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KNOWING vs. BELIEVING

A conversation is recounted in the book # Shantaram  in which the character, Khaderbhai, says: “There is no such thing as believing in #G...

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Saturday, 26 March 2016

#LIFE #LESSONS FROM #MOUNTAINBIKING

As I was riding the new #MTB trail at #SanLameer this morning, I was rudely re-taught a few useful life lessons.

I had been around the track a couple of times previously and found that I couldn't ride my way through a patch of thick mud, getting bogged down each time and having to push the bike around it. On my last lap, irritated by the impediment and determined to get through, I absolutely resolved to keep peddling through the black stinky sludge until I either cleared it or concluded it was impossible to do so.

Surprising myself, I battled through the 20 metres of uphill ooze and eventually popped out the other side. As I was privately celebrating this minor victory and patting myself on the back, I glanced down at the bike to see how much mud I had collected in the exercise.

Inevitably, in that moment my right handle bar hooked on an overhanging branch and I found myself sprawled and embarrassed in the dirt.

Lessons:

  • Never believe something is impossible: perseverance and total commitment will usually get you there
  • If an obstacle is dirty, sticky and smelly, there's something to be said for finding another way around it
  • Always keep your eyes on the path ahead
  • Pride comes before a fall

Sunday, 20 March 2016

FAILING THE BAD SMELL TEST

Before #LanceArmstrong was finally shown up as a liar and a cheat and whilst he was still protesting his innocence, I read an article in which the journalist said something along the lines of: It doesn't matter how many drug tests he claims to have passed, the one test he fails outright is the bad smell test, and absent any other hard evidence the bad smell test is often the most reliable. How does #Zuma do on this test?

Our Teflon-President, Jacob Zuma, has consistently adopted the deflect, avoid, deny and deflect-some-more strategy so favored by the ANC government in relation to rape charges, corruption charges, the Nkandla scandal, the Gupta aircraft landing at a military airbase, his friendship with the Gupta family, the firing of the respected finance minister Nene and subsequent replacement with two more finance ministers and recently the revelations of a senior ANC minister and an MP that they were offered particular Cabinet positions by the Gupta family with the acquiescence of Zuma. Now, as far as I am concerned, no matter that no court of law has yet convicted the man of anything, if this isn't an out and out dismal failure of the bad smell test, I don't know what is. In fact, on the bad smell scale, this is an abject failure of the appalling stink test.

There are now so many people on the "recall Zuma" bandwagon, including (at last) a number of senior ANC cadres and officials, that anything less than a recall by the National Executive Counsel at its meeting this weekend will induce such an overwhelming odor as to cause the remaining right-thinking South Africans to have to don gas masks. The problem of course is that the NEC didn't get onto the NEC by mistake - they are Zuma's men and women, for the most part, no doubt put there as a reward for doing or not doing something either at Zuma's or the Guptas' behest, meaning that it will take great acts of courage from the NEC members to turn on Zuma when they risk themselves being exposed for corrupt activities.

It seems hardly believable that the movement which claims credit for bringing down apartheid and which spawned a leader of the standing of Nelson Mandela, can have have become so morally bankrupt and, more importantly, completely lost its backbone. 

The NEC has the opportunity to try and claim back some moral highground in an environment where all trust in the leadership has been lost. The question is whether someone will rediscover his or her backbone and lead the ANC leadership out of the sewer of corruption and abuse of the beloved country. To quote Edmund Burke: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Watch this space, but keep your gas masks handy.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

IN THE PALACE OF THE #BUDDHA

I stayed at the fabulous #Jumeirah Hotel at #Etihad Towers in #AbuDhabi a while ago, a gleaming tower of opulence brooding over a flat sea and displacing the desert sand which once was there. Everything in the hotel and surrounds was simply perfect: wonderful food, outstanding and subservient service, plush rooms, carved agate walls and floors in the elevators and having fantastic facilities. It was so incredibly easy to live and be cared for in this place. Why would one ever want to leave?

And yet this had a feel of the palace of the Buddha about it: everything was too perfect. There was no visible poverty, unemployment, illness or anything else to associate with suffering anywhere in the hotel or its surrounds. Just people going about their business and taking the luxury and perfection for granted.

The only hint that all might not be well was the plethora of Pakistani taxi drivers and other foreign nationals who all appeared to be doing the menial work. Not too may locals could be seen getting their hands dirty. Which had a feel of subjugated races doing the bidding of the Arabs for scant reward. 

I couldn't help feeling that, like the Buddha, if I drove outside and scratched the surface a little, I might find that life in the Jumeirah Hotel was pretty sheltered, but there was a body of suffering outside to which the guests of the Jumeirah would not be exposed if possible.

Now, I don't exactly know if that is true - perhaps I'm speculating unfairly and all the inhabitants of Abu Dhabi are opulent and there is no suffering, but the point is that many of us live in a privileged position: plush houses, fancy cars, good schools and so on, and think that because all is mostly well in our lives all must be well outside of our lives or, worse still, because all is well in our lives we needn't care about what is not well outside our lives.

The truth is that our greater society is made up of everyone, from all walks of life, rich, poor, able, disabled, healthy and sick. It is easy to pretend that the suffering in our society is not our problem, but for a society to flourish it needs to care for all who make up that society. In South Africa we have a mass swell of discontent, for instance, against prohibitive tertiary education fees in the context of education being the very thing that will help the poor to help themselves. It doesn't help for the already educated, or those who can afford university, to say: "Not my problem." You need only look at the fall-out - protesting, rioting, burning and fighting to see that it is everybody's problem.

All suffering is everyone's business, and when we can buy into that as a concept we may not attain immediate enlightenment, but we at least take a genuine step towards connecting and engaging with our humanity.