Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Memories, Holly and Eggnog!

Well - not really. This is South Africa, and Christmas here is traditionally stinking hot. More like "c'mon and kiss me under the aircon unit". So when I was a kid, South African Christmases were traditionally for us the slap up meal with about 50 different dishes (it felt like that), and then lying round feeling too full and trying to keep cool. We didn't have a pool - something I rectified when we got married and moved to the Cape. I'm proud to say we never had a property which didn't have a pool - if it wasn't part of the deal, we put one in when we could afford to - but it was always a priority.

My favourite memories of Christmas?

Our family was an adherent of "giving Santa Claus a little snack". So it wasn't milk and cookies - oh no! It was beer and mince pies - which was far more festive. This was a tradition I gladly carried into our own family as our kids were growing up!

Decorating the Xmas tree was always fun. We used to go and find a branch of a fir or pine tree somewhere in the neighbourhood (can't remember where now), and bunged just about every decoration we could find all over it. The decorations came off the ark , but we didn't mind. When we had our own family, we always went off and bought a tree from a vendor on the side of the road - usually a couple of days before Christmas. The smell of fresh pine added a special touch. Not being in the Northern Hemisphere, you can't find traditional fir trees.

Nowadays we have a large artificial tree that doesn't drop pine needles! When we put it up, the cats love it - especially the ornaments. We're trying to steer away from glass ornaments, as they get batted around with such enthusiasm!

I have some not-so-fond memories too. The one that really springs to mind was my dad's seemingly deliberate attempts to delay presents until he had finished breakfast. "More toast dad?" Pregnant pause..."Oh yes, I think I might". "More coffee?" (Pleeeaase say no). "No." (phew). "But I think I'd like a cuppa tea - too much coffee gives me heartburn." Aarrrrghh!  By this time you can tell of course just who amongst the kids was getting heartburn ! The only day of the year he ever had 3 pieces of toast.....

Another not so favourite, was waking up what felt like 15 times during the night before Xmas, wondering if it was morning yet, and hearing the clock chime....2....3...4am. Or dreaming Christmas day had started, and then waking to find it hadn't (sulk).

So it was presents, and later morning tea and more mince pies and lunch and silly hats and crackers and nuts and chocs after lunch (dunno where we put it all, and certainly no idea where the old lady put all the left over food afterwards).

And in later life when G and I had our kids, it was fun all over again. This time it was the kids bright eyed and bushy tailed in the middle of the night "Is it morning yet? Can I open my presents?" "Nah! Go back to bed! " (sulk). Or even the occasion when one of the kids just didn't want to go to sleep. We ended up wrapping until after midnight and somewhere around 2am, tiptoed into the room to stuff the pillowcases (stockings were just too small - couldn't fit anything in them). Achieved the impossible like a little mouse, and tiptoed away....Only to be told in later life that they had seen and heard everything, because they weren't asleep!

And we prefer these days not to be cooking as if for the 5000 on Christmas day, opting for a braai (barbecue) instead. This persists today, if the kids join us for Christmas. We'll generally braai, swim and drink beer and keep cool. Not all of us are aspirant closet alcoholics - plenty of juice and Coke available (free plug). Fruit and ice cream for afters. And Christmas cake if we have room. I bake every year. Have done almost all our married life. Got one of my Gran's recipe books with a totally foolproof recipe for Christmas cake. I'm a dummy when it comes to baking, but this one's called "Never Fail Christmas Cake" - and it never does.

I have 2 Christmas quotes that come to mind. The first is from Bob Hope who said "When we recall Christmas past, we usually find the simplest things - not the great occasions - give off the greatest glow of happiness".

And the second is by Burton Hillis who said  "And the best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other".

We have come to realise that Christmas has as much to do with Virgins and babies as it has to do with overweight dudes in red suits, cramming their bodies down chimneys. It's not that at all. It's just about family and loved ones. If the kids can't be with us, it's a pretty ordinary day. We have a quiet lunch under the trees and enjoy the cats on the blanket. But the reason for the season is the family, and when they're with us we have fun, and we enjoy giving to each other. And dammit - we like to give! Dust off the camera and get ready to capture faces and actions. Candid mince-pie moments!

If anyone wants to know what to give me for Christmas, "the family" is what I want. We have all the rest of whatever we're ever likely to need. I think the people who in later life usually end up being terribly difficult to buy for, are those who just want their families. The rest is just "stuff" and can be bought any time. But family is something special, and irreplaceable.

And Gizmo the shaved persian ? (he can't stand the heat and is much happier without a coat). He's fast asleep on his side in the middle of the study floor, being serenaded by Jim Reeves - Silent Night.  I will resist putting a Santa hat on him - it's beneath his dignity!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lavish Spending or Abject Poverty - Depends on who you are!

The New Colossus is a sonnet by Emma Lazarus writtten in 1883 and inscribed on a bronze plaque inside the statue of Liberty. Part of it intones : 

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me"

Shortly after the dedication, the Cleveland Gazette, and African American newspaper, suggested that the statue's torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation "in reality":
"Liberty enlightening the world," indeed! The expression makes us sick. This government is a howling farce. It can not or rather does not protect its citizens within its own borders. Shove the Bartholdi statue, torch and all, into the ocean until the "liberty" of this country is such as to make it possible for an inoffensive and industrious colored man to earn a respectable living for himself and family, without being ku-kluxed, perhaps murdered, his daughter and wife outraged, and his property destroyed. The idea of the "liberty" of this country "enlightening the world," or even Patagonia, is ridiculous in the extreme."

