There’s rustic and there’s rustic

“Rustic is in,” Lianne assured me. “You must see the rustic bed made from pallets and lights in Pinterest” (see below)

The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest
The rustic bed that Lianne loved in Pinterest

“Ja, but there’s rustic and there’s rustic,” I replied. “You’re talking the clothes in Swellendam mall: all torn (below see an example of what I mean – also ripped from Pinterest).”

Machine distressed jeans
Machine distressed jeans

Or, I could have added, these seven magnificently scrubbed and groomed gentlemen below

The Magnificent Seven: all scrubbed, groomed and waiting for the cameras
The Magnificent Seven: all scrubbed, groomed and waiting for the cameras

For rustic I invite you to the real thing, shovelling a winter barn’s worth of goat shit:

Spring-cleaning the barn
Spring-cleaning the barn

or this sawdust-based humanure composting toilet – because, as Joseph Jenkins points out in his The Humanure Handbook, we need to take responsibility for our own shit as we’re the only species that shits in our drinking water:

Sawdust humanure composting toilet
Sawdust humanure composting toilet

A little later in the evening Lianne mentioned that no one on the farm where she is leasing a cottage wants to slaughter. “Even when a cow dies, they don’t eat it, they bury it. When the owner asks the volk (workers) who will slag (slaughter) a rooster or a chicken they all vanish.”

“But you could do it yourself,” I point out. “My son and daughter-in-law slaughter. I respect them for that.”

“No!” and she shudders. This from someone who eats only meat, no vegetables.

“There’s rustic and there’s rustic,” I pointedly replied. Everyone laughed, Lianne included.

Designer, safe and nice versus the real

Yes, there’s rustic and there’s rustic. The one is designer, safe and nice, the other exposes us to real. But doing safe and nice might be our species’ psychological downfall, in that safe and nice cut us off from the  noumenal world-in-itself of Immanuel Kant or from what Jiddu Krishnamurti understood as the new. And feeling cut off leads to a sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. People who are cut off from nature also cannot feel how their everyday actions (for instance, spraying their grass verges with Monsanto’s Roundup, or eating battery chickens and eggs) cause undue suffering to the non-human world of which we are part and is, I believe, at the heart of our planet’s crisis.

Transcript of Justice Malala’s interview with Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan

What follows is a transcription of sections of video footage shot by eNCA of an interview conducted by political analyst Justice Malala with South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan. The interview formed part of the annual Cape Town Open Book Festival hosted by the Book Lounge.

Please note that because the early footage I used breaks up (they might have corrected it by now) I was only able to follow part way into the interview. I’ve transcribed what I sense are sections of the interview that I believe are particularly relevant to the current political discourse and/or turmoil surrounding the South African Finance Ministry, South African Revenue Services and the Hawks Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation.

To view the actual footage to which the transcription speaks, please click on the accompanying link.

Excerpt one: ‘the rules of the (Finance Ministry) game … is to look after your money’

To view the video footage (20:00 – 21:00) please click here.

Pravin Gordhan (PG): … and all of these things require, that, whether, you’re a state-owned entity or a government department, these are the rules of the game, follow the rules of the game and if you follow the rules of the game then there is no need for any friction. And part of the rules of the game are, is, that we, part of our job is to look after your money. Part of our job is to stand before an audience like this and say your money is spent in an efficient way and in the public interest in the end of it all, and that’s the job we are trying to do. And if somebody becomes uncomfortable with us doing our job in terms of the letter of the law then it’s not our problem, it’s their problem. If we are reading the law incorrectly, if we are applying the law incorrectly then prove us wrong. But if we’re doing it the right way and that creates some discomfort on the other side, then they owe the public an explanation.

Screen shot of the eNCA video of Justice Malala interviewing South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, as part of the Cape Town Open Book Festival
Screen shot of the eNCA video of Justice Malala interviewing South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, as part of the Cape Town Open Book Festival
Excerpt two: ‘the extractors’ versus ‘very hardworking, honest people … who want to see public funds benefit 55 million people, not five’

To view the video footage (24:18 – 28:18) please click here.

PG: … I think what we do need in South Africa is to recognise that in most economic – all economic systems produce (unclear) – seeking phenomena of one kind or another …  and, uh, clearly in our society as well you’ve got the very hardworking, honest people, and then you have what many books call these days, ‘extractors’, people who unfairly and improperly benefit from … Whether these people are really doing it in this kind of way is for somebody to make a judgement on, at some stage. But what is far more important is that there are many people in government – the majority I believe, uh, ad outside who want to see public funds to benefit 55 million people, not five. And that’s the real story. How do we ensure on a day-to-day basis that those of us who are responsible for public finances, makes sure that that money benefits 55 million people … and what we need to ensure is that public oriented bodies serve all the people in South Africa, and that’s where the phrase, ah, that is our job. Our job is to implement the constitution, to give effect to the legislation and make sure all South Africans benefit and create policy framework that enable them – to all say we have a stake in this economy and be able to say thank you (audio for the last section not clear).

