The de-colonization project – a pretty prickly issue

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Where to begin?
Colonization is as much a thing of nature as it is of culture and is happening all the while we read and write here. Bacteria colonize organisms. Vikings raid and colonize foreign lands.
Comets are colonized.

In scientific parlance:

DARMSTADT, Germany — For the last two years, the Rosetta spacecraft has danced around a comet. Today, it finally made contact with the icy body — and sent its last signal.

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“Comets are primitive cosmic objects, left over from the time our solar system was just starting to take shape 4.6 billion years ago. Exploring the structure, composition and activity of these icy bodies could shed light on the evolution of our solar system, and help scientists write a more comprehensive history of how the building blocks of life were first delivered to Earth.” (www.space.com)

Foreign lands are explored, mapped out and subsequently colonized:

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John Thomson’s 1813 map of Africa. (Wikipedia)

“This hand colored map is a steel plate engraving, dating to 1813 by the important English mapmaker John Thomson. It is an early and historically important representation of the continent of Africa. Much of the continent is simply labeled “unknown parts”. Those sections that are known are surprisingly detailed. Caravan routes, temples, and even the distances between Oases are generally noted. Across the center of the continent Thomson details the mythical mountain range known as the “Mountains of the Moon”. The mountains of the moon were first postulated by Ptolemy to be the source of the Nile. This mysterious range remained on maps until the mid 19th century explorations of Burton, Speke, and Livingstone.” (Wikipedia)

Is colonization part of an regenerative process of shaking up existing states of things for their own good?

Is it, seen from the angle of the colonizer, an act of exploration only with the aim to gain knowledge about unknown parts of the world and universe? Or is it in any event a violent, destructive, rapacious intrusion of a well established natural or cultural realm for the intruder’s good?

Can it ever, from the angle of the colonized, be seen as an impulse to cultural renewal, testing the strength of defenses and developing capabilities to defend itself, absorb and digest?

Colonization is a good thing, of course. It means making the land and its people productive. Developing natural and cultural resources.

Colonialism however is not a good thing. It means the imposition of a foreign rule and exploitation of natural and human resources which can never be condoned.

To say colonialism was not all bad, it brought infrastructure etc. is tantamount to saying Hitler was not all bad, he built the Autobahn. Sorry Helen, this was, if not a calculated provocation definitely an unfortunate glitch.

Where to begin then with the project of decolonization?

Here are a few propositions what to do and not to do.

  • Do not tear down statues of classical colonizers.
    They are to be kept as reminders of the people’s history.
    To besmirch and pull down the statute of Cecil Rhodes is infantile.
  • Research and uncover knowledge disregarded by the colonizers.
    This might cover medicinal practices but also ways of looking at the sky and interpreting ways of being in this world.
  • Look at the difference between colonization and colonialism and separate the wheat from the husks. As much as colonialism is to be condemned, colonization has a lot to offer. This is where Helen got it wrong.
  • Empower all who are vulnerable, that is, all of us.
  • Try to dislodge the new colonizers, that is those in power who have usurped the position of the colonizers of old and are raping the country as of old.

The pricklyness of the de-colonization project lies in that the virus has disguised itself and has usurped the position of old under the mantle of liberation.
What are we to do?
What were the people of northern France and England to do when they were raided by Viking mobs?
They had to endure and bury their slain.
What are the Syrians to do in the enclaves of Mosul? They have to endure and bury their dead.
And South Africans? What are they to do to get rid of their new colonizers under the disguise of liberators?

We all are in a pickle. Attacked by all kinds of new challenges. To de-colonize is one of the least exciting issues. Let’s attend to the agenda of renewed colonial invasions in the guise of new forms of energy: fracking the Karoo to smithereens and Russian power plants dotted all over the country – the new colonial masters having been handsomely paid for their acquiescence already.

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With love from
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch 5 April 2017

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Into the New Year

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Hieronymus Bosch (c.1450-1516), Ship of Fools, fragment of a triptych. Musée de Louvre, Paris.

Dear friends,

Contemplating The Ship of Fools could well serve to alert us to the follies in our own lives if not the world at large at a time when all our good New Year’s resolutions have dulled away.
Bosch’s work speaks to us as freshly as it must have moved people at the turn of the 15th into the 16th century. People then stood with their minds and habits, thoughts, rituals, beliefs, expectations and realisations of life half still enslaved within the feudality of the Middle Ages and halfway into the era of modernity which is our own.

