Monday, May 09, 2011

The View from my Bicycle [COLUMN]

Paradise Discipline Lost by Nick van der Leek

I had trouble getting up this past Sunday.  I glugged down some red wine and when that wore off, chewed off half a sleeping pill, something I never do.  When I finally dragged my sleepy corpse to the car, I was struggling to stay between the lines.  But the crisp air in Kommetjie and the sweep of misty cliffs hulking beneath tissue thin clouds soon partially woke me. 

The run here, under the swoop of the Slangkop, is visually one of the most stimulating.  The lighthouse is one of South Africa's 4 most powerful [estimated at 5 million candlepower].  Unfortunately my legs, which were still asleep, got the shock of their lives when they found themselves shoved onto gravel and tar with the sun even too scared to come out.  I was also wearing shoes with less cushioning, Puma FAAS instead of my usual Nikes. 

So it felt like I was running with a fork stuff into the the porky muscle just behind my right knee.  It sort of felt like running with a stitch in your leg, but near the top of the last climb I tried to show the muscle who was boss, and gunned it for the summit.  The muscle won - I felt a stab of pain, so I walked a few metres.  I tried to adjust my gait - taking shorter, and shallower strides.  I was aiming to run under 1 hour, but I only managed a 1:01:20. [my best is a 37min]. 

What makes this run quite special is that they give you a sapling instead of a medal, and so you see all these athletes walking around with baby trees.  It has an oddly Olympic feel.

On the way home I witnessed a glossy black motorbike with a leatherclad couple bouncing off a red minibus taxi.  I bought a newspaper from a vendor near Newlands who didn't have changed for R100, but gave me the R15 paper for R10 [turns out, without the TV guide].  I bought it to check on my Meerkat article on the travel section [for some reason, there was no version of my article online].

A few general comments:  At least two black writers in the paper were moaning about the white wedding in England.  The cost, the fuss etc.  To some extent I can empathise with any ostentatious display of wealth.  But I realised the moaning from these Africans simply showed their lack of understanding - and perhaps intolerance - for white culture. By white culture I really mean British tradition. Why do europeans want/celebrate the monarchy?  Because the idea of kings and queens, princes and princesses, kingdoms and castles, is embedded deeply in the psyche of all Europeans. It's part of our heritage.  I think there's an element of fantasy in it for most people. For centuries we lived according to a particular system, and it's quite possible that we might return to the feudal system in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian future.  The future of our species depends either on various groups understanding the other, or one particular group wiping out the other.  Whichever insures survival is the preferred method, as far as nature is concerned.  As far as I am concerned, it would be good to understand ourselves and our opponents.  That level of understanding determines whether we accomodate our enemies, or whether we place limits on our tolerance. 

Barry Ronge, in the Sunday Times, is now giving Julius Malema credit for being an intelligent leader.  I believe Malema is skilled at survival, at looking after himself.  He's a manipulator in the mould of Mugabe, and puts his personal interests far above those of the people he claims to campaign for.  He knows how to break, but not how to make.  He wants to break down structures to create wealth, rather than produce something new.  It's a typical African tradition which is aimed at boosting his own assets, but leads to the long term poverty of everyone else.

Helen Zille appears to live more modestly, and her promises are based not on rhetoric, but on facts.  She is surrounded by Africans. You never see her making racist remarks.  She aims to put in place things that don't exist at the moment.  She has a track record to back up these promises.  That is the sort of leadership that matters.  I wish there were more African leaders capable of real self sacrifice.  It seems the critical flaw in Africa is combination of poverty and greed. 

What everyone needs to thrive, and to be happy, is discipline.  Greed is not discipline.  Poverty is not discipline.  Discipline is the ability not to take something even though you can.  It is about choosing the more difficult option, towards building something better - both for yourself and others.  If you want to recognise goodness, look for discipline tempered by balance.  That is wisdom, and only a few are capable of recognising it, let alone providing a living example.

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