Category Archives: Just thinking

Your Serve

The President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, has put our future into our hands: “… as individuals, as families, as communities it is you who will determine whether we experience the devastation that so many other countries have suffered…” he said last night.

I have to be honest, that fills me with the utmost trepidation as there is nothing like a good pandemic to reveal the baser nature of human beings.

I want to address one controversy here – the ban on the sale of cigarettes. With all the shouting that has waged and raged, there has been not one mention of how dangerous to health cigarettes are.

I am an asthmatic. I also damaged my lungs irrevocably by smoking for many years, so add to that emphysema. Praise God, it is mild, so I am able to function pretty well on most levels. But I hate cigarette smoke with a passion. My neighbour smokes. I am in a complex so my neighbour is close by. The fumes from his cigarette waft around the corner of the wall the separates us, into my house, and send my lungs into immediate contraction.

There is nothing I can do about this. Smoking on his stoep is his right. My right to clean air is non-existent.

My neighbour on the other side has blatantly and continuously disregarded all the rules pertaining to the lockdown, or curfew. When I asked that our complex rules be respected, and those of the Government, I was pityingly asked if I understood how Covid-19 behaved. No one does, I responded. It is a nasty little crown that has sting in its tail that thus far has defied the world’s brightest minds, so your puerile observation means little to me.

Social distancing does not suit her, so she makes up a few facts to support her in her quest to live on her terms, and hers alone. Which means no respect or consideration for those around her. This attitude seems to be more the norm than not.

I met a guy on my walk the other day, not wearing a mask and had the most amazing conversation with him.

“You don’t have to wear a mask,” he said. “In fact, that mask is killing you because you are breathing back your fumes, your bad air.”

“Really? Then tell me this, are surgeons, who wear masks fro many hours each day poisoning themselves? Would they continue spending days in operating theatres if this were true? Would they still be alive a week after beginning their careers?”

I have seen this theory espoused on social media. One proponent went so far as to say “Even doctors say its true!” I’d love to know which doctors so that I can avoid them with a barge pole.

The next fallacy from the maskless walker was that of immunity. Yes, immunity can be forged, it takes time and choosing that route doesn’t always win you friends. Ask Boris Johnson. And now, Sweden. But listen to this.

Me: I have asthma. If someone 50 metres from me smokes, my lungs contract immediately.

Him. You must go closer, keep breathing it so you can acquire immunity. Your body must sort it out.

Me. I lived with a smoker for 27 years. I didn’t get immunity. My condition worsened.

End of discussion.

People talk such utter rot it is quite scary.

The dangers to health are so well documented that most people have long since given up worrying about them, so I thought it might be politic to give a little reminder of some of the direct consequences of smoking:

  • A basket of cancers affecting lungs, mouth, oesophagus, bowel, bladder, cervix, kidney, liver, stomach, pancreas, voicebox. I know of someone who had cancer of the tongue.
  • Smoking damages heart and blood circulation increasing risk of Coronary heart disease, heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, cerebrovascular disease.

Smoking directly increases the risk of some 50 serious diseases. Passive smoking offers the same risk profile to those living with and near to smokers. And let’s not look at what it does to children, not here.

In South Africa some 44,000 people a year, or 121 a day as of May 2018, die each year of tobacco related diseases. In Britain the figure is around 78,000. This is for all those people who love to spout death figures in support of their hysterical raging against the tobacco and other bans imposed by the government during the covid-19 pandemic. Those people like my walking friend who believe any crapshoot that suits their atavistic lifestyle but refuse to believe those in authority have done any study or used any material that is based in scientific fact.

So here and now we have a disease that specifically attacks the lungs. A disease that for a some will result in one of the most agonising and cruel death. One survivor described feeling as if her lungs had been filled with boiling tar. All survivors talk of unbearable pain, the hell made worse as it is endured in total solitude.