Screen shot of the eNCA video of South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan interviewed by Justice Malala, as part of the Cape Town Open Book Festival
Screen shot of the eNCA video of South African Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan interviewed by Justice Malala, as part of the Cape Town Open Book Festival
Excerpt three: ‘Are you above the law?’

To view the video footage (28:19 – 31:20) please click here.

Justice Malala (JM): A lot of people are saying, well, Finance Minister Gordhan should subject himself to the law, and go to the Hawks, and like everybody else be questioned. Are you above the law?

PG: (coughs) No no, you can arrest me now if you want to but whatever have I done wrong?  That’s the question. If you’re (unclear) saying (???) then why not subject myself? But above all, ah, then the public should know I’ve taken legal advice, you’ve heard (coughs), sorry about this cough, you’ve heard Judge Kriegler write about this and talk about this outside the Hawks office for example last week, ah, ah, that (pause) I’m not required to go there, firstly, secondly, all the questions have been asked, all the questions have been answered, thirdly, in every piece of correspondence, of any substance between my lawyers and the Hawks, and the prosecuting authority – there’s a line there which says, ‘Should you require any more information, please contact us’.  They haven’t – yet. So they’re welcome. If there’s some piece of information they require they’re most welcome to ask, we’ll give them the information. I don’t have to be dragged through a cordon of press people or whatever it is just to show the world that the Hawks have got this chap here. This is what Judge Kriegler was talking about in his article(s) (??). So I’m not above the law, nobody should be above the law, and anyway that’s the wrong narrative. The real question here is Tom Moyani, who is the head of the South African Revenue Service laid a complaint some time in 2014 or thereabouts with the Hawks. Since then you’ve had a newspaper that carried an 18-month campaign against certain individuals. At the end of the 18 months’ period that newspaper had to apologise in one whole page. So what had it done? Because it didn’t have proof of the stuff it was accusing people of. Some of you might remember reading both the front pages and the page where there was the apology. Then the newspaper began to take a different tack. So as we sit today (pause) what’s the problem? (pause) Who’s accused of what? So there are people who have been stealing hundreds of millions of Rands and getting away with it and none of the people concerned in this particular matter have stolen a cent as far as I know. So why this disproportional treatment, and, and, what motivates it – and you’re (pointing to Justice Malala) not allowed any more questions (laughter), so, these are my questions (an interjection – unclear), so, ah, we’ll certainly co-operate with whatever legal obligations we have. And I’ve had good legal advice, and I’m not just doing this on a whim or fancy (unclear), I’m doing it in accordance with the interpretation of the law (applause).

Note:  Judge Kriegler is a retired justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa

No! to the proposed SA nuclear build programme

My written submission objecting to the proposed plan to put into effect the first stages of a plan to build approximately eight nuclear power stations for South Africa

I thank you for the opportunity to comment on the above.
History has shown that:

  • nuclear is hazardous: despite the rosy picture painted by individual apologists for nuclear, and denials and reassurances from corporate and other vested interests, nuclear is not safe (reference: see 1 below)
  • nuclear is unaffordable: extrapolations based on the doubling of the projected costs of constructing the Medupi and Kusile coal power plants translate into a price-tag for the nuclear build programme of between one and two trillion rand, which is unaffordable, reckless and – given poverty and related challenges facing South Africa – criminally profligate (see 2 below)
  • nuclear is inappropriate: extrapolations based, inter alia, on the trebling of the projected time it took to construct the Medupi and Kusile coal power plants (see 2 and 3 below) translate into power becoming available only in 10 to 20 years, by which time, given that solar panels (also in informal settlements) are increasingly ubiquitous, given that energy-saving solutions are now standard building requirements, and given the rapid improvements in green technologies, mean that once nuclear power is finally generated it will no longer be required. This is already happening in the US (see 4 below). Hence a charge of wasteful expenditure
  • nuclear procurement is open to corruption: past and current financial scandals, coupled with the opaque and secretive nature of the recent nuclear procurement process do much to promote cynicism, distrust and anger (see 5 & 6 below)

Therefore I wish to register my objection to and rejection of the proposed nuclear build programme.

