A grin without a cat: Covid-19

‘Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice; ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’ | Alice’s adventures in Wonderland (Carol, 74)

Since Corona-19 struck end 2019, humankind has obeyed. But who or what are we obeying and what might the consequences be?

Page in ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ illustrated by Sir John Tenniel where she speaks to the Cheshire Cat

The future foretold

Locked down, curfewed, sanitised, medicated, mandated, and tracked; scary, but Wuhan’s only the grin. Let me try show you the cat.

I live in a valley alongside what once was a mission village which is still largely peasant. I watch as cows, goats and horses give birth and are licked into consciousness, nudged towards the teat, totter and then stick to the mother’s side, grow confident and inquisitive.

In stark contrast is the large-scale farming operations I motor past, which confirm for me how blessed are the animals that I tend, and are my neighbours’.

But sharing my misgivings about the inner working of large-scale farming operations mostly get blank stares from city folk with whom I communicate, as they seldom get to see the snaking columns of defeated, artificially inseminated, genetically engineered, vaccinated cows pumped full of antibiotics each with a distended udder, deprived of ever connecting with her calf, then connected to micro-measuring milking machines so the farmer knows the exact day for her to be loaded and transported to the abattoir.

Bos taurus hooked into an alien other where nature in the form of rutting, licking, nuzzling, suckling and protecting no longer exists, a world no longer bovine let alone mammalian but of science and technology.

And often when I meditate on what this means for the animals concerned and the psyche of the planet as a whole I cannot escape sensing disturbing parallels with how we humans are choosing to live our lives. My concern has been brought into sharper focus since Covid-19 struck, as, mesmerised, I watch in astonishment how humankind is actively willing a posthuman future with all the hallmarks of the factory farm: wired, hermetic, sterilized, monitored, adjusted, augmented.

But now has its roots in the late 50s and early 60s when those who were alive then or whose parents were alive can still recall the dire predictions of famine and starvation that primed humankind for what was euphemistically framed at the time as the green revolution.

Yet despite Rachel Carson’s red flag in the form of ground-breaking research, her publication Silent spring failed to stem the almost complete domination of the food chain by big pharma and big tech eventually morphing into big agriculture through the use of insecticides, herbicides, fertilizers, genetic engineering, and smart systems delivered through technology and now AI, in other words, the food chain almost entirely under corporate control.

Now we have more food than we can eat (give credit) but by systematically putting in place an environment resembling ICU, cordoned off from the dangers and unpredictability of nature. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the template.

First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

What followed after China surely illustrates Naomi Klein’s Shock doctrine to a T, First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin (with apologies to Leonard Cohen): big pharma, once again, to the rescue. The self-same industry that has already captured large swathes of the food chain and that hitherto must surely have been working hand-in-glove with research labs around the world to develop vaccines and associated mRNA technologies to combat the strains such as those being trialled in Wuhan fortuitously (if not ironically, given strong evidence that the virus is science-made, although vigorously denied) finding itself in the driver’s seat able to benefit by fast-tracking research, and using the ensuing crisis to forward products directly into Emergency Use Authorisation (EUA) thereby skipping years of rigorous animal studies and with no comeback; a heaven-sent opportunity to test and then tweak experimental technologies still in their infancy.

And if that isn’t enough leeway, every single alternate attempt at understanding or dealing with the pandemic labelled conspiracy and anti-science, blanket mandates that we agree to an invasive technology (mRNA delivery platforms, proprietary lipid nanotechnology, strands of synthetic RNA, transfection) which replicates what a healthy autoimmune system has been primed to do naturally over aeons, aggressive marketing of a social credit system similar to China’s – and with the overwhelming majority of us in total agreement that this is how things should play themselves out.

So what in heaven’s name is going on?

The sanctification of science

René Girard (Things hidden since the foundation of the world) provides the most persuasive explanation: we are a mimetic messianic horde participating in violent social processes that reach back to the foundation of the world.

According to Girard it is our ability to emulate one another (he calls this propensity mimetic envy) that has led to our rapid progress as a species (as evidence, consider language).

So it follows that fear triggered by news of the virus rapidly spread throughout the human tribe much like a herd of wildebeest milling, circling, and locking horns uncertain from which direction danger would come.

However our greatest strength needs to be tightly managed otherwise we’ll tear one another apart wanting the same thing (in this case to go on living). The promise of a vaccine therefore held us temporarily in check until doubt as to their efficacy (EUA, the vaccines’ narrow specificity and the fact that their efficiency wanes rapidly) again spread mimetically.

What now? Will I die?

Cue what Girard labels the scapegoat mechanism: propitiate the gods, find and offer up a scapegoat, the unclean among us, the carriers of disease, the unvaccinated.

Girard believes that the violence inherent in deflecting blame on to a scapegoat to cleanse society of contagion by channelling pent up mimetic conflict has operated from the beginning of human time and forms the bedrock of society’s customs, taboos and institutions including religion and the the rule of law.

How it happens is that the cathartic release following the slaughter of a scapegoat confirms the scapegoat’s guilt thus bestowing righteousness on the perpetrators and builds mob or tribal cohesion thereby assuming a sacred dimension which, in this instance, entrenches the sanctity of the pharmaceutical industry as the cornerstone of a new order serviced by its priesthood of white-jacketed scientists, supported by their acolytes, the tech luminaries and the big guns running mainstream and social media, and now worshipped by humankind.

The parts now control the whole

Yet science, the pharmaceutical industry and big tech didn’t achieve their power through guile and coercion alone. Instead, they’ve cracked the code of the very small, as in the building blocks of life by splitting the atom, deciphering the human genome, and inventing the algorithm. Thus they hold the patents that have won them the right to rearrange nature according to their own understanding and ends; and it should be noted that you and I are part of nature.

Insight that the parts now increasingly control the whole is at the heart of Iain McGilchrist’s analysis (The master and his emissary) into the way the brain functions which, hitherto, consisted in the right hemisphere’s experience of borderless magnitude and flow beyond the taken-for-granted (McGilchrist’s ‘master’), working in partnership with the left hemisphere’s ability to make out the parts that constitute the whole (McGilchrist’s ‘emissary’) in order for both to bring into being discovery, insight, understanding, wisdom and right action.

However, since the left hemisphere learnt that by manipulating the parts you could reconstitute whatever whole you desire, the left hemisphere now wears the crown thus relegating right hemispheric experience to anti-science or the conspiratorial.

By parts think bits, bytes, nano, code (computer and genetic), the algorithms that power commerce, security and, increasingly, an artificial intelligence formed from countless trillions of discrete instances that aggregate into humanoid mice genetically engineered with the sole aim of testing vaccines which we inject into our bodies to protect us from a virus possibly invented for that very purpose. Parts aggregating. TikTok. The sense of whole, absent. The body’s early-warning defence system commandeered. A left-hemispheric putsch increasingly resulting in humankind living in an atomised world with little meaning beyond our smart devices that provide predictability, watch over and make us feel safe: “It is time for your next injection, Mr Mentz. Should I set up an appointment? Don’t forget to phone Lia, as today is her birthday.”

We are choosing our future

Answers to the following four questions will hopefully serve to bring the foregoing into sharper focus:

  1. if the aim is to save lives why are alternatives to vaccines never mentioned or always discredited (natural or acquired immunity, vitamin D, losing weight, dieting, exercise)?
  2. if it’s about the science why do away with the control group: those who choose not to be vaccinated (science asks questions, weighs alternatives, resists premature closure)?
  3. if it’s about truth over conspiracy why do we still not know the origin of Corona-19? And why are thoughtful, responsible voices on social media such as Prof. John Ioannidis, Dr Suneel Dhand, Drs Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein, and even Unherd finding posts or their accounts being taken down, deplatformed and/or demonetised?
  4. if the aim in to return us to normal why are the human values and rights that we have hitherto cherished being trampled (individual choice, mandatory vaccines, vaccine passports, prohibitions)?

Questions one and two assume a whole which no longer seems to count.

Questions three and four highlight left-hemispheric praxis: identify and control the parts. For instance single words are now deemed signifiers of virtue, or reasons to intimidate and neutralise individuals and ban books. Swarms of discrete mimetic online accounts patrol, target and take out offenders of the faith. Algorithms decide. The glue that binds us is now contingent. That which imparts the sense of us being human legislated away.