I smoked for many years. I regret every stick I ever pulled on, every cent I put into a death peddlers’ pocket. I regret even more that I taught my children to smoke, and I pray they never pass that addiction to their children.

There has also interestingly been not one mention of how crooked the industry is as a whole.

On the back of Johan van Loggerenberg’s book, Tobacco Wars, Ivan Pillay writes “From this book, you learn that the tobacco industry has manipulated and controlled parts of the state with help from accomplices within – and is probably continuing to do so.”

Within those covers Johan reveals how both sides of this industry are utterly dishonest, and ruthless in protecting their wealth. They both peddle death. They are both ruled by money. Lots of money. Both have their beneficiaries. Government has lost large amounts of tax revenue you say. Yes. Probably adjusted to an amount far less than it should be by clever accounting. And probably over the past decade, money that is not likely to have benefitted anyone but the same few who are accused of benefitting from the illegal trade now.

Like it or not, the decision made by this government was with your best interests in mind. And my best interests, and those like me, and I thank them for their concern.

But now, CR has put the ball into our court, responsibility for our lives, and of those around us, into our own hands. Our serve. Our point to win or lose.

I do not believe for one second that I can trust the players.

Can you?

https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/lifestyle/what-are-the-health-risks-of-smoking/

https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/13/4/396

Quit Bellyaching!

One of the most interesting aspects of any catastrophe is the number of experts the situation produces. Those who don’t quite have the cheek to pronounce themselves all-knowing are amazingly adept at producing doctors, epidemiologists, scientists, good hold hacks who all know it all. The nation of “They say…” my late husband always asked: who are ‘they’? and so should we.

I wrote a blog a few weeks ago, entitled, Who is Victor? Turned out Victor was an amazingly reliable chap, related to someone’s friend, who also had special status. At the end of the day, no one knew who Victor was and why he should be given such prominence.

The arguments flow back and forth. Some sound plausible, even have a ring of logic to them. Others are downright bunkum. The sad fact is that almost all the big arguments raging across social media have at their core, the well-being of the person waxing forth.

Me, myself and I reign in shrill and uninterrupted cacophony.

I have been told a number of times that the rules in Europe are better than ours, that they are handling the pandemic differently making it more bearable for their residents. Really? What publications are you reading? What newscasts are you listening to? What members of those populations are you talking to?

Sky News is reporting that Brits can forget about haircuts and trips to the pub until July. That’s the word from Dominic Raab. Elsewhere in Europe lockdowns are being extended, as the virus teases on graphs, steadying for a couple of days, only to rise again and knock everyone’s optimism into a cocked hat. Poor old Donald Trump is having to change his mind more frequently than his tweets.

I have a friend in Switzerland, who spent six weeks alone in her apartment. Restrictions there have been marginally eased, and she is able to go to work. She and three others. Four in a four story building. One per floor. I heard no grumbling from her. What I did hear, which was so refreshing, was her dedication to finding a way to help others through this crisis, to think creatively to minimise the effects, particularly in poorer regions of the world.

You see, in Europe, they understand the reasoning behind rules, and are prepared to submit, not just to ensure their own safety, but that of those around them. The rule of law is respected, no energy is spent in finding ways to circumvent it. We, I fear, have yet to learn that here in Africa.

Wouldn’t it be nice if all of us had that view, that outlook that regards the welfare of others above our own, that seeks to help and not hinder with never ending carping and criticising?

Others point to the figures. They are low, too low in the grand scheme of things to worry about. Yup, I looked at the figures. It worries me that the recovery rate is well less than half the number of those infected, so there are millions that may or may not recover. Weeks ago we were told Italy was over the worst. Have you checked the death rate in Italy recently? Or Spain? Or Britain? Or America? Or Brazil? Or India? Have you looked at the column that gives how many deaths per million population? Have you understood that we are nowhere near a final mortality figure yet, so quoting a percentage against GDP is a waste of time.

I was called a fear-lobotomised fascist on Twitter for daring to suggest human life mattered. I enjoyed that, made me laugh.