Hendrik Jeremy Mentz (20160829)

  1. Nuclear power plant accidents: listed and ranked since 1952 (The Guardian)
  2. Why South Africa should not build eight new nuclear power stations (M&G)
  3. “Urgent” nuclear power? This is how long it takes to build a reactor (htxt:africa)
  4. On rooftops, a rival for utilities (NYT)
  5. DoE claims nuke procurement details classified (M&G)
  6. Key details of SA’s nuclear procurement plan kept under wraps (BDLive)

‘Enter’ wins a South African Independent Publishers Award

Friend and writer, Ken Barris, put me onto Darryl Earl David, language lecturer at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and initiator of a number of literary festivals that are helping keep reading, writers and publishers alive in South Africa.

arryl Earl David co-organisers of the Booktown Richmond Literary Festival
Darryl Earl David co-organiser of the Booktown Richmond Literary Festival

Darryl had earlier put out a call to indie writers who had published in 2015 to submit their work for consideration for a South African Independent Publishing Award. The closing date was little more than a week away and so I dispatched my book post-haste.

Booktown Richmond

The award ceremony formed part of the annual Booktown Richmond J.M. Coetzee/Athol Fugard Festival co-organised with Peter Baker.

What a pleasure meeting a bunch of interesting, unpretentious, solid, down-to-earth people: writers and publishers who, like I, had decided to go it alone.

Below are some pics of the festival (to view the full-sized image click on any image and use the arrow keys left or right. To escape click ‘x’ top left or hit your ‘Esc’ key):

What also surprised and delighted me was the quality of the publications, all of which could have stood shoulder to shoulder with anything that the major publishers had produced thus confirming my conviction that if you believe in something, then make it happen.

South African Independent Publishers Awards

Below are indie authors whose books I couldn’t resist purchasing:

Leanne Mitchell (nee Raymond) who won an indie award in the fine art category for her exquisite biography on the artist Eleanor Esmonde-White

Leanne Mitchell wins an award in the fine arts category for her exquisite biography on indie award in the art category on her exquisite biography, Eleanor Esmonde-White. Included are Peter Baker and Darryl Earl David co-organisers of the Booktown Richmond Literart Festival
Leanne Mitchell receiving her South African Independent Publishers Award from Peter Baker and Darryl Earl David, co-organisers of the Booktown Richmond Literary Festival. Leanne’s award was in the fine arts category

Linda Louw who won an indie-publishers award in the photographic category for some of the most haunting photographs I have ever seen, in her The Wild Horses of the Kaapsehoop Escarpment, edited by Elize Cookson, whom I also met at the festival.

Linda Louw, author of 'The Wild Horses of the Kaapsehoop Escarpment' with Peter Baker and Darryl David. Linda's book won a South African Independent Publishers Book Award in the photography category
Linda Louw photographed with Peter Baker and Darryl David. Linda’s book won a South African Independent Publishers Award in the photography category

Tree Aloes of Africa by Ernst van Jaarsveld and Eric Judd published by Wynand van Eeden’s Penrock Publications, which specialises in the botanical field, and that won an award for a meticulously researched, beautifully presented work in the field of botany captured lovingly between book covers.

Wynand van Eeden's Penrock Publications wins an indie publisher's award for their 'Tree Aloes of Africa' by Ernst van Jaarsveld and Eric Judd. Wynand is flanked by Peter Baker and Darryl Earl David, co-organisers
Wynand van Eeden’s Penrock Publications wins a South African Independent Publishers Award for their ‘Tree Aloes of Africa’ by Ernst van Jaarsveld and Eric Judd. Wynand is flanked by Peter Baker and Darryl Earl David, co-organisers of the Booktown Richmond festival

As you can see in the feature image used for this post (photo credit: Linda Louw), Enter also won an award in the philosophy category.

What helped ‘Enter’ win the award, I believe, was the professional quality of the physical book itself, thanks to book designer Doret Ferreira of dotted line design. Accolades are also due to Stefanie Swanepoel who served as editor and proofreader, web application designer, Dustan Franks of WordPress Ninja and a relentless team of hyper-critical readers: my two sons, Joshua and Matthew, a good friend, Louis de Villiers, and Fred. Thanks are also due to RSA Litho who reprinted and bound the book at their own cost after the pages in the first imprint came loose from the cover.

