For a famous book the Bible isn’t very well read today and I include myself. Even the easy or user-friendly New Testament is neither scrutinised nor memorised in the way the Jews familiarised themselves with their writings. How many modern Christians for example are familiar with the young man that ran away naked, leaving the guards holding his bed sheet? Why is he even mentioned? If he was mentioned as a witness, why no name? Was he perhaps mentioned for comic relief, in such a serious moment? Or was he a shadow of another young man who would soon be left naked with guards holding onto his garments? I have my own issues with the Bible (and it’s people), but I also discover and rediscover inspiration at unlikely times an in unlikely sections. I struggle to fathom that something smart was written so long ago.
I am sitting in rural Mozambique, in a hut where a rat kept us up the whole night. We are inside Parque Naçional do Limpopo (PNL), an extension of Kruger. Rural Moz, sometimes seems to be 100 years behind South Africa. 100 years is a long time, so the effects of 2000 years on a story, context or concept seems beyond my grasp. This morning I am intrigued by another marginal figure on the periphery of the Gospels. The periphery of the Good News being an interesting concept in it’s own right. We all drift in and out of the story. Peter for example, who got the revelation of the Kingdom and cut of ears is the same guy that ‘followed at a safe distance’, same guy that denied and wept. Even the Kingdom heroes seem tainted or fake. But let’s get back to the peripheral figure that grabbed my attention this morning…
At school, I was good and naïve; assuming that is possible. In Grade 12, when I was head-boy I cared deeply about my ‘job’ and I can remember how often in anger and disillusionment I wanted to ‘give in my badge’. I often fantasised about the moral integrity of quitting from an unjust system or walking away from a group without integrity. And indeed I’ve ‘given in my badge’ on many occasions in my life, at times it is what we have to do; especially when our minds have not caught up with our hearts. I have walked away from jobs and out of conversations many times. But indignation and statements in abstract solidarity does not always bring the peace and justice we imagine. I think it is easier to train the mind than it is to train the heart, so I will never be harsh on anyone who needs to ‘run from a lion’ or create space between their aspirations and temptations. We have to protect our convictions while we have them I guess.
When reading about Jesus’ last days in Mark, we quickly see how shit the religious leaders of the day were. Allow me the grace to infuse my contempt with a bit of Mzansi flavour: It’s easy to note the conniving, spiteful and useless batch of Gupta-like, EFF behaving, Zuma-led and apartheid inspired Jewish Council (Sanhedrin). I mention all the associations South Afrians won’t like in 2017 to highlight what a bunch of bad apples this little broederbond was. They bloody killed God’s Son! How bad do you have to be to take out the ‘94 Madiba in such a public and disrespectful manner? If I was member of the Jewish Council I would have handed in my badge a long time ago. At worst I would have walked out when I realised they were about to kill the King.
2000 years ago however, I was not even in Heerde, Holland yet. There was no Schalk, nobody to hand in a badge. Who was there though, was a guy called Joseph. Not the famous Joseph who got a kid without getting lucky; another Joseph. Joseph of Arimathia. A peripheral figure in the Gospel story. Obviously important in that his request ensured a verification of the death of Christ, fulfilled a prophecy about the Messiah’s tomb and important for giving a dignified burial to the person who deserved it more than anyone else.
Joseph of Arimathia, like the book of Mark in general makes a quick, strong statement. Plain and simple: a bit of info, a bit of action and a bit of effect. I take encouragement form Joseph of Arimathia, and if I were to ever establish an order of The Arimathians I would base five founding principles on this short account in Mark 15 (also considering the other Gospel variations).
1. Sacrifice: Joseph not only used his money to buy a linen shroud, he gave his own grave. He gave time to attend the body of the dead. Without giving time and things nobody can be part of any story. Joseph had bucks, apparently, but Joseph knew about sacrificial giving.
2. Living expectantly awaiting the Kingdom of God: He did not sulk and blame when JC died, when things didn’t pan out the way everyone expected, his convictions were activated and his expectation transformed into duty. His expectation made him courageous and he included others like his chommie Nic. We cannot expect the KoG as a one man show.
3. Respected amidst the rot: Pravin Gordhan was fired, he did not walk out. We now know how big the gap between him and JZ was, but Pravin stayed and served the country amidst a box of rotten apples. Joseph of Arimathia stayed in the Jewish Council, although it must have driven him up the walls. Not only did he stay, he was respected.
