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Humans of the future

It’s a given that humanity will always grow and discover more over time. The general leaning is apparently that we will grow and discover more technologically, scientifically and even physiologically, but it doesn’t seem to me as if we apply that same thinking to our growth as people. The same humanitarian efforts, fund raising and establishment of organisations that are supposed to uplift humanity fall flat and seem to be less effective as we progress on our journey.
Are we still actively exploring what makes a human being tick or are happy with the definitions and understandings that we have come to thus far? It seems to me that what Freud and Jung and others of their time have been replaced by drugs that are meant to medicate us into being a certain way. We don’t pursue the understanding and knowledge of what we are with the same zeal as we do with things external to ourselves. Our understanding of our human nature and its challenges now lag centuries behind where we are technologically and even medically. We don’t understand these entities whom we are making smarter machines, better medicines, newer information for; no wonder these entities don’t become any happier or any more advanced by things that are meant to make them so.
To me there always seems to be one fatal error futuristic people make, ignoring the force of our inclination to be human. Humanity is an intangible thing, like instinct and emotions. We know it is there but you can’t bottle it and sell it at the shops, and because of that fact our materialistic society has been trained to ignore or downplay it existence and significance.

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I remember as a young girl watching programs like Star Trek and Buck Rogers that were all about how life would be in the future. I don’t remember the people on Star Trek ever sitting down to a meal, sleeping under nice soft blankets, playing with children or animals, chatting with each other or doing anything that was just too human to be exciting. I remember warp speed, being beamed from here to there, the crew meeting strange creatures and I especially remember Mr. Spock’s ears. I remember Buck Rogers doing some amazing things, but he never went home to just relax and see his family or friends like my father did. I remember movies or episodes of these space/future programes showing how we would pop a pill and all our nutritional needs would be met for a long period of time. I remember the holo-deck where you could go to any place or time you like, but everyone always went into the holo-deck alone. No shared experiences.
Today we have technology that makes Star Trek and Buck Rogers look ridiculously crude. The machines that we use in our daily lives are mind-blowing and I think only the really dull of mind fail to marvel at it. For us the marvelous has become common-place, and behind it all the human condition persists. Technological advances has not affected us as much as we thought it would. We still eat and we love food as much as we ever did. No pill is going to replace the awesome feel, smell and taste of food and I never foresee a time when it will. We still laugh, act silly and do stupid things, no matter how much we discover that is supposed to make us smarter or how easily accessible that information is. We will never become cold and technical creatures who only look at the facts and act rationally and sensibly. We enjoy our stupidity too much. We even employ people to create laughable situations when none occur naturally. Some of these people are called comedians, others are called politicians. We like silliness. No matter how wonderful a holo-deck there is, nothing will beat the experience of actually being there. We all see from a different perspective, our eyes are drawn to different things, we each remember our experiences our own way and having someone we care about sharing those experiences make them all the more vivid.
We understand so little about ourselves and I wonder why we are so disinterested or maybe distracted from doing research and development of the human entity to the extent that we focus on other areas. Is it because humanity cannot be quantified and broken down to a specific formula like mathematics, science and electronics? Maybe there is a formula or a system to humanity that we can find and use for our betterment but we haven’t been looking for it. Maybe there isn’t a formula and it is just chaos and random action, but who better to understand the chaos and randomness of being human than another human being?
Are we always going to react the way we do to the same situations? Will we always disappoint ourselves and fall short of our intentions? Will we always assume the worst about ourselves and be surprised when one of us perform a noble and caring act? Will we always need laws and rules and restrictions to protect ourselves from each other? Will we keep clinging to the definitions of humanity and how to manage it when those definitions have proven ineffective over and over again?
In one of my favourite movies, The Matrix, the machines that have taken over the world have managed to figure out what it is that would keep humanity happy enough for them to get the required amount of electricity from each in their vast human farms. Too idyllic a life and the human mind revolts, too hard a life with too little reward and the human turns on a kind of kill-switch in their body. A balance between sorrow and joy, and you get optimum performance. The film may also just be another flight of fantasy, but it holds up the hope of getting the optimum human formula right someday. The machines in the movie did it through trial and error before getting the perfect balance. We have millions of years of trials and errors, it’s about time we get down to synthesizing the right formula from all our experiments.
The technology and true science we need to expand on is that of being human. The concept excites me and it’s one of the things that keeps me hopeful about humanity, that somewhere in-between our silliness, eating, fighting, sleeping, chatting, working, loving we will stumble upon a clue and that clue will take us forward in leaps and bounds.
Who better to put a formula to the chaotic mess we are than our very human selves?