As argued throughout this essay, humankind’s response to Covid-19 strongly suggests we’re next in line, rapidly reaching that point of no return where there’ll be no right-hemispheric big picture to guide humankind. Instead you and I reduced to disembodied instances subject to algorithms, tagged, medicated and earning social credits. Motherhood, fatherhood, heroism, and nature cancelled. And we will have done it to ourselves. That dear reader is the cat.

And to understand exactly the implications, look into the eyes of the cow captured in the image below, knowing that no one will come to her rescue. Not you, not I, not the farmer nor the programmer.

Revisions:

This post was rewritten on 2021/11/08. Apologies and thanks to those whose who kindly pointed out the earlier version’s shortcoming via email and in the comment’s section. Hopefully this iteration communicates its intention more clearly and directly.

Acknowledgements:

I want to thank my son, Matthew, for his intense engagement around many of these issues (you can find Matthew at Niche Unity click here); also marathon Sunday espresso sessions with neighbours Mark & Dori and friend Patsy, from the village; Paul living in the next dorp for introducing me to McGilchrist, @FrancoisVanSchoor in a long discussion thread in Vrye Weekblad where neither of us changed the other’s mind, and Louis, with the same outcome as Van Schoor.

References:

Featured image: ‘De Alice’s Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 23’ in ‘John Tenniel’s illustrations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’. Wikimedia Commons, available online here.

Inserted image: via a duckduckgo search leading to Psychopaths&Love website online here which no longer seemingly includes the image in question

Carol, L. (74). Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Open Books, available online here.

Photographs, the author.


Hendrik Mentz lives off grid with his goats, chickens, cats, aging bullmastiff, and his thoughts. If what he writes resonates please subscribe below (if viewing on your phone) or top left via your laptop.

Jung, the cult of purity, post-apartheid South Africa and the Antichrist

First published by politcsweb (under the heading: ‘Banished from the Garden of Woke’)


When they said Repent, Repent I wonder what they meant

Leonard Cohen | The future

There’s a whole lot happening here in South Africa and the world that I was finding baffling and personally threatening, until I reread a pocket-sized volume of Carl Gustav Jung’s Answer to Job given to me years back by Jungian analyst, Paul Ashton. In this essay I’ll try to share what multiple readings of this numinous companion have revealed to me, in the hope that it’ll also shed light for you.

But note before we proceed. There are two versions of our story: scientific and numinous. This is the numinous ‘the Word’-version of John 1:1 capturing what is expressed though sacred texts, art and symbols and which, for Jung, is as real and objective as the official, scientific ‘A fireball of radiation at extremely high temperature and density’-version referenced in the OED (Oxford English Dictionary).

Enantiodromia

Jung believed that if:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word
was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1)

Then God or Yahweh didn’t exist other than as a word or an idea, was timeless, yet ‘everything in its totality; therefore, among other things […] total justice, and also its total opposite’ (Jung 1958:15). So if the totality is void yet everything, timeless yet present, total justice, and also its total opposite, then we’re talking paradox, as in an antinomy (ibid. 10).

In order to exist, Yahweh needed somebody outside void to observe him (ibid. 16) which he set out to organise via the Big Bang in an act of enantiodromia which brought the universe into being.

When one state has a tendency to morph into its opposite, that is enantiodromia. Picture the alternate points or microdots at the heart of the taijitu, the Tao symbol representing yin and yang, coming into being or dissolving and in so doing affecting the whole (Ashton 2007) which, in the case of the Big Bang saw feminine void as yin morphing into masculine yang in the form of the cosmos which found form in the person of Adam ‘fashioned in (God’s) image as the Anthropos, the original man’ (Jung: 1958:17-18) on a tiny Goldilocks planet, on the outer reaches of the Milky Way.

As the Anthropos (ancient Greek for ‘human being’ (OED)) was fashioned in God’s image that means Adam, Eve, you and I is each a mini universe containing everything. And as the Anthropos was created in order for Yahweh to exist, that means you and I must become conscious that we contain everything as a unity of opposites (complexio oppositorium): masculine-feminine, shadow-light, total justice-total opposite and that therefore we too are an antinomy or paradox which we are tasked to resolve unravel moment-to-moment, day-to-day.

To see God, Adam first needed to become conscious of God. However, back then Adam was little more than animal awareness. He therefore needed to be woken up, goaded, tempted which fortunately this newly-created universe ‘with the division of the world as distinct processes in space and time (when) events begin to rub up and jostle one another ‘ (Ibid. 50) provided, causing discomfort and the opportunity for chance or hazard to intervene initially, in the Garden in the form of the serpent or Satan who tricked Adam (and Eve) out of the animal zone into primitive human awareness of vulnerability as in nakedness, and the beginning knowledge of good and evil (ibid. 51).

According to Jung the next major inflection point happened in the time of Proverbs when thought was being influenced cross-culturally by ancient Greece where the concept, wisdom, in the form of Sophia, and by Hinduism in the form of Shakti, the universal mother (Ibid. 39), found expression in Job who, through suffering meted out by Yahweh and Satan, divined more than Yahweh’s primitive, fierce, vengeful, brute aspect by seeing and understanding that God was also just and wise.

To be seen as a God of Justice and Wisdom was a novel idea and triggered in Yahweh flashbacks of his feminine aspect present in his ‘pleromatic coexistence with Sophia since the days of the Creation’ (Ibid. 52) (we are reminder of that alternate point or microdot representing enantiodromia at the heart of the taijitu).

Job’s insight into God’s inner antinomy attained a divine numinosity (Ibid. 23) as it deepened God’s understanding of his own nature which he was then determined to reveal to its full extent through the incarnation of Christ.

Important to understand that Job’s insight is ‘no more than the outward occasion for an inward process of dialectic in God’ (Ibid. 25). Further, that Job’s insight is as a direct consequence of ‘rubbing and jostling’ in the form of suffering which drew forth aspects or insights lying dormant in Job’s unconscious waiting to be discovered, seen, connected and brought to consciousness.

The unconscious mind of man sees correctly even when conscious reason is blind and impotent. The drama has been consummated for all eternity: Yahweh’s dual nature has been revealed, and somebody or something has seen and registered this fact (ibid 37)

From which Jung drew the principle that:

By engendering insoluble conflicts and consequently an afflictio animae, […] brings man closer to knowledge of God (ibid. 89)

Sacrificium intellectus (dumbing down)

Wouldn’t it be grand to live in a world ruled by the self-same justice seen in Yahweh by Job, and the love and forgiveness personified by Christ? This seems to have been what Yahweh had in mind when, determined not to repeat his mistake in the Garden, this time round, took special precautions to safeguard his incarnation in the form of Christ from the wiles of Satan by arranging a celestial marriage or union through Immaculate Conception followed by a virgin birth thus resulting in Christ being more divinity than human.

But, Jung asked, what happened to Yahweh’s dark side that once ganged up with Satan to torment Job? Where is Satan who once tricked Adam? By factoring out disturbance caused by ‘rubbing’ and ‘jostling’, hadn’t God unwittingly created a context in which there was no further need for ‘insoluble conflicts’ and therefore a general dumbing down? Jung believed so, and this is how it happened:

A sense of Christ’s divinity via the working of the Holy Ghost quickly started rubbing off on Christ’s followers who felt increasingly inoculated not necessarily from sin but from the fear of the consequences of sin and therefore the fear of God. It also engendered naïveté which – playing out in a world of ever-increasing complexity and associated danger – shielded his followers from needing to look too intently at Yahweh’s terrifying and vengeful aspect (ibid. 84-5). With heads and hearts full of Jesus, followers quickly lost touch with their instinctive natures which would at least, Jung believed, have provided access to the hidden wisdom of God (ibid. 87) and, instead, bestowed upon them a sense of independence and free will but, alas, without a balancing self-awareness.

But, Jung reasoned, surely innocence, naïveté and diminished self-awareness weren’t what God had in mind, because why else would Christ have warned humankind not to be ‘(led) into temptation/but (delivered) from evil’? Why would Christ teach us to ‘(make) usurious use of our talents’ (ibid. 88), to remain ‘alert, critical and self-aware […] (to sharpen) our understanding, our love of truth, and the urge to know’ (ibid. 89) unless ‘superhuman intelligence (were required) to avoid the cunning snares of Satan’ (ibid. 89)?