But I have a problem with people bewailing the loss of the civil liberties that they never paid much heed to until they were removed. Suddenly life pinches, because you are being asked to sacrifice your freedom, your desires, for the greater good and that doesn’t sit well. I also was told seriously how the lockdown was going to affect the poor, the TB rate. I doubt the person telling me that had ever thought about the poor, or TB numbers until now. Spurious arguments.

If you have never been inside a hovel, spoken to the poor, seen first hand how the live, held the hand of a young mother dying of HIV/Aids, desperate with grief at leaving her children to a cruel and uncaring world, you have no right to talk on behalf of the poor and dying.

The poor don’t give a toss about GDP, your business, jobs all the rest of the guff. They need food, shelter, preferably one made of more substantial material than cardboard and rusted corrugated iron, they need someone to care enough to take a real stand on their behalf, not use them as an excuse to get your home comforts back.

I believe we should give aid to the farmers, get food production going on a massive scale so we can feed the hungry. This would increase the job market, and given employment to many rural dwellers. Thereafter we can look at jobs, businesses small or medium or large, at education, and in the process improve every aspect of life for our ALL our citizens.

Let’s plant vegies on our sidewalks, and teach those we can, to read, and to write. Make a plan. After all you have plenty of time right now. Do something constructive.

Just please, please, stop bellyaching about every little thing.

Let’s investment in Farmers, develop the land and ensure food security for all. In the process, we may provide for more jobs!

Privilege Equals = ?

This is the story of two families, one father, two mothers. Or one husband and two wives. The man is my father. I am from the second wife. We lived in Swaziland.

The first wife had two children, a daughter and a son. Sadly, she died at a young age, leaving her two small children with a man, who had no family to assist him in taking care of them. He was convinced by well-meaning friends, and the children’s godmother, that he should allow them to be adopted. She had a wealthy family lined up.

My dad was a policeman who earned enough money to get his family through each month, but not much room for luxuries. He agreed, believing he was doing the right thing.

I spent many happy hours fishing in the rivers of Swaziland with my Dad

Enter my mother, they got married and a year later I appeared. My father was sixteen years older than my mother, but that did not seem to matter to any of us. My childhood was happy. He was transferred to Piggs Peak, where he was the commandant of the station, with a large area to supervise. He would often take me with him to outlying posts, and we would always stop on the way home for a spot of fishing in one of the two rivers of the area, Komati or Lomati.

Fishing, cricket and tennis consumed most weekends. They were times when I met up with friends who lived spread through the forests, and we played on see-saws and maypoles and swings, and watched our parents behave quite badly it would seem in retrospect. Much drinking, little concern about getting us home to bed at a reasonable hour. I remember a number of nights waking up cramped and cold on the floor at the back of the police Land Rover.

It didn’t matter back in the fifties and sixties. That was how it was.

He had made an agreement with the adoption agency that he would be allowed to see his children when his daughter turned eighteen. On the appointed day he travelled to Johannesburg only to have the door firmly closed in his face.

“Your children are no longer on the continent, and you will never see them again!”

A few months later he died. My mother was 34 and I was 9.

It was many decades before I caught up with my siblings. What an exciting moment that was!

We met up in America where they had been living. The, I want to call her ‘wicked’ or ‘nasty’, but suppose I shouldn’t really, Godmother had not lied. They family who adopted them was enormously wealthy. They lived in New York City, in one of the best suburbs – Gramercy Park. They attended the best schools and to all intents and purposes had an idyllic life.

All that money, however, did not buy them happiness. Their lives were marked by unhappy squabbles, always struggling to fit into their new identity, and no amount of money or privilege could give them the peace and happiness they craved, and deserved.

Why am I telling this tale?

I see so much on twitter and other for a about privilege, and the perception of how people of supposed privilege think and live. What you see is not always what is true on the inside.

