Category Archives: Theoretical

writers, books, theory

Two Faced

I was raised in a binary society, characterised by polarity, dualism and dichotomy.

We weren’t taught these big English words, because they would have threatened our aspirations towards a specific grand narrative, belief in absolute truths that white or black and it would have opened a door to a cultural relativism and nuanced insights that are more often grey than white or black.

To grasp the grey areas of understanding requires evolving grey matter and to suspend judgement in favour of paradoxical complexity requires not IQ but EQ.

I catch myself daily falling back into predictable paths of paralysis and I need grace and a diversity of friends that can help me to embrace the tormenting uncertainty that comes with the vulnerability an open-mindedness brings.

It is so much easier to be sure, certain and able to shut out, resist and fight all the wrongs that look different from the pictures in my head.  But my pictures are not instinctive, they are not Inspired: my pictures were formed, they can become deformed and they can become reformed.

Jou Plakker

Ons Boere is baie vining om polêre teenstrydighede te skep
Inderdaad is die doel van ‘n teenstrydigheid ‘n teenstryerigheid
Links teenoor regs
Liberaal teenoor konserwatief
Progresief teen… Regresief
Die wat laer trek en die wat voort trek

Almal noem my liberaal omdat ek
uithang en werk en veg saam swart Afrikane…
maar ek weier om as ‘n liberalis beplakker te word
Ek is konserwatief. Ek is radikaal in die sin dat ek staan vir
‘n terugkeer na ons wortels.
Wortels wat my anker in waar ek vandaankom en hoe
ek grootgemaak is.
Ek is konserwatief omdat ek glo in konserwatiewe waardes:
Christelike naasteliefde
Wat is ‘n Afrikaner sonder Christelike naasteliefde?
My oortuiging dat my medemens ten spyte van velkleur
Ten spyte van opvoeding of behuising, ten spyte van aksent
my broer is… is in lyn met Jesus se vertel van die Samaritaan
Hierdie is old school waardes.

Dis konserwatief vir ‘n Afrikaner om nie ‘n selfsugtige poephol te wees nie
maar om jou speelgoed te deel met ander
Dis konserwatief of nie geldgierig te wees en mammon na te streef nie
Dis konserwatief om nie ‘n materialis te wees nie
Dis konserwatief om nie af te show met die blinkste kar wat jy op skuld koop nie
So baie van ons dink ons is boere, maar ons is eintlik klein Trumps in kakie…

Ek laat my nie mislei en verlei met liberale sienings
gegrond in humanistiese individualisme nie
‘n Goeie boer kan nooit een wees wat vir gemak en self leef, bo sy pligte tot die samelewing en gemeenskap nie
‘n Konserwatiewe Afrikaner is braaf en nie bang nie
Ek laat my nie mislei en verlei deur byderwetse tendense om myself as slagoffer te bestempel nie
Ek kla nie oor my elke dag en uitdagings nie
Ek pak die bul by die horings

Ek glo in konserwatiewe waardes soos dankbaarheid, ek kyk na wat ek het
Ek fokus nie op die behoud van my regte nie, maar die deel van my voorregte
Afrikaner gasvryheid- vir almal.
Vir my is ‘n goeie Afrikaner een wat glo in waardes,
waardes wat ons nie altyd uitgeleef het nie
maar waardes wat ons opgehou het en aan ons kinders probeer leer het.
Ek glo leë blikke maak die meeste geraas, ek glo in werk voor plesier
Ek glo in een drag maak mag en ek glo in aanhouer wen
Nie konserwatief nie? Se gat

So los my plakker uit
As jy wil plakkers uitdeel, beplak jouself
En vat sommer die liberale plakker
Moenie my probeer plak
omdat jy te slapgat en halfhartig is
om verby jou gemak en klein homogene groepie te kyk nie
As ons van Europa kon trek Kaapstad toe en van Kaapstad af Transvaal toe
Kan ons waaragtig nou in die Nuwe Suid Afrika intrek
En ophou bang en grumpy wees omdat ons nie meer baas genoem word nie.
Die wortels van die Afrikaner is wortels van werk,
nie van baas speel en baasspelerig wees nie

Ek is seker nie reg of regs nie, maar ek’s ook nie links of verkeerd nie.
Ek’s geanker en vooruitstrewend. Eks inklusief en lief.

Daar’s vir jou ’n plakker.

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.

iKing

Humans are intrinsically made to rule. Dallas Willard reminds us that we all have our own kingdoms. The idea made me think more clearly about agency and development.

