Wednesday, January 06, 2010

It's cool by the Pool - right? [COLUMN]

Ignoramuses on the rampage - by Nick van der Leek

Take a cursory look at the headlines right now. Here's a snapshot. Oil prices back at industry crunch level - $80. Lots of talk of recovery, stock markets 'in the black'. Our local JSE jumped up on January 4 'following US sentiment'. The world's tallest building was unveiled in Dubai, over 8oo metres high, but some talk about naming it after a rich Sheik that is helping to pay for a national bailout of Dubai. In the Northern Hemisphere, right now, there's a big freeze going on. Huge amounts of snow and icy weather spanning the Eastern USA, Europe [including southern England and Germany] and large swathes of Asia - from China to Korea. This also follows a few short weeks after some or other conference in Copenhagen - what was it again?

You can look at all the bulletins and either see irony, or, if you're looking carefully enough, you'll notice massive schizophrenia. Perhaps we are all so enamoured by technology and the media that we struggle to think for ourselves. Here's an example. This is an article commenting on South African president Jacob Zuma, who has just married his fifth wife, and is engaged to a sixth [he has 18 children]:

The issue of polygamy is tricky. Quite frankly, I don't really know where I stand...And as my father always used to say, it's a brave man who gets involved in other people's marriages.

The writer of this tripe is Stephen Grootes, who calls himself an Eyewitness Reporter. Really Stephen? And the publisher of this tripe describe their publishing mission as follows:

Here's another promise: we won't ever waste your time. We don't let algorithms decide what is important and what is not. Our journalists and editors are humans, and some of the best and most experienced ones around at that. They've spent decades refining the craft and we think they're pretty good at it.

I spent a little time thinking about polygamy in the South African context, and I did a little research. South Africa has the world's largest AIDS population by a fucking massive margin. In 2007 it was estimated that 5.7 million people are living with [and will die of AIDS]. 950 people die of AIDS every day in South Africa, a horrifying 350 000 a year. Yet when the useless Health Minister died, a woman who denied that HIV causes AIDS, her political pals rushed to honor her, and flags were flown at half mast.
The Prez is entitled to follow African traditions of course, all things being normal. But they aren't. Far from it. Like I said, South Africa's got the world's largest AIDS population at 5.7 million. They're not a few hundred thousand ahead in this race either. They're not a million ahead. They're 3.1 million ahead of the next country, Nigeria. Nigeria has a population of 150 million, 3 times as many people as South Africa. On the heels of Nigeria is India, a country with a population of over a billion, in other words, twenty times more people than South Africa.

So we have a pretty huge problem on our hands. 5.7 million people with AIDS is 11% of the population. That's a lot. On television you'll occasionally see advertisements encouraging people to stick to one partner at a time. Funny thing that, advertisements telling us one thing, and gus like Grootes saying: Quite frankly, I don't really know where I stand.
Grootes of course, isn't the only poepol out there. He's a white poepol, but you'd be horrified to see the black tweeters rushing to malign a radio presenter who made some nasty remarks about the now dead minister of health. South Africans don't have a clue where they stand. And you have sports stars like Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman proudly - but stupidly - supporting a country that doesn't really support them. Ryk received endorsements through modelling, not for his swimming. Roland will probably rue the millions lost as we go deeper into a permanent recession.

My question to South Africans is what the fuck are you so proud of? INVICTUS about sums up what I once loved about this country - Mandela and his dream for all South Africans. And the Springboks, not just the rugby team, but the excellence we've seen from a lot of world class athletes in spite of very little money and support, and in the face of constant distractions, politicking and racial opportunism in what should be a farce free environment. INVICTUS also shows how much politicians since Mandela have fucked up his original and genial vision for this country.

By the way, life expectancy in South Africa ranks 209 in the world, out of 224 countries [and Swaziland, bordering this country, is last, with Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe sitting in those bottom rungs]. We have a death rate of 17 per 1000, which is the 12th highest in the world. We have some of the world's worst crime statistics [50 murders a day] and one of the worst records of violence against women and children. South Africa is also one of the world's top 5 carbon dioxide emitters per capita, with SASOL's Secunda plant smoke plumes visible from space.

South Africans are in major denial - but perhaps they have to be given they're living through a holocaust. In a few years people will look back and consider the entropy of these people and gag. With all the information we had we still elected a President with 6 says more about our collective stupidity than the President.

Another victim of his own vanity, his own greedy pursuit of...well...all that he Tiger Woods. He is more iconic of our time than the 9/11 attacks. This idea that we can lie to the world and our wife, and lead a second life entirely dedicated to satisfying an appetite. It's not Tiger's behaviour that's the problem, it is the schizophrenic acting involved, serving two masters - pretending to be one sort of person [in exchange for money and endorsements] while being another person in the shadows.

Whither the Weather

The Met Office has issued an Emergency Flash Warning for parts of southern England, the highest grade of warning, and one that doesn't appear very often. It covers the period between 8pm today and 11am on Wednesday for Dorset, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, west Berkshire and Wiltshire. 30 to 40cm of snow is possible here, which is between 12 and 16 inches.

I have heard it said before that in the decades ahead the most cited crisis will not be about energy or water or food prices or unemployment or nuclear fallout. It will be about the vast impact of Climate Change on global communities. We will try to treat the symptoms of this, flooding, droughts, storms, starvation, homelessness, pestilence etc but the source will be with us for a long time yet. And right now we still have no plans in place to turn the corner on our emissions. Which means the climate will take at least 30 years to stabilise after we make a decision we have not yet made.

The Source

Lately I have been reading an excellent book - THE GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH, by Richard Dawkins. It is staggering to realise the large population of people who dispute the FACT of evolution in favor of the FICTION that is religion. This, I believe, is the heart of our darkness. We think we have the luxury of a choice, to believe in fairy tales and an idea that maketh man higher than all the other critters [because the Bible tells me so]. This idea of disconnection manifests in actual disconnection. From reality.

People may think they can live disconnected from reality, and many do. But nature isn't lenient, and will punish the weak - including the weak-minded. That punishment has begun. The flick AVATAR demonstrates to what extent we have realised our own culpability in our man-made malaise. We wish we could be another species. Or we wish for more.

Quite frankly, I don't really know where I stand. People like this are the core of the huge problem we've created. It's a failure to think at a time when what we ought to be doing is one simple thing: face facts.

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