The ship of fools is very much alive in our time, adrift on the ocean of general intemperance, fanaticism, pernicious and evil intents, little fat clowns playing with intercontinental ballistic toys while watching the latest massacres and drownings in high definition.

We all know or feel that our world has come to an end in its present form and that the process of major reforms has already begun. These adjustments will be painful for all of us, in particular the ruling parties, and will invariably be met with subterfuge to derail the process of change.

There is no time for turning back. The time has arrived to be bold and brave. To fight the good fight where it counts: on the battlefield of personal commitment, never giving up on the dream of creating a world for all to thrive in.

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It is a fight worth fighting.

With love to all of you from
Colleen and Walter
Stellenbosch, 10 January 2017

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The Curse of Racism

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On the Wild Coast, near Port St. John’s, on our way to Lusikisiki and beyond.

We belong to the human race.
The classification of humans according to essentially distinguishable traits is part of 19th century anthropology, subsequently throughout the 20th century, exploited as a political tool.
Behaviour among the human race that today still uses such classification openly or in subtle ways, is justifiably branded “racist”.
When and where the term “racism” is used today, the usage can be ambivalent and controversial: it could mark behaviour as racist, but it could also be used as a political instrument to disqualify certain behaviour even though it may not be racist at all.
There is the dichotomy: the ones shouting “racism” might well be racist themselves.
Where then is the qualifier?
“Race” as qualifier is a thing of the past.
“Race” is as qualifier in academic analytical writing.
“Race” as a behavioural qualifier has no place in everyday interaction between members of the human race.
While racism is still very much alive like other diseases of the past, we should refrain from its usage because if used it easily can turn into the curse it is.

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Magueye, Professor of German Language and Literature in Senegal. Here with Walter in our library in Stellenbosch, some years ago.

Writing about racism is virtually impossible. There are simply too many open wounds. It’s an emotional mine field. The recent verbal flair up is so very telling. It’s like an AK-47 – once you pick it up you might want to use it.

With love from
Colleen & Walter
Sunday 07 Feb 2016
On the day of the South African Catholic feast of “Our Lady of The Flight into Egypt”.

 

 

 

A People in Distress – Some Thoughts on the Passing of Africa Day

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Namibian desert moonscape.

The world around us is, and we in it are, in restless motion. And so is the universe of which we are part. And the greater and even deeper space around that and so on ad infinitum. It all is in motion. At no point ever can you hold “it” fast and pin it down. Even in death there is no finality. It is all in flux.
This notion of Πάντα ρει (panta rhei) – “Everything flows”, meaning that you can never step into the same river twice, as a philosophical concept, is attributed to the pre-Socratic thinking of Heraclitus of Ephesus who lived from ca. 535 to 475 BC.

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Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1588-1629)*

It is of course a quotidian experience which we, however, apportion to the passage of time. We can never catch up with it. If only we could stop time for a moment longer, and so on. We use “time” as the general expression of this movement.

Time is a cultural convention. There is no such thing as time as such. There is perpetual movement and our experience of it in terms of time as a conventional measure of orientation in this world of unceasing motion and constant change. Were you to sit under a tree, meditating about the world, and it felt to you that all was still and motionless, time too would lose its voice.

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Salvador Dali (1904-1989), The Persistence of Memory. 1931. Museum of Modern Art, New York. (Courtesy of WikiArt).

Science and philosophy have generated a number of questions, such as:
What and/or who has set it all into motion?
Are there any laws governing motion?
Does motion have a direction and an ultimate goal?

Ibn Khaldun

Ibn Khaldun

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Ibn Sina or Avicenna

While we normally cannot engage in meaningful discussions about the findings of science from Thales of Miletus (624-546 BCE), Ibn Sina (Avicenna) (980-1037), Ibn Khaldun (1334-1406) to Newton (1643-1727) and von Helmholtz (1821-1849), proposing and discussing ideas or concepts of development and goals, are commonplace in the polity, where it is easy for all to see into which direction things ought to move.

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Crayfish boats in Hout Bay Harbour near Cape Town.

