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.
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.
Think about how moribund our basic education system is. Think about how many government school teachers never rock up to work. Think about poverty. Crime. Unemployment. Slums. Access to water. Our high abortion rates. Corruption.
I promise you varsity tuition costs are not the moral challenge of our time.
In the generally radical Freedom Charter, nowhere does it say university education should be free. If it didn’t occur to Communists sympathetic to Lenin and Stalin to ask for that, maybe the radicals burning universities down need to re-think their positions.
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.
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.
In the Dickens classic, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, the protagonist ends the novel by sacrificing his life for the husband of his one true love, his rival in essence.
Before he dies, this protagonist, Sydney Carton, says the following:
“I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss, and, in their struggles to be truly free, in their triumphs and defeats, through long years to come, I see the evil of this time and of the previous time of which this is the natural birth, gradually making expiation for itself and wearing out.
“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy…
“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”
The genius of the novel is that Dickens lets nobody off the hook – both the regime of pre-revolutionary France and the revolutionary leaders have blood on their hands.
But redemption comes from somebody who sees through the cycle of violence and absorbs it.
The latest student riots have put education in the spotlight. The students are re-deploying an old argument of the intellectual and political establishment – education can save our society (particularly the sciences) therefore it should be free for all.
The irony is that the violence of the riots and the lack of any meaningful dialogue around the conflict only shows the need for a new kind of education that goes beyond just preparing people for the workplace.
We need an education that helps us see and understand the big issues that have always either inspired or plagued human beings.
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.