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Category Archives for "Culture"

No borders; no nations?

My generation will have to decide what a country is for…

Recently a group of students at the Berkeley division of the University of California started rioting in protest against a public speech on campus due to be given by pro-Trump journalist, the provocative and very strange Milo Yiannopoulos of Breitbart News.

He was unable to give his speech and now much controversy ensues about the ideal of free speech at academic institutions.

But one chant from the protestors really got me thinking: “No borders, no nations, f–k deportations!” Continue reading

4 Lessons on How to Rock ‘n Roll in 2017

If you’re anything like me, you’re tired of hearing people moan about 2016. Trump, Brexit, George Michael – these things have very little impact on people’s day to day lives. Leave all that behind this year, lay a record down, and learn from last century’s greatest art form.

When I was growing up in the early ‘90s, grunge music was all the rage. Bands were all copying Nirvana – wearing cardigans, shorts, and generally moping about while singing loud and boring songs.

Somehow I managed to hear music from an earlier age that grabbed my attention and sent me off on another direction.

In my early teens I bought Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Greatest Hits’ album, put ‘Dancing in the Dark’, ‘Thunder Road’, and ‘Badlands’ on loud on my hi-fi, and somehow knew I was connecting to something deeper than the nihilist youth culture of our postmodern age.

What I heard in the Boss’s music was rock that had a roll – a type of music that had its roots in the blues and gospel; that drew a golden thread from Elvis to Roy Orbison to the Rolling Stones; and that spoke to something deeper than angst, something more along the lines of joy, freedom, and redemption.

To my mind these are ideas we need every year. Continue reading

This Good Night is Still Everywhere to Me

The reason Christmas is still our culture’s most celebrated day is because at some level we subconsciously remember the revolution of that night a few thousand years ago in the Middle East.

“Any agnostic or atheist whose childhood has known a real Christmas has ever afterwards, whether he likes it or not, an association in his mind between two ideas that most of mankind must regard as remote from each other; the idea of a baby and the idea of unknown strength that sustains the stars.” GK Chesterton, ‘The God in the Cave’

Soak it in Boney M, elaborate lunches, shopping malls, and family bickering – but the truth remains, as GK Chesterton noted, we are all still haunted by the weird notion that God was once a Baby. Continue reading

The Immortality of the Soul

Why you will live forever. (Or, are we human, or are we dancer?)

Are we human?

It is a sign of backwardness that so many of us, unbelievably, affirm that human beings are only random collections of quantum particles.

Thus, when we die, nothing really changes – random and minute quarks just do a different dance. There is, apparently, no soul. Which ultimately leads to the inevitable conclusion that there is no me, there is no you, there is no love, there is no beauty, there is nothing after death – because no thing, and no person, really ever existed. Continue reading

How Trump’s Flaws Became Political Strengths

The American people were given a ridiculously difficult choice – but it’s important we understand the reasons why they chose Trump.

Many thought I was a bit crazy when some time before the election I suggested both here and here that Trump’s campaign was compelling politics and that he had a good chance of winning.

And if anybody had any further doubts about his appeal, despite him winning the election fairly comfortably, all you had to do was look on Facebook after his victory.

While scrolling through all the angst, one quickly realises that all the mourning of liberals was a big part of the motivation for Rust Belt Americans to vote Trump – they wanted to annoy the social justice warriors; they wanted to poke their fingers in the eyes of the elite – just as middle England flouted the expertise of London and Brussels when they took Britain out of the EU. Continue reading

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?

bonfire

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