozambique. One day I asked him: ” Florencio, you must have very good friends at the border?”, to which he replied: “No friends, only colleagues”. In Moz they say “gabrito comer onde esta amarado”, meaning the goat has to eat where it is tied up. Another saying is that a river can not flow somewhere without leaving the soil moist. It would have been funny is it weren’t so tragic. Or should I say, it would have been tragic if it weren’t so funny.

A bribe is an illegal or unacceptable form of payment in exchange for a favour. Bribes are normally paid to people in power, at least having power in that moment. The classic bribe is paid to a traffic cop to avoid a ticket or a border official to let something or someone pass through illegally. Often bribes are just paid to save time, since the officials make the legal route so tedious that the normal person prefers the ‘speed up stipend’. I will use the word bribe in my renumeration analogy, because it is a unspoken payment, something done, but not announced or written down.

We all bribe. Always. The distinction between classic or typical bribes on the one hand and ‘smart-bribes’ on the other, lies in the levels of subtlety and guile that builds in reciprocity whilst hiding direct benefits. A bribe (or payment) is socially acceptable when it is hidden. It involves the classic game where one solicits a ‘bribe’ or ‘counter-investment’ by acting blaze or as if you don’t care. There is however a need, we do care, there always is an expectation even if it is unexpressed and even if it is unexpressed to ourselves! For this need not to be a burden we have to hide and disguise it, mostly through a variety of counter offers that appear independent and benign, while in fact they are payments and exchanges. The classic example is the difference between a one night stand and paying a prostitute. The difference lies in the complexity and indirectness of what gets exchange. Cash for sex is too honest and crude to be socially acceptable. The one night stand is also an exchange, but it is a much more complex exchange that could involve some or all of the following: buying flowers, buying food, buying alcohol, needing touch, needing relief from loneliness, needing an ego boost, relieving sexual tension, showing off, proving something to yourself, satisfying curiosity, experiencing grandeur. The transaction becomes complex and in the veil of confusion it becomes acceptable.

The required subtlety in relational bribes includes a creative stretching of time-lines as to seem unrelated. It also requires a variety of exchanges and a play with proportional values as to make everything seem fun, informal and sincere. I will provide an easy and simplistic example. My friend Shaun bought me a Puma golf glove and gave it to me. There were no special occasion, it was just a random gift. And at face value it was sincere, mostly because of its randomness and unconditional giving. At lunch however I offered to pay for Shaun’s meal, and even announced that I will pay to say thank you for the glove. I unwittingly, in my desire to be fair, turned his gift into an exchange or payment. It was probably stupid of me. But again, adding complexity to these payments make them more sincere and fun. I should have waited a week or so and then paid for something or also gave a gift. We are inclined to these counter offers to make sure we don’t look like sponges or burdens, we want to maintain the balance where everyone in a friendship gets a win-win. I think its natural and not even bad. Again, the complexity turns bribes into gifts. A bribe is conditional and causal. By introducing trust and faith, an element of complexity is introduced and ‘investments’ become gifts. It’s actually so obvious that people call bribes gifts. But a gift is not supposed to have strings attached.

Can we take a wider and even more trusting and complex view? One where the causality is so light that what we receive in one relationship, we give in another? Can we be primarily material givers in some relationships and primarily receivers in other relationships? I don’t want to bee pretentiously abstract: Stefan gives me more gifts I can ever give him materially, but the reverse is true in my friendship with Doc. And for each of them, I assume they have reverse dynamics in other relationships. So if we are all smart and sincere, the exchange network becomes larger and more fun, the investments start to look more like gifts than bribes. Gifts are too often conditional and I know this because I often see what happens to gifts if they are not relatively directly reciprocated. I won’t get started on families and rich people exchanging gifts at Christmas time (Im tempted though). I need to point out the obvious that the desired complexity works well when apples are not exchanged for apples. A good example is a congregation member who gives financial gifts to the church and the pastor who (unrelated of course) donates his time and wisdom to the person who made the financial gift. At times intelligence would be welcome, but I must say the absence of intelligence and insight is perhaps the foundation for good humour.

I appreciate honesty when it comes to bribery, just say what you’re doing if you want an immediate return. Despite this pragmatic appreciation for transactional transparency, I really do like people who are willing to play the more complex and trusting game where causality and reciprocity are assumed but seldom spotted.

Other Side of the World – Same Story

I flew via Dubai to Kuala Lumpur for a ‘Sport for Good’ summit. I wont get into the merits of non-profits flying across the globe to inspire and share, but rather reflect on what I saw in Malaysia, how blatant it was and how similar it was. The inequality in Malaysia can easily be blamed on British colonialism. But reality shows that cash is king and the rich don’t give a shit about the poor. In Malaysia…

As an Afrikaner I do not live a week where I am not confronted with stories about the evil of apartheid and how bad our selfishness was and how it lacked moral integrity. I agree fully with those remarks of course and I am dedicated to play my small part in ‘paying back’. But whilst I am 100% anti-apartheid and 100% pro-equality I always have a funny feeling when people talk about such things. Being far from home in Malaysia, I realised and managed to articulate what I have seen and felt in South Africa. Sweeping statements and generalisations make us stupid and shallow. There are always a narrative and a counter narrative. When my white friends say blacks will always be stupid, I try to provide a counter narrative with stories to illuminate. When my black friends say all whites are fake and no white can be trusted, I try to provide a counter narrative.