A kingdom is a place where you rule, where you decide and make things happen. We are all chiefs with chiefdoms, the only difference is that they differ in size and shape. This is not a debateable ideal, it is a plain and simple reality. Human beings rule and they have power, some more than others. This notion of exercising control and influence through power and agency links to Amartya Sen’s notion of development as the freedom to choose. When we do development, we use our kingdom, our resources, our power and our rule to enlarge the kingdom of someone else. Giving out soup or clothes assists and shows some compassion to subjects in the kingdoms of others, but it does not assist others to expand their kingdoms, their areas of rule and control. Development should be about increasing someone else’s power and that normally requires the diminution or at least the restraint of your own power, control and influence.

We confront the paradoxical illusion of cheap leadership. If leadership is defined as influence, there are a further two distinct levels of influence that has to be differentiated: First, the influence where you influence other to act and exert your power, your kingdom, your rule. Second, there is an influence of restraint, service and sacrifice that enhance and increase the leadership of others. Here lies the cruel joke: there is no leadership in itself, only the making of other leaders. Leadership is not influence, but the transfer of influence, power and control. The moment you start to ‘lead’, in the classical sense, you are not a leader! Influencing makes you a king or a manager. Leadership is the sacrificial process of giving up the spotlight, giving up control and using your power to extend someone else’s influence.

We are left with acts of leaderships rather than positions or persons called leaders. In acting out this transfer of influence, we need to discern and decide who we empower. Sometimes we settle for middle management: we give our power to a bigger king or chief so that under their rule we will be in charge of a section. We give more power to the already powerful, because we find safety in that system. Indeed it seems counter intuitive to give power and influence to someone who already has a big kingdom or area of control. If it comes to being super smart with massive fields of influence, there is no point in ‘leadership’ beyond self preservation. Building very large kingdoms or empires becomes a game of power and strategic control- leadership is lost. The domain of pure leadership will always intersect with the powerless and so called weak. Many people do not see themselves as influencers or leaders and it is there where we can show our leadership. It is not coincidental that the most famous historical figure with the best selling biography ever, always identifies with and hides amongst the ‘poor’. He started his kingdom by activating thousands of small kings and queens.

How? First by pouring love on them so they realize their inherent worth and capacity. What kind of love does that? Love that manifests through deep and constant respect. Respect is measured, not in what we do, but in how we make someone feel. Love respects and love gives access and attention. In this respect and attention, self-love and self-belief becomes activated, the king is born, the queen is awakened from her sleep. A leader is a king-maker. A leader is a queen-maker. One can be tempted to play along and make fat kings fatter, this is a short-cut to ensuring ‘results’ and outputs. Many go down that road. We can also choose a different level of engagement and enter the domain of unseen greatness where life’s harshness has kept magnificent rulers asleep for too long. Normal people are not normal at all. Once we fail to see the flame and potential in any human being we have lost some part of our own essence. Our leadership and influence, whether we like it or not, are linked to the influence of ‘the least of these’.

The start of your kingdom is your body. You are the governing force, the government of your body. You are the President of your body. Whatever you think or choose happens. You have full power over your body. That is why physical violence, punching, rape or even a hiding is so traumatic. Someone violates your primary kingdom, the small space where you are in charge. Hence, non-violence is not just about being nice, it is a strategy to ensure the integrity of the kingdom of self; protect your castle. This is why a poor teenage girl who gets pregnant is ‘fucked’ on so many levels. The body is the first ring of your kingdom, because it is easiest recognizable.

Inside your body lives your soul and mind. Your thoughts. Here it get’s tricky and sad. One is so tempted to say that your thoughts are actually the first domain of your rule, your thoughts are supposed to be the place where you are the governor. But powerful people and systems have unfortunately been robbing you of that reign for years. From the moment you wake up, you see and hear messages that are not accidental, they are voices and noises designed to penetrate your mind. Other kings and queens are sowing seeds in the fertile fields of your mind! I’m not just talking about advertising creating false needs in the sphere of brand association. Philosophical assumptions underlie the content of all the messaging that enters your ears and eyes. Worldviews are programmed into the DNA of your thoughts, even if you don’t know what a worldview is. Slavery is back baby. Slavery is back, invisible and cruel to the point where the majority of society sings up voluntarily. All for a dose of opium and the road of least resistance.

Will we ever learn to rule our own thoughts? Will we ever learn to decide what goes into our heads and how it comes out? Your kingdom will stay scattered and small if you cannot clarify and rule your own thoughts. Why have people been journaling through the ages? Because they like the sound of pen on paper? NO! People write their thoughts down as acts of dominion, as acts to understand and rule their own minds! The battle is for your thoughts. You need this shoe or that whiskey, this car or that house, you deserve this, you hate that… and so it continues. Many people will catch you by linking your apparent wants to their products- be it politics or products, but who cares for your long-term wellbeing?