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Black Souls in White Skins?

steve bikoThis is a title borrowed from Steve Biko, the father of black consciousness. In his piece he questions the assumptions white liberals made when dealing with black students in the organisations he was involved in those dry, hopeless, repressed and downright crazy years of apartheid in the 70’s. And in it he raises the question that always begs an answer in my mind as well. Is there something so inherently wrong with being black that we need white people to rectify us, civilise us, and educate us to be like them?

Many white people will tell you that they suffer discrimination too, and I can honestly say that when a black person hears that we think: Bullshit!

Such a statement goes out from the premise that a white person has any idea of the non-stop barrage of negative assumptions black people live under. It also says, in a very subtle way, that every time a person is judged as inferior or ostracised they are degraded to the level of a black person. Blackness being naturally inferior and deserving of ostracism.

I am always very wary of non-blacks trying to fight causes on behalf of black people. I treat them in a very circumspect way and never quite respond to their rah-rah bullshit about how badly black people are being treated. At the end of the day they go back to their big houses in the suburbs, with 2-3 cars, pools and dogs that eat gourmet kibble of the same cost as a black family’s weekly grocery budget. So like a good black person I just smile and listen, comment little and hit the delete button in my mind right after they leave. My head need not be filled with the prattle of people looking for an audience to their undeserved and often unappreciated privilege.

Then there are those who are fighting their own demons under the guise of empathising with the horrendous condition of being black. Because when you feel like shit about yourself you now know exactly how it feels to be black. Every time a black person sings they hear the pain in her voice, the suffering she had to go through, the hardship is palpable; her loving, happy upbringing notwithstanding. Being black is painful and the suffering they hear is not theirs, but hers of course. By siding with the lower level forms of humanity, masses of them to be sure, they have a big army and worthy cause to hide their insecurities behind.  Their questions about their worthiness and their issues of self-rejection couldn’t find a better home than with a group of unworthy people who face rejection as part of their daily existence. The perfect fit.

There are those smart white people who are quick to describe black people as illiterate and uninformed and form arrogant little theories about how black people can be educated to know all the wonderful things up to know destined only for the fair skinned. Never do they stop and ask if there is anything black people know that might enlighten whites. They know it all and you are a savage until you allow them to teach it all to you. They say that being a white woman is equal to being a black person. Blacks are thought of as dumb and incapable of complex intellectual functioning, so are women. Blacks are being paid less for the same work than whites, such is the case between white men and women. Blacks are often first to be picked and limited to performing servant-like tasks such as cleaning, housekeeping, child-rearing etc.; just like the white women of this world. Black are considered prone to responding emotionally rather than logically to situations, and women too. So being white woman whose husband thinks she doesn’t have to work, expect her to take care of her own home and children and don’t pay her as much as he does her male counterpart is equal to treating her like a black person. The poor, poor darling. How will she cope with all this free time while the real black people of world are busy in her house and garden and she only has to do the hard work of giving orders? We blacks really feel for her.

The rebels of the white world want to wipe their lily-hued behinds on the unfair advantage they grew up with by using darky slang and listening to rap music. They want to show up their mommies and daddies by consorting with undesirable types. They want to stand out, they want to be the only one. The only one in their circle who actually knows how to get to the nearest township. The only one of their friends who’s had a fling with a black chick. The one who says “Siyabonga, sisi”; the one white guy who spoke your language even though the language in your town is Tswana, not Zulu. They want to be the only white dude in a black crew. That will really give daddy some serious palpitations and have mommy panicking to calm him down while trying to untangle the huge knot in her expensive lingerie.

We know most white people smile to our faces and use derogatory terms to refer to us at home and with their friends. We know the best pranks are pulled on darkies. We know all the stupid jokes have either a Sipho or a Gatiep in them. We know that when there is a dirty bit of hard labour to be done us blacks spring to mind first. We know that you think singing and dancing are about the only things we do well besides everything you are too white for. The only people who are stupid enough to think all that escapes us are the ones doing it because they’re scared of being found out.