Marketing ‘Enter’

I had conflict as to how to go about selling copies during the festival. Should I have them on continuous display on a table at the front like some authors had done or should I wait for people to approach me, hopefully having had their interest piqued during my half-hour presentation during the festival? Near the end after I had only sold two copies: one to Wynand who asked me for a copy and the other to Linda, because I had bought her book, I decided to leave a pile on the front table of the lecture room in the hope of last-minute buyers. When I retrieved my unsold pile I saw that, instead, it had become a prop stand during David Butler’s live performance of Herman Charles Bosman (see the pic of the performance in question, below), which ended the festival.

David Butler’s performance of Herman Charles Bosman that ended the Booktown Richmond festival
David Butler’s performance of Herman Charles Bosman that ended the Booktown Richmond festival.

I took this as a message: no hard sell, instead remain true to the book’s being-ness and allow organic processes to take their course, in the assumption that each book is meant for a particular reader and that the process of finding those readers cannot be rushed. Trust the process and (in the words of Fred to whom the book is dedicated) “do nothing.”

Credit: feature photograph: Linda Louw

Looking for the door to ‘Enter’?

Is ‘Enter’ a tough read? The answer to the question, based on feedback by presenters at the launch of the book ‘Enter’, has been mixed and telling:

  • The book is “deep and yet accessible” (Paul Ashton)
  • “I read it remarkably quickly – twice.” (Joshua Mentz)
  • “I found (the book) a tough read and a very interesting and a fascinating read.” (Ken Barris)
  • “(The book) will speak to those who take the trouble to engage with it” (Louis de Villiers)
  • “The book demands that you enter, and entering a space is different from how we normally approach life. Entering is hugely challenging.” (Matthew Mentz)

So just in case you feel daunted at the prospect of getting into ‘Enter’, the following summary of each presenter’s take on the book should be of value to you as an overview and synthesis of the book.

Paul Ashton (read by Penny Busetto)
Penny reading from Paul Ashton's introduction to the book: "Many of us live in a state of disconnection from our whole selves " | photo credit: Ken Barris
Penny reading from Paul Ashton’s introduction to the book: “Many of us live in a state of disconnection from our whole selves ” | photo credit: Ken Barris

Paul Ashton’s talk (‘Entering the void’) contextualises the book by placing it within a Jungian framework in which, according to Jung, the purpose of life is not to become good but instead to actualise by becoming whole. This requires us to integrate unconscious, suppressed and shadow stuff that together constitute deadness or void at the centre of our being into which we must plunge in order to find ourselves.

Ken Barris
Ken Barris: "... so Hennie I think you also have to look into the heart of lightness as well as the heart of darkness." | photo credit: Tony Carr shooting with film (non-digital)
Ken Barris: “… so Hennie I think you also have to look into the heart of lightness as well as the heart of darkness.” | photo credit: Tony Carr shooting with film (non-digital)

Ken Barris responded as I anticipated many might. He found the book a difficult, challenging and interesting read but, in line with the author’s temperament, dark and pessimistic. Ken problematized the book’s hypothesis that the act of thinking separates us from world-in-itself (as in the world beyond our respective thought-bubbles). His closing, playful yet pointed advice was that the author should also look into the heart of light.

Louis de Villiers
Louis de Villiers: 'If (the book) touches one person and breaks the rock for the tears to flow, it will be worth it'.
Louis de Villiers: ‘If (the book) touches one person and breaks the rock for the tears to flow, it will be worth it’.

Like Ken Louis de Villiers’s speech (no video) pointed out that the author’s nature militates against light-heartedness and joviality, borne out in the writing, and that few will be able (or be inclined) to follow his (spartan) example. Ken and Louis’ responses are important in that they most likely represent a majority position

Joshua Mentz
Joshua Mentz: " ...there’s a narrative in the book of where we as a society are in association with our psyches" | photo credit: Ken Barris
Joshua Mentz: ” …there’s a narrative in the book of where we as a society are in association with our psyches” | photo credit: Ken Barris

Joshua Mentz widened and deepened the dialectic by pointing out that apart from the autobiographical aspect, the book deals also with where we are as a society in association with our psyches and how that plays out and impacts on our relationships – also with animals and the planet as a whole.

Matthew Mentz
Matthew Mentz: "The book demands you enter." | photo credit: Tony Carr shooting with film (non-digital)
Matthew Mentz: “The book demands you enter.” | photo credit: Tony Carr shooting with film (non-digital)

Matthew Mentz brought the discussion down to earth by bringing home to those present that the book’s real challenge lies in its demand that readers enter a space different from how we normally approach life. An exercise made incalculably difficult if who we are has been suppressed (and we are therefore almost entirely void)

Llewellyn Alberts
"Jesus kom weer ... " ('Jesus is coming again') - Lucky Lew (also known as Llewellyn Alberts) playing one of his songs at the launch of 'Enter' | photo credit: Ken Barris
“Jesus kom weer … ” (‘Jesus is coming again’) – Lucky Lew (also known as Llewellyn Alberts) playing one of his songs at the launch of ‘Enter’ | photo credit: Ken Barris

Llewellyn Alberts sings four poignant – sometimes gritty autobiographical songs that touch on all these themes thus enriching, deepening and rounding off the discussion.