We will get back to the war of thoughts and the struggle to be ruler, president of your own mind, who determines your own values, ideals and strategies. Let’s look briefly at the most common kingdom on earth. Billions have nailed it and the allure of a shortcut kingdom, the attraction of a ready made rule has been so pervasive that few have resisted. The thing that makes biological families so popular and successful is not the cuteness of the mini-me, the continuation of the species or the comfort of growing old together while grandkids bring presents. The biological family is so pervasive and universally endorsed because it offers ready made kingdoms. Here you can be king of your castle by right of what you did with your penis. Worldwide, no matter how useless, sick, uninformed, weak or evil, the little family or household has been offering undeserving men a release for their kingdom desire. Look at parenthood, the behavior of fathers and see how children are being harmed, how the beautiful flame of leadership and influence is killed early in the life o fa child by a fake governor who never learnt to rule himself, but now he has subjects: sometimes two, sometimes ten! The role of the wife as either fellow ruler or subject, I will leave for another day. Families are not bad in and of themselves. Indeed, the structure could be the most wonderful university for learning how to rule! The family could be the safe training ground where everyone experiments with their rule, their power and responsibility. In most cases it does not do the good and beautiful job. It provides an unhealthy escape for the dominion desire. The test is simple: look at your effective rule and influence outside of your family. Don’t look at your work where salaries set the agenda and relationships. Outside of work and home, explain the extent of your rule and influence. If you have a full picture of influence and assisting others to uncover their influence and rule, then your own family (where you were born and the one you made) probably did a good job through healthy dynamics.

At our core, each of us is either a protector or a leader. We design our lives to either manage and control or to explore and lead. Both spheres include influence, rule and power. The difference is that the one builds walls and fences and the other tears them down. Leaders are not bosses, but bridges. Reaching out or helping others should include traditional charity and sacrifice, but the sacrifice should be way more radical that we think. Instead of sharing an hour a week, sharing your food or even your clothes, you are called to share your power and influence. How? BY increasing the power and influence of someone who have become unaware that he or she were made to rule. People are made to rule, firstly their own lives and secondly to influence other people’s lives in a way that adds mutual value. A natural human tendency is to group in similar circles of likeness. The value of diversity is a key that unlocks a higher humanity where brotherhood transcends animal instinct. A brave leader reaches out to the ‘other’ and thereby grow and learn as he or she assists and shares. If you are smart you would have already realized that by expanding the freedoms of others, by making kings and queens you also expand your own rule and enlarge your own circle of influence. That is not the goal, but a Divine treat and irony- if done right side up.

As an after thought, which for some might be a pre-thought, it might be worth mentioning that the guy who made kingdom talk famous lived about 2015 years ago. That is a very long time ago and when you think for example what Europe went through in the last 300 years and what Africa went through the last 100 years, it is remarkable that a guy said such smart things so long ago. He articulated concepts hundreds of years before the frame of mind or philosophical and cultural contexts had words and references for such views. How weird, these days when something is 10 years old we throw it away. Reading books that are 100 -200 years old seems odd and they battle for relevance. Yet, some guy’s words slap us in the face, grab our hearts and lead us- 2000 years after they were spoken and written.

Can he set me free?

Can I be included in his rule and he in mine?

Yes. Obviously.

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.

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.

Intellectual Skhokhoism – A Redefining of Leadership

African People, being black, arabic or white need to take pride in their context-specific history and surroundings. We should allow our own constructs to inform our discourse. We should put our own frames around our own pictures.

For too long have we listened to slightly overweight middle aged American and European men telling us what leadership is. What we don’t realise is that behind their capped teeth and fancy suits they have already framed the conversation by introducing certain words and questions. The question is not only what leadership is, but whether there still is or should be a thing like leadership? Is it a valid and useful construct? If I had to hear another conversation about star fish or the difference between management and leadership I am going to evaporate! We miss the forest for the trees.

Hence my ‘nuutskepping’ or concoction of the term “skhokhoism”, in particular “intellectual skhokhoism”. Derivitives can include skhokhoist (pertaining to the character of-), skhokhobility (ability to be skhokhoist), skhokholectual (person revealing the particular traits) and even skhokhonitis (wannabe cool to the extreme).

