Category Archives: Anecdotal

stories from the field

Indicatives Pertaining Perspiration and Aspiration

You know I haven’t blogged for a while when I get going on pretentious titles. #selfentertainment

I always played sport. And I was always decent at what I did. As a Christian Afrikaner male, sport has always been a type of valid pathway to release the competitor in my self. A legitimate arena to compete, fight, aspire and perform.

That all became tricky when I decided to learn to play football in my 20’s. Suddenly I was useless; an uncertain teenager seeking the approval of peers, battling away to prove to others and myself that I can be a worthy member of a worthy tribe. Eventually I wasn’t picked last and that is good enough I guess, at my age.

adelino coach kick

No sooner has the sun set on my journey of football based humiliation and I decided to start playing golf: as a 37 year old. I thought I took up a sport or hobby. Erroneously. What I did was to enrol in an advance class of Tibetan Buddhist, Islamic Jihad, Christian Martyrdom as pathway to self-denial and ego torture. For every shot that flies and lands well there are five that mock and torment. Golf bites. And there is quantitative measures to underline every sense of disguised frustration and failure. Sometimes I play better than other times. But I don’t know why. What I know is the harder I try the worse I do it. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak! Practice shot: perfect. Actual shot and every atom between my ears conspire to try to hard and in anxious expectancy and fearful tension I connect the ball to high, too low, to closed or too open; a result multiplied by every meter of flight. I crack under pressure. In golf I don’t know how to fight it. I don’t know how to give up control. Golf is perhaps a technical form of dancing. Letting the ‘swing’ take over and relinquishing control is as hard on the dance floor as it is on the first tee. I tried prayer, I tried meditation, I tried jokes, I tried alcohol, I even tried talking to myself and breathing. Yet, the competitive little Schalk whispering devilish ambitions of perfection into my ear maintains a level of stress that stands between me and easy golf. Calling Ernie Els The Big Easy has new meaning these days. The paradoxes of golf makes it my number one reflection and mental war zone.

golf pa

Taking a break from golf and the fine nuances of mental torture it entails I also like to go jogging. Like might be a strong word. I like being in the world where I just went for a jog. Running is so simple. You want to do better? Try harder. Go faster. Push you body. Burn your legs, burn your lungs. Compared to golf, it is braindead. A similarity it has with golf is that there are quantifiable measures. When I started jogging after my 6 month back injury I ran slow and it was torture. Gradually the times started to drop. As is testimony by my i-phone screenshots.

running times

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Running gives me an escape. A method to be a warrior.
Golf slaps me in the face and shows me how everything I’ve learnt can be as bad as it can be good.

In life we first need to learn to be runners. Staying fit, persevering, trying harder, sweating, getting fit. It activates the basics of a successful personality: strength and perseverance.
Golf brings the challenge of being and enjoying, getting to understand your emotions and inner workings.

Running comments on and scores my body.
Golf comments on and scores my mind and soul.

Naturally they are both training grounds for my real life, my vida real. The hidden stuff beneath the matrix.
Can I be strong and soft?
Can I be smart and silly?
Can I be focussed and relaxed?
Can I be cruel and controlled?

I used to read a lot for reflection. In the current season I’m in, I am allowing my body to speak to me and reveal nuance that a good book struggles to illuminate.

Craft vs Art… I often reflect on this. When does skill transform from excellence through repetition to excellence in freedom and beauty.

Do I craft my life or do I create my life?

Could freedom be the key to unlock beauty?

Freedom from what?

Now there’s a conversation starter!

Leisure

Sometimes the wealthy are proud to refer to themselves as a man or woman of leisure. In a way, leisure is the fulfilment and culmination of wealth; in the absence of a higher or lower purpose.

This December was the first time in about 12 years that I did not spend my festive season in Manica, Mozambique. Manica is nota tourist town at the coast, and when I’m there I try to serve- the place is not geared for my pampering. 2014’s end saw me go to holiday spots. I’m inclined to say white holiday spots since despite the fact that 90% of our country consists of black people, only 10% of the ‘holiday goers’ were black. This is a persistent legacy of apartheid: white leisure.