Point taken. And "coloured man" does not stop with the oppressed African American, but extends also to the original Native American Indians - a people against whom genocide has persistently been waged. Presumably the "huddled masses yearning to breathe free" did not include the Native American Indians. Don't believe me? Check this movie out (63min), and then make the effort to get yourself acquainted with the true facts of what has been done to the Native Americans for the past 500 years.

Nile Gardner's column in the Telegraph (October 5th 2011) entitled, "Michelle Obama's taxpayer-funded spending is an embarrassment to the White House", notes that sources inside the White House state that Michelle Obama may have spent $10 million of taxpayer's money in the past year alone, on her 42 days of holiday. This includes a trip to Spain, a trip to South Africa (ostensibly on state business, but which included a junket off to the Kruger Park (not cheap), and which cost well in excess of $425 000 just for the privately chartered USAF plane, and excluded ground transportation, food and accommodation etc.). Supposedly this "furthered US/ South African relations" - which is pure bullshit of course. Clearly there are many South African politicians who will benefit from a few thousand (million?) dollars flowing into their personal bank accounts, but for the average South African (as for the average American), it does nothing. 

Shame! Poor overworked lady is a breakaholic - at a time when the average American is told to tighten their belts and the US has a national debt of over $14 trillion. The column goes on to note :

There can be no doubt that this latest revelation about Michelle Obama’s spending is an embarrassment to the White House at a time when the president is talking about spending cuts, and at least trying to give the impression that he is reining in the deficit. It is also a symbol of the gulf between the taxpayer-subsidised, privileged lifestyle of America’s ruling elites in Washington, compared to the tens of millions of hard-working Americans who are struggling to pay the mortgage, hold on to their homes, put food on the table for their families, and simply make ends meet.  

However the $10m number mentioned above excluded the fancy break taken by the First Family at Martha's Vineyard last year. The Mail Online column dated 24 August 2011 screams 

"Expensive massages, top shelf vodka and five-star hotels: First Lady accused of spending $10m in public money on her vacations" and goes on to report that the royal couple (Freudian slip intended) arrived in separate (taxpayer-funded) planes and spent $50 000 a week on farm accommodation and that Michelle Obama has a taste for "expensive booze" including "rich" sparkling wines.

Here are the holiday highlights over the past 12 months (Mail Online 24 Aug 2011):


"The exact cost is unclear as Mrs Obama and her 40 friends footed many personal expenses, such as hotels and meals themselves.
But the U.S. taxpayer would have paid for the First Lady's 68-strong security detail, personal staff, and use of presidential jet Air Force Two.
Per diems for the secret service team runs at around $281 each - nearly $98,000 for the length of the summer break.
Use of Air Force Two, the Air Force version of a 757, comes in at $149,900 for the round trip. This does not include time on the ground.
Mrs Obama's personal staff, of which there are an unknown amount and might cost considerably more per day, should also be taken into account.
According to the Hawaii Reporter, the bill for the $1.5m trip included:
  • $63,000 on an early flight bringing Mrs Obama and the children to Hawaii ahead of the President.
  • $1,000,000 on Mr Obama’s return trip from Washington on Air Force One.
  • $38,000 for the ‘Winter White House’ beach property rental.
  • $16,000 to rent nearby homes for Secret Service and Navy Seals.
  • $134,000 for 24 White House staff to stay at the Moana Hotel.
  • $251,000 in police overtime.
  • $10,000 for an ambulance to be on hand at all times 
Mrs Obama and her daughters stayed at the Sebastian hotel on Vail Mountain, where rooms cost more than $2,400 for multi-bedroom suites.
The family appear to have flown there on Air Force Two.
They were escorted to the resort by a motorcade of about a dozen vehicles, including 15 state and local law enforcement officers
The Blue Heron Farm estate, where the Obama family are currently staying, rents for about $50,000 a week.
According to U.S. News and World Report, the Coast Guard is required to keep ships floating near the property, the presidential helicopter and jet remain at the ready and security agents will be on 24-hour duty."

And then the Obama family started a new tradition to light a "brand new" Christmas tree in the President's park outside the White House. Let us quote the President : 

"In this season of hope, let’s help those who need it most –- the homeless, the hungry, the sick and shut in. In this season of plenty, let’s reach out to those who struggle to find work or provide for their families. In this season of generosity, let’s give thanks and honor to our troops and our veterans, and their families who've sacrificed so much for us. And let’s welcome all those who are happily coming home. 
And this holiday season, let us reaffirm our commitment to each other, as family members, as neighbors, as Americans, regardless of our color or creed or faith.  Let us remember that we are one, and we are a family."

Now if you have taken the trouble to view the embedded movie entitled "The Canary Effect", you cannot but be struck by the stark contrast between the few American "Have's", and the many American "Have Not's", nor the hypocrisy of these noble words - all warm and fluffy - uttered by the President of the United States. 

Why don't the First Family fund their holidays out of their savings, like everyone else in America (and much of the rest of the world - except South Africans, who fund their holidays out of their bank overdraft), and rather give the wrongfully-appropriated $10 million of US taxpayer money to fund the upliftment of the Native American Indians, and other socially downtrodden groups? Granted, it won't go far, but it's a step in the right direction. And then at least Mr Obama could face the world with a semi-clear conscience (remember, it was misappropriated money anyway, and that's called "fraud") and state that he is helping those who need it most. 

Don't these people have the grace to be embarrassed? What kind of people are they in reality? Maybe the kind that gets bankrolled by the power lobbies during elections, to be the front puppet and return the favours of the privileged once in power?

What kind of a "merry christmas" (small letters) will the rest of the American people have - especially those on the Reservations with their massive alcoholism and suicide problem? 