To view any or all of the above presentations click here

Still daunted? Questions? Please use the comment box below.

Feature image is by Gustav Doré  in Alighieri, D. The Vision of Hell, Part 2, The Inferno. Project Gutenberg | EBook. #8780

‘Entering the void’ and other voices

Paul Ashton, Jungian analyst, Ken Barris, writer, critic and friend and three readers who helped shape the text: Louis de Villiers, Joshua Mentz and Matthew Mentz, and Llewellyn Alberts – quoted at the head of chapter eight, were asked to present at the launch of my indie-published book ‘Enter’. This is what they said.

Please note that if you have a problem with sound you can pump up the volume using the YouTube slider (bottom left of the YouTube screen) and the volume control of your computer or speakers. Enjoy!

Paul Ashton: ‘Entering the void’, introduces the book

Penny Busetto reads an introduction to the book written by Dr Paul Ashton who couldn’t attend:

Summary: In his introduction Paul noted and showed how his own ‘pet interest’ in the topic of the void overlaps with the book (Enter). Paul’s sense is that void experiences signify disconnection from or loss of our whole selves, which has come about through unconsciousness, neglect or denial. Paul felt that the book describes this loss, and how descent or falling into the void brings about the dark night of the soul revealing long repressed negative aspects of ourselves that we didn’t know were us – but also positive aspects. Over time, by doing what the alchemists describe as turning base metals into gold: a sense of solidity, wholeness and nuance is achieved which enables the integration of light and dark, self and others, and out of which choice flows. Paul believes that the book describes this process.

Click to download Paul’s talk: ‘Entering the void’

Ken Barris crits the book

Summary: To illustrate the point that in his view Hennie’s temperament (Hennie or Hendrik, the author) invites or dwells on calamities [laughter from the audience], Ken commenced his address with a scripture reading from chapter one verse eight of the Book of Job. Ken likened Job’s contestation with a metaphysical God to Hennie’s grappling with the idea of mind or consciousness. Ken found the book a tough, interesting and challenging read that threw up two problems or challenges for him: (1) how do you think and (2) who are you? With respect to the first problem Ken questioned the premise in the book that humankind is by definition separate from world-in-itself by pointing to the audience that he noted comprised community. On the question of who we are, Ken suggested that, generationally speaking, were Hennie to look at his own family line he would see that not only trauma but creativity has been passed down and that additionally to looking into the heart of darkness, Hennie should look into the heart of light.

Click to download Ken’s speech: Ken Barris crits ‘Enter’

Louis de Villiers gives his take

Summary: As he was unable to be present Louis mailed an input which unfortunately was overlooked during the last-minute preparations for the talk.

Louis recounted how he met Hendrik (the author) 15 years previously, his impressions at the time and how their friendship grew. He then expanded on Hendrik’s propensity for seriousness. He referred to an incident in the book to illustrate what he sees as Hendrik’s fearlessness to go where most would not dare: namely, to drop the societal façade and to connect deeply with another. He ended by saying that the book will speak to anyone who takes the trouble to engage with it.

Click to download Louis’ speech: Louis de Villiers’ take on ‘Enter’

Joshua Mentz gives his take on the book

Summary: Joshua confided that he had always experienced Hendrik (the author and Joshua’s father) as somewhat eccentric but, as the years progressed, also wise. He believed Hendrik was “wired differently”, a quality that attracted others. He mentioned that Hendrik had had a hard life and been very brave to have gone through what is described in the book, and also by laying himself bare in the book. The book is therefore an intimate read. Additional to the autobiographical side, the book contains a narrative about the interplay of individual psyche with society and how this plays out with respect to how we treat ourselves, one another, animals and the planet. Joshua concluded by saying that it’s an important book highly coherent and an engaging and a surprisingly quick read that he believes will have a positive effect, and that it would therefore be good for people to read it.