Please don’t think for one moment that I am negating the plight of the poor. The living conditions of the majority of Africans appalls me. The level of poverty is so intense in places that I don’t know how people get up in the morning. A friend and I used to help in an impoverished area in Swaziland.

Each time we went there, our hearts broke a little more because what we did, the food parcels we took, were such a tiny drop in an enormous ocean that at times it hardly seemed worth the effort.

Each and every person who has enough, and by that I mean a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food in your belly and certain degree of security that this will continue to be the state in which you live, needs to do something about those who live in shacks, without toilets, running water, in some places no water, no jobs, nothing. Pointing accusatory fingers and making suspect judgment calls are not the way to go.

We need every bit of energy, every resource be it donations or ways to impact political leaders, locally and nationally, to address the wrongs of the huge divide between rich and poor, the haves and the have nots.

The saying goes ‘Evil flourishes when good men do nothing.’ I believe evil flourishes when men are so busy throwing stones they do not see the child lying motionless, trampled underfoot.

Life After Lockdown

In so many ways the last four weeks have dragged, yet the time has flown by. I have achieved a small number of ticks against my long list, because somehow the uncertainties of the future made many of the activities seem futile, unimportant.

Yet, there is a future, and there is a hope. The challenge is to find a way to embrace that, to visualise what this future might look like. Everyone says the world is going to be a very different place. How different? In what way? Are we suddenly going to be better behaved and treat our planet the way we were ordained to? Are we going to stop stealing and pillaging and slagging each other off? How will life be in this different world?

Wallowing in the mud…is this us in the new world?

I read this week one of many lovely pieces about how the virus is a good thing, because the incarceration of man, the halting of the paraphernalia and industry that is part and parcel of what our lives have become,  has given the earth a chance to recover from the hammering it has taken. But it spoke of the virus as having a mind of its own, that it determined to spread its brand of havoc in order to save the planet from certain destruction.

My reaction was visceral: Not the Virus. No, it doesn’t have a mind or the ability to reason. In place of the virus, write ‘God’. Do you think God is pleased with the way man has mismanaged the earth over which he was given dominion? I don’t see how He can be.

The definition of ‘dominion’ in Collins Dictionary and Thesaurus is:

Control or authority

Young’s Bible Dictionary puts it this way:

       To be master of, to rule, to have power over, to have authority.

Surely together with authority, power, rule comes responsibility? How angry do we get when leaders renege on their promises, forget they are responsible for and to us, and impact our lives for the worse? But they, and we, have forgotten this side of the coin, the side that says with ruling and authority comes responsibility, an expectation to the best you can for all that has been entrusted to your rule.

We confused dominion with domination, ruling responsibly with tyranny, uncaringly raping the earth in search of riches and power. Industrialists and political leaders have rebelliously kowtowed to economic power blocks, ignoring the cries and pleas of naturalists and conservationists, to slow down, limit the damage, the earth is bleeding and there is not much time left before the planet bleeds out.

A pristine valley in Mpumalanga, South Africa, shrouded with the haze of pollution.

This time is spoken of in the bible. Romans 8 vv19-22:

19. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God

20. for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope,

21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God

22 for we know that the whole creation groans and labours with birth pangs together until now.

Jeremiah 12 v 4

How long will the land mourn, and the herbs of every field wither?

The beasts and birds are consumed, for the wickedness of those who dwell there, because they said, “He will not see our final end.”

V11 They have made it desolate, desolate it mourns to Me, the whole land is made desolate, because no one takes it to heart.

Couldn’t be clearer to my way of thinking. I hope the lockdown continues for a while yet, that the earth may heal completely, the animals enjoy some freedom, and for humanity to decide to behave a lot better in the new world all talk of so glibly.

The beauty of our planet – will it be restored, or is this simply a hiatus before worse devastation is unleashed?

who is victor?

I have no doubt the majority of people reading this, certainly in South Africa, have had a letter from ‘my friend Victor’ whose niece is a pharmacologist in Italy, who tells us all how to behave in the second week of lockdown if we aren’t all to die an excruciating death.