Wake up America. Get some character and start to make amends. The American people will help greatly by becoming aware of the truths of their own history - for it paints the background to their present. And then let their voices be heard.

(Post by Mike)

Friday, December 16, 2011

Valley of Dreams

Spiritual – Soul Moving – Absolutely Beautiful.   

Just one example of the amazing talent of Native American people...

 I LOVE it!!!

Performed In Monument Valley by Robert Mirabal with John Tesh. 
Robert is a musician, writer, singer and storyteller
Pure creative talent!!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

New Moron Ahoy!

Ahoy! Have at thee, scum! Yes - it's silly season in the USA, when the next crop of brain-damaged hopefuls crawl out from under their rocks and stake their claim to be the next president of the good ol' US of A.

And what a crop they are :

First we have the Republican front Runner Newt Gingrich (heaven help us all, either in the US or anywhere in the rest of the world if the Republicans win and Newt gets in). Dear Newt thinks the Palestinians are an "invented people" who are "terrorists". Having opened his over burgeoning gob and inserted both of his feet right up to the thighs in an attempt to appease the powerful Jewish lobby, we can all see the only portion of his anatomy left visible. Yep - you got it. A$$-hole by name and the same by nature. "Gingrich surges in Iowa despite controversy" - God help us - the Americans will probably vote him in....

My feeling is that if dear ol' Newt is the best the Republicans can come up with, why not shelve the 4-year elections completely and save the US taxpayer a lot of money? Electing him would be as pointless as electing "Dubya" was. Maybe he could engineer another atrocity against the American people during his tenure as was done for 911, and then blame it on the Arabs again - or maybe the Chinese this time ?

Then we have the genius Mitt Romney (where do these Americans get their christian names from?) who engages in a $10 000 bet in the middle of the debate, thus flashing his wealth to the watching American public. The fact that this amount is some 3 times as much as the average American spends on a year's groceries, and more than a year of mortgage payments, is not likely to endear him to the cash-strapped man in the street. "I didn't grow up poor", he says. Proves my point - you don't have to have brains to be wealthy.

Let's not forget woman-power in the form of Michele Bachman doing the baby steps towards showing everyone how little she understands foreign policy, and even less Geography, by staying stupid things like "The President put us in Libya, now he's put us in Africa". For the sake of Africa, it might be nice if the Americans left. Now. Give her an atlas as a parting gift.

Rick Perry who has already demonstrated a spectacular dose of amnesia during a previous debate, and appears to hold radical views on a number of topics, now questions man's role in global warming. Gee Rick - do you seriously think that if there was no industry pumping out millions of tonnes of greenhouse emissions every year into the atmosphere, we'd have the rising temperatures we're already seeing in a relatively short time? Do you really think man has made no carbon footprint on the earth thus far? Do American politicians actually believe the shit they come up with, or is it merely to impress the voters (who must be brain dead if they suck up this stuff)?

Oh yes - he also (we are now blessed to know) "doesn't believe in evolution", despite the established scientific fact behind it. Politicians, like churchmen, should keep their noses out of science. They're just not equipped with the smarts to understand the implications of the stupid remarks they make. I suppose our Rick thinks the Earth is 6000 years old (minus a couple of days, while God was doing the building work)? Or perhaps that Adam and Eve committed incest with all of their offspring to come up with the human race? Duh! With whom did they outcross to arrive at the human race's genetic diversity?

And when this sorry mob of Republicans shakes out and decides who will be their candidate, he or she will come up against......ta rah! (trumpet fanfare), the genius Obama. Yep. Barry Soetoro. I'm told this is his other name in a previous life when he was reportedly an Indonesian citizen (you are not entitled to rescind Indonesian citizenship, and therefore he is ineligible to become president of the US - but it hasn't stopped him, has it?). Dear old Barry - I don't have to make nasty comments - just google him and you can read any amount of hate mail about him from his own people.

Here's hoping the average American voter is smarter than the person who seeks to govern them. Which I doubt because these cerebral cripples keep on getting elected. What is wrong with the American electoral system, if this is the best it can come up with?

Maybe they should elect Bugs Bunny, providing he can win the primaries for the Sensible Party....

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The White Man's Disease

I'm not talking about heart attacks....but about Bigotry and the fact that it largely appears to be a white-man's disease. This is not to say that other races don't display it too, to an extent - but it seems that there is an overriding tendency towards bigotry in Westernised cultures.

And I wonder why this should be so? Why, for example, are there no expletives in the Native American tongue? Clearly this seems to be a cultural issue - their cultures were totally opposite to Westernised culture, preferring to  focus on a more spiritual co-existence in harmony with the natural world, and reluctance to enter into conflict.

Am I unfair? Have not the Westernised historically colonial countries demonstrated time and again their tendency towards looking down their noses at "the natives", in the lands they have "newly discovered"?

"I claim this land for the Glory of God and England!" , they cried (substitute Spain, Portugal, Italy, France etc., as required. And let not those countries not mentioned here be exempt - many of the most heinous offenders are countries that have become independent after being settled by colonial nationals - like the US, Australia and Canada.)  The problem of course was that the country could not and should not have been claimed for any other nation - it was already taken by somebody else - who called it "home".  Would-be settlers should have been sent home with a stern warning to mind their own business.

"I'm sorry your Majesty, they say it's already occupied - like a public toilet, with a red sign on the door. They already have a very nice home that they live in - they say it's been discovered a long time ago, and it's theirs. They told us to go somewhere else - like the north pole - if the polar bears will have us". Yeah right. Fat chance.