Hence Jung’s premonition that Christianity, as it played itself out, had laid the foundation for ‘enantiodromia in the grand scale’ (ibid. 116), because at the very hour of our planet’s greatest need, right after humankind was handed the keys to the kingdom in the form of the atom bomb and germ warfare (ibid. 164) – to which we can now add genetic engineering, cloning, AI, surveillance capitalism, wokeness – humankind has opted to retreat into sacrificium intellectus (ibid. 88) resulting in the dimming of consciousness by avoiding at all costs thinking about anything beyond what is permitted in order to seek the comfort of others doing exactly the same.

The cult of purity and the Antichrist

As the engine room of enantiodromia, complexio oppositorium (unity of opposites) rules the entire system from the macro to micro, thus also manifesting in individual human consciousness where ‘the more consciousness insists on its light nature and lays claim to moral authority, the more the self will appear as something dark and menacing’ (ibid. 133). Complexio oppositorium explains therefore why any conscious decision I make, for instance, not to be racist immediately evokes its opposite in my unconscious, causing discomfort which is then projected outwards as criticism, spite or hate. Sound familiar?

Jung believed that complexio oppositorium also fired the Revelation to John comprising visions of Armageddon, the reign of the Antichrist and the final judgement foretold in the last book of the New Testament Bible – that is, if its author were John the apostle. Jung’s reasoning was that John the apostle’s conscious commitment to leading a virtuous Christian life of absolute purity in order to serve as a role model for his Christian flock set in motion a violent compensatory reaction that blew the sump of John’s personal unconscious connecting him to the collective unconscious where:

The eye of John penetrates into the distant future of the Christian aeon and into the dark abyss of those forces which his Christianity kept in equilibrium (ibid. 135)

Similarly Hitler tapped into the suppressed collective Teutonic rage of the German people unjustly singled out for causing the First World War, and made to pay reparations during the hardship of the Depression, which Hitler channelled into blaming das Yuden. In Rwanda Tutsis became Hutu shadow.

But, Jung noted, John interprets his visions not as the reconciliation of God’s antinomy but as light versus darkness:

What burst upon him is the storm of the times, the premonition of a tremendous enantiodromia which he could only understand as the final annihilation of that darkness which had not comprehended the light that appeared in Christ (ibid. 135)

of which the ‘pièce de résistance (as it spans the entire chapter 18 of Revelation) at the hand of the seven angels with their seven vials of God’s wrath poured upon the earth (Revelation 15-17) is the destruction of the Great Whore of Babylon, the counterpart to the heavenly Jerusalem’ (ibid. 138), which develops into a veritable ‘fantasy of fornication’ (ibid.) simultaneously bringing to an end music, crafts, candle light and marriage (Revelation 18:22-23).

The good guys in this Apocalyptic horror are ‘the hundred and forty-four thousand elect and redeemed […] the parthenoi, the male virgins “which were not defiled with women”’ (ibid. 136) and which Jung links to the eunuchs referenced in Matthew 19:12 who castrated themselves “for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (ibid. 136-7).

The elect ‘whose destiny it is to be saved […] save themselves by identifying with the bright pneumatic (i.e. divine) side of God. An indispensable condition for this seems to be the denial of propagation and sexual life altogether’ (ibid 142) and ‘voluntarily (renouncing) their share in the human lot (by saying) no to the continuance of life on earth’ (ibid. 136), which (Jung observed) also means ‘the destruction of all beauty and all life’s joys’ (ibid. 139) that, irony of ironies, the pure and virtuous Christian John feels should be cause for rejoicing (see Revelation 18:20).

What John gets right, however, Jung believed, is his visions recognise that God is not mocked (Galatians 6:7):

it is the spirit of God itself, which blows through the weak mortal frame (of the aged John) and again demands man’s fear of the unfathomable Godhead (ibid. 135)

and that there’ll be consequences once those forces in the dark abys kept in equilibrium by Christianity are let loose.

What John doesn’t realise is that the destruction wrought is God’s dark aspect God thought he had shed when he incarnated as the Christ, and which, as God’s prototype (Genesis 1:27), John was tasked to re-identify in himself and integrate:

He (i.e. John) failed to see that the power of destruction and vengeance is that very darkness from which God split himself off when he became man (ibid. 135)

For me, uncanny is how Jung’s description and critique of John’s Revelation speak to what is sweeping the liberal Western world under the broad mantle of woke, with its more ominous iteration in South Africa. But before I discuss the parallels, a synopsis of how I understand woke as it’s playing itself out.

Woke is Marxism in practice, as in praxis. The method is textual in the broadest sense of the word to include a tweet and conversation captured electronically, for example, on video, with the express purpose of seeking, identifying, and demonstrating taken-for-granted assumptions around power. Initially Marxist critical theory saw material reality in terms of economics, where ‘the struggle’ was between those who owned the means of production and therefore held all the power, i.e. the bourgeoisie (= bad or evil) and those who didn’t, i.e. the workers (= good or pure).

Marxist praxis proved a highly effective tool as it undermined power structures, simply by switching epistemological lenses.

Marxist praxis is now being employed to analyse society in terms of a victim-perpetrator axis with the former comprising black, female, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning (OED)) and the latter: structures promoting, supporting or condoning patriarchy, toxic masculinity, cisgender, privilege and capitalism.

Praxis has become personal and deadly in that it constitutes a close reading of behaviour and therefore once it has you in its sights and runs an audit it’ll most likely find a word, gesture or attitude, no matter how insignificant or decontextualized, that will reveal you to be racist, privileged or toxic which is then the kiss of death as it’s announced to the world via social media thereby being indelibly printed in the ether for all eternity. No wonder the establishment is running scared. It’s also the reason that, increasingly, conversations around the braai are conducted with extreme caution. (Some would say this is a good thing.) You can see the above illustrated in a letter signed by writers, journalists, columnists and academics calling for civility and the free exchange of information and ideas, to be published in the October 2020 issue of Harper’s Magazine (Ackerman 2020), and the response from their woke counterpart (Binkowski 2020).

As a broad tool for self-discovery or personal growth, critical theory is very useful, and can be employed in analysis or psychotherapy to uncover or reveal unconscious motives. However, when its purpose is political in order to unmask thereby appropriate power, it’s having devastating consequences. For instance, if we accept that colonialism was part of the Christian aeon, then Jung’s prognosis ‘The eye of John penetrates into the distant future of the Christian aeon and into the dark abyss of those forces which Christianity kept in equilibrium’ (Ibid. 135) takes on an immediacy we’re now living, as colonial assumptions and structures come under the spotlight and are systematically dismantled.

Related aspects of Jung’s analysis of John’s Revelation that presciently speak to current events include the Manichaean assumption that humankind is engaged in a war between the forces of light and darkness, as in: heavenly Jerusalem versus Babylon; the pure, the woke, the elect versus the rest; sacrificium intellectus, as in two-dimensionality at the expense of antinomy; atavistic yearning for a return to the Garden (Eden) or even the womb; failing to realise that the shadow, darkness and toxicity isn’t out there, it’s also inside every single SJW (social justice warrior).

In South Africa the ‘forces’ in the ‘dark abyss’ which colonialism kept in equilibrium have surfaced as battalions of ‘victims’ and their guilt-ridden tagalongs who have captured the high ground where, divorced from complexity, they are now able to project their collective shadow on all the enemies of ‘transformation’: minorities (slurs, accusations, threats and killings), academia (decolonised curricula, decapitated statues, torched art, apostate academics flushed out of hiding, research and knowledge sanitised), the media (language and narratives determined, cancelling, sacking, defunding), the economy (BEE, etc. 25 years on), and politics (curfews, rule by edict), all of which – for a people largely inured by plenitude, and that has suppressed into the collective unconscious, inter alia, the enantiodromia triggered by King Shaka, of the Mfecane (1815 and about 1840) in which millions died (Mfecane 2020) – I believe serve as harbingers of the reign of the Antichrist which, in its current iteration, unless a correction sets in, promises to translate into the crushing of the human spirit, lockstep conformity, dull bottomless eyes, emaciated chained dogs, plastic, silence, fear.