I can’t say I am 100% non-racist, the differences between races are too blatant for me to ignore. I do avoid anyone who wants to improve or change me for their own reasons. As stated before, such desires are based on a belief of inherent sub-humanness. I have some white friends, believe it or not. One of the most amazing people I have ever met is white and some of the people I like best and enjoy being with most are white too. I consider them my friends, a title not lightly given. They don’t try to make me into anything other than what I am. They accept that I might be looking at the world differently than they do and my viewpoint is no better or worse than theirs just because of the colour of my skin. They realise that I might just know more about being black than they do and that I never have and never will consider it a condition to be cured of.

Black people don’t feel inferior to whites or any other race, but we do feel black; because we are. We know however that being black earns us the label of inferiority in the minds of white people. There is a delicately nuanced distinction between feeling inferior and being treated as inferior. We suffer from the latter not the former. We love our black selves, ask any black you know. We don’t want to be rescued from being black. We don’t want to be civilised out of being black. We don’t want to educate away from being black. Black works for us; in ways no white person could ever imagine.

So a black soul in a white skin? I haven’t met one yet.

My Town, A Small Town

IMG_0826 My town used to be considered a barometer for white sentiment in the old South Africa. It used to be judged as being very “verkramp”, meaning bigoted, and some of its past glory still remains. But like most other things in life the view from the outside differs from what insiders see.

Being Black/Coloured in South Africa meant that we were allocated our own little portion of each town. Even if the lines that separated one portion from another were only in the imaginations and town planning maps of those who wanted it to be that way, each portion developed its own identity over the years and my town actually refers to the portion where I live.

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What stands out about my town is the two main activities my co-habitants engage in. One is religion and the other liquor. The contradiction is lost on my fellow townsmen because it has always been this way. It’s hard for the people in my town to believe that a person could choose not to drink and still have no desire to partake in any religion. I just love the way life is so cut and dried in the minds of those I live with.

My town is a place where your character is mostly determined by what your surname is. Great for those with upstanding pedigrees, crappy for those who come from less decent stock. People assume to know the content of your character, your future prospects and your status in societal hierarchy based on what they know of your family. For some it’s hard to break free from history. For others an undeserved bump-up which they struggle to live up to.

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Like most small towns we pride ourselves on our communal spirit. We are always there for each other we say; and it’s true. “There” might be as support in your time of need, or it might be in your private business. That is after all what small towns are best known for, nosy neighbours. Oh we might donate money, or time, or effort when you need us, but we will whisper about you before you’re out of earshot. Mostly because we want you to know that you have done something scandalous and gossip-worthy.

The people of my town love pretending that they just live here, but actually belong in better towns. Everyone actually belongs in Johannesburg, the City of Gold, but by some fluke of circumstance they just can’t get the dust of this horrid little place shaken off their shoes. Having left my town, lived in Johannesburg for 13 years, and had a good life there by any standard, I think a reality check is in order.

Being known in my town is like having money in the bank when living in Jo’burg. “Small-town Famous” is a term that was coined after a visit to my town, I’m sure. The assumption that everyone wants to be known gives my fellow citizens the right to question anyone in depth. The answers of which couldn’t possibly have any relevance in their day to day life, but if you want to be well-known you have to spill your guts.

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My town has long established a way to walk, to talk, to dress, to think, where to appear and when to appear there. Everyone knows what our sentiments and opinions should be, who we should side with, what our ambitions should be and how we must go about conducting our private affairs. It might be many stipulations but the answer to all of these is the same: whatever everyone else is doing.

A burning desire of those in my town is to have a big funeral. You pay for this by attending as many funerals as you can while alive. The question: “Who will attend your funeral if you don’t support the funerals of others?” is meant to strike fear into the heart of any dissident member of my community.

Those who love this burg act as if every feather on every bird flying over the town has been placed in their custody. Sometimes this custodianship extends itself to the grocery cupboards, garden implements, toolboxes, cars, and children of fellow inhabitants. Don’t be surprised if someone you barely know comes and knocks on your door at any time of day asking to use/borrow your lawnmower, mayonnaise, child (to send on an errand) or baking trays. You have very little room to refuse. Remember, you want to build up goodwill for your funeral and not be gossiped about as being stingy. Anyone living near you has unlimited emergency rides booked in your car. Please take note and act accordingly. My neighbour asked the other day what my pottering in the garden was all about. I explained it’s a food garden where I’m growing vegetables. Her response was: “Ooh great! Now I can borrow spinach from you.” Wow!