And with each new "discovery", the colonial nationals brought their God under their arm in a book. You know - the book that still advocates slavery in the Old Testament. "But you can't change that - it's divine", I hear you cry. Really? It was written by John, Paul, George and Ringo (without last names), or perhaps Schmeuly, Meuly, Yitzak, and Ishmail (also without last names). And they brought all their familiar cultural bias and bigotry to their writing. Anyone who honestly and sincerely believes that laws of man floated down with God on top of a mountain, has clearly just floated down on top of a mountain. Get real - wakey wakey. Men write books, translate and retranslate them. If gods have anything to do, they're out there doing it - not perching on top of mountains writing on stone tablets with their fingers. Primitive stories for primitive peoples. Modernisation time. C'mon.

So there we have the colonials (who unsurprisingly are also the Christian - believing peoples) imposing their will on the vanquished peoples, and looking down their noses at the "wogs", "spics", "kikes", "niggers", (dare I use the k- word)" etc. Any number of choice derogatory labels dreamed up by the white men (and women). Because you see, their culture is a warlike, discriminating culture. It is a culture steeped in conquest and blood, and torture and exploitation. And everybody sleeps happily at night, because most of it is "in the Bible", so it's all all right, see? Like slavery. And taking the women of the vanquished nations for your own. In other words - "rape". And killing the men. In other words "murder". Yes? Does anyone not agree that this, and much more is all still in the Old Testament?

We know there was a time, long ago, when those who held sway over the masses decided which writings they should include in their holy books, and which they should not. Do we not agree perhaps that these decisions were taken against a backdrop of the cultural beliefs and practices of the time? And do we not perhaps think that maybe with our more enlightened (I might say "educated") outlook now, if we were to make the same decisions now, we might well discard large amounts of tracts from a modern holy book, because they are barbaric?

And if we put a modern holy book under the arms of settlers today, might they not be a little less condescending, discriminatory and bigoted towards the other cultures they came into contact with? Of course, they'd also have to lose the "we're right and everyone else is wrong"- attitude. Once that's accomplished, the mind becomes far more open and receptive towards learning from the diversity of others. And once we actually start to learn, we become less opinionated with our own conceits, and the world becomes a nicer place for everyone.

I realise this piece does not discuss religions other than Christianity in its relation to, and possible influence on culture and colonial settlement. But this was and is the predominant religion of the white man, who demonstrates his effortless bigotry, both past and present.

Bigotry no doubt exists in other nations and religions too, maybe even to the same extent(?), but that's a discussion for another day.

A Wake up Call from Sharon Pacione

When Will We Ever Learn?
by Sharon Pacione

wide awake in a nightmare, 
my soul has been mortally wounded, 
shot through the heart 
by missiles of ignorance and war 
launched by abusers 
hiding behind shades of red, white and blue, 
waving the flag of bombs bursting in air, 
wagging the dog of illusion 
before sleepwalking, apathetic masses 

warmongers, the great pretenders, 
feigning democracy and freedom 
and concern for a better life, 
invade and hijack the hearts and minds 
of sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, 
slamming shut the doors of truth and integrity, 
with the help of media distraction and lies, 
in the face of activists 
advocating social, political and environmental change 
and peace and justice for all 

blind patriots rally to call war normal, 
sucked into the black hole of big brother 

purple hearts, and gold and silver stars 
gather momentum to build yet another memorial 
to the sacrificial lambs called collateral damage 
who died trying to kill for the dreams of others, 
who believed the lies and propaganda 
that the unholy alliance was not about oil, 
or racial and religious intolerance, 
or re-mapping of land, 
or occupation, 
or ancient treasures of mysterious origin, 
or the greed and power of world domination, 
or the addiction to - and big business of - war 

the lucky ones sing their death song; 
survivors imprison memories of horror 
on the wailing wall of mangled minds 
and the matrix of the soul 

parts and pieces blown to kingdom come, 
tied with yellow ribbons of lost hope, 
join the ghosts of past wars 
who walk alongside the waking dead 
on a crowded, blood-soaked planet 
filled with the dogma and strangled spirit 
of man's darkness and disregard for life in all forms, 
hearts hardened and desensitized to 
compassion and non-violence, 
minds clouded by addictions and material lust, 
seeking instant gratification to ease the pain 
of spinelessness and mindlessness, 
imprisoning the spirit of humanity 
in cellblocks of conformity and fear 

in the theatre of war, 
self-serving world citizens wear many faces 
of apathy, ignorance, 
and intellectual and spiritual arrogance, 
choosing well-worn words and phrases 
to detach from responsibility to the web of life 

...I'm only one person, what can I do? 
...I can't think about that right now, I'm too busy. 
...Well, the only thing we can do is pray. I'm just going to let the Lord handle it. 
...Everything is happening exactly as it's supposed to. 
...Life isn't real anyway, it's all just an illusion. 
...We live in a world of polarity, so there will never be peace. 
…Besides, we wouldn't appreciate the good things if we didn't have the bad. 
...I'm only going to allow the light into my reality. All of this negative stuff zaps my energy. 
...What's happening on the other side of the world is not my problem. 
...It must be their karma; there's nothing I can do. 
...This war is undeclared, so it's not a real war anyway. 
...There's no need to do anything; when you're enlightened, you become the observer. 
...How do you know that's true? I didn't see it on the news! 
(Patriot Act I and II, Pax Americana/Project for the New American Century *PNAC*, etc.) 
...Now that the war has started, everyone should just shut up and support our government, they know what they're doing! 