For as important as it is for the beneficiaries of apartheid to look deep inside their colonial hearts and grapple with the darkness they uncover, so too it is incumbent on every accuser to do the same, for:

to the degree that you condemn others and find evil in others, you are to that degree unconscious of the same thing in yourself […] there can be Eichmann’s and Hitlers and Himmlers just because there are people who are unconscious of their own dark sides and they project that darkness outwards, say, Jews or Communists or whatever the enemy, and say there is the darkness, it’s not in me, and I am justified in annihilating this enemy. (Watts 2014|04:59)

Afflictio animae (affliction of the soul)

I see a battlefield with countless casualties. For instance who could forget Helen Zille, haggard, hauled before the tribunal to recant her statement that the consequences of colonialism were not entirely negative. And I recall bitterly how former fellow journalists and columnists, and many from our current crop, played an enthusiastic role in fanning the flames of hatred while surely knowing in their heart of hearts the integrity of the person they set out to humiliate.

More recently, many if not all of the same journalists led or joined the public stoning of Bullard for his, to my mind (and I’m sure his as well), stupid and suicidal yet paradoxically illuminating tweet centred around the use of the k-word geared, as he himself intended at the time, to being as provocative as possible in order to trigger exactly the response he got.

But how come otherwise intelligent human beings lose all sense of discrimination or discernment (as my friend Peter Raggett observed in conversation concerning another matter) when it comes to questions of race, colour and colonialism?

How come the following three sentences in James Myburgh’s reply to Cecelia Kok (at the helm of the South African chapter of Germany’s Friedrich Naumann Foundation, major funders of PoliticsWeb at the time, and the Institute of Race Relation (IRR)) were not enough to prick Ms Kok’s conscience and melt her heart:

A basic test of human decency and loyalty is whether you stand by a person when they are at their most vulnerable. And people are at their most vulnerable when they have made a mistake, especially an egregious one. I don’t know if it is a liberal™ position or not, but I don’t think one should kick someone when they are down (Myburgh 2020:06)

How come Myburgh’s third sentence:

I don’t know if it is a liberal™ position or not, but I don’t think one should kick someone when they are down (ibid.)

was omitted in a column by fellow journalist, Max du Preez, otherwise replete with quotations from Myburgh’s reply to Kok, and in which Du Preez concluded: ‘Ag nee wat, James, hierna kan niemand jou meer ernstig opneem nie’ (No, James, after this no one can again take you seriously) (Du Preez 2020)?

How come Bullard’s former colleague at the IRR, Ivo Vegter, spearheaded Bullard’s axing (Vegter 2020) when only months previously the self-same Vegter was complaining bitterly that he was being ‘deplatforned’ by the greenies?

How come does a ‘senseless act of kindness’ (Grossman 2011) seemingly count for naught?

It was clear to me that the serpent Bullard was out to trick by ‘rubbing’ and ‘jostling’ whomever into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and succeeded eminently by flushing out card-carrying members of the cult of purity. Of course like all tricksters Bullard paid the price, as did those who stood by him, by himself being banished from the perfumed innocence pervading the Garden of Woke, which brings to mind a second pleromatic Garden, this time of Experience in which each of us is tested. Marie-Louise von Franz, a long-time colleague of Jung’s, explains the goings-on in that place:

I, for instance, have seen that when Germany went to the devil in Nazism, people fell into it through their personal shadow. For instance they didn’t want to lose their job because they were clinging to money – that was a personal shadow, but then they joined in with the Nazi movement – for that reason – and did much worse things than they would have done normally, under normal social conditions, so you can say the personal shadow is the bridge to the collective shadow or the open door to the collective shadow, but the collective shadow comes up in those terrible mass psychoses (Von Franz 1979|31:58)

What I take from all of this is when an assumed harm done to an indeterminate, theoretic ‘other’ by a word or expressed thought, is disproportionate, absolutely, to the actual punishment meted to the living human ‘offender’ who has porridge to make for breakfast and must face family and friends; when one person or one sector of a society is totally good or virtuous or pure and the other its opposite, then that people or society is on the verge of an ‘enantiodromia in the grand scale’.

God is not the summum bonum (supreme good), Jung believed, but is instead, quoting the theologian Meister Eckhart, ‘alone in his Godhead […] not in a state of bliss, but must be born in the human soul’ (Jung 1958:156) where God’s antinomy that ‘tears him asunder into opposites and delivers him over to seemingly insoluble conflict’ (Ibid. 151) must be resolved.

If so, then it is also I who must keep watch in Gethsemane while beyond the garden wall the baying mob is demanding their justice, and blood. It is I required not to fudge or evade issues, or to deceive myself. It is I who must refuse to dumb down. And it is I who must own my shadow, for, according to Laurens van der Post, it is the universal shadow which Jung believed holds the greatest danger:

I remember him saying clearly (writes Van der Post of Jung) that the individual who withdraws his shadow from his neighbour and finds it in himself and is reconciled to it as to an estranged brother, is doing a task of great universal significance (Van der Post 1976:231)

The Romantic poet, William Blake (1757 – 1827) gave us two anthologies: Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, which included, ‘The Lamb’ contrasted with ‘The Tyger’ (McCormick Weng 2018) that illustrate God’s antinomy: gentleness and ferocity in an otherwise void, inert, cold or molten universe which comes together in you and me, and that must be resolved:

[…] Little Lamb who made thee
Dost thou know who made thee

He is called by thy name,
For he calls himself a Lamb:
He is meek & he is mild,
He became a little child | ‘The Lamb’ (Songs of Innocence)

And:

[…] What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!

When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee? | ‘The Tyger’(Songs of Experience}

I can only resolve God’s antinomy as it manifests in me by ‘holding the opposites’ (Ashton 2007). I can only hold the opposites once I experience them in me. I can only experience them once I open myself to and live them as they express themselves in me through my own toxicity, guilt, fears, memories, dreams, and thoughts, and in the love experienced for another being in this universe.

As a pupil bullied or doing the bullying, Juju brushing his teeth, a columnist meeting a deadline or that man on the side of the road, hoping for a job: I heal God’s antinomy by becoming conscious. This I do by accepting that my brief span of three score and ten is less about seeking comfort or happiness (although maybe that too) but ‘engendering insoluble conflicts’ thereby individuating by becoming uniquely me:

All opposites are of God, therefore man must bend to this burden; and in so doing he finds that God in his ‘oppositeness’ has taken possession of him, incarnated himself in him. He becomes a vessel filled with divine conflict (ibid. 89)

When this happens, I stand in humility before:

the One who dwells in (me), whose form has no knowable boundaries, who encompasses (me) on all sides, fathomless as the abysms of the earth and vast as the sky (ibid: 180)

the alternate points in the taijitu will sound the Word in perfect harmony and, I sense, just by looking around me at nature, I’ll love fiercely and rage despairingly.

Disclosure

It is possible that my use of ‘cult’ in the title was unconsciously lifted from the first of two posts by Berger, M. (2020). The cancel cult (I). Politicsweb. Available at: click here [accessed 12 July 2020], which is highly recommended together with its sequel, Further explorations of the cancel cult (II). Politicsweb. Available at: click here [accessed 12 July 2020].

I was unable to establish the primary source of the feature image. One possibility is The Tao of Psychology paper by Jean Shinoda Bolen, featured in the CG Jung Institute of Chicago website accessible here.

Bibliography

Ackerman, E. et al (2020). A letter on justice and open debate. Harper’s. Available at: click here [accessed 28 July 2020].

Ashton, P.W. (2007). From the brink; experiences of the void from a depth psychology perspective. London: Karnac Books.

Binkowski, B. et al (2020). A more specific letter on justice and open debate. The Objective. Available at: click here [accessed 28 July 2020].

Du Preez, M. (2020). Juju se vuil bek, en ’n Engelse weergawe van Dan Roodt. Vrye Weekblad. Available at: click here [accessed 12 July 2020].
Grossman, V. (2011:72). Life and Fate. London: Vintage.

Jung, C.G. (1958). Answer to Job. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Leonard Cohen – El futuro Bunkermuz. Available at: click here [acceded 22 July 2020].