Well intentioned advice, possibly accurate. But who is Victor? And who is his niece? On what authority does she speak?

Most important: Why do we believe them?

There has been an abundance of these well-meaning, or maybe not so well-intentioned, epistles doing the rounds, all purporting to be from someone, usually nameless, certainly unidentifiable, who knows something the rest of us does not. They are sometimes given nebulous titles, but as they are nameless, their credentials cannot be checked.

It seems everyone I know accepts them at face value, believes them implicitly, and reacts by immediately forwarding them to everyone they can think of. I have had the ‘Victor’ one 7 times now.

“Enough!” I cry. Time for common sense to prevail.

I am currently reading the book of Acts and having a good giggle at the stir Paul caused all through Asia. Reminded me so much of here – unruly crowds causing huge commotion, the majority having no idea what they are shouting about, but adamant justice should be done. The authorities time and again shrug their shoulders at such shenanigans in those early days after the advent of our Lord.

In amongst those tales, in Chapter 19 vv 13 to 16, we hear about Jewish exorcists taking it upon themselves to call on the name of Jesus to exorcise spirits. Here is what happened:

V15. The evil spirit answered and said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

And then proceeded to beat them up.

Even the Devil knows to ask: Who are you? What is your qualification to act in this case? Who are you representing? Where is your evidence?

Here we are, in a crisis of global proportions, and we are running around like headless chickens believing every bit of nonsense that appears on our cell screens, without asking the most obvious of questions: Who is this person? On what authority do they speak? What company or institution do they represent? How can we trust their credentials?

Without knowing these basic facts, how do I trust you?

If there is no answer to any of those questions, you have to figure out that the ‘facts’ they present are dubious, not to be trusted.

In some cases overworked medical personnel are having their time wasted in order to put out the flames caused by these messages, such as the one purporting to be from the Head of Virology at Groote Schuur. That was a corker! A nasty, twisted, ten minutes that should get her a life time sentence for the fear she generated in the hearts of all who heard that message.

Wicked, wicked scare mongering for what purpose? I praise God for a President who has outlawed fake news and look forward to seeing convictions soon.

Another one that is causing a mighty stir, particularly among the residents of our neighbour, Eswatini, from whence I was first sent the clip, is the 5G story. ‘Pastor Jonathan’, again no surname, no way of checking his authenticity, claims there is no Corona virus, only radiation poisoning by 5G. The good people of Eswatini have fallen so hook, line and sinker for this, they have started a petition to prevent the rolling out of 5G.

I am not going to go into that here, but this link will answer every claim made by the unidentifiable Pastor Jonathan:  

https://www.incontextinternational.org/2020/04/02/covid-19-and-5g-biggest-cover-up-in-history-true-or-false/

King David when preparing his son Solomon to take over the reins of power, directed him in Proverbs to seek Wisdom, get Understanding for very good reason.

Proverbs 2, vv 6-9:

For the Lord gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;

7. He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;

He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;

8. He guards the paths of justice, and preserves the way of His saints.

9. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.

Saints, do not be fooled. Be wise. Ask simple questions, listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit, and guard against the fear tactics and scare mongering of the world.

Paul writing in 1 Thessalonians, 5 v 21 says: “Test all things; hold fast to what is good.”

The beloved apostle John, in his first letter, 1 John 4 v 1 instructs us:

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

Continue reading to verse 6.

We need to use this time wisely, to draw into our Lord, learn from Him, be His light to the world, beacons of hope and love, not harbingers of gloom, doom and despair.

There are good sites where you can find accurate information. The World Health Organisation has all the information you need. The South African Government COVID-19 site is a little slow on uploading the latest data, but the information is sound.

Do not be fooled, be wise, keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, and use what sense the Father has given you to discern what is true and what is fantasy.

Be blessed, stay safe.

Street walker

It is interesting how sound is magnified by silence.