On Port Alfred’s Royal golf course I spoke to an old Afrikaner and when he heard what I do for a job he said: “Do you still have hope for this bloody country?!” to which I replied: “Oom, as mens nie hoop het nie moet jy maar trek.” The uncle was complaining about the country, but he is substantially unaffected by any of the things he complains about. He ended our chat with a “let’s not talk politics, I’m supposed to enjoy my retirement.” A man of leisure.

To be clear, I was part of the white holiday vibe. I spent endless ZAR’s on myself and my biological family, justified by the notion that for 10 years I spent all my December cash on Manicans. The justification only numbs half of my conscience though…

Driving through the Karoo, I stopped at a farm stall and was talked into buying half a lamb. Great meat at a cheaper price. The Afrikaner lady explained all the different pieces of meat to me and to bags consisted of weird things like bones, chunks of fat and kidneys. She asked me if I have dogs to which I replied “no”. So she said, in Afrikaans, in front of other customers which included black people: “gee dit dan maar vir die bediende”. This little anecdote first shocked me and then made me think of reality: The majority of domestics would in fact even buy those pieces of meat, and some whites would indeed give it to their dogs. All the while the Umlungu (or very wealthy blacks) would nibble on the premium chops, steak and ribs. Meat of leisure vs meat for sustenance.

Don’t get me wrong: I loved my holiday. I too was raised as a son of leisure. Not because we went on fancy holidays as kids (in fact we didn’t), but because I grew up expecting and anticipating these ‘finer’ things in life. 2014’s holiday was an indulgence for me and I used my girl and family as a rationale for feeling less selfish about it all. Something can indeed be wrong and right at the same time. #greytruth

Our country is in shit, the irony is that the only ones complaining are the ones that don’t need to complain! Complaining whilst playing golf, driving a Mercedes, sitting in a holiday home (yes there are such things!). And the millions sitting in badly built shacks waits for a dream that wont show up. The wealthy enjoy their perpetual leisure, but they also perpetuate their wealth by working hard and sharpening their skills. After their December ‘rest’ they will hit the marketplace hard and build up more resources to enjoy at the end of the next calendar year. The poor remains trapped. Their leisure is not built up over the year. The leisure of the poor is short term: cheap dring in cheap places.

Before we blame the rich white people for their sophisticated leisure, be sure the poor don’t save the whole year to invest in the community, books, children’s education or missions trips. The majority of poor men uses their extra Rands to sit and dring and talk shit. More money and the leisure becomes more sohisticated: instead of papsak it’s bottles of beer, instead of beer it becomes Jack Daniels, instead of alcohol it becomes shoes, instead of shoes it’s cars…

Mzansi: we are united in an endless pursuit of selfish leisure.

You can blame…

You can complain…

Instead of pointing fingers, we should rather ask ourselves a simple personal question. A personal question that will shatter our generalisations and philosophical arguing and justifications:

Will you present and lay your leisure- not in front of the Christmas Tree, but in front of the Tree with a Man hanging on it?

And what would He say?

“Wie is die ONS in die ‘Ons vir jou Suid Afrika'”?

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

 

Ruiter van die Windjie

The music is just for entertainment and humour, but the experience was so good it was spiritual.

Since I was young I loved horses, yet I’ve always been afraid of them too. Not to mention getting on horses twice without a saddle or bridle! These were horses I didn’t know at all and although it looks calm and easy I had no idea if they would buck, bite or take off, so I was pretty scared!

A fantastic exercise in facing my fears and reaping the reward. I added some pics of my 3 friends, Shaun, Wendy and Adri-Marie who made the week awesome.

Click below for a video that does not do the place nor the experience justice:

Dullstroom14

 

Treasure Hunt

You can save a lot of time and money by collecting more childlike treasures: things that are cheaper, sentimental, old, cute or rare.
Hunting for those and gathering such performs the same function as buying expensive brands, which by definition becomes cheap when anyone can walk into a shop and take it with a swipe of a credit card.
If we are going to be weak and ‘gather treasures on earth’, let’s at least make it an adventure and interesting.

