How to be a (useless) intellectual

Intellectuals perform for us the valuable task of demonstrating the sacred pointlessness of human existence. As Thomas Aquinas once wrote: ‘It is necessary for the perfection of human society that there should be men who devote their lives to contemplation.’

I did pretty well at school. I got good marks. My teachers told me to be a lawyer, an engineer, or a film director (!). Instead, here I find myself a chronically underpaid (considering I studied successfully at varsity for seven years) teacher and writer.

This can make for some awkward conversation at school reunions. If you did well at a private school, you are meant to study Business Science and/or take over your dad’s business. Otherwise, aren’t you wasting all those school fees?

It’s interesting to trace this logic a bit further.

Basically, such logic says you need to make money, so your progeny can make more money, in order for the cycle to continue. Clear?

Now, by no means am I suggesting making money or doing well at business is bad. It is obviously good. And we need lots and lots of people doing just that.

But making money for the sake of making money is bad (especially when you consider that social scientists tell us once your needs are met, more money does not add to happiness) and it comes with a whole lot of stress, worry, and temptation. Continue reading

Did Cinema’s Most Acclaimed Film Predict Trump?

The two most critically acclaimed films of all time are both about the same thing – love, and how to destroy it in the modern world.

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A few months ago I wrote about the film Vertigo, which is considered by many film critics to be, always in competition with Citizen Kane, the greatest film of all time. Read the post here.

Today, I want to look at Citizen Kane – the supposed ‘Everest’ of filmmaking.

For decades, critics and academics have all agreed that when it comes to the art of cinema, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), in its storytelling and filmic innovation, as well as its sympathetic and withering critique of a semi-fictional American tycoon, is the pinnacle and benchmark of the entire art form.

It also happens to be Donald Trump’s favourite film, something which is either highly ironic, or betrays a well-hidden self-awareness on the part of the controversial US President. We’ll return to Trump later – suffice to say the Trump connection demonstrates how all truly great art is always topical. Continue reading

Forgetting Nelson Mandela

This past ‘Mandela Day’ in South Africa, a radical left-wing acolyte of populist politician, Julius Malema, dumped a whole bunch of dead rats at the feet of the Mandela statue in Sandton. (Those of you who applauded the guys throwing their own shit around in Cape Town should have seen this coming.)

Forgetting Nelson Mandela

The implication is fairly clear. Mandela ratted out black people by reconciling with whites. Therefore our problems can be blamed on him. We could be living in a socialist utopia if it were not for Madiba going soft while in jail.

There’s no point to even debating the merits of such an argument, as many South Africans attempted to do with the Cecil Rhodes statue. Once people are throwing rats and feces around, debate has left the building. Nobody ten years ago would ever have dreamt of seeing a young black political activist put rats at the feet of Mandela. But there is simply no end to the process of playing the victim. That is why I think we all need to be brave enough to speak up now before the problem gets worse. Continue reading

Will Trump Be Overthrown?

I know what I am supposed to think.

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Obama had class. Trump is a fascist nut. Brexit was stupid. And Merkel is a homophobe for being personally opposed to gay marriage. But sue me – because I don’t agree with any of these statements.

I guess I have always had a predilection for thinking about things myself. And to my surprise, I find myself swimming against the current on all of these issues. I liked Obama when he was elected – but, wow, so much hype, so little substance. I think if I were British I would also not want Belgians running my day-to-day life. And I personally don’t find anything offensive about liberal heroine, Angela Merkel, saying that she believes in the traditional view of marriage.

And perhaps most shocking of all, I find myself sympathetic to an orange, tasteless, reality TV star. Continue reading

Proteas, Panic, and the Unimportance of Winning

There is something so fascinating about the South African national cricket side. They so clearly have a real psychological and cultural block when it comes to knock-out cricket – yet they never even own up to it.

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In fact, one could almost even say that not owning their weakness is truly their inherent weakness.

As a big cricket fan, I admit that I get far too emotionally invested in what is really just a game of cricket – a knocking about of leather by willow – and so my knee-jerk reaction after another classic case of Protea Panic is to forget about it and move on.

But this time I am truly intrigued on a human level with this bizarre and continuous re-enactment of ‘choking’, tournament after tournament, as though they were doomed to repeat the past again and again.

For some reason, one of the great and bizarre quotes from Peter ‘P-Divvy’ de Villiers came to mind on Monday morning. He once said, to general mockery,’There is no difference between winning and losing. The only difference is how you feel after.’

Of course, this was immediately dismissed as nonsense, but I wonder if he was not onto something. Continue reading

Putting the ‘Radical’ into Economic Transformation

Not many people know what the word ‘radical’ really means.

When politicians speak about radical economic transformation (or RET for short), they generally mean, depending on their point of view, violent, militant, extreme, or just plain awesome economic transformation. But what does the word truly mean?

Radical comes from the same word as ‘radish’ – the Latin word ‘radix’, which means ‘root’.

Therefore, radical economic transformation should really mean transformation that gets to the root of our problems. And that would therefore imply a kind of shared agreement about what the root of our problems is.

Of course, the proponents of RET have a simple answer for this – colonialism, which to them was the political expression of the evils of capitalism. And so the solution is obvious. End capitalism. Nationalise banks, mines, land. Let the government run it for the good of the people. Continue reading

The Two Greatest Films of All Time?

The two most critically acclaimed films of all time are both about the same thing – love, and how to destroy it in the modern world…

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For decades, critics and academics have all agreed that when it comes to the art of cinema, Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941), in its storytelling and filmic innovation, its sympathetic and withering critique of a semi-fictional American tycoon, is the pinnacle and benchmark of the entire art form.

Yet as the critics, notably the British and American Film Institutes, released their annual lists of the ‘greatest films of all time’, one film kept rising in their esteem, Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958). Continue reading

Another Time, Another Place… Another Country, Another State of Grace

In order to understand the South Africa of today, and still live with hope, we must understand at least some of the past – its history and its great literature and ideals…

In the fifth century, Rome was sacked by pagan Goths.

This left the Christian world in deep shock. After having been mercilessly persecuted by the Empire in the early days, by some mystical fashion, the Emperor Constantine had been converted in a dream and had legalised the Christian religion. And there was an end to the constant bloodshed.

Despite the attempt of Julian the Apostate Emperor to re-paganise Rome, the march of Christianity continued, and Rome became the centre of the Church – the place of Peter and Paul’s martyrdom, and thus the home of their successors, the Popes.

But then it fell apart. Constantine moved the Empire to the East – to Byzantium which became Constantinople, and is now Istanbul in Turkey. Rome’s power weakened, and eventually it was conquered and the old Empire of the West fell.

What was the point of being Christian if God’s city on earth could be overwhelmed by brutal power from the north? Many people despaired. Continue reading