4. Secrecy: Joseph of Arimathea did not perform and talk on the public platform when Barabas was released. Joseph’s contribution was done behind the scenes, he contributed to the unspectacular, away from the stage and attention. He bought burial cloths and no PR company was hired to profile his good deed. (Yet here I sit in PNL 200 years later blogging about him)
5. Joseph of Arimathea (J.A.) cared for Jesus’s body. An Order of Arimatheans would care for the body of Christ. Today, the body of Christ is the church. Not only did Jay Ay (J.A.) stay in the Jewish Council, he cared for the body of Christ. It is plain to see how I make the link between the actions of Jay Ay, and me (or us) faced with a decision to stay in or get in the NGK and FGK in particular.
Today the Jewish Council and the Body of Christ is often the same thing- a thing in desperate need of Arimatheans willing to care in sacrifice, secrecy, expectation and resilience.
I am left with the question: is caring for the Body of Jesus a calling or a duty?
Dit was so funny, ek was by ‘n fancy partytjie op ‘n wynplaas. Almal was op die grasperk en het daai cheap disposable koffiebekertjies gebruik, die van karton- soos ‘n Seattle take-away.
Toe kom die eienaar van die wynplaas met wat hy noem sy beste wyn ooit; ek dink dit kos R3500 per bottel. Hy’t toe 4 mense gekies wat elkeen ‘n glas mag kry.
Die eerste haas stap toe vorentoe en was al so gekuier dat hy sy dekseltjie op sy bekertjie los en niks van die wyn kon in nie! Die tweede dude se kind het met sy koppie gespeel en onder vol gate gedruk met ‘n stokkie, soos die wyn ingeskink word loop dit toe deur en toe die ou wou drink, toe’s die glas leeg. Die derde persoon was ‘n meisie wat verskriklik baie hou van goeie wyn, sy kom van Stellenbosch af. Sy’t opgestap om te ontvang, maar haar koppie was actually nog propvol met die duur Kanonkop wat sy by ‘n kontak gekry het. Needless to say daar was nie plek vir die nuwe wyn nie. Laaste stap ‘n jong tiener meisie vorentoe, haar koppie was oop, haar koppie was heel en sy’t plek gehad in haar koppie. Sy was op die ou end die enigste een wat toe van die eienaar se spesiale wyn kon drink.
Om drama en suspense te spaar: een persoon was toe, dalk nie dom nie maar geslote, afgestomp. ‘n Ander persoon was vlak en gebreek. ‘n Derde was te suksesvol en konnie prioritiseer nie. Net een was oop, gesond, wys en het ontvang.
Die groot vraag in die oorbekende storie is: wat is die wyn? Wie is die wyn… En dan natuurlik, hoe desperate is ek vir die wyn, hoe gereed is ek vir die wyn? Hoeveel stories moet ek nog hoor voor ek lus en gereed raak?
Of dalk vrek ek met ‘n mix van Oros, Tassies en Vergelegen in die hand.
Soms is ek laf
simpel en halfgesout.
Ek het my Skepper se ingryp nodig
‘n ingryp om my uit te haal.
Waar ek vasgevang is in dinges en dinge
bid ek ‘n verlossing en losmaak.
Voor ek leer vra: “Vat my”
leer vra ek: “Vat myne”.
Vat my goeter, vat my goed
maak my goed.
U vasvat ruk my reg, ruk my raak
U vat vas, maar U hou ook vas.
U hou vas – aan my
U hou van – my.
(en dis ‘n heel ander sagte vasvat as wat mens sou dink na jy die titel gelees het)
South Africans have started to dismiss the vision of a Rainbow Nation, a phrase coined by our national treasure: Desmond Tutu.
Not only are we dismissing heroes like Nobel prize winners Tutu and Mandela, we are dismissing the idea of the Rainbow Nation. I’ve explained elsewhere how the rainbow was a rallying cry and metaphor supposed to pull us forward, inspired to learn and sacrifice. Black elites and white ‘ethnic realists’ have different reasons for their rainbow aversions.
Those who dismiss the rainbow seem to say: I don’t believe in the Rainbow because it does not exist. I won’t fight or work for it because I don’t see it.
What I’m observing, in a week of cabinet reshuffles, made me think of the rainbow again: South Africans searched for the rainbow, but at the end (or start) of the rainbow we discovered the pot of gold, and ever since the discovery of the pot of gold, we became blind to the miracle of the rainbow. And I’m not just talking about elite politicians who forsake the dream for gold dust; common citizens have given up on their civil duty and our national project in exchange for financial security and exaggerated consumerism that embody a show-off culture built on image and branded projections.