What do these narrative and meaning infused treasures look like? Each person has to figure that out for themselves. For me, this journey of refined compromise includes the following: One of the best treasures is when something precious is given to me freely from someone with humble means. Some treasures are special because I uncovered, designed or built them. Places, events and people are the soul of these alternative treasures.

Consider your inner desires and the needs that your work and spending aims to satisfy. Then explore creative ways to reach the same goal.

Happy hunting.

Working Holiday: Part Two

As mentioned in previous post, for us over talkative, over spending, over consuming quasi intellectuals, there is great meaning in doing visible things with our hands.

One of my examples is creating a different space, a cool place to relax. Below the pictures showing progress of the Futeco picnic/braai spot. It all happened in two days.

Obvious but corny lessons: a small bit of creativity plus sacrifice can make life better. Even if it doesn’t cost money. Don’t let the desire of perfection stop you from doing something nice. Personal Reflection: resist the temptation to do it alone, because doing it together adds meaning for others and memories for you.

picking a spot: bush only! lots of funny insect ready to fight back!
picking a spot: bush only! lots of funny insect ready to fight back!
Bushes cleared, steady progress
Bushes cleared, steady progress
Don't do it alone: here is Short and Cheriffe
Don’t do it alone: here is Short and Cheriffe
Not perfect, but working! Falta so inauguracao!
Not perfect, but working! Falta so inauguracao!

Working Holiday: Part One

Working with one’s hands, getting them dirty, literally is more fun and relaxing than lazily doing nothing:

One example is wanting to cut grass, then discovering the lawnmower blade is half the length it should be and there are no blades to be bought around here. $8 and two hours later: problem fixed.

Obvious but corny lesson: as with the sharp axe, make sure your equipment/strategy is sharp and effective or you will waste a lot of time and effort with little result. Personal reflection: go big on maintenance.

worn out blade
worn out blade
blade extended by 16 year old kid
blade extended by 16 year old kid
Chichone showing off 'new' machine
Chichone showing off ‘new’ machine
General Secretary, Razao now cutting grass!
General Secretary, Razao now cutting grass!

Tata Nelson Mandela

I was in Kamaqhekeza when we heard that Madiba died. In a way it feels like he has been dead for a while. Not just due to his prolonged sickness (think of his timid body when they drove him out to the World Cup Final or got stuck in the cold of Midrand with a broken ambulance) but also due to his failing legacy. Now, everyone is respectful and kind but in the preceding months what I heard on the ground was ‘Mandela was too soft’, ‘he did not take enough from the whites’ and ‘nothing has changed’. Add to that our democratically elected president singing Mshiniwam and young Julius’ divisive EFF and you might understand that Mandela has been dead for a while. That is why I always found the whites with their ridiculous story of ‘night of the long knives’ so stupid, the story that blacks will start killing whites once Mandela dies. How stupid: Siener van Rensburg and everyone that believes his crap. Add to the stupid category all the fundamental Christians who hate Madiba for ‘taking attention away from Jesus’ and the conservative whites that prefer speaking of Madiba as the young ‘terrorist’ that bombed innocent people.

So all the stupids aside, I can’t help to draw parallels between Mandela and Jesus. Firstly, I draw the comparison because both of them embodied suffering, love, sacrifice, forgiveness and inclusiveness. Secondly, because as with Jesus, people love to ‘praise’ Mandela and talk about him, but few seem willing to imitate their lifestyles and ethics. A hero can inspire or a hero can be an excuse to do less.

Back to Kamaqhekeza. After training football with these very poor and rural kids and mothers, we stood in a circle and my friend Doc asked everyone what they remember of Madiba, what did Mandela mean to them. The answers shocked me. Rich people, like you and I think of Mandela’s perseverance, inclusivity, forgiveness, nation building, love, dignity. The poor gave answers much closer to home. This was literaly the complete list of answers: “He gave us RDP houses and took us out of the shacks”, “he gave us free schools”, “he gave us free pension and grant every month”, “he gave us voting”, he gave us good jobs”. Some of these might be disputed, but the main theme is that Mandela is simply seen as a liberator, a friend of the poor black person. A friend because he gave stuff. The fact that the list contains things given freely, speaks of the entitlement, which is not totally unmerited considering pre-94 society.