Marie-Louise von Franz, Remembering Jung III. (1979:31:58). [film]. Loss Angeles: Busustow Video Production. Available at: click here [accessed 22 July 2020].

McCormick Weng, J. et al (2018). William Blake’s ‘The Tyger’ and ‘The Lamb’. British Literature. Available at: click here [accessed 20 July 2020].

Mfecane. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: click here [accessed 28 July 2020].

Myburgh, J (2020). No, I will not sack David Bullard as a columnist. Politicsweb. Available at: click here [accessed 12 July 2020].

Taijitu. Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation. Available at: click here [accessed 22 July 2020].

Van der Post, L. (1976). Jung and the story of our time. London: Vintage.

Vegter, I. (2020). Reflecting on Bullard’s dismissal from the Daily Friend. Daily Friend. Available at: click here [accessed 18 July 2020].

Watts, A. (2014:04:59). Alan Watts on Carl Jung. . MindPod Network. Available at: click here [accessed 8 July 2020].

Covid-19’s not the main problem; it’s our response

Triumph of the germophobes. What more could go wrong?

Mark, my neighbour, and I shared beers the day before all this started. I deliver goat’s milk daily and collect his empty bottles. Must this end? Today I chatted with family for next to an hour on Zoom. Is this ‘the shape of things to come’?

I fear it might be, which is why I believe we must take careful stock and self-correct before it is too late. To this end, these are the facts as I see them, as of now:

  • the chances that Covid-19 will take you out are probably in the same ballpark as that of flu, TB, heart, cancer (related, please see the note right at the end)
  • the lockdown has served its purpose
  • our choices today will determine our future

Coved-19 is going to run its course, like it or not

Because the current version of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, tagged as Covid-19, is novel (i.e. new) experts are struggling to understand how it works.

What is however becoming abundantly clear is that original predictions of millions dying from the virus were way-overinflated. Apropos, watch Dr Ioannidis’s early cautionary (embedded link below), and that of Dr Sucharit Bhakdi.

Instead it seems that young people will mostly shake off the virus while the elderly and those with secondary health issues (obesity, diabetes, heart, etc.) must take particular care.

South Africa – with its young population (60% of South Africans are less than 35 years old), higher immunity levels given our ‘third world’, developmental status where the majority roughs it, and a sizeable population group receiving the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine to fight TB, which reportedly seems to be playing an inhibitory role when it comes to the virus – has less to fear than, for instance, countries such as Italy with its aging population (including their doctors) and the US with high obesity, diabetic and hypertension levels and a largely germophobic population which, according to the germ hypothesis, leaves individuals immunologically compromised.

The lockdown has served its purpose

Lockdown was a holding operation to win time while authorities prepare for what is to come. Now, however, it seems that the original intent has morphed into the taken-for-granted assumption that it’s the cure. It isn’t. That’s a year or more down the line with a vaccine, by which time the virus will most likely have mutated into Covid-21 or 22. In the meantime there’s the real world where the problems are piling up.

For instance, the millions who ‘have seen their livelihoods shattered by lockdowns, by collapse of tourism’ and, in the developing world ‘by an end to remittances coming from relatives abroad’ | Kristof, N. (2020). This Pandemic Is Bringing Another With It. New York Times, [online]. Available here.

Dori (a neighbour with a spousal visa) and countless others, locked out of their countries far from loved ones, essentially stateless.

In Groote Schuur outpatients in Cape Town, John Smith (not his real name), who works in admission, reports that they now turn away everyone who doesn’t answer to a Covid-19 infection except stabbings and gunshot wounds.

Those who need care are staying clear of hospitals for fear of the virus. Apropos, see the eNCA interview below with one of 19 South African doctors who signed an open letter to Ramaphosa pleading for the hard lockdown to be ended and a return to normality.

Watch the 06:20-minute interview below. You’ll weep.

‘While we’re preparing (for the corona virus) we’re taking heavy losses on the other fronts and we have to get in the game’ | Dr Ebrahim Kader

The future we choose

Ioannidis (referenced above) articulates what are for me some of the most worrying consequences of our response to Covid-19 (my emphasis):

I think we have no clue how a society would work if you need to build it around a construct where everything is done from a distance … but thinking of a society that is entirely imprisoned and telecommunicating is a very different beast. I’m not even sure it is tenable. It creates a very different environment for our ethics, for our ability to socialize, for democracy, for what it means to be human and our perception of risk and how to deal with risk.

Perspectives on the Pandemic | Dr John Ioannidis of Stanford University | Episode 1, . Watch, below

The above video was taken down by YouTube thereby confirming this take.

Already we see his concerns start playing out:

  • ethics: as in individual, as opposed to public good
  • ability to socialize: as in how to exercise our humanity within a context of curfews, shutdowns, social distancing, surveillance
  • democracy: as in ‘where does the constitutional state stop and the dictatorship start’ (Daily Maverick) and
  • how to deal with risk: as in whether to hide from one another or embrace risk, and in so doing developing herd immunity

And then there are the politicians, corporates, vested interests and ordinary people who, in a Naomi Kleinian Shock Doctrine kind of way, attempt to capitalise on crises, which then set us all on a course which, before we know it, becomes the new normal. To avoid shock-doctrine outcomes we must therefore remain hyper-alert for any potential inflection point, for instance, any which might result in the triumph of the:

  • Zumarites: now that Moody’s has cut us adrift, there must surely be some temptation, given our predicament, for Treasury to start printing money as an anodyne or antidote to the escalating unemployment crisis exacerbated by the extended lockdown which, if it comes to pass will, in a sense, mean the Zumarites have triumphed, which if so might mean we can all kiss our futures goodbye
  • surveillance state: China’s vast surveillance powers must be the envy of every closet dictator, and we seem to have one or two in Government and in the South African Police Service right now. Therefore we should be vigilant that location tracking isn’t also rolled out to ‘protect us’
  • germophobes: germophobes will now add masks and hand sanitizers to their arsenal which already contains insect killer sprays, antifungal-this and antibacterial-that which then becomes further license to turn every household or restaurant into a dead zone
  • AgriChem industry and factory farming: natural, organic and unpasteurized might soon ‘fall’ as the call for ‘food safety’ results in general acceptance of, if not demand for GM, meat raised in sterile environments where animals and chickens never feel the earth or see the sky, nuked vegies, meat shot through with antibiotics and ultra-pasteurised milk as the new norm
  • junk food industry: strategies to combat the virus are paying no attention to the fact that our best line of defence is a healthy immune system which can only come about through whole foods, exercise and exposure to the virus. Consequently obesity, diabetes, heart and related lifestyle conditions are increasingly taken as givens instead of recognised for what they are: unwitting enablers of the corona, flu, and other viruses
  • Borg: if our response to the virus further estranges us from nature and, instead, we find ourselves living sequestered, germ-free lives hermetically-sealed in our respective cocoons, all huddled behind our webcams, our every keystroke registered by the panoptic other (or Other) which controls every aspect of our lives, then consciousness, as we know it, will no longer be nourished by soul (by ‘soul’, I mean deep, or Deep nature), and, instead, be shaped by and merge with the machine (or Machine) thereby finally severing the God-loop (as an example of the ‘God-loop’ I think back to the reverence Bushmen experienced for animals – particularly those they hunted), which will then signify that the commodification of the planet, including Homo sapiens, is final.

Underpinning most of the above is fear – as in fear of the virus, fear of one another, and now fear of the police – and its talisman: denial, self-deception or obedience.

And so we remain locked down day after day, conscientiously following the latest set of regulations having faith that it’s keeping us all safe and that sometime in the future the economy patiently awaits our return, without maybe fully comprehending that we are that economy and that without us it isn’t going to happen; while running parallel with our obedience there is maybe only a vague awareness of and concern about patchy, inept or downright dangerous leadership which could quite suddenly (we’re locked down – remember) become rule by diktat, by which time God help us.

It obviously won’t come to the following although it does illustrate our natural propensity to cooperate when under duress:

… one of the most astonishing human traits that came to light (during the extermination of the Ukrainian and Belarusian Jews) at that time was obedience. There were cases of huge queues being formed by people awaiting execution – and it was the victims themselves who regulated the movement of these queues. There were hot summer days when people had to wait from early morning until late at night; some mothers prudently provided themselves with bread and bottles of water for their children …

Grossman, V. (2011:198). ‘Life and Fate’. London, Vintage.