My father was a white farmer, born during apartheid and farmed during apartheid. Yes his workers were black, yes they were extremely poor compared to my dad, yes they could not vote. All of that is bad and unfortunate. I want to reflect, however on my dad’s journey. Despite his ‘white privilege’ he had a journey and a battle, like the ‘a luta continua’ of liberation struggles. My grandfather was one on nine kids growing up in a mud house without electricity and they washed their clothes in the river; like a seen from rural Africa – which it was. Knowing where you are is the start of changing things. My family, 80 years back had nothing. My grand dad was a bar man without education. Growing up, my father had meat to eat once a week. They lived a humble lifestyle.

Even as he farmed and became wealthier, he was never ever flashy. My dad never went overseas. He bought his farm on a bank loan, his profits from farming just paid the interest on the loan. As a child we never went on holidays and never stayed in hotels. My dad drove a Nissan 1400 bakkie. Second hand. All our cars were cheap second hand cars. We never owned a new or fancy car like a BMW. The same goes for all my friends. Out of a hundred ‘privileged’ white kids, during apartheid, maybe three had fancy cars like BMW 3-series or Mercedes C Class. A few months ago my dad bought a new car. A Toyota Etios. The cheapest Toyota available and probably the ugliest car on the road. Clearly he sticks to his principles and clearly his ego does not demand the borrowing of money to buy fancy cars to impress people and feel the luxury as you drive.

What I saw in Malaysia reminded me of what I see in Johannesburg. People who in 15 years get what my family had to work for over 80 years. No, I mean surpassing my family and the 15 years is often 5 years and the Nissan 1400 is laughed about and a BMW is now considered ‘normal’. Yet, we love reminiscing about the evils of apartheid… And as new pockets of wealth takes shape, young people learn the vocabulary to rationalise and complain with extra vigour and drama. Yet, the things my parents are accused of, are perpetuated by our democratic millionaires. The problem I think is not one of colour or religion, but one of greed and lust for money, status and luxury. This in a world where 50% of our ‘brothers and sisters’ are starving and suffering.

I used to say the problem is not with making lots of money, but with how you spend it. To a large degree I still feel that way, but I also realise more and more that for one guy to get rich others need to stay poor. If you make money, you are making it from someone. Someone pays for your wealth. You call it smart and hard working. Hitler and Mugabe are also smart and hard working. So please don’t bring an economic knife to a moral gun-fight… The question is not of ability, but of application. You can, but should you? That is the question.

In Kuala Lumpur I paid R60 for a can of Coke. I thought it was crazy since for R60 I am supposed to get 6 litres of Coke, and then the factory, distributor, retailer, etc all still make their money. But the R60 can of Coke soon became ‘normal’ when I saw the cars parked outside our hotel: Two Ferrari F450’s, an Aston Martin and a Rolls-Royce!  Walking in the mall looking at the Cartier, Armani and Louis Vuitton stores I realised the planet has a disease. And for all the evil of apartheid, at least the way I grew up I did not see this perverted addiction to Brands and superfluous luxury. No one argues about the quality of a Mont Blanc pen, the quality of a Hermes jacket or the quality of an Aston Martin. Sure, they are magnificently made. That does not make it right though. At the airport I saw a cell phone for R250 000 and a bottle of Whiskey for R40 000!  Is this extreme and isolated instances of excess? Or is this merely the end result of a game which everyone tries to play? These examples are not anomalies, they are just the toys the people get who are the best at the ‘game’. Don’t play innocent or pseudo moral because you don’t buy those extremes, its probably only because you cant. Everyone seems to buy as much as they can. Where you are now, what TV did you buy, what kettle, what laptop, what car, what house, what clothes? We are all in the game… And it takes the winners of the game to reveal the stupidity, desperation and moral bankruptcy of the game.

So don’t come and talk to me about apartheid if you don’t give a fuck about the poor yourself. Don’t talk about religion and democracy if you are a selfish consumer living for yourself and your biological family. For every ass in a Ferrari or Porsche, there are 200 kids not going to creche or not having food. Does it feel that good to drive it?

Do I judge? Yes I judge. I judge myself to my own standards, but I surely also judge people who drive cars costing R1m or $100 000 and those who shop at the fucking baby Ralph Lauren shop. The little baby clones that will fit in their outfits for 6 months was perhaps what drove me over the edge.

So, let’s then just be honest and say together: FUCK THE POOR

– the pictures I took this week will excite or embarrass you.

You will look at them and say either WOW or WHY?

The very last picture shows us what we are sacrificing to have these nice things.

jw

rolls

aston martin

kid perversion

family