Click to download Josh’s speech: Joshua Mentz’s take on ‘Enter’

Matthew Mentz gives his take on the book

Summary: Matthew concurred that the book is challenging because it demands readers enter a space different from how we normally approach life. Therefore in preparation for his speech Matt confided that he had tried to enter – the result being the clothes he was wearing. He then questioned why he had dressed that way. Was it he or to make his dad (Hendrik, the author of the book) proud? He concluded that if the latter had been his motive, then he hadn’t entered. References to Dante, Eliot and hell in the text, triggered for Matthew a question he had pondered over the years, namely, the implications of the alchemists’ understanding of ‘as above so below’. Matthew suggested that because we have forgotten why we react as we do, maybe things aren’t the way we assume them to be and that possibly it’s hell we need to get into. Because Hendrik lays himself bare in the book Matthew pointed out that he also lays his family bare and because Hendrik’s parents are dead the way they are described in the book isn’t the whole picture. Matthew concluded by saying that he was proud of the book. And although everyone could read the book it was really a book of kin in that Hendrik as scribe had captured something important that will remain in the family and be passed down the generations.

Click to download Matt’s speech: Matthew Mentz’s take on ‘Enter’

Lucky Lew AKA Llewellyn Alberts plays four of his compositions

  1. Kom dans Klaradyn (Come and dance Klaradyn): A song about love doomed on the altar of perfection quoted in chapter eight of the book
  2. Jesus kom weer (Jesus is coming): A song for Job
  3. Bloemfontein (Bloemfontein): Autobiographical tale of woe played out in Bloemfontein (a town in South Africa)
  4. Die huis van Maria Maree (The house of Maria Maree): One of Lucky Lew’s happy songs about love among the sirens
Thank you

A thank you to each of the above presenters, as also Oscar O’Ryan, who, at very short notice, shot the videos. Thank you also to our photographers: Ken Barris, Tony Carr and Oscar O’Ryan.

Thanks guys for helping launch ‘Enter’

‘Enter’ saw the light of day almost a year earlier but when the Book Lounge declined to include the book in their launch programme the books remained in their boxes under the bench in the lounge for close on a year.

What finally prodded me into action was the realisation that unless I held the launch before the imminent permanent departure from Cape Town of my eldest son (Matthew our first-born) and his family I would have difficulty ever finding another opportunity to launch the book. But where?

Fortunately Joshua (our second-born) and Rowena Quinan (his spouse) came to the rescue and offered their beautiful home in Camps Bay, with an almost 360 degree view of the 12 apostles and the Atlantic ocean.

Frantic

Sasha (Matt’s spouse) took on the task of managing the whole process in my absence – as I live in Suurbraak, and my good friend Malcolm Doyle-Davidson (Club African Day wines) arranged a generous sponsorship of some excellent reds and whites courtesy of Eugene Kinghorn of Saxenburg wine estate. The presenters (see below) all agreed to help launch the book, the invitations went out and those who accepted arrived.

Launch

Lia met and registered the guests at the door. Josh and Rowena’s house started filling up. Josh gathered everyone around for the inputs which Oscar O’Ryan, when approached at the very last moment, kindly agreed to video:

  • Penny Busetto read an introduction to the book: ‘Entering the Void’, written by Paul Ashton who couldn’t attend
  • Ken Barris offered a crit of the book
  • Josh tended the apologies of Louis de Villiers, who had been a reader during the editing phase, and who couldn’t attend
  • Joshua Mentz, a reader during the editing phase, gave his take on the book
  • Matthew Mentz, a reader during the editing phase, gave his take on the book
  • Llewellyn Alberts, quoted in chapter eight of the book, played four of his compositions

Oscar’s footage has been edited and the Afrikaans translated into English and uploaded to YouTube. Additionally each speech was transcribed and summarised. To access the videos, transcriptions and summaries please click here.

Below are pics of their presentations (to view the full-sized image click on any image and use the arrow keys left or right. To escape click ‘x’ top left or hit your ‘Esc’ key):

Each presentation built on its predecessor. In the audience: a sense of solemnity and of care and love were apparent see below (to view the full-sized image click on any image and use the arrow keys left or right. To escape click ‘x’ top left or hit your ‘Esc’ key):

After the presentations Malcolm plied everyone (our Muslim brethren, Ighsaan and Redewan, and our teetotallers excluded!!!) with wine, Rowena passed around the snacks and helped Sasha invoice copies of the book. I signed.

Below are pics of some of those present  (to view the full-sized image click on any image and use the arrow keys left or right. To escape click ‘x’ top left or hit your ‘Esc’ key):

Reflections

The book was very much a team effort. I have already introduced the readers above (Fred, Josh, Louis, Matt) who were merciless during the editing stage (you can find Matt’s contact details below) . Who also worked hard during this phase was Stefanie Swanepoel (you can find her contact details below) who served as editor and proofreader. Its professional feel are all thanks to Doret Ferreira (contact details below), while Dustan Franks helped create the supporting website (details below).