hyprocrisy rules the nation 
selling democracy and freedom 
on the backs of bombs and oppression, 
from the halls of deceit, 
ideals still on a wish list 
for the tired, poor and hungry citizens 
of the invading country 
whose national and foreign policies 
are twin towers of manipulation 

threaten, destroy and selectively re-build 
until the world falls back to sleep, 
then threaten, de-humanize and assimilate 
the culture invaded 

moving on the wind of desire 
and addiction to war 
to the next 'axis of evil' 
ensuring that fat cats of large corporations, 
participating in perpetual sleep-overs 
at the big white house and domed rotunda, 
will never be hungry again 

real freedom - of body, mind and spirit - 
walks a tightrope once again, 
the mirror held in the iron fist 
of pride and ego, 
begging for reflection's comment 
on the lessons of man's inhumanity to life 

history is a broken record 
of broken promises 
and broken treaties 
repeating itself 
for the benefit of slow learners 
and those easily led 
who have not grasped the concept and value 
of compassion, integrity and non-violence 
as the path to peace and freedom 

and, while fence sitters nurse hemorrhoids, 
those with a conscience 
plant seeds of peace and truth, 
watered with the tears and intent 
of Gandhi, King, Deganawidah 
and other ancestors dedicated to the reality of unity, 
to germinate within the heart and mind, 
from the light and dark of nature's balance, 
food for thought for an unbalanced world 

and, life goes on as usual 
except for the air, water and soil - 
and plant, animal and mineral kingdoms 
who absorb the vibrations of fear 
and inhale the particles of war, 
choking on the blood of death and destruction 

life goes on as usual 
except for the birds and insects 
who now avoid travel in the no-fly zone 

life goes on as usual 
except for the young Hopi mother 
whose life-force now sleeps on the sands of time, 
in a different desert, 
on the other side of the world 

life goes on as usual 
except for the 4 year old girl, 
running down a bombed-out street 
holding the hand of smoke and horror, 
mouth and eyes wide open 
to the death of innocence, 
tramatized for life 

life goes on as usual 
except for the father carrying his daughter, 
blood dripping on memories of childhood 
from her dangling, blown-off leg 

life goes on as usual 
except for prisoners of war, 
who now know Geneva Convention betrayal 
while seven billion other prisoners of war, known as humanity, 
allow 1984 to laugh in the shadows 
as they mesmerize and anesthetize their fears and doubts 
with a sanitized, reality show version of the sequel, 
Gulf War II 

and, life goes on as usual 
except for the families of those 
killed by 'friendly' and 'not-so-friendly' fire 
who now know that the answer to the war-song question 
"where have all the flowers gone" 
is still the same... 
"gone to grave-yards, every one" 

when we realize that life is one gigantic, connected web, 
that everyone and everything is related, 
that those we kill are ourselves, 
that we are all sons and daughters of one earth, 
of one creator of which we are all an aspect 

and, when we choose weapons of mass CONstruction, 
principles dedicated to truth, integrity, compassion, 
and non-violence 

we will have answered the last war-song question 

"when will we ever learn, 
when will we ever learn???" 
by Sharon Pacione
Grandmother, Poet, Human Being for Peace for *All* of Life.
Written between March 19 and April 13, 2003.
Revised April 29, 2003.
When distributing, please include credits exactly as shown,
including the author's e-mail address.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Who Was Then the Barbarian?

Song For America

Virgin land of forest green
Dark and stormy plains
Here all life abounds
Sunlit valley, mountain fields
Unseen in the rain
Here all life abounds

No man rules this land
No human hand
Has soiled this paradise
Waiting patiently
So much to see
So rich in earth's delights

Painted desert, sequined sky
Stars that fill the night
Here all life abounds
Rivers flowing to the sea
Sunshine pure and bright
Here all life abounds

No man rules this land
No human hand
Has soiled this paradise
Waiting patiently
So much to see
So rich in earth's delights

So the maiden lies in waiting
For the sails to reach the shore
Land of beauty and abundance
Innocent, you opened wide your door

Wanderers found the waiting treasure
Full of gifts beyond their measure
Milk and honey for our pleasure

Across the sea there came a multitude
Sailing ships upon the wave
Filled with the visions of utopia
And the freedom that they crave

Ravage, plunder, see no wonder
Rape and kill and tear asunder
Chop the forest, plow it under

Highways scar the mountainsides
Buildings to the sky
People all around
Houses stand in endless rows
Sea to shining sea
People all around

So we rule this land
And here we stand
Upon our paradise
Dreaming of a place
Our weary race
Is ready to arise 


G and I have recently been immersing ourselves in American history, because we are fascinated with the culture and way of life of the Native American Indian. To date, amongst others we have seen Steven Spielberg's Into the West, the brilliant 500 Nations hosted by Kevin Costner, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and Incident at Oglala - the Leonard Peltier Story.

While watching these epics, my emotions alternated between waves of outrage, anger and a terrible wrenching grief for what the indigenous aboriginal American people had to put up with at the hands of the white settlers - invaders is a better word - and thereafter, the white United States Government.

It is a long tragic roll call of dishonour on all American whites - present but especially past - that they would not stand up en masse and demand that the government of the day cease its genocide against the Native American Peoples. I use the word genocide advisedly - it was (and is) all of that, and more. The world remembers faithfully the genocide against the Jewish people, but ignores the US genocide against their own people - crimes that cry out to be punished, and for which compensation should be paid. Many millions of American Indians have been exterminated - and this is well documented, so there's no room for doubt on this score.

While watching 500 Nations, I felt deja-vu come over me, as time and again the modus-operandi of the whites could be seen - initial settlement, to be greeted courteously by the native peoples who did not wish to enter into conflict, to deployment of troops, to signing "treaties" which were never honoured, to crowding the native peoples out of their homes and lands, to unprovoked attacks, to the confiscation of traditional lands and spiritual places, to the establishment of "reservations" where these peoples were herded - like cattle, but without the compassion shown to an animal, to the "re-education" of their children - forcibly removed from them - in white boarding schools. Let's also not forget the Army encouraging hunters to wipe out as many of the American buffalo as possible, so as to deny the Indians their traditional sources of food, clothing and shelter. And it was more than that - they were a "buffalo people" - it was part of their culture and heritage. Take away the buffalo and you take away a large part of who they are. The US government knew that.