Freddie Sayers concluded in an analysis of two separate interviews he conducted with epidemiologists on how to respond to covid-19 (first, Swedish professor Johan Gieseck, the realist, who argued that because life entails risk we should not forfeit normal, and, second, UK Professor Neil Ferguson, the idealist, who expressed excitement at the prospect of finding a cure for the virus, which he believes lockdown provides) that:

Whether you’re more Giesecke or Ferguson, it’s time to stop pretending that our response to this threat is simply a scientific question, or even an easy moral choice between right and wrong. It’s a question of what sort of world we want to live in, and at what cost.

Sayers, F. (2020). Which epidemiologist do you believe? ‘Unherd’, [online]. Available here

My choice of world would be the one posited by Giesecke in which I embrace hazard. These would be the costs as I see them:

I would need to shake myself out of my lockdown torpor or faith, and, instead, take control particularly of my health in the knowledge that if I do not exercise and eat properly I jeopardise my immune system thus increasing the risk of becoming victim to the virus. It would mean risking infection but in the knowledge that were I to become infected, given my health, which I’ve conscientiously nurtured, I’ll not only survive but also build immunity for whatever the virus has in store for me next time round.

If, however, I did have an underlying medical condition then I would quarantine myself during which time I would adopt a radical natural health regime.

I would also make it my business to question and maybe even badger authority, respectfully.

Finally, I would make a stand against what I experience as dystopian tendencies we all seem to have to varying degrees that would sacrifice a human future on the altar of technology.


When submitted for possible publication the editor felt uncomfortable with the numbers as far as they pertained to the influenza virus and felt, instead, that it would be better to compare to TB, HIV/AIDS, Malaria etc.. He might be correct as my prognosis was gleaned from the two Ioannidis interviews referenced in the text. A further useful gauge are the following statistics:

The average mortality in South Africa due to Covid-19 is currently three per day, a total of 206 since 5 March [at the time of writing this on 12 May]. If we compared that to some other causes of death, we see that 194 of the 7.7 million people living with HIV-AIDS in our country die daily, 80 daily as a result of TB, 69 as a result of diabetes, and 26 as a result of influenza | De Villiers, W. (et al). (2020). President Ramaphosa’s latest announcement on the lockdown is too little, too late Daily Maverick [online]. Available here

De Villiers, W. (et al). (2020). President Ramaphosa’s latest announcement on the lockdown is too little, too late ‘Daily Maverick’ [online]. Available here.

When it comes to the property clause in our Constitution, watch the ANC like milk on fire

Section 25 of the South African Constitution sets out your and my rights with respect to property. If South Africans are not ultra-vigilant, the ANC will gut those rights.

The State’s right to expropriation without compensation (EWC) is implicit in Section 25 of the South African Constitution, nothing needs changing.

Not so, argues the ANC and their EFF allies. EWC must be made explicit and to that end the ANC initiated and managed a multi-party parliamentary process culminating in a draft proposal (see below) to amend Section 25, which was Gazetted just before Christmas with a deadline for comments on the 31 January 2020.

Now, mere days before the deadline, we learn that the draft proposal for comment is in fact a dummy or, more exactly, a decoy.

This is the proposed draft amendment (changes to the Constitution indicated in bold)

(1) No one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property.

(2) Property may be expropriated only in terms of law of general application —
(a) for a public purpose or in the public interest; and
(b) subject to compensation, the amount of which and the time and manner of payment of which have either been agreed to by those affected or decided or approved by a court, provided that in accordance with subsection (3A) a court may, where land and any improvements thereon are expropriated for the purposes of land reform, determine that the amount of compensation is nil;

(3) The amount of the compensation as contemplated in subsection (2)(b), and the time and manner of any payment, must be just and equitable, reflecting an equitable balance between the public interest and the interests of those affected, having regard to all relevant circumstances, including —
(a) the current use of the property;
(b) the history of the acquisition and use of the property;
(c) the market value of the property;
(d) the extent of direct state investment and subsidy in the acquisition and beneficial capital improvement of the property; and
(e) the purpose of the expropriation.

(3A) National legislation must, subject to subsections (2) and (3), set out specific circumstances where a court may determine that the amount of compensation is nil.

What it means

Were the proposed amendment adopted, EWC would be explicitly mentioned in the Constitution (‘a court may … determine that the amount of compensation is nil’), however, the Constitution as such would provide no guidelines on how to identify instances where nil compensation should be paid, which would instead be left to Parliament (in other words the ANC and any coalition or ruling party that one day replaces the ANC) thereby creating a situation in which the Executive (i.e. Cabinet) would dictate to the Judiciary (i.e. Courts of law), and your protection, under the Bill of Rights, would end.

ANC volte-face

Now if that isn’t enough, days before the deadline Ramaphosa, reporting back on the ANC Lekgotla, announced that the ANC’s position differed from the Gazetted formulation we have all been asked to comment on. Instead, he informed us, the ANC’s position was that ‘the power to determine the quantum of compensation for land expropriation should reside in the Executive (i.e. him and his fellow cabinet ministers), and that the amendment should articulate such’.

President Ramaphosa, reporting back on the ANC Lekgotla, 19 – 20 January 2020

The Chairman of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the Constitutional Amendment, Mathole Motshekga, further clarified the ANC’s position (transcription follows):

Dr Mathole Motshekga, chair of Parliament’s ad-hoc committee on the Constitutional Amendment of Section 25 of the Constitution

Transcription of the above interview follows:

Mathole Motshekga: No, we are a multi-party democracy, we had to agree on a formulation that would be acceptable to the political parties so that we don’t derail the process, but that formulation is subject to engagement by political parties and the people of South Africa as a whole, and, as I said, the African National Congress has given the lead to say ‘no’ to that formulation: (and) that that power should be given to the Executive and that’s why we are calling on all other political parties and to all South Africans to make their input so that when we sit as Parliament now we must be guided by the will, aspirations of the people of South Africa as a whole … The earlier formulation was to ensure that we reach consensus otherwise we would have created controversy and we would not have been able to Gazette the bill and that would have derailed the process, and we didn’t want to derail the process.

eNCA Interviewer (not named): The Gazetted formulation of the bill is different from what you now want as the ANC in (that) the Gazetted formulation, as I was showing in the slides, now the power to decide instances where … compensation will be zero, (currently) rests in the hands of the Courts, you, as the ANC, want it to rest in the hands of the Executive.

MM: That’s what the ANC is saying and we are saying that this is not the ANC process. Other political parties must make their inputs and the people of South Africa as a whole must make their inputs so that Parliament must be guided by the will of the people of South Africa as a whole not by one or the other political party.

eNCA: Isn’t it sneaky though, Dr Motshekga, isn’t it sneaky that you give us one bill that is the basis for people making written submissions and then, you know, as as I would say in South African parlance, jiggy-jiggy, you are suddenly talking about it’s it’s not gonna rest in the hands of the Courts it will rest in the hands of the Executive?

MM: You know where we have the experience that the court processes are arduous, they take time, they require resources but the Executive is a democratic government elected by the people of South Africa, they represent the people of South Africa and they must govern but we are not excluding the role of the Courts but we are not giving the Courts the first opportunity to decide, because that will last another 25 years and the people of South Africa cannot wait for another 25 years to get a resolution to this matter.

eNCA: It’s difficult for me to wrap my head around who would keep the Executive in check, in terms of, you know, making sure that, you know, because you’re now putting it in the hands of, you know, the political powers of the day to decide instances where there would be no compensation for land expropriated. Who would keep (the Executive) power in check?

MM: They are a democratically elected government but the powers of the courts to hear aggrieved parties is an entrenched power in the Constitution so any aggrieved person reserves the right to go to the court and say I have been prejudiced by the decision of the Executive, then the courts will intervene, so there is a balance there, so no one needs to fear if eventually Parliament agrees with the recommendation that the power to expropriate should vest in the Executive.

eNCA: All right, Dr Mathole Motshekga, thank you so much. Quite an interesting conversation and I must say I must admit that unless I completely missed it I wasn’t aware of this new proposed formulation where that power to decide instances where the compensation for land expropriated for restitution would be zero moves from the Courts as in the published draft bill to amend the constitution, and moves to the Executive and that’s what Dr Mathole Motshekga tells us is what the ANC is now proposing.