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The part I have most difficulty with in my town is the unsolicited visit. The drop-in. The head poking through the doorway. The knock when you least want to hear one. And if you don’t answer, the people of my town start calling your name. If you still don’t respond they ask your neighbour where you are. Both the unwanted visitor and neighbour might start calling your name. All that noise to force you out of your unsociable behaviour. The rule now is, always keep the dishes washed because you never know who might come to ask/lend something. Always keep the sitting room in perfect order so you can let your guest in without shame. In fact, make sure your whole house is spic and span by 11 o’clock because anyone might drop in from then on. I can do without uninvited guests; they’re the ones who stay the longest because they have nothing better to do.

My town is a gem and a soft place to fall when the big, big world stops treating us nicely. My town is a family town because most of us stem from a few core lines going back generation before generation. My town will make a space for you even when your ancestry is foreign to us, there’s always room for one more branch on the family tree.

My town is a study in the best and worst of human nature and especially its paradoxes. My town is a concentrated dose of the whole, wide world.

Fight For Your Peace of Mind. Think!

Today I saw a post on Facebook that I feel was an attempt sow panic for whatever reason people choose to do things like that and though I normally keep my opinions to myself on FB, I had to give my 2 cents worth. This is it below.

On your marks. Ready. Panic!
On your marks. Ready. Panic!

For those who don’t know the country, this is 200 South African Rand and it is supposedly worth less than 10 British Pound. Really? If you believe any random expert over your own common sense, it is. This was my response to the FB post:

This is the kind of twisted shit that makes people’s lives miserable. Everyone is panicking about a stupid meme that doesn’t make any difference to our daily lives. Those who panic and criticize don’t even understand macro-economics or what the real meaning of an exchange rate is.

Since a blog is such a personal thing, it will become apparent over time that I lean toward what is considered conspiracy theory and unashamedly so.

With issues such as the global economic downturn, loss of value in all currencies, dire future prospects, and the general public finding it increasingly difficult to afford the most basic of needs for their survival, I see a concerted effort to steal people’s joy. I see a world that has a habit of leaning on people’s panic buttons for reasons I cannot imagine. I see people being deprived of something that would make the world no poorer if we allow everyone to have just a little bit more of it. No it’s not money, it’s peace of mind. What does the world stand to lose if every single human being could just close their eyes each evening with peace of mind. Nothing, in fact we all stand to gain something from it.

But it’s time that we start thinking independently, start employing logic, start questioning what happens around us and not just allow persons unknown to post memes that basically say that your life is shit and about to become shittier in the near future. Think just a little bit more than you normally do.

If every country is servicing huge national debts and the richest and most powerful have the biggest debts, ask yourself who is owing who. I know the answer is that we owe the IMF (International Monetary Fund) and the World Bank, but where do they get the money from if they don’t belong to any specific country and don’t run businesses of their own? There is no logic attached to these things. Every member country, which is almost all the countries on Earth contribute to these organisations. Then the very same countries take loans from these organisations. These countries then have to pay back this money with interest. What? Did you just say that you borrow your own money and pay it back with interest? Yes, I did!

So basically everyone owes everyone else, right? Why can all debts not be pardoned, everyone given a clean slate and we start minding our own business and handling our own money affairs without international interference?

If your country doesn’t have to pay back it’s debts your economy will improve overnight, you might have to pay less or no tax. But no, that’s not going to happen because it makes sense and it might give you a bit of peace of mind. So none of that for you.

As for South Africans, we must ask ourselves how it is that we produce the gold that is supposed to back up all currencies, yet ours keep slipping. I’ve dealt with the buying and selling of gold for 2 years in my career as a bookkeeper and whenever the price of gold went up, there was a drop in the South African currency. You would think that it would make our country richer and thus our currency stronger if the minerals we produce appreciate in value, but alas, no. Clearly global economics are incorrigibly resistant to logic.

Another question I ask myself as a South African is this: In light of the fact that we produce so many raw materials for other countries’ economies, we even supply the great British Empire with fresh produce, shouldn’t our currency far outstrip theirs? They talk about their countries’ reserves, but at the same time the biggest economies have national debts that they cannot even pay the interests of. Now tell me again about those reserves they have while being unable to pay their debts. Again, no logic.