I’ve already mentioned how the evening would not have been as huge a success that it was without such a beautiful venue (Rowena and Joshua), launch manager (Sasha), reception (Lia), Oscar agreeing at the very last moment to capture video footage of the proceedings (find his contact details below), a warm yet crisp and firm anchor man (Josh), a strong team of presenters (Penny, Ken, Josh, Matt and Llewellyn), something I would never have thought of: a sound system (Llewellyn – find his contact details below), volunteer photographers (Oscar, Ken, and Tony Carr who went all retro, non-digital, shooting with film), a wine part-sponsorship organised by Malcolm (to order wine see his contact details below) to bring down costs.

‘Enter’ has now officially been launched thus confirming that I am blessed to be related to and friends of what must be the some of the most interesting, generous, warm, loving and kindest people in this world, each of whom I thank humbly for kindness and support in what for me was an extremely difficult birth.

Stop press

Enter has gone on to win a South African Independent Publishing Award in the philosophy category. My thanks to Ken who alerted me to the award by putting me in contact with Darryl Earl David of UKN (University of KwaZulu-Natal) who manages the awards. Darryl’s contact details are below if you want to be put on his festival mailing list or have an indie-book in the wings.

Supporting one another

I believe we should support one another in the same way I was supported and so below I’ve listed the contact details of those who helped me – in case you ever need a related service:

  • Anything requiring handwork, skill and/or creativity (metalwork, woodwork, electronics, roofing): Llewellyn Alberts | Salsa Sound, salsasound@gmail.com or 076 848 9560
  • Boutique website design: Rowena Quinan | Precision IT consulting
  • Dance and the creative arts: Louise Coetzer and Oscar O’Ryan | Darkroom Contemporary, louise@darkroomcontemporary.com & oscar@darkroomcontemporary.com
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Portent

I manage a small agroecology farming operation in Suurbraak on behalf of my son (Matt) and daughter-in-law (Sasha). On my return Japie Present reported that when he had tried to secure the ducks and chickens for the night he wasn’t able to find the fourth duck.

I didn’t give it too much thought as I was reasonably sure that number four would pitch the following morning.

Number four didn’t return. Instead I noted that father duck was in a depression, so it must have been his partner who was missing. That night I picked and placed him in the shelter. He made no resistance.

The following morning father duck was sitting in their drinking basin, which I carefully pulled out of the enclosure without him making any attempt to flee or resist.

For the rest of the day he sat on the edge of the pond totally catatonic.

He wasn’t around for the evening feed and after a search I found him dead at the side of the pond. He must have drowned from grief as his beak was under the surface of the water.

I have no idea what happened to his partner. Matt suggests she might still return (‘Sad times, h, delicate balance, she might return’) but the implications are frightening. I feel loss, a sense of unease and deep concern about – I don’t know what. Are we, as humans, missing something?

Matt explained in an email how he saw the situation: ‘There’s an “over-soul”, which is damaged when a breeding pair terminates, this helps understand the larger unease’.

I traced the term the Over-Soul to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay of the same name:

We see the world piece by piece, as the sun, the moon, the animal, the tree; but the whole, of which these are the shining parts, is the soul

If Emerson is right and we, Homo sapiens, are part of a whole, then what harm aren’t we doing to that whole and to ourselves through our CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), genetic engineering, and our use of herbicides and pesticides?

And in the age of Tinder, what doesn’t this incident say about the quality of our own relationships?

Seven black wattles


Every morning I awake torn between a desire to save the world and an inclination to savour it. This makes it hard to plan the day. But if we forget to savour the world, what possible reason do we have for saving it? In a way, savouring must come first (E.B. White)


“But Louis,” I remonstrated, “Look behind you. There’s a forest of black wattles.”

“Well I have pulled out seven of them.”

Louis de Villiers uprooting 1 of 7-black wattles
Louis de Villiers uprooting one of seven black wattles

Louis and I were tending a small herd of goats alongside the Caledon River, which joins the Buffeljags to flow past the former mission village of Zuurbraak, Suurbraak or its original Attaqua Khoikhoi name !Xairu  meaning ‘A place called Paradise‘ in the Overberg region of the Western Cape Province in South Africa.

Gaunt, testy – but with a twinkle in his eye signalling a heart of gold, my good friend, Louis de Villiers, is an inveterate kampvegter (champion) for the environment. He therefore walks the talk, which is why he was tugging away at a black wattle while all I wanted to do was enjoy the evening watching the goats graze.