What is a Skhokho? In Mzansi townships being skhokho means being “the man”, or “the shit”. (If you ether don’t know what Mzansi is or if you are upset about the word shit, please leave this page, its not for you) Back to the point: Skhokho is a tough guy, a hard guy, a survivor, not to be messed with. Feminist News Flash: girls or women can be Skhokho too! The term originates from the legendary cullinary South African delight called: pap (phutu). At the bottom of the pot there normally remains a hard section, slightly burnt, a crust; some people like eating this.  That bottom crust, hard piece is called skhokho, hence a Skhokho is the last man standing, the ‘bittereinder’, the hard one… In Africa its good to be called Skhokho. “Sho skhoko, uhamba kanjani?” “ngi grend mfuwetu” And there you go… leopard vest and all.

Back to the boardroom brainstorm of the domesticated classroom word called ‘leadership’: In the title of this blog a proposed a redefining, not a redefinition. The emphasis thus falls on a constant change and adaptation, a perpetual discourse and dialogue in an attempt to keep the notion of leading (following?) fresh. Leadership, like it or not is a bit of a sissy word these days; ascribed to the consultant type that impress with clothing, drawing models or making up acronyms. Leadership has become a specialist field of linguistics, it thrives in conferences, on stage and on paper.

Yet, to get right into it, if leadership is influence, then every single person is a leader since we all influence each other. If leadership is manipulation, then surely some are more gifted than others whether by training or genetics. Ubuntu’s “I am because we are” affirms that leadership is perhaps sold these days as a linear simplicity, a dichotomy implied between leaders and followers. The more you grapple with the word the more you realise that the concept of leadership is as slippery as an Italian politician. If leadership becomes linked to performance or ambition it loses it’s authenticity. It lost its authenticity. Westerners have commodified leadership into a label used for personal upward mobility. But Westerners aren’t the only ones who castrates the idea of leadership…

In Africa there is a further problem, pertaining to chiefs. For centuries the notion of chiefs has ruled (pardon the pun) African societies. Even today, hidden just below the buzz of cash, universities and politics, lies the paralysing layer of traditional chiefdoms where some unspectacular old man and his addicted followers view him as god. This idea of chiefs have snuck into African politics. The politicians, whether Mayor, Minister or President is not seen as a public servant, but as a boss. These are our so called ‘leaders’. Hence the driving with ten blue light police cars and building R200 million houses. Africa has a long history and reality of interpreting leaders as chiefs, to the benefit of the chief. Yet ‘the people’ seem hesitant to stand up against a chief if the chief has the same skin colour as the oppressed. (insert Mugabe and a myriad of other examples)

So for normal people today, what do we use? Servanthood, which is according to me the ultimate form of  ‘leadership’ should perhaps be called just that: servanthood. It is something very different than the things ascribed to leadership these days. Those who wish to ‘serve’, ironically wants to be called leaders, not servants! So I will protect the concepts of serving and ubuntu and hide it from the leadership discussion. Don’t waste your life trying to resuscitate dead things. I will propose two concepts attached to leadership: firstly, the idea of being respected or feared and secondly, the idea of someone causing more change than others. In this sense, and to the extent that leadership has been perverted, I thus think a contemporary definition of leadership has to do with strength; not real strength hidden behind humility or service, but blatant strength revealed through power. In this sense leadership is not a virtue, it is a burden, opportunity and curse. Being a ‘leader’ greatly increases your risk of being an asshole. So to set aside all the pretence I will now call a leader a ‘skhokho’: it is a move that exposes and enlightens, it turns the conversation towards honesty and less fuzziness.

Skhokho’s are often tall, beatiful, confident, smart, skilled, rich, sneaky, reflective, creative, intimidating, charismatic, analytical, brave, strong, from good homes, from bad neighbourhoods, short, challenging, aggressive, arrogant, or any mixture of the above. Skhokholectuals are more than physically imposing or skilled, their strength lies in their minds. Intellectual Skhokhoism is not a noble art. It is the messy business of interference in other people’s lives. Ironically, it can cause good or harm, it can be selfish or giving. Let’s be honest however, 95 % of skhokhos use their skhokhotude for personal gain. Few Skhokhos use their skhokhoist dendencies to pursue love and justice. I say few, because they are there; just in the minority. Yet, skhokhos are encouraged and praised simply for being skhokhos! The admiration asks no questions of social justice or integrity, it revels in results. Hitler was a Skhoko. Taylor, Amin, Stalin, Pinochet and Mao were all Skhokhos. MIllions died under the Skhokhoism of these Skhokos. Today, millions of selfish Skhokhos reveal great Skhokhoism to the destruction of our planet and communities. Should this idea of influence, dominance and manipulation be valorised, should thousands of institutes dedicate itself to Skhokhoism? Why is it so popular to celebrate strength? It serves the purpose of those in power, those who has and seeks  power.