My reasoning might be extremely simplistic, but I know one thing about very intelligent and academically superior things. Nothing can be so superior and intelligent that it even defies logic. It is our assumption that these things are too complicated to understand that gives those who mess with our security and the fruits of our hard work all the power to dupe us into staying at the bottom of the rung.

The majority of the world’s population suffer from mental slavery. The minute a news bulletin tells us to panic and fear for our lives we hardly take a second to ask some basic questions. Why is it happening? How did it happen? Who made it happen? What does it have to do with me? When did it start and when is it going to end? We start acting like Chicken Little with immediate effect.

You deserve a fair exchange for the hard work you put into your job.

You and yours deserve a full belly and a warm, comfy place to sleep every day.

You and yours deserve security and peace of mind as part of your basic state of being.

There are people who will take all these things from you if you don’t fight to keep it.

Don’t take up arms, fight with your mind.

Question, contemplate and come to your own conclusions.

One of the great men of the South African Freedom Struggle was Steve Biko and he said: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”

steve biko

Don’t give anyone your mind to fuck with.

The small academic town I live in is surrounded by many small farms. With 200 South African Rand I get farm fresh milk with cream still floating on top. I get vegetables so fresh they still smell of soil. I get meat fresh from the abattoir. I can even buy a live chicken and slaughter it at home. And after all that I’m still left with a few rand in change. How many people in the UK can say the same? Is that what you get in Great Brittan for less than 10 pound? I think not.

So fight for your peace of mind. Think!

Life: A Matrix of Worry

Every single day when I wake up I feel amazing. I feel joyful and filled with life and my mind is exceptionally clear. Then the inevitable happens, my mind starts running the basic operating system and I have to plug into the world. And what is the first thing that I download once I’m plugged in? It’s Worry.

I’m lucky that I have only a few things to Worry about and I call them my priorities, not my problems. They are my spiritual evolution, my children and my work. Everything other than that is peripheral and subject to being cancelled at any point it gets tedious.

But as I walk through life I feel as if there is a little voice in my head that constantly says: Worry! I have to continually remind myself that even my priorities are not worth worrying about, they are my joy and I am glad to have them. The real struggle is to hold on to my joy and not give into Worry; as normal and human as it may seem to others.

There was a group of people who had all the prosperity that you could imagine, strong family ties, were deeply spiritual and everything in life just seemed to go their way. Other people wondered why this particular group was so privileged and how they could become like them. Was it by working harder, studying more, making their businesses more profitable, changing their spiritual practices, what? The secret was simple and the last thing one could have imagined. Each morning every member of the group of very fortunate people would on waking up and before opening their eyes say: “Today is the most wonderful day of my life and something extraordinary is going to happen to me.” They taught this to their children and made sure their children understood how crucial the practice is to having a good life – and their children complied. Generation after generation they prospered because of one simple thing they did before rising from bed.

This I read in a crazy little book. Okay, so I fancied-up the story a bit because I’m a writer, but the essence remains. And the essence of it struck a chord in me. I said to myself: “Netta, what do you have to lose by saying that to yourself every morning. Do it 5 times over each morning and just see what happens.”

Well, I found repeating it just once was hell near impossible. Really! I could not concentrate long enough to silently utter that phrase once. Just once. It took effort because all my mind knew at the time was that it had to plug into the Matrix of Worry and nothing else was required of it. I had to teach myself to first focus on making a wonderful day before plugging into the world.

Some time after starting the practice I decided to give up problems altogether, I have no need of them and they sure make life less enjoyable. I got rid of the ones that were just habitual, like worrying about the future and I worked on the ones I thought were important. My life has become much more joyful and much less complicated since starting that simple practice. Most recently I’ve stopped listening to other people’s problems as well.

I have to plug into life because I love life, but I don’t have to be controlled by the Matrix of Worry if I don’t chose to. The best thing that I gained from reading that crazy book was to insert and prioritise my joy before I did anything else for the day. It’s great to feel good just because I feel good.

What simple practise do you have that makes your life a little more joyful? Tell us on the comments below or drop me a line in my inbox via e-mail. I’m always willing to learn something new or hear a different point of view.

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