I live close to a main road and am used to the almost non-stop hum and rumble of traffic. Until it gets stopped. Or drastically curtailed. Now I am astounded as to how one car, not even a truck, can sound louder and more irritating than a blustering dowager demanding tea and scones on a rainy day.

The same goes for voices and footsteps.

I wake up early, as early as 4 am some days. Today was one of them.

Being on lockdown and restricted to a small space I find I have this urgent need to get out onto my stoep at odd moments through the day, and the evening. So, I grabbed the keys and opened the door, although it was still pitch dark. It was wonderfully quiet. I could hear the Robin begin to mutter, the crickets were in full cry, a guinea fowl clucked. There was mist and the lightest of rains gently coating the ground.

Then I heard a strange sound. One that did not belong. Slap, slap, slap. A figure dressed in black outlined in the streetlamp. Hurried footsteps. I recognised the shape. He often power walks around the park my house looks out onto. Ten minutes later, round two. I wanted to call out “I see you”, but  I didn’t. Maybe tomorrow I will.

Why is it that some people consider their need for exercise to be that much more important than anyone else’s? Why should he get to do his power walk when the rest of us find another way to keep fit?

I don’t know the answer. That’s the way it is. Some feel entitled. Others don’t. Some fret. Others chill. He might get away with it, scurrying around the streets at the witching hour, then again, he might not. I’d still like to see his reaction if I call out, and I might just do it for a laugh!

Stay safe all. Don’t let the idiots get to you!

Sticks and stones …

“Sticks and stones may hurt my bones but words will never hurt me” is possibly the most fallacious defence mantra taught to children.

Words create life and they bring death, hence the need to warn against their power.

A couple of months ago a young friend, with the best of intentions, confided to me that a faction in an organisation of which I am a part refer to me as “The Bitch”. It cut, and it cut deep. Try as I might ‘The Bitch’ rattled around my psyche taunting me, tainting me. That is its purpose: To demean, to undermine, change my perception of myself, doubt my identity, my intentions, even my purpose.

Silly, you might think. Shrug it off. And you are right.

But it is easier said than done.

Look around you. So much of the anger and aggression we see stems from someone whose identity has been perverted, changed into something unpleasant, unwanted. Race is a good starting point. We call people names, we associate characteristics with people groups, the uglier the better: big nose, fat lips, slit eyes, the list is endless. The laughter that goes with these epithets is cruel and uncaring.

Experiential belief is entrenched and so much of the verbal abuse that manifests as insecurity in later life is handed out when we are children and have no yardstick by which to measure its veracity. We believe what we are told, it becomes a part of our persona.

How then do we deal with the slings and arrows of outrageous words?

Paul adjures in 2 Corinthians 10 v5:

“..Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into the captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

That’s a mouthful but it makes sense because as we take every thought captive unto Christ, His truth washes away the lies and replaces them with truth, His truth based in love and acceptance.

John 10 v 10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

Mathew 11 vv 28, 29: “Come unto Me all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

29. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

In the mighty book of Isaiah the voice of the Lord rings loud and clear, over and over again as He reaffirms His love and commitment to us:

Chapter 45 v 3: I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name, am the God of Israel.”

Chapter 49 v 16:    “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands…”

And Chapter 51 v 12: “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid….”

And so on and so on.

Until I curl my woundedness around the foot of the cross of Christ, and listen for that still small voice of comfort, I am at the mercy of darkness, a shallow man tossed to and fro in my unbelief!

It is only at the cross that I can begin to shed that putrid skin of shame and start believing that I am who I am and not who others say I am. I hear the Voice that whispers: ‘Dear Child, know who are, who you are in Me, yes, but far more importantly, know Whose you are!’

And slowly my head comes up, my eyes lighten as I grasp that eternal truth: I am my Father’s daughter, I am a child of the living Christ, and His banner over me is Love, the love that brought Him humbly to this earth as a man, One in whom no sin was found.