So al die tyd, kruip die klein kak Mammon toe weg binne ‘n potjie goud, langs ons kosbare reënboog. Nou vreet almal hulle dik aan goudpap, en het dan nog die arrogansie van fake intelektualisme om die Reënboog te verkleineer en die Reënboogmaker te bedroef.
The debate is not a legal one. The dilemma is a moral one.
For Afrikaners, discussions about mother tongue education and self-expression can never be discussions about language and culture per se. Our history of exploitation and dominance took away the luxury of chatting about language and culture without speaking of privilege and access.
The first question is whether government funds should be used to fund Afrikaans activities, e.g. education? Personally, I think it should not. Afrikaans has been historically advantaged by the Apartheid regime. Our other indigenous languages were neglected. Today state funds should go to education that is accessible to all and particularly the poor. That might entail primary and secondary education in Sotho, Zulu or Tswana; if that is an expressed need.
Afrikaans in Stellenbosch? If the coloured population has primary access to study in Stellenbosch then the Western Cape could indeed be an exception. Is Stellenbosch a university where white folk from all parts of South Africa go? Is Afrikaans classes a tool to keep the culture white? Even if it aint the intent, it is the consequence.
Second question: Are Afrikaners entitled to use their own money (after paying tax) to build and run their own Afrikaans-Christian residences or their own Afrikaans schools and universities? Legally, they might have the right, but is it morally right? Afrikaners already has the best access to education, and creating hubs of excellence in Afrikaans will de facto be exclusionary, simply due to demographics.
So if Afrikaners want to make excellent schools and universities in Arikaans, they better have big budgets for accessibility and scholorships, fighting to give coloured and African students a chance to join, if they can speak Afrikaans. It might sound colonial, to demand Afrikaans, but if private individuals pay for Afrikaans education, then invitation extended to blacks, will obviously have Afrikaans as prerequisite. The same principle applies to private Christian schools.
So, for every Afrikaans creche, Afrikaners should build a Tswana or Tsonga creche, in full partnership with equal tools and offerings. In this sense, we literally buy our right to self-expression. Education is such a basic and dire need, that it seems unproblematic. But the same moral imperative could hold for Afrikaans cultural festivals. KKNK might need to empower other cultures and languages as part of their costs and operations, so that the stance and positioning is one of humility and not a middle finger of insensitivity. To point to black multi-millionaires and demand that they sponsor Pedi or Venda festivals, might be very poignant, but it does not absolve Afrikaners from their responsibility, as beneficiaries of past privilege.
All the above inevitable will creep up onto and into our churches. Are Afrikaners entitled to sit in cosy white spaces of homogenous comfort? By holding Afrikaans services in Joburg, you are assured a massive white majority. The NG Kerk seems to be the final pocket of apartheid, untouched by the democratisation, decolonising and restitution of post-94 South Africa. Under which conditions will a NG Kerk be allowed to hold Sunday services in Afrikaans, without automatic labels of racism?
Sometimes we have to suspend and sacrifice our language. Sometimes we might keep (koester) our language, but the attitude by which we express this desire and need of mother tongue worship should be an apologetic one, a positioning of humility and conditionality. White churches should embrace and befriend black churches, sharing money and assets, sharing events, being friends and doing life together. That implies the staff and gemeenteraad being mixed, even overwhelmingly black. Then the Afrikaans sermon becomes a small element of a healthy church.
As Afrikaners, we need to start earning our privilege, even if that privilege feels like a human right.
Die wêreld trek laer. Soort soek soort as natuurlike dier-drang. Mense gee op en kyk af, hulle kyk in. Die reaksie om onder stres arbitrêre raakpunte en gemeenskaplike vyandighede te skep is oeroud en oorbekend. Ons maak ‘n ‘ander’ om ons eenersheid te kweek. Die ironie is dat die ander ook eenders is. Daar’s soveel meer menslikheid wat ons band bind eerder as buig, wat ons verhoudings brug eerder as breek. Party mense gee eerlik en openlik op, party mense kyk na en lag vir die haan wat kraai terwyl hulle kies om dit wat hulle aan die lewe hou te laat doodgaan. Party mense sê hulle het nie tyd vir die sentimentele of emosionele nie, maar daai standpunt, of knielpunt, is die mees emosionele van als, want dis ‘n hartsbesluit om ‘n ego te beskerm van pyn en ‘n verstand te beskerm teen harde werk. Mense lag die reënboog uit, asof ons dit reeds probeer en gekry het, asof die pot goud ‘n pot kak was. Maar die pot stront is ons halfhartige, wanhopige poging om saam te soek na die begin, never mind die einde van die reënboog.