The pessimistic outlook on Africa, as portrayed by the press, represents the blatant sufferings of the populace at large only. Trying to reach the shores of Europe in stricken vessels, children bonded as soldiers, the abduction and subsequent enslavement of school girls, genocide, rulers in contempt of the rule of law – Africa from that perspective, is a mess. Africa, it seems, would again have to rid herself from colonisers, this time of her own making. A people in fear of their rulers who treat their people with contempt, is a people in distress. It took Europe more than two centuries to establish herself constitutionally, how long will it take the people of Africa to set themselves free.

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Farm workers’ children on their way to the school bus in 2010 on the farm Vrede in the Camdeboo Conservancy near Graaff-Reinet/Eastern Cape.

Africa Day, meant to remind us of our common humanity, also prompts a number of uneasy questions, that we, having chosen to live in Africa and be counted as Africans, have to ponder:

Are we sufficiently evolved as a species to narrow the ever widening divide between poor and rich?
How can we dispose of unjust rulers without causing further social unrest?
Can nations develop and compete side by side in harmony with each other?
How can we exploit natural and human resources in an equitable way?
Can we harness self-interest, greed, addictions without curbing our zest for life?
Can we as nations wed tribal and national interests with mankind’s common interest?

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Tourists and tourist guide Hout Bay harbour.

What counts is: respect for each other, for life. And, let’s not forget – life without fun is no fun.

With love as always
Walter & Colleen
Stellenbosch, 31st of May 2015

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* Courtesy of Wikipedia

What is Xenophobia? – Some Thoughts on the Occasion of “Freedom Day”

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King Goodwill Zwelithini -king of the Zulus in ceremonial garb.

The renewed outbreak of violence against immigrants from other African countries – mainly from Zimbabwe and Malawi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Nigeria, Somalia – in South Africa is branded as “xenophobia”, but I am not convinced this is the adequate term to use here.
The Greek word “xenos” means “foreigner” as well as “guest” and everything in between. A “xenos” can be a foreigner you are welcoming into your home and someone hostile to you.
The “phobia” in connection with a “xenos” means you are afraid to take a foreigner into your home, you are suspicious of the foreigner’s intentions and deny him or her your hospitality.
This is what happened to Piet Retief and his team of trekkers in 1838 after they had successfully, or so they thought, negotiated a land settlement deal with the Zulu king Dingane who however, after having signed the treaty, ordered his impis to slaughter the negotiating party one by one and an estimated 500 men, women and children in nearby camps thereafter. This in turn, some months later, led to the Battle of Blood River where 470 Voortrekkers under Andries Pretorius withstood in their encampment along the Ncome river the onslaught waves of up to 20.000 Zulu warriors and made history.
Theirs was not xenophobia but eradication of a potential competitor for grazing.

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A nation wants to stand tall and proud.

Similar sentiments are at stake today. Foreigners are seen as competitors in a demanding job market. Our local labour force finds it difficult to compete with well educated workers from neighbouring countries, such as Zimbabwe and Malawi. While it is claimed that Nigerian nationals are holding the lion’s share in the drug and scam trade, it is no secret that Zimbabweans are very much in demand in the hospitality industry where our local labour force finds it difficult to compete. Similarly, traders from Somalia are offering competitive services to consumers while making profits through efficient networking. All of this has created a volatile situation where the local labour force, disadvantaged by inferior or non-existent education, hamstrung by labour union policies and dispirited by almost fifty years of de-humanising legislation, is becoming more and more frustrated. It’s a powder keg scenario where one word can be the spark to ignite it.

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Informal settlements near Cape Town.

Xenophobia is not a South African thing at all. On the contrary. South Africa has a long tradition of inviting foreigners into her home and integrating them into her industry and culture and that has made this country strong and great. The situation seems to be changing now in that the majority of the people see themselves as disenfranchised despite promises to the contrary. And while the tide of foreigners drawn to this country is rising dramatically, there is no real hope for a dramatic change in the ordinary man and woman’s lot.

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Wild coast/Eastern province road side exchange.

We cannot address xenophobia without addressing the underlying causes. For South Africa this means to dramatically increase the efficiency of our educational machinery. Educated people need not fear the foreign. They are equipped to integrate them into the general societal fabric and network. It is the uneducated masses that feel left behind and cheated out of their hopes and promises. And they are getting angry. Xenophobia in South Africa is an expression of this anger. It is misdirected, of course, and abused by all too ready background looters. Not the foreigner is at fault but government policies that have failed in providing the majority of people with a level of education that would enable them to compete with foreigners seeking work opportunities in their neighbourhood.