In South Africa, the black wattle tree (Acacia mearnsii) is classified as an invader, which ‘competes with and replaces indigenous grassland and riverine species … (thus reducing) the grazing area for domestic and wild animals.’ (Invasive Species South Africa).

The forest of black wattle in question was growing on the lower slopes of the Langeberge and was now also invading one of the few remaining thickets of original vegetation that, inter alia, included  Kaapse boekenhout and wild almond which, incidentally, was sustaining our goats. Chastened by Louis’ example I undertook to do the same. However, I am ashamed to confess that since that day, I failed to uproot one single black wattle.

That event took place on 27 July 2015. Almost a month later on the 17 August I received a visit from Gari whose plot adjoins the stretch where Louis uprooted his 7 black wattles. Gari shared his concern that not only black wattle but the goats were destroying the natural vegetation alongside the river, which he informed me he was planning to conserve as a retreat for anyone wishing to relax there. Part of his plan was to rid the area of black wattle. The second part of his plan was for the area no longer to be used for grazing, and would I mind?

Tragedy of the commons

Matt and Sasha (my son and daughter-in-law) and the other livestock farmers of Suurbraak grazed their goats, cattle and horses on that same stretch of commonage years before Gari and others moved onto their plots. Sharing the commons is also a large troop of baboons, which periodically come down from the mountain. Consequently there is huge pressure on whatever land remains – exacerbated by plant invaders (black wattle, blue gum, hakea, and pine).

Clearly the stage is set for the tragedy of the commons. What’s to do, particularly as there is clearly a need to conserve what little is left?

As I see it, Louis has demonstrated the solution: seven black wattles: ‘The challenge,’ Louis explains, ‘Is to find the balance between our way of doing and living, while recognising and respecting the delicate balances in nature in which we are interfering.’

Had I, therefore, as intended, followed Louis’ example set on the 27 July 2015, there would have been 224 fewer black wattles. But I had done nothing. So If I needed grazing for the goats, while valuing biodiversity and beauty I realised I must stop pretending all is well with the commons and I must do something to conserve what is precious.

My commitment, therefore, is that whenever and wherever I graze the goats –including that stretch – I would pay my dues by pulling out the equivalent of seven black wattles. Yesterday I started working on my backlog and uprooted 60 black wattles. Added to Louis’ seven, equals 67 fewer black wattles. Tonight, at least seven more.

Combating black wattle aliens
Combating plant invaders along the Buffeljagsrivier flowing past Suurbraak

Acknowledgement: Louis shared the quote above by E.B. White, which he says sums up his dilemma.

Afterword: While visiting, Louis also took out a grove of hakea, which will be the subject of a forthcoming post: a how-to get rid of hakea.

Malthusian juncture in the history of our planet

Kavin Senapathy in Forbes Magazine: Note To Neil Young: Monsanto Isn’t Evil, And GMOs Are Harmless. My reply (edited):


Ms Senapathy … I wonder whether you have listened to ‘The Monsanto Years’ appropriately. In other words, not only in your head.

Surely art’s role is to enable a deeper understanding of the way things are, by going to and articulating the heart of things, as Neil Young’s ‘The Monsanto Years’ album does, by pointing out the danger inherent in commoditizing and corporatizing every facet of life, which, with respect to nature, is being driven by giant multinational biotech/agricultural corporations (Big Ag), symbolised by Monsanto. Surely you too experience a sense of unease when considering the farming practises promoted by Big Ag: GMOs/herbicides/chemical fertilisers/pesticides/mono-cropping, which Neil Young believes ‘thoughtlessly plunder’ the earth (Wolf Moon).

It is against this truth that you might need to weigh the import of your boldly unambiguous title ‘Note To Neil Young: Monsanto Isn’t Evil, And GMOs Are Harmless’. Because not you, Ms Senapathy, or any of your readers know where this will end – think, for instance, gene drives.

Maybe at this Malthusian juncture in the history of our species and our planet, we all require humility. Maybe we also need to heed Neil Young’s ominous warning: ‘You never know what the future holds in the shallow soil of Monsanto, Monsanto’ (Monsanto Years).


The featured image above was shot early morning in a field in Suurbraak, which was to be sprayed with Roundup or 2,4-Dinitrophenol herbicide. Thankfully the farmers agreed not to poison the soil. Thus the Suurbraak poison-free initiative was born.


I share this follow-up from Glenn Ashton, who also kindly provided the above link to gene drives: