Category Archives for "Culture"

Why Small is Beautiful

South Africa needs a dose of ‘Buddhist Economics’.

A few weeks ago I wrote about how South Africans need to start building their own punk rock economy.

In an age of declining institutions, we should embrace a DIY approach to work and life that prioritises authenticity, intentionality, and craftsmanship.

Beneath such advice lies an understanding of work and economics that is radically different to the ideology of modern economics.

I was reminded of this recently when I stumbled again across a book I read at varsity: ‘Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered’, written by economist EF Schumacher in 1973. The fourth chapter is called ‘Buddhist Economics’ and was written by Schumacher decades earlier after he worked as an adviser to the Prime Minister of Burma. Continue reading

Three Reasons Why You Need to Celebrate Halloween

Do you believe in Halloween?


Growing up, my family never bothered about Halloween. But we saw it on the movies, and slowly it bled into our own culture – to the point that my boys will be trick or treating with the neighbourhood kids on Monday.

There’s not a lot of enthusiasm for it amongst South African adults, though. Some bemoan it as another vulgar Americanism, others as some kind of satanic infiltration.

I can certainly understand the complaint about Halloween being yet another example of trashy American culture. A lot of how we view Halloween comes from horror films or TV shows. It just seems like a macabre, sugary waste of time. In that sense, it is a bit similar to modern Christmas. You buy stuff and get tired. But like Christmas, there’s a kernel of great, even holy, meaning in this strange festival that is still worth celebrating. Continue reading

Why South Africans Need to Be Punk Rockers

Life lessons from the rebels of the 1970s.

The Ramones

In the mid ‘70s, a group of musicians around the world began to revolt against the hippie and cocaine-addled rock ‘n roll scene which had come to dominate after the end of the ‘60s.

Bands like The Ramones in the US and The Clash in the UK stripped down music to its bare bones and inspired people all around the world to start their own bands in their garage.

The tempo was fast, the songs were short, and the music was full of anger and love.

But the main idea was that it didn’t matter if you were not that good at music – you could pick up an instrument and play. Music was for everyone. Continue reading

Find Some Reason to Believe

You’ve got to look through the daily headlines.

Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen sang, ‘At the end of every hard day, people find some reason to believe.’

I often think of the diverging stories of Peter and Judas in the gospels. Both betray Christ. Both weep at the realisation of what they have done. But one kills himself, and the other becomes the chief apostle.


Because the final sin of any person or society is despair. That’s the only unforgiveable sin – because it has no hope, despair counts out the future.

Whatever we go through, if we keep hope alive, we can hang tough in the midst of any problems and grow through them.

The same goes for our society. Continue reading

Books That Changed My Life

Just let your kids read them.

Reading Asterix changed my life. I have since then always just wanted to live in a seaside village with a fat, jolly and incompetent chief, who nobody bothers to question because he is not that important, hunt boars in the nearby forest, have feasts under starlight, and go on the occasional adventure in defiance of Caesar.

Thoroughly world-view shaping stuff.

I also had this classic picture book of Robin Hood, entitled His Life and Legend – again similar themes – live in the forest with your merry men, defy Prince John, have a friar to say Mass for you, and a Maid Marian to marry. Continue reading

Why Trump Might Win

An old Kennedy aide lays out the case for Trump.

why trump might win

I have a bit of a thing for the Kennedys. I think JFK and Bobby probably saved the world by beating back nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

I probably know more than is strictly healthy about the JFK assassination. And I think American and global politics would have been massively better had Bobby himself not been killed in 1968, probably on his way to becoming president.

Yes, I know there was a very dark side to them too, but I still think some of the mythology was true.

Think of any modern politician today telling citizens not to ask what their country can do for them, but what they can do for their country – like JFK did in his inaugural speech. Continue reading

We Didn’t Start The Fire – It Was Always Burning

As cities and universities burn in South Africa and the US, our ‘hashtag’ movements give us a glimpse of both the past and the future.


It is an intriguing coincidence that when one watches the news these days, the images coming from the US are almost exactly the same as those coming from South Africa.

What’s more, both have a hashtag at the heart of the burning, looting, and rioting – namely #BlackLivesMatter for the US, and #FeesMustFall for South Africa.

Is it a coincidence?

I don’t think so.

I think the movements stem from the same social force, brought to life by similar social conditions.

But before we try to understand that force, it’s worth simply recounting the brief history of both movements. Continue reading

Thank You for the Light

The Great Gatsby’s author, a tired heroine, the Virgin Mary, and a quiet cigarette.

Thank you for the light

A while ago, a forgotten F Scott Fitzgerald (of Great Gatsby fame) short story was re-discovered. The story, entitled ‘Thank you for the light’, follows below, as originally published in the New Yorker magazine.

In the midst of so much turmoil around the world, this little story is a gem of a read.

I think it speaks for itself.