Effectively, the whites moved in, and moved the Indians out - "by any and all means possible" - as quoted by one US general. Something I found particularly abhorrent was contaminating blankets with smallpox before handing them out to the Indians. Scores died. Mind you - it wasn't much more abhorrent than bringing US troops onto the Indian reservation at Sand River and setting up the field cannon and small arms, and then mowing down unarmed people in and around their teepees. And hardly more abhorrent than the cold blooded murder of Sitting Bull in front of his lodge at Wounded Knee. The litany of murder goes on and on though - and it seems unending. From Cortez and the Spaniards in the South who exterminated the Aztecs, to Frobisher and the English in the North in Baffin Land who did the same to the Inuit. And in between we had the French and English, and thereafter (when the War of Independence was won), the US army "making space" for the whites, by clearing away "the barbarian". "The Barbarians" in this case demonstrate a long history of the spiritual fruits, as well as learning and the sciences - including the Aztec astronomers. I certainly find their kind of spirituality to have been more genuine than the so-called "enlightened" White Christianity which everyone was forced to swallow.

What breathtaking hypocrisy! The US pontificates to the world about "human rights" and we have CNN with their anti-slavery drive worldwide (as laudable as that may be), and all the while in their backyard there is a crime against humanity of monumental proportions. The elephant sits huge and squarely in the US living room and waits to be noticed.

I wonder how it might be, seeing as that China owns a large part of US debt (some $5 Trillion and counting), that they perhaps move in to America, and move the Americans out, to make space for the Chinese. In the process, they can seize all American children and put them into boarding schools where they can be forced to only converse in Mandarin and learn the Chinese culture. They can be made to grow their hair and put it into plaits. And then they can solve the "white American" problem, by moving the Chinese armies into all the populated areas of the US and mowing everyone down in their suburbs while they're drinking their morning coffee and reading the paper. The solution and methodology is exactly the same as that used by the US government against the Indians, and since they apparently already endorse this type of thing, the US should not be too upset if it happens to them.

While I was watching these epics, I kept waiting for the moment in the movie where the Indians would have their moment, and (rightfully) rout the US army. Sadly this happened only once, to the bullying Custer at the Little Bighorn. And as the films progressed, it occurred to me - there was to be no hero on horseback to save these people from their oppressors. They were a people who were made helpless through white technology and force of arms, and then systematically oppressed and exterminated, with no respite, right up to the current day. Why is it that the average annual income in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is 15 times less than the national average?

A quote from P.J. O' Rourke's "Holidays in Hell" (discussing South Africa), serves to make the point about the US :

"The world is built on discrimination of the most horrible kind. The problem with South Africans is that they admit it. They don't say like the French "Algerians have a legal right to live in the sixteenth arondissement, but they can't afford to." They don't say, like the Israelis, "Arabs have a legal right to live in West Jerusalem, but they are afraid to." They don't say, like the Americans, "Indians have a legal right to live in Ohio, but oops, we killed them all." The South Africans just say "Fuck You." I believe it's right there in their constitution : Article IV: Fuck You. We're bigots." We hate them for this. And we're going to hold indignant demonstrations....until the South Africans learn to stand up and lie like white men."

Lying hypocritical white men. I am ashamed to call myself a person of European descent.

This piece is dedicated to Leonard Peltier, a Native American who was unconstitutionally jailed for a crime he did not commit, in a trial which was a travesty of justice. I, and all right-thinking others fervently hope for his release while he is still with us.

Please see the following links, and if possible get hold of the Native American documentaries.  and

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Mindless Instruction Manual

So my tendency to ask WHY?, leads me to a pet dislike of mine, and that is having to plow through an instruction manual everytime I buy some or other new gadget. And when life happens to G and I, necessitating a couple of new gadgets in a short time, I tend to go into instruction meltdown.

Don't get me wrong - these manuals don't frighten me - but they both bore and frustrate me with their pointlessness and ambiguity. And the fact that most of them appear to be written by some Far Eastern person as dictated to by an Outer Mongolian Celtic Druid hardly make them any easier to understand.

Now my current crop of unread manuals include one explaining my Canon camera and another concerning our multi-zone DVD player. The Canon manual truly does leave me cold. It tells me every intricate setting I can vary for everything that could possibly happen to the world as currently being peered at through my viewfinder. Sadly, I'm unlikely to be able to make any of these changes in time to catch that elusive picture - which can happen incredibly quickly. I'm also chickening out on that score because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will twiddle some unlikely combination of settings which will either result in the camera taking ridiculously stuffed up pictures, or will cause it to stop working completely. This will result in me having to scratch through the manual to find out how to reset the factory settings. The only thing the manual doesn't tell me is WHY I am going to set these unlikely combinations - in other words it's not going to make me a great photographer knowing when and where the settings apply. Which is sad.

Now the multi-zone DVD player manual makes me grind what remains of my teeth. Reading between the lines, it's basically simple. Plug the wires into the right places and see what the remote control does. Bung in a DVD or CD and viola! Away you go. But I feel the fact that the manual has 25 pages compels me to understand a little more about what it can do. And therefore I try to do this. And everytime I start to read it, the word WHY jumps into my brain, which in self defence closes down and I fall asleep none the wiser.