If we on this planet could take all the money, words and time dedicated on ‘leadership’ and instead dedicate it to ethics (ancient variety of leadership) our planet would be transformed unimaginably! But chats and institutes for ethics does not serve the discourse and system that produce super-rich and super-poor. The illusion that anyone can become educated (on paper) and have a career path (through leadership) keeps the billions in submission. The niceties are not kind, they are meant to blind and chain. Kindness can kill.

When I hear leadership, i hear evil. Sure, call me extreme or reactionary. But, that would be a cop out and simplistic evasion.

I embrace my Skhokhoism, but I don’t call it a virtue. I don’t want a planet where every kid becomes a Skhokho- despite my affection towards my fellow Skhokhos.

You have to go through a thing to leave it behind… So if this article makes no sense to you, push harder, become a greater leader… more, more, more… one day, after all the books, tedtalks, seminars, promotions, plans, awards-

revisit this.

 

Family Ties

Despite our addiction to numbers, categories, labels and the illusion of control they give; we mostly build our lives around metaphors. Easy ideas that help us to make sense of bigger issues. Some see themselves as advanced monkeys, some as children of God, some see themselves as human resources or investors, some as unrecognised celebrities or even as soldiers in a war. To use a metaphor, we need to be acquainted with the subject. If you see yourself as a pawn, you probably know something of chess. The trick for me is therefore to use images and metaphors most people can understand. If you view yourself as an animal in the circle of life, being part of a human group (I wont say herd), you are probably into nature and ecology.

One of the no-brainers I guess is family. Be it good or bad, we all have an idea of what a good family should be like. Hence, the following articulation of the most important investment guideline, blueprint, compass, operating system, telescope, text book, voice, game plan, or whatever image you might also use:

As a human being the single most important question that you need to answer is: “Who do you view as your family?” It’s not a question to resolve some day or say that you don’t have an answer. Your daily decisions, now, reveal who you think is part of your family. Who is your brother and your sister? Once you have an honest and conscious answer on this question, your life will never be the same again. Unless you’re an asshole and you just give a shit answer to it.

Intentional Attention

I think most of life boils down to how I spend my time and how I spend my money… Contrary to popular belief, the key questions of practical existentialism is not how much I earn, where I work or live, what I say I believe, what I proudly don’t do or what I studied. To understand our own idea of ‘the good life’ we simply need to look at how we spend our time and money, that will tell us all we need to know. Despite clever rationalisations, how I spend my time and money defines me; nothing else. We resist this type of thinking because it penetrates our self deceit and it exposes the contradictions of our own intentions. Nevertheless the big questions are easy to evaluate through observable tangibles. Once we recognise our inconsistencies, we can start to discuss a way out, a way forward.

And so the question of who gets my attention becomes the most relevant of all. Do I give my eyes and ears to advertisers? Do I give my eyes and ears to Facebook virtual friends? Do I give my mind to best selling authors or pastors? Do I give my time, energy and mind to ‘the market’? Who teaches me what is cool? Who teaches me what is important? Are we taught how to prioritise our time and money, how to allocate our hours and energy? You are who you give your energy to. Who demands my attention and cash? If ‘time is money’, maybe the two can be synthesised into the concept of attention. The revealing imperative can then be articulated as ‘who gets my attention? Your attention is your most prised asset. Do you allow others to steal it for free? Advertisers pay TV channels big bucks for your attention, your attention has market value. More so, it has eternal value and significance. Now, do you have intention of attention? Are you intent on choosing attentiveness? Do you let others decide or manipulate where you look and what you listen to. I want to drive my own life, create and determine my own surroundings. The secret is not in making good choices in the moment, but in creating content and milieu that will imply different choices. The secret to a better life is putting myself in a different place with different options. It’s a pity that the skill to direct and conserve our attention is taught in neither school nor university.

Somehow we get trapped in the quality of our toys and the coolness of our brands, as they speaks to our fragile inner identity. After a ‘long week’ or ‘difficult day’ we find ourselves weak and we let go, relaxing and surrendering our attention to cheap and easy entertainment, corporations or people that catch us in our moments or leisure, but then sows subtle seeds in our minds, seeds that germinate and stay present long after we switch off the TV, put down the phone or drive past the billboard.

The superficiality of the situation seems disguised by the universal desire to ‘have’ instead of to ‘be’. How can we become free? By recognizing the battle for our attention and affection. Everybody is competing for your mind space. Are you fighting back or being swept along? To know the answer, look at your clothes, look at your budget and look at your diary. No point in lying to ourselves.