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Category Archives for "Culture"

Steve Biko and the Human Face

What is this blog all about?

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I have been wondering how I would describe the unifying theme of my writing.

For a long time, I have considered myself a conservative. By that, I don’t mean the politics of George Bush, as some mistakenly think – but rather a politics that values tradition, the family, morality, and is sceptical as to how much a large government can achieve.

I think all politics is ultimately about an organic relationship between liberty and order, worked out in time and space by a people according to their own history and traditions.

I think when governments are too confident in their own ability to re-make society, to engineer society, disaster strikes. Think of the gulags, the social engineering of apartheid, the Terror of the French Revolution and its subsequent Napoleonic Wars.

But unfortunately, none of this amounts to a catch-phrase, a clear political style or theme. Continue reading

6 Things White South Africans Need to Know

We can’t go on but we must go on.

A lot of white people are angry in South Africa. They are angry about being blamed for being privileged, for inequality, and for all the aftershocks of apartheid. They are angry about BEE, quotas in sport, and a terrible ANC leader.

They are also nervous – nervous about a lot of black people questioning the deals that took place around 1994, questioning land ownership, and white people’s whole sense of belonging in this country. That anxiety creates a lot of the anger.

But the key thing to remember is that this conversation, and these emotions, especially as it is played out on social media, can have no satisfying resolution. Just being angry or scared is not going to do anything for white South Africans, no matter whether those emotions are justified or not.

You can dabble in anger, and you should definitely process it, but you need to know that what you choose to do and how you choose to live will ultimately define not only your life but also the future of our society. And anger is not enough to live a meaningful life.

So how should we act in this country as white South Africans? What can we do? Continue reading

Trump Knows Something You Don’t

Why this uncouth, unfit for leadership, sleazy casino magnate is at the cutting edge of politics.

Donald Trump

If you are still mystified about the rise of Trump, this is the article you need to read.

His critics dismiss him too glibly. But the fact that such a strange man like Donald Trump has so much popularity tells us something is shifting in the world.

And that shift comes as a result of a seismic aftershock to globalisation.

Globalisation is the process by which the world’s economies and cultures have become interlocked and inter-connected.

Two examples help us to understand it:

1. Money lenders in the US take gambles on risky mortagages and crash their economy. Here in South Africa people somehow lose their jobs as a result as demand is sucked up worldwide.

2. I remember travelling to Malawi a decade ago. Even in its quietest corners, I came across young children wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the images of American rappers.

The great hope after the end of the Cold War and the fall of Communism was this idea of a new global village, where democracy and free trade inspires a free and prosperous world, progressing under the auspices of a Pax Americana.

What was ignored in this is that humans are not really globalised creatures. Continue reading

Without a Sense of Wonder, Nothing Makes Sense

Let Spring Day remind you of the mystery

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Today is the beginning of spring for the southern hemisphere, when nature draws on the power of winter’s death, and bursts forth in life.

It is something so basic that it becomes mundane for us.

We forget that because our earth is tilted on an axis, and is flying around a huge burning ball of gas, seasons change as the hemispheres get closer and farther away from the rays of light flying through empty space.

In the old days of paganism, people understood the world was a huge mystery. That’s why they had all these rituals to do with death and resurrection, spring time and harvest, bread and wine. They knew in their hearts that life was a riddle which could never be wholly solved.

We’ve forgotten this. We think we know everything, but real wisdom lies in knowing how much you do not know. Continue reading

Life Lessons from the Great Michael Scott

The Office was the greatest of TV shows.

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In the ridiculousness of Steve Carell’s great character, lie some true pearls of wisdom. One of my writing dreams is to actually write his fictional unpublished management book, “Somehow I Manage”. I don’t know if I’m up to the task, though.

For those unfamiliar with the show, “The Office” was a mockumentary about a series of characters working at the imaginary paper company, Dunder Mifflin. Michael Scott was the boss, and the most popular employees were Jim and Pam Halpert, Dwight Schrute, and Andy Bernard.

The show was a spin-off from a British original, made in a flash of genius by the otherwise awful Ricky Gervais.

For me, the US version was much better because it had some elements of hope in the satire of workplace culture – the British version was far more acidic in its portrayal of a boring, going-nowhere white collar work environment.

Those elements of hope in the US version truly contained some real wisdom – mostly in the form of the lead character, Michael. Continue reading

Organisations Must Have People Who Are on the Edge of Inside

How do we create organisations that inspire loyalty?

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As human beings, we need to be valued as individuals and we need to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. If an organisation can’t validate both needs, it will crumble.

The traditional churches are bleeding members. Almost everybody hates their bank. In South Africa, the ANC is falling apart. Parastatals are falling apart. Sports clubs are even dying. More and more it seems as though we live isolated lives, without our loyalty being inspired by any larger body.

In the US, the Democratic Party almost nominated a presidential candidate who is barely a Democrat (Bernie Sanders only joined the party a few months before he launched his campaign). The Republican Party actually nominated somebody who hates their party (Trump has continuously mocked the Bushes and other party leaders).

In short, trust in our social institutions is at an all-time low, and flame-throwers and outsiders are increasingly popular. Continue reading

Shining a Light on South African (In)Justice

‘I’m still in darkness.’

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This story I wrote for Leadership magazine could well be made into a film. Every now and then a story grips you emotionally, even as a supposedly dispassionate journalist. The oppression of Thembekile Molaudzi is such a story.

Just over a year ago, the editor at Leadership magazine asked me to cover Molaudzi’s release from prison after having spent 11 years incarcerated for a crime he did not commit.

What I discovered was a giant of a man (literally and spiritually), and the dogged and noble work of an amazing institution housed in the Wits school of journalism: Continue reading

Live Together; Die Alone

Perhaps it is time to look at the Native American option?

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History tells us that the capitalist, industrialised, consumer culture of 20th century Europe is exceptionally powerful. Countries never seem to turn their back on it. But how much do we know of its dark side?

First of all, let me say I am really grateful for modern life. My kids get vaccinated; I can communicate with you on the Internet; eat interesting food from around the world; and generally live a more comfortable, cleaner, and safer life than even the kings of old.

But I was reading this piece from famed New York Times columnist, David Brooks, and it struck me that for all our comforts, for all our affluence, we have given up a great deal. Continue reading