It's not that the manual in this instance is written in Far-Eastern Cunieform - au contraire! This one seems to be written almost in English - it's an American product - granted it was assembled in the sweatshops of Thailand, before that country was recently submerged, so there is still the chance of Mongolian gobbledegook creeping in. But I will continue.

A couple of examples should suffice :  the choices are wondrous! Consider the section dealing with audio settings (sic) parameters. The virtual surround (I am told), when set to on linear PCM signals of 96Khz or greater are converted to 48Khz. Now, I'm aware that the human frequency threshold of hearing is from around 20Hz to 20Khz. In other words as soon as you get below the bottom threshold level you're getting into subsonic vibration, and above 20Khz (especially for deaf ex-rockers) you can't hear a bloody thing.

So with my mindset firmly in questioning mode (with WHY being my favourite question), I examine this section of the manual and I ask : WHAT is a linear PCM signal? The manual is silent about this important point. What is the significance of signals over 96Khz being converted to 48Khz? Would it be bad to convert a signal of 75Khz to a 48Khz signal? WHAT will happen if it does? And the killer question : given the range of human hearing, I can't hear any of this crap anyway - even the converted lower frequency PCM (?) signal is nearly twice the frequency of the maximum human range of hearing. So WHAT is the point? If the manual told me why a PCM signal is to be desired and WHY it's vital to go through some sort of conversion process, I might resist the temptation to fall asleep. But this is a goner!

How about Dolby Digital Out? It enables me to select whether to output Dolby Digital Audio signals or to convert these into linear PCM (there they are again!) signals. Who knows? WHY? I feel that there is perhaps a part of my youth when I was picking my nose instead of paying attention to the intricacies of linear PCM signals.

How about KURO link? It enables me to select whether to operate the player using the remote control of the AV component connected using an HDMI cable or not. Huh? WHY do I want to operate the player using the remote control blah blah etc. There is only one remote control that uses the particular frequency of the DVD player, and I have it in my hand. The only HDMI cable I know about is the one at the back of the cupboard, connecting the DVD player to the TV. So WHY bother to put this useless piece of information into the manual in the first place? Is there a wondrous new world out there, if I somehow connect something else into my overburdened audiovisual system and instead use a different remote control? I'm wetting my pants in glee at the prospect.

Then there's a section about playing dual discs. It explains in detail what a dual disc is and the fact that the DVD side of the disc can be played. And then says the other side cannot. WHY (there I go again) bother? Why not just tell everyone that the player plays discs in the normal manner expected by the vast majority of DVD players, and leave it at that? If I wasn't (now) made aware of the fact that there are double sided DVD/CD combos out there somewhere (that this particular machine can't play), this section of the manual would be totally superfluous. As it is, it's totally superfluous. It would never have occurred to me to enquire after a player that could play double sided discs.

I am starting to get the feeling that all of this technological bollocks is merely to add "extra features" to make a bigger better viewing experience. A mere DVD player isn't enough. Bullsh*t sells. The problem as I have outlined earlier is that I'm too chicken to try any of these esoteric combinations of settings, since I know it's going to end with a machine that is totally useless. I will then take it back and complain and when the DVD player is tested by someone less technologically challenged than I, it will turn out (of course) that there's nothing wrong with it - you see they know how to reset the DVD player to the factory settings.

One of these days, my son is going to walk in and ask why I'm not using the extra DVD features to make copious plates of curry and rice, or to remotely regulate Cape Town's traffic management system. I will tell him I have a stove and pots for curry and rice, and nothing on earth is ever going to make Cape Town's traffic run properly anyway. DVD players should be kept only for watching DVD's, and instruction manuals can be reduced to at most 2 pages.

I can feel my brain starting to melt again.....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Y's a Crooked Letter

"Y's a Crooked Letter and you can't make it straight" - so I was told whenever I started to ask awkward questions. However Why? is also for me the most interesting of questions, since the intelligent asking of it, leads to insights into the minds of those who are probably far more insightful than I.

Who?, what?, when? and where? pale into insignificance because their answers are often mere bland nouns while how? begs to be answered with a verb - a simple doing word to be thrown down - a bone with which I should be happy.

But WHY is the important one. It screams to be answered with "because..."  followed by a gusher of wonderful insights and light shed into my darkness which is going to make me a wiser and better person. I love Why? because it is also the most difficult question - it is the question that people wish you wouldn't ask, because in answering it they come to have some insightful moments which maybe point to some of the really really stupid things they have been doing and saying - and they know that you know it.

I love Why? It puts people on the spot - but more importantly it puts myself and my preconceptions on the spot and allows me to see a better way.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A New Day

Every morning is a fresh beginning….


forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.

~ Kahlil Gibran ~


Our garden: Awakened by the morning sun
Pretty: Purrfect Peace
Photos: Mike

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


All my monthly bills were far away
Now it looks as though they're here to stay
Oh I believe in yesterday

Money's not quite what it used to be
There's a default hanging over me
Oh yesterday went suddenly

Why it had to go I don't know
They wouldn't say
They did something wrong
But it's me who has to pay

All the Euro Nations were at play
Now DSK, Lagarde and Trichet
Have made the money fade away

(With apologies to Lennon/McCartney)
It's a bit simplistic, but captures the essence...

And one could ask in the local context why South African banks continue to charge exorbitant fees while paying no interest on credit balances, or why there is such an excessive basis point gap between the prime lending rate and the savings rate (which is nil). Or why the petrol price at the pump continues to grow, despite the ZAR history of holding up against the strong international currencies for the past few years when the dollar price of crude was relatively stable.