Milk on fire

You can see where this is going:

  • elite capture: running parallel with this process, is the draft National policy for beneficiary selection and land allocation, which lists categories of persons who can start queuing for zero-rated, expropriated land and property, including, subject to provisos: spouses of public servants (para. 7.1.5), politicians holding public office (7.4.4) and state employees (7.4.7)
  • electioneering: Municipal elections are around the corner (2021) so how convenient isn’t it to be able to take an EWC roadshow to the people, financed by the taxpayer
  • creation of false expectations
  • sleight of hand
  • an enemy: note who’s now being blamed: the courts (‘we are not giving the courts the first opportunity to decide, because that will last another 25 years’ | Mathole Motshekga)
  • ducking responsibility: let it be acknowledged that historical injustices have led to skewed land ownerships patterns. However our present impasse has little to do with Section 25 of the Constitution and everything to do with ANC mismanagement of the land reform process over the past 25 years (see here, here, here, here and here)
  • costly redress : ‘any aggrieved person reserves the right to go to the court and say I have been prejudiced by the decision of the Executive then the courts will intervene so there is a balance there’ (Mathole Motshekga)
  • assault on the Constitution: what Ramaphosa, Motshekga and the ANC are now advocating is a direct assault on the Constitution, in that there is no honouring the doctrine of the Separation of Powers (Executive, Legislature and Judiciary), and dismissal of the Bill of Rights enshrined in the Constitution, meant to protect all South Africans.

So what’s to do

Articulate, and mail your response to the draft proposal before this coming Friday: For attention: Mr V Ramaano | section25@parliament.gov.za, alternatively take the shortcut by registering your response here or, here.

For information, my response will roughly be along the following lines:


The draft amendment must be rejected on the grounds that it:

  • fails to honour the doctrine of the separation of powers underpinning the constitution
  • is dismissive of the bill of rights, enshrined in the constitution

Because expropriation without compensation is already implicit in the wording, Section 25 must stand as is.


Acknowledgment: ‘like milk on fire’ used in the title is borrowed from Rumer Godden’s ‘you must watch children like milk on fire’ (publication, unknown).

South Africa and the question of truth

Hendrik Mentz says our current debate is riddled with category errors

First published by politcsweb

‘There is only one truth. It’s a bitter truth, but it’s a truth that can save us’ (Vasily Grossman)

For Maxim Gorky, there were two truths, and he advised Vasily Grossman to write the new truth of the (Communist) Revolution into his first novel, Glϋckauf, if he wished it to be published [1]:

We know there are two truths and that, in our world, it is the vile and dirty truth of the past that quantitatively preponderates […] it is a disgusting and tormenting truth. It is truth we must struggle against and mercilessly extirpate. [2]

Grossman wrestled with Gorky’s dualistic epistemology until he concluded – as Plato had centuries before – there can only be one truth:

‘No, Marusya […] You’re wrong. I can tell you as a surgeon that there is one truth, not two. When I cut someone’s leg off, I don’t know two truths. If we start playing at two truths, we’re in trouble. And in war too – above all. When things are as bad as they are today – there is only one truth. It’s a bitter truth, but it’s a truth that can save us. If the Germans enter Stalingrad, you’ll learn that if you chase after two truths, you won’t catch either. It’ll be the end of you.’ [3]

South Africa, and the question of truth

The challenge of what constitutes truth also faces South Africans today.

During the time of the first democratic elections in the country which ended apartheid (1994), our truth was the rainbow nation of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and President Nelson Mandela. Now, however, a quarter of a century on, the belief in our oneness has been shattered. Instead, Gorky’s sense of ‘a vile and dirty’ past with its ‘disgusting and tormenting truth’ is what now prevails with accusations of ‘white monopoly capital’, ‘you stole the land’ – and which must now be ‘mercilessly extirpated’ by a new truth that will liberate ‘the people’ from the shackles of a white colonial past.

The sense of there being two truths was confirmed in 2018 by no one less than our State President, Cyril Ramaphosa, during his first Sona (state of the nation address) when he stated that the original sin inflicted on South Africa were the white settlers (VIDEO of Ramaphosa’s accusation: click here), and that to correct the injustices flowing from this original sin the South African Constitution was to be adapted to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation.

The President isn’t alone. There are currently multiple processes ‘mercilessly extirpating’ the past. University curricula are being ‘decolonised’. White people – framed as the sole beneficiaries of colonialism – must now own their guilt, confess the privileges flowing exclusively their way from their theft, and find ways of making amends by reaching out to those whom, over generations, they oppressed. Any white person questioning this new truth is by definition racist, accused of resisting reconciliation, and is punished through labelling (witness: Helen Zille), banning (Steve Hofmeyr) or discrediting (Afriforum), alternatively they can leave the country.

An idea, once it takes hold, wields enormous power, and so it is imperative for it to be true. For instance consider the consequences of the following ideas: the divine right of kings, liberté, equalité, fraternité, Rule Britannia, apartheid, the American Dream. By ‘true’, I mean that the idea in question should at least make sense – which the new South African truth being propagated doesn’t, because it contains numerous category errors.

Category errors

You’ve made a category error when the quality you ascribe to something (i.e. the category in which you place it) is wrong. In other words what you say or believe it to be, isn’t true.

To illustrate a category error Gilbert Ryle tells the story of a traveller being shown around a campus and who noted the library and the faculty buildings but then complained he couldn’t find the university. The traveller’s error was to assume that a ‘university’ was also a tangible object or category comprising bricks and mortar whereas it fell into a different category altogether: conceptual.

Ryle coined the term ‘category error’ in order to show that René Descartes – of cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am) fame – was wrong to believe that each of us comprised a separate mind in a body because if it were so, Ryle argued, how could something inanimate (mind) bend something material (body) to its bidding – like a ghost in the machine (which is in some ways similar to the belief that when we die our soul rises to heaven while the body remains behind). Ryle contended that there are truer ways of describing human consciousness that don’t commit a category error, for instance, understanding that being human expresses itself through thinking, feeling, toiling and then dying (please note: my reformulation).

I turn to South Africa.

Claims that white people stole the land are false

The accusations of new-truthers that white South Africans stole the land from our people comprise a series of category errors, and are therefore not true.

‘Our people’ is a category error because it privileges black Nguni/Bantu as victims whereas in fact the original Nguni people were in the same category as white Europeans and light yellow to olive Khoikhoi invaders who, in successive waves, occupied space originally exclusively inhabited by yellow-brown-skinned Bushman (San) hunter-gatherers [4].

The ‘land’ itself is also a category error because the original Bushman wouldn’t even have noticed the land. Instead, was endless space with mountains and streams teaming with animals to be hunted and eaten. What is now categorized as ‘land’ would for the Bushman have been the spoor of an impala buck. What is now categorized as ‘land’ would for the Khoikhoi pastoralist have been water, and grazing until it was exhausted. The Nguni people might have had the initial sense of an area to be held, cultivated and protected but even this sense didn’t approximate the European sense in 1659 – with the first Land Plakkaaten of Jan van Riebeeck – of a geographical area, measured, pegged, and with a title deed and associated record of permanent ownership ‘to be entered in a well-bound book, so that no difficulties may arise later over possession and inheritance’ [5], let alone its modern equivalent as a mechanised, tightly managed farming operation forming an essential part of the country’s GDP.

To summarise: ‘you stole the land’ is a category error because what is now understood as stolen land never existed before European settlers arrived in southern Africa, whereas the category ‘land’ as it was then ‘conceived’ as teaming game or endless grazing now no longer exists.

The accusation that white people are the original sin is false

President Ramaphosa’s accusation that white people are the original sin is also a category error because the land purportedly stolen is indistinguishable from the geographic entity universally recognised as the Republic of South Africa of which Ramaphosa is currently President. So, if by Ramaphosa’s reckoning, white people are the original sin then Ramaphosa, as beneficiary of that sin, is equally – if not more guilty, and should, by rights, resign. He can’t have his cake and eat it.