So as more than 70 world leaders fly in to Joburg for the funeral, I think of the poor youths and mammas. I asked them, how do you want to celebrate Mandela’s life and death?” they replied: “we don’t care we just want to play football and enjoy ourselves because those things are far away from us”. The World, our country, ‘care’ for Madiba, but we don’t care for the children and people Madiba cared for. Sure there is a time to honour and mourn, but that should be part of doing. I’m sure Mandela would gladly take the attention and expense of travel and banners and direct that to poor youths without homes and kids without attention.

For the mourners: I believe if you didn’t honour Madiba through a life of reconciliation when he was still alive, you should now stop mourning and go back to making money while complaining about the country.

For those trying: keep trying. It is a long walk to freedom.

For the masses: Don’t be sad, we have nice leaders like Jacob and Julius to continue Mandela’s legacy.

Viva ANC. Obviously we have to keep voting ANC to show respect and say thanks to Tata.

So it is a doubly sad good bye from me:

Tata Mandela.

Compromising with Control and Power

Despite my reading and critical reflection on management tools, at the end of the day I still have a day-job and I am responsible for projects. Projects funded by donors and agreements that specify outputs and outcomes in exchange for the money. I am under no illusions that the arrangement is far from pure or ideal, and I do my best to introduce humanity and good values into the project cycles I am responsible for. I try to be the layer between the community and the corporate demands.

Yet with a growing programme things are getting to big for me to do myself, I need a team. One team member is doing a great job, probably better than me. The other team members see themselves, not as called, but employees. They have a different work ethic, they have a lack of exposure and their productivity is not just adversely affected by skills and knowledge, but more-so by attitude. It seems few people can mix friendship and freedom with productivity.

As Project Manager, I have to justify money spent and what the results of short term projects were. The project design is compromised, but certain specifics are built in to buy time and space so real development can happen. Meaning, to provide stimulus, you ‘sell’ a basic project that is uncomplicated and unlikely to do harm. This superficial design creates a platform for real relationships to grow and for individuals to discover themselves and grow.  In this game, you have to do the basics with excellence. My subordinates did not manage to do this, more concerned with talking and image that producing results. I tried friendship and freedom, they did not respond. Due to short time cycles of evaluation, I could not tolerate continued slackness. So I did what all managers at some stage do and I embraced the very elements of the system I hate. I resorted to using money and contracts as motivators. I introduced weekly written reports. As a manager it was the right thing to do. I have a responsibility towards the money and contracts. Simple.

Philosophically, the compromised turned my calling into a job even more. I became a bit less human and a bit more resource. I embraced my title of manager. I affirmed my power over my team. I exchanged exploration and deconstructing defiance for rigidity and control. Once you signed the contract, you can try to play the game, but integrity requires compliance. If you dont like the system, you need to take the fight higher, you need to be in dialogue with the source of the money. Managers and coordinators are trapped in a cycle where they get paid to manage and coordinate each other.

Here in my blog, and hopefully one day in my further studies, I am the idealist, the voice of reason in a silly system. But I am also an employee who is forced to compromise. If I don’t want to compromise I have to resign, and that at this stage will not lead to the greatest good. In my work, governed by the power lines of linear managerialism I sometimes cause dishonesty, pain, theft, regret, inferiority. I am the cause of things I hate.

My dream is that one day, I will have a job where I would get paid to do the right things in the right way. My hunch is that I would have to create an organisation and a movement that would enable such. With a dominant system too strong to change, we can only strive to be a) a good example b) create exemplary organisations and lastly hope to spark new movements.

For now, I have to deal with living in a paradox, living a contradictory life. I wonder what the cost and effect will be to me?