My word for the new year is PRAGMATIC, or pragmatism.
In Afrikaans it is also simply called ‘pragmaties’. Pragmatic has a preference for the practical, as opposed to the theoretical or emotional. In short it asks: “What works?”
So where 2016 saw my clinging on to a value-based philosophical approach against the onslaught of nihilistic pessimism, 2017 will see me save my energy for practical and efficient actions in response to opportunities and challenges. I will try my best to act with discipline and wisdom.
I will try to be realistic in my actions to achieve certain goals. Less idealism and more ‘make the most’. I won’t care as much what I like or what I don’t like, I will simply try to get the most out of each situation.
One thing I need to do more is plan. I need to list my priorities and allocate time to the things that will have the most actual impact or effect in terms of intended outcomes. I need to be strategic with my time management. That includes being aware of why I do what.
Less emotion, more abandonment: I will try to simply do what is needed and be outcome-based.
What will I have to show for 2017?
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.
We will never see a unified and prosperous South Africa without sacrifice. Blacks will be quick to point out that they are the one’s who have sacrificed the most already! My gut instinct is that it is true, but then I wonder about the distinction between sacrifice and suffering. Black people have suffered. Sacrifice implies voluntary laying down of comfort and privilege. I look around me and I wonder what black sacrifice, not suffering looks like today? Sacrifice is when you want to sacrifice, not when it is thrust upon you. Pertaining to biological relations, I see a lot of sacrifice and the idea of black tax certainly includes the ‘burden’ of looking after biological family. When it comes to kids, parents and siblings I see a lot of sacrifice. Why I don’t include this type of sacrifice in the definition under discussion in this specific writing, is because it is natural, almost an animal instinct for us to look after our family.
The sacrifice I’m calling for is not suffering due to lack of means, nor is it based on natural affinity. I am talking about giving away comforts and security in order for strangers to benefit. I am talking about giving without an immediate feedback loop. The sacrifice I refer to impacts the type of whisky I drink and the brand of shoes I wear, it impacts the car I purchase and the house I live in. The sacrifice I speak of gives up an expensive holiday so someone else can study or it takes someone along on that unaffordable holiday.
Due to the suffering black people went through, their call to sacrifice is mostly not material today, although it is also not uncommon. Some black friends have told me they sacrifice their violence, not killing or chasing us whites. That type of ‘sacrifice’ sounds to me like the rightwing Afrikaners who think they ‘sacrificed’ in 1994 by allowing democracy without putting up a fight. Threats of violence turns us into animals, ruled by survival of the fittest and there is no place for moral discussion and neighbourly love in such a dog eat dog competitive world. Hence my refusal to entertain such self-righteous threats; from both sides.
While black people will indeed not ‘catch up’ as a group without letting go of certain constructs, white people, soaked in privilege are the ones who really need face the mirror of self and history. There are poor whites who do not have money, they don’t have education, they don’t have confidence and they don’t have style. Even they have certain things they need to sacrifice in order to be free. It might be false notions of superiority or it might be booze. Still, my writing is aimed at those wealthy whites who call themselves middle class. I am one of these whites and what I write for my brothers and sisters, I write for myself.
We need to firstly sacrifice our tendency to be smart ass. We need to sacrifice our need to always be right and that implies learning to change our minds. Our thoughts are well protected by our emotions. And that makes us stupid. We are trapped by our own fear and hurt. When considering topics such as BBBEE, land reform, Afrikaans at state universities, quotas in sport and many others, we need to lay down our de facto stance and defence. We will gain more by exploring context, history and answering the why questions. As whites, we tend to cling to things gone by, and that clinging is what stops us from moving forward. Anger and resentment, despite being misplaced has the power to literally destroy your life and your happiness. Who are you angry at? What makes you angry? Welcome to your prison.
Jesus was very smart. He said that #seedsmustfall. Jesus told us that something’s gotta give. Paul reiterated that we will gain our life after losing it; a mystery few of us have discovered. We cling. How and where can I allow things to die in my life, things that when sacrificed will produce an unexpected harvest. We are trapped in cycles of selfishness, schooled in consumerism we became addicted to laagers of comfort and security. Sacrifice can break open these laagers as others are invited in. The first thing to sacrifice is the idea that you are in a war, the us vs them battle is an illusion. Where we see enemies we should be seeing family, not biological family, but human family.