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Winnie, originally Malawian, now resident in Zimbabwe, plying her trade in South Africa.

Stellenbosch, Monday 27 April 2015,
“Freedom Day”, in commemoration of the first all-inclusive democratic elections in 1994.
With love from
Walter & Colleen

The Agony in the Garden

Reading Mark, the evangelist’s account afresh and meditating on the agony in the garden and on the corporeality of the man there meeting his fate, we have tried to empathise and to find words for it. The German text is the original and the English a kind of rendering in thought.

With oil of nard she comforts you
and you are laved in Jatamanzi
root of wood and earth.
Precious are the blessings of ordinary men.
Woman without a name
writing herself into history’s grand ledger
with aromatic pen.
Time reaches its end.
Old time dies to hand a new its turn.
Nothing from now will be what ever was.
Body and soul do part
and soul alone begins its self own path.
The temple curtain splits in twain.
Where one falls and dies another one begins its reign.
Nothing from then will be what ever was.
In the garden of Gethsemane
sweet scent of all for now
pervade the sanctity of all that was
as oil of nard still lingers on.
The prophecies and holy promisses
have now no further part of you.
For you to meet there is the cross.
Flesh and soul in torment torn apart.
Neither would nor could you hinder it.
In this one night of agony
we are consoled through you
for now and all eternity.

The Agony in the Garden

(School of) Doménikos Theotokópoulos, known as “El Greco” (1541-1614). The Agony in the Garden (ca. 1605). Toledo Museum of Art. Toledo, OH, USA (courtesy of Wikiart).

Nardenöl rinnt Dir ins Haar.
Der Jatamanzi-Wurzel holzig irdener Duft.
Ausgegossen würzig Dir auf Haupt und Haar.
Segnung des gemeinen Mannes, der gemeinen Frau.
So schreibt ins Hauptbuch der Geschichte sie
mit duftigem Griffel sich.
Zeit kommt ans Ende ihrer selbst.
Die alte stirbt der neuen Wende.
Nichts wird nunmehr sein als wie es war.
Körper trennt von Seele sich
und Seele nimmt itzt ihren eignen Lauf.
Der Tempelvorhang birst in zwein.
Wo eines fällt und stirbt, ein anderes erwacht und lebt.
Nichts wird nunmehr sein als wie es war.
Nardenöl rinnt Dir auf Haupt und Haar.
Im Garten von Gethsemane
dringt Dir der Duft von allem so Gewesenen
noch einmal durch die Luftigkeit des Seins in allen Dingen.
Der Prophezeiungen.
Des vielen o so hoch Versprochenen.
Es aber liegt nicht mehr an Dir.
Du gehst ans Kreuz.
In Marter trennen Leib und Seele sich.
Nichts kannst Du und selbst wolltest Du verhindern.
In dieser einen Schmerzensnacht bist Du es dort,
den Menschen hier ihr Los zu lindern.

Enjoy the time of Easter wherever you are.
With love as always
Walter & Colleen

The Good, the not so Good and the …

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One of the walk-ways through the gardens at Babylonstoren in the Drakenstein valley on the slopes of the Simonsberg between Franschhoek and Paarl/Western Cape.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our wish list for 2015, jotted down and in no particular order, is very short:
Staying in touch with family and friends and
meeting personal challenges with courage and integrity.
What more, really, can one do or wish for.
The debate about global warming will continue to confuse the minds.
The rich will continue to become richer.
The poor will be around as always.
Israel will not give in to Palestinian demands.
The Palestinians will continue trying to turn the tables.
The Middle East conundrum will remain the centre of world affairs.
That’s all for sure.
We might find peace within our selves,
no sooner do we move outside our blinkered world,
it’s a battle field out there.
Blinkered as our world may be, it is the one we have.
Accepting what we have is a good start.
Whining about wrongs is not so good.
Truth is a many sided thing,
whinging the very worst.
The ills of our world are of our own making.
Eventually, yes, there will be justice.
The universe does not forget, neither does it forgive.
Karma, you might cry one day, is a bitch.
It is, after all, what it is.
And, in the end, we all will have to pay for it.
The world is everything that is the case.

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Mural in our garden by Colleen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wishing all our family and friends a prosperous New Year!

With love
Colleen & Walter
Stellenbosch, Monday, 5 January 2015