And then one might ask just exactly what it is that banks do for you? They certainly don't give you growth on your savings. They don't appear to be a very good risk as a destination for funds, if Euroland is anything to go by. And they're adept at charging fees for everything under the sun. At the end of the day, the funds would actually last longer under the matress. If only we didn't have to have a bank account in order to pay creditors....

But then the government, bank and financial service execs wouldn't get their large annual bonus for the wonderful job they did each year, would they?

And I couldn't bear to have their suffering on my conscience.....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apostrophic Plural's

What's apostropic? It's a home-invention. It's an apostrophe that's had a catastrophe. And now, counting this sentence and the title, I've used 6 apostrophes in this post thusfar- one of them incorrect and the rest correctly used.

There s'eem's (sorry - that should read "seems") to be s'ome mis'under'standing about the us'e (or s'hould that be - mi'sus'e of apo'strophe's in today's English.

For some little time now, we have developed a tendency to scatter meaningless apostrophes all over everything we write. This dates back apparently as far as the 19th century, so we've been getting it wrong for quite a while. These days the misuse has spread to an almost endless variety of communication, both in print and electronic. I suspect all it may signify is that the people doing the writing have never stopped to ask themselves exactly what it is they're trying to say, and why they think an apostrophe may be the thing to insert artistically into their eloquent prose.

"SALE NOW ON" the board screams DOLL'S ONLY R99.99. Doll's what? Underwear? Outer garments? Or are they going to surprise me and give me only the doll's head? If they relent and give me the whole doll, I could of course claim to have received the doll's whole body, including the head. We commonly refer to this as a doll though, and dispense with the doll's body-thing. And if I decide to buy another doll at the same time, I could be said to have received two dolls. The exception will be if the bloodthirsty shopkeeper decides at the last moment to rip off the heads and give only these to me. I will then have the dolls' heads in my hands. And if he ripped off only one head and gave it to me, I would have the doll's head in my hands. See? Clear, innit?

Last time I checked, there were only two (2) instances where use of an apostrophe is appropriate. The first is to indicate that a letter has been left out in a word commonly in use - e.g. isn't (is not), haven't (have not), couldn't, shouldn't, mustn't, it's (it is) etc. The second purpose of an apostrophe is to indicate the use of possession in a sentence. Examples here might be: the boy's ball, the bird's wing feathers (one bird) , and there are variations on whether the apostrophe goes before or after the "s" (or whether another s is added),  depending on whether the "possessor" is singular or plural -e.g. "the birds' wing feathers" when there are many birds.

The following link is to a rather nice site, for those who would like to brush up on their misuse of apostrophes.
and of course its associated link "Bob's quick guide to the apostrophe, you idiots". There is also a link to a more kindly, genteel site where you will be gently tutored in the fine art of apostrophes.

There is of course one golden rule that you can just about always get away with, given the swing toward abolishing the apostrophe completely : leave it out. You can always claim you're an abolitionist!

Heres to seeing fewer silly marks scattered around all over the place. Or maybe that should read :
"Here's to s'eeing fewer 'silly mark's s'cattered around all over the place".

Monday, October 10, 2011

How the Honey Bees got their Stinger

A Cherokee Legend

(Native American Legends)

Photos taken Saturday 8th October 2011 – Bees in our Garden
Photos : Mike
Story & Photo Layouts : G

Back in ancient times when the people were more pure and could converse with the animals and the Creator would visit with them, the people asked the Creator for something that was 'sweet' to the taste. So the Creator sent the Bee, but the Bee had no stinger. Down came the Bee and it found a suitable tree in which they could build their hive, live in, produce honey, multiply and feed its young. Soon the people came to the Bee and asked for some of the sweet syrup and the Bee gave each person a container full. The people loved the syrup and greedily ate it, then went back to the Bee for more.

But the Bee replied, 'I have no more to give you for a while. You will have to wait.' The people were not happy, as they craved the sweet syrup. So they called upon the Creator, saying, 'the Bee does not give us enough of the golden syrup. We want more!!!' The Creator listened and sent down the Flower People. The Flower People began to spread all types of flowers across the land giving the Bees greater access and variety of flowers to pollinate and make more honey. The Flower People spread all kinds of beautiful wild flowers around to attract the Bees; bright blue, red, orange, purple and yellow. More Bees were created to help pollinate the flowers. The hive grew to be very large. The people seeing how big the hive was went to get more of the sweet syrup. So the Bees gave all the syrup to the people but left enough to feed their young. The people devoured the syrup and wanted more. The Bee responded, 'We don't have any more, you will have to wait.'

The people were angry and asked the Flower People to make more flowers so they could have more of the golden syrup to eat. The Flower People responded, 'We made all the flowers we could and they are all pollinated. You will have to wait until Spring.' 'No, said the people, 'We want more now!!' So they went back to the bee's hive and tore it apart killing almost all of the Bees and taking the syrup. The remaining Bees were angry. They asked the Creator what to do. The Creator was also annoyed at the behavior of the people, so he told the Flower People to create some 'briar bushes' and for the Bees to eat the briars.

The Bees did as the Creator said, they ate the briars and these were transformed into stingers. The Flower People created an entire briar patch around the Bee's tree. The next day, the people came back and started toward the Bee's hive for more syrup; but the briars around the tree scratched and tore at their bodies. Some of the people made it through the briars to the hive. Covered in welts, they yelled at the Bees, 'Give us some more syrup now, or we will do the same as we did yesterday, kill your young and destroy your home!' The Bees became angry and a loud hum came from the hive in the tree, and out they swarmed. The Bees stung the people all over until they were covered in welts and sent them running.

After that day, the people treated the Bees, flowers, and plants with great respect and always promised to replace whatever they asked for and never be greedy or take more than they needed.