And a cry of worship is pulled out of me as I am filled with incomprehensible joy, and I am able to say: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know You!”

As we look to commemorate the birth of this man called Jesus, I pray we can look beyond the piles of shredded paper and carelessly tossed toys to the manger, to the One called Emmanuel, God with us, and allow Him to be the gift He came to be.

Wishing you all a peaceful and joyous Christmas.

Loss

On this day 57 years ago my father died, leaving a void far greater than I have understood for most of my life.

Mark Warburton was a policeman. A good one by all accounts. He had a great sense of humour, was an accomplished actor, a good cricketer, fisherman, loved the bush, and he was my Dad. He was the sun that this moon revolved around for nine years, until one day shortly before Christmas he fell, downed by a massive heart attack at the age of 49.

For many years I refused to believe he really was dead. I comforted myself with the thought that he was MI5, working undercover, that his death was a ruse, and one day I would look up and there he would be. The febrile imagination that is born of wanting a world not of make believe, but of don’t believe.

Recently I attended a counselling course, which presented an interesting take on Family Trees. Out of the blue I returned to that day so long ago and was astonished at the anger I felt. Not at God, not at anyone but my father.

He had been ill, had a heart condition brought on by pleurisy from fighting multiple fires in Mbabane one particularly bad winter, and been told by the cardiologist that he had to take it easy. Did he listen? Oh no! He was a Brit, and Brits don’t give in to anything or anyone. He was about duty, about stiff upper lip and carrying on. He was a product of the war so tough it out was how you did it.

And so he died.

What of us? My Mum and I? How were we supposed to deal with this?

As my thoughts focussed on that time I realised that my emptiness when I looked for him was not so much about the physical loss, but about the sinking feeling that we were not important enough for him to make the effort to live. Ouch! His duty, his pride, his determination to show no weakness mattered more than his wife and daughter.

This man whose memory I loved so much, because I didn’t know him. Most of what I know about my dad is from other people and the odd memory, odd feeling of safety that lingers. How could I have such traitorous thoughts about him? This person who I had enshrined in my heart for so many decades.

I knew I had to deal with this, and fast. I needed to unpeel layers of hurt, of deception, of unforgiveness from my heart.

In Hebrews 12 vv 14,15 Paul writes:

“Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

Looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God: lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled.”

This is to do with forgiveness, allowing the hurt to dissolve into the love that Jesus the Christ offers, and walking forward in freedom. Any root of bitterness, the nascence of which is always in hurt, in blame, in sin, defiles not only you, but those with whom you come into contact, so it is important to check regularly, make sure you have released anyone and anything that might linger in the shadows of your heart, putting you in unholy bondage.

Be blessed this day as you make peace with your past.

Privilege? White, Black, Anyone’s?

People look at me in amazement when I confess that I love Twitter. I do. I love Twitter. I love the freedom of thought, the discussion, and yes, even gasping at some of the insults.

One person who always manages to set Twitter a-tweeting is Helen Zille. Like her or loathe her, she stimulates thought and discussion. That is the best part of living in South Africa as against my home land of Eswatini. The vibrancy of discussion, the controversy, the provocation. You are made to think, to look into yourself and find what your beliefs really are. Almost anything goes.

Helen Zille’s latest foray, initiating an intense argument about white versus black privilege has done that for me. My first thought was, yeah, she has a point. Maybe. Bit of a long shot. Then I read some of the responses from all sides of the divide and began to really think the question through.

Without doubt I grew up in a totally different environment to my Swazi neighbours. I am not sure how different, because there was little fraternisation. I know I loved the food they ate from locusts to sour porridge to imbitfo to lekusha. Lifestyle was simply the way it was. We lived the way we did, ‘they’ lived the way ‘they’ did. There was no overt condemnation, or in retrospect, concern at the distinction. This is the mind-set of privilege.