It is impossible to ‘decolonise the curriculum’

That the curriculum can be ‘decolonised’ is also a category error because it assumes that ‘colonialism’ is something lurking, like a homunculus, inside knowledge able to be identified and extracted, instead of understanding knowledge as additive and enriching.

Accusations of racism are category errors

Murder is a clearly defined punishable crime or category distinguishable from manslaughter, acts of self-defence, and action on the battlefield, and is itself, a sub-category of killing. Racism is also now categorised as a crime but whereas I know what murder is, what racism is escapes me, because, like Descartes’ category ‘mind’, the category ‘racism’ is a nothing. Sure I can infer racism like I can infer mind but I’m just as likely to be wrong. For instance we infer from Penny Sparrow’s use of the descriptor ‘monkeys’ to describe black people littering a Durban beach on New Year’s eve that she’s a racist. But where or what exactly is this thing that we now call, label or categorise as ‘racism’, and how to measure it? Is it the word? Is it the speaker? Is it the attitude? Is it the intent? Is it the context? Is it the interpretation? Is it all these things? Is it something else? I don’t know. You help me. Helen Zille is suddenly a racist because she tweets that colonialism also brought benefits. Again, the same series of questions apply. I could go on to Steve Hofmeyr or Julius Malema but hopefully the point has been made that whereas crimes such as stock theft, fraud, trespassing have tangibility in that each has been clearly defined, meaning a perpetrator can then be identified, stand trial, and, if guilty, sentenced and convicted, the same cannot be said of racism which is by its very nature indefinable, as in: fluid, fleeting, contextual, contingent. The label ‘racist’ is therefore a category error, which, needless to say, comes in handy if your intention is to cower or confuse a populace, keep everyone on the back foot, discourage discussion, ensure adherence to a new truth.

One truth

None of the above is to deny that European, Khoikhoi and Nguni people detested, feared and together exterminated the Bushman in horrific numbers [6], thereby forcing them into remote enclaves and, finally, the Kalahari. Nor does the above excuse white people for passing various legislation aimed at driving ‘the Hottentot … from pasturage and watering-places necessary for the Company’s purposes’ [7], and dealing with the ‘native question’, thereby depriving many black farmers of their ancestral land and their livelihood. Nor does it excuse apartheid, which uprooted entire communities.

But the foregoing constitutes the one truth which found expression in the form of a negotiated treaty [8] we refer to as our Constitution, with its associated remedial legislation which has been administered over the past quarter of a century by the ruling ANC government. So why invent a new truth, unless for nefarious ends?

So if all we have is our one truth, how do we live it?

I don’t want to talk for Ramaphosa, Malema et al except to suggest more truthfulness on their part, owning and taking responsibility, and less projecting and blaming would be a fair start. You, dear reader, can speak for yourself. For me I return to Grossman, who, I believe, has the answer. The one truth finds expression in the individual in a very personal way. Further, it is clearly evident given history that truth is about suffering:

The more sorrow there is in a man, the less hope he has of survival – the better, the kinder, the more generous he becomes. [9]

And what is that sorrow? For me it was locating, entering and living my own darkness – also inherited, as transgenerational trauma, going back almost 300 years to 1749 when Joachim Frederik Mentz stepped ashore in Table Bay. Mine was a lonely, arduous, terrifying yet definitive experience which I sense, in retrospect, has made me more human than I was before. It also strengthened me at my core, brought me greater clarity, and left me, on occasions, less critical and kinder: as in you and I; not crowds. It also enabled me to detect and resist, as tyranny, those who wish to impose their truth as the truth.

Man and Fascism cannot co-exist. If Fascism conquers, man will cease to exist and there will remain only man-like creatures that have undergone an internal transformation. But if man, man who is endowed with reason and kindness, should conquer, then Fascism must perish, and those who have submitted to it will once again, become people. [10]

References:

1: Smith, A. (2019). The trials of Vasily Grossman. Harpers Magazine, July, pp. 80-85. Available at: click here [Accessed 11 July 2019].

2: Foreword by Robert Chandler to Grossman, V. (2018:5). Stalingrad. London, Random House. Available at: click here [Accessed 25 June 2019].

3: Ibid.

4: Theal, G.M. (1919). Ethnography and conditions of South Africa before A.D. 1505. London, George Allen and Unwin.

5: Spilhaus, M.W. (1949:109). The first South Africans. Cape Town, Juta.

6: Theal, G.M. ibid.

7: Spilhaus, M.W. ibid. 6

8: I am indebted to Michael Kenmuir who, in correspondence, pointed out that the Constitution is in fact a treaty.

9: Grossman, V. (2011:72). Life and Fate. London, Vintage.

10: Ibid., 78.

No one can tame a fence like Japie Presence

If you live in Suurbraak or its environs and need a fence constructed or repaired, a chicken hok rooikat or otter-proofed, bollards constructed or your lawn mowed, then Japie Presence is your man.

Jakob Present repairing a chicken hok
A rooikat (caracel or African lynx) took out my two ducks one night after the other. Jakob knew what I was up against, fortified the gate using a bent dropper I had on hand and ensured the base around the cage was impregnable and end of problem
Jacob goat-proofing a fence
Freyja the goat was a real pest as she insisted on jumping the perimeter fence in order to feast inside. Jakob improvised and end of problem
Otter that killed ducks and chickens on a neighbouring farm
This otter terrorized neighbours Mark and Dori wiping out almost their entire poultry operation. I recommended Jakob who then ensured that the chicken coop was otter-proof

Japie, whose real name is Jacob (or Jakob in Afrikaans) is a man of many talents. Consequently he has been a boon to me. For instance it was he who noticed that the metal chimney to my Dover stove was rusted and needing replacing. He did a MacGyver and it not only no longer leaks but pulls far better than it did.

On request Jakob also arrives with his weed eater and will do an excellent job mowing your lawn.

He’ll also tends to the garden, rakes leaves and will prune your fruit trees.

For big jobs he’ll quote, but also has a daily rate. If his quotation isn’t to your liking please engage with him as he is open to discussing his and your needs to ensure that neither is short-changed.

If you need to contact him leave a note below and I’ll get back to you with his mobile number.

Quid pro quo. I’m voting Cope

This time round I’ll be voting Cope for national, and DA for the Western Province. Here are my reasons.

Why I won’t be voting ANC

What brought my world crashing was our President (no less) Matamela Cyril Ramaphosa announcing to the nation that the Constitution must be changed in order to reflect the prevailing racist trope that white people constitute ‘the original sin’ (see below), and are therefore to blame for a quarter of a century of failed land reform – and not the ANC.

His was my Piet Retief moment; treachery.

Continue reading Quid pro quo. I’m voting Cope

LinkedIn Learning is a life-changer – or was, for me

This unsolicited post will argue that you should take out a trial subscription to LinkedIn Learning to rivet those joints: yours and/or your employees

Photography has featured strongly in much of my working career in education (photographic clubs, school magazines, newspapers, newsletters, websites, press releases and social media), so I reckon I knew something about how to shoot a reasonable image.

However, mine was always just-in-time learning based on a lifetime of hands-on, manuals, physical courses, YouTube and Adobe Support videos.

In short: Heath Robinson.

Continue reading LinkedIn Learning is a life-changer – or was, for me

Barrydale and books go together

When you conjure Barrydale do you think of literature? If you do then you’ve discovered The House of Books.

Anton de Villiers Fourie in the atrium to his House of Books, Barrydale

Situated in Van Riebeeck Street near to ABSA and the OK, one enters through a garden into an atrium of books. On entry turn to the room on your left: books, the passageway: books, in every nook except the bathroom: books. Additionally you’ll find thousands of CDs and DVDs in the hallway and elsewhere.

Continue reading Barrydale and books go together

The Buffeljags is running dry

“This is the first time in 30 years the river has been this low,” reports Bertrim Oliver, who lives in Suurbraak, a small village that straddles the Buffelags Rivers on the way to or from Barrydale in the Western Cape.

Where I live, in line with the confluence of the Caledon and Buffelags, neither river seems to flow anymore, and the Buffeljags is fast drying up.

Where the Caledon River meets the Buffeljags in Suurbraak

“Never seen it this bad,” comments Matthew Mentz, “but we have had worse droughts, which makes me think water tables are disappearing.”

Continue reading The Buffeljags is running dry

I try to see things as they are