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At the Precipice


Inspecting ancient solstice markers of a lost civilisation in the Southern Cape’s Karoo region.

If it were up to us, we might have chosen a different time and place to be. Where would one have gone? Onto an island perhaps, the classical palms strewn on white sandy beaches? Reading Stevenson’s In the South Seas (Edinburgh1894-98), it would have been quite doable for a while despite the indigenous appetite for the flesh of neighbouring tribes. Anyway, it’s all a dream. Fleeing from the Black Death as the privileged group of seven young women and three young men in Boccaccio’s Decameron could afford, sitting it out in a villa outside Florence, seems to be the most attractive kind of shelter from a devastating disease. The story of a man who in recent history looked for a place where he could hide away from the noise of modern times, choosing The Falkland Islands to live out his life in peace, is well known (see the Falklands War of 1982). The less adventurous, the less fortunate, the less ambitious ones of us have to stay within the realm of their modest means.

Illustration from a ca. 1492 edition of Il Decameron.

Where do these thoughts originate from? The moment your wings of desire are clipped, you wish you could get far away from all restrictions, you never imagined to be imposable on anyone, let alone you. The awareness of it creeps in step by step as Dr. Bernard Rieux experiences it in the port city of Oran in Albert Camus’ novel The Pest.
Now that our ways of moving about are curtailed, we feel trapped, humiliated, angry and become aggressive.
Now that we feel how helpless we are where we had thought to be strong and all powerful in shaping our lives, we are left bereft. We are, in fact at the precipice.

At the precipice our fears grab at any good reason why we should not be where we are. Yet, no matter what, we are stuck. Yes, we do receive monetary help from the state, to keep us calm. Yes, we are being fed data to show we are not alone. Yes, we are made to feel looked after with advice how to wash our hands, how not to cough and how to stand away and hide our faces. All of a sudden we are turned into little children having to be told how to behave. It is quite astounding. Instead of saying: look, these are measures to protect yourself and others, but, otherwise get on with your life as before, we are being locked into rabbit cages and fed carrots of institutional wisdom.

There we are huddled together, not more than ten at a time from two families, children under fourteen years of age not counted, and – and what? Awaiting Father Christmas? The right wingers of the world are laughing aloud. See what you can do with people when they are scared! Nazism, Communism, Authoritarianism, they all feed on fear. Scare the people and they eat out of your hand as Hermann Goering told the Nuremberg court when somewhat naively asked how could so many good German people have fallen for the Nazi rule.
O no, the virus is real, it makes its round and will never be eliminated; it will become endemic for a long time to come, if not for ever. Like the atomic bomb. We are under threat all the while; we are at the precipice.

Being at the precipice requires a steadfast mind. Not to stumble. But also to take stock of your options. If there are any. If you are poor, everything matters. Cart by cart you are pushing your lot through the maze of charcoaled shacks. You would have liked to stay at home in the good old rurality, planting mealies, keeping a few chickens, some supportable life stock, yet, the call of the city was so much stronger, politicians and their wives in the latest Benzes and Cayennes showed that there is another world out there of potential prosperity. Hope of a better life.

On the road to Malealea, Lesotho.

This is the reality of most people in this country, getting on with life as best they can.

On our way to Lusikisiki, Eastern Cape.

If you are better off, nothing really matters. Your survival is assured. Comes the virus and steadily the odds are changed. You are as vulnerable as the poor. Your business is in jeopardy. And everyone connected. Now the poor and rich are equally affected. The virus as the great leveller. Messrs Soros, Zuckerberg and Gates are not exempt. All their amassed wealth means nothing anymore. Imagine a scenario, where mankind is wiped out, leaving only a handful of people to enjoy … what?

At the precipice – what are the options?
It appears the world has been there before and survived. What a world it had been, judging from the remnants of enormous skeletons! What would a world without humans eventually come to look like? A vast jungle of plants and trees with a billion animals thriving, building huge living colonies, ants, bees, spiders, beavers, frogs and more of the kind, re-colonising the world! No room for you and me to be, for sure.

The rapidity of change in technological terms has left all of us in the dust. Life has moved to the cloud. Next, to the dust of distant stars. We are being readied for the great trek to different worlds. But few of us, only a chosen few will be participants. That is the meaning of the great RESET, trashing the surplus mass, elevating the highly skilled to a new partnership in future explorations. Leaving this messed-up world behind, returning it to nature, letting it recuperate at its own rate, direction and will (e.g. Chernobyl), while accelerating the speed of development to propel what’s left of mankind onto a new trajectory out of the now and here.

Tschornobyl, Ukraine, founded 1193, population 500 (2010), better known as Chernobyl.

You think this far fetched? The future is already long behind and now the past is finally catching up with us, overtaking the world with increasing speed. That is the meaning of being pushed to the edge of the precipice.

Stellenbosch, Sunday 27 December 2020
With love from
Colleen & Walter

One comment on “At the Precipice

  1. Sue Southworth says:

    A Betty’s Bay blog again….thank you. We used to look forward to them in days gone by. Yes this one is a deep thinker and we are all, indeed, on the precipice of uncertainty. Social life is gone, one longs to see friends but then you don’t know where they were last (not their fault). It’s been a terrible year but we still have much to be thankful for. Nice to see the pics of your family gathering at Betty’s. It must have brought back lovely memories from when you lived there in that sweet house. Christmas wishes to you both and may 2021 bring some joy to the world and the normality that we all crave. Hope to see you in the new year. Love to you both Us

    Sent from my iPad

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