 It was a no-brainer that I would start school as close to my fifth birthday as possible, while my Swazi peers, who knows? I certainly didn’t. Although I do remember when the first two Swazi children came to St Mark’s Primary School in Mbabane in 1964, or was it ‘63. It was a big deal for all of about five seconds.

I know we did not have electricity, but somehow I was still put into a hot bath. We had a paraffin fridge, a radio, I slept in a comfortable bed. Were those facilities the same in the police houses adjacent to ours? I doubt it, but cannot say for sure.

We had a motor vehicle. I had a bicycle and a horse too.

Are these criteria for white privilege? Or is it only about money, how much one has, regardless of how one came about it?

Is it that simple? Is the divide that neat?

Our forebears are decried for looting and taking land and riches that were not theirs to take, and for this reason we whites must forever bear the shame and blame for the ignominy and cruelty of the apartheid years, for colonial horrors the world over.

Do we deserve this acrimony? Again, I am not sure.

What I do know is that I love history as much as I love Twitter, and so my thoughts, whenever I allow them to chew on a delicate question, tend to trundle back in time. I recently watched Braveheart, a tale of dreadful tyranny and oppression of the Scottish people by the English. I read a book recently that outlined repercussions for many as a result of the Irish troubles, I think of the internecine wars that have inked a bloody trail through Europe’s history, and, incidentally substantially changed the tribal boundaries of that continent.

Oppression and colonialism go back to the dawn of time, across every land, every continent of the world, from Babylonian and Egyptian times to Alexander to the Picts, Angles, Jutes, Huns, Vikings, the list is pretty long and I haven’t left Europe yet!

Against this backdrop, Africa cannot hope to be the exception.

The first settlers to be dropped off at that fair Cape were not in search of domination at that point. They were cast offs, people exported from their own countries to the furthest reaches of the known world for no reason except expediency at the behest of their rulers. Australia was a boot camp for criminals, a life sentence of separation from their native lands and families. Can you imagine what it was like being dumped in a foreign land, totally different to anything you have ever experienced, tropical diseases, an inclement climate, vicious animals you have never heard of let alone seen.

These displaced peoples lived a life of oppression and blow all privilege in Cape Town, and so they set off for pastures greener. They had nothing to lose. At this time, blacks were living free, and believing, I guess, they were privileged if they thought about it at all. They themselves fought their enemies to take possession of land they wanted, raided for cattle and wealth in exactly the same way as there paler brethren to the north had done for centuries.

Then came the gold rush. Why did none of the black tribes rush for the goldfields. Prospect for their share of the metal. As far as I can establish they were not prohibited from doing this. Or were they. Or did it not fit into their idea of wealth, and so they didn’t get caught up in the fever.

I have the same question for the Indians in North America.

There were blacks who benefited in California, although they were in the minority, according to Blacks in Gold Rush California, published by Yale University Press. An interesting and telling excerpt:

On a September day in 1848 a black man was walking near the San Francisco docks, when a white man who had just disembarked from a ship called to him to carry his luggage. The black cast him an indignant glance and walked away. After he had gone a few steps, he turned around and, drawing a small bag from his bosom, he said, “Do you think I’ll lug trunks when I can get that much in one day?” The sack of gold dust that he displayed was estimated by the white man to be worth more than one hundred…

South African History on line, when telling about the discovery of gold in 1886, mentions that “blacks had mined gold hundreds of years earlier.”

Why didn’t you guys go for it in 1886? Did you sit back, thinking you were OK in your tribal customs and ways, and decide the whites were all lunatics in their quest for the gold stones, and leave them to it?

That’s where the problem began in my humble opinion. Way back then you lost out! Not because anyone stole it, or held you hostage while they helped themselves. Your forebears sat back and allowed it to happen!

I can just hear the chorus arising from the twitterati if any should read what I have written! But bear with me a little longer.

Can you imagine if the majority of those claims had landed in the hands of Xhosa and Zulu and Pedi and Tswana and other tribal hands how different the history of this part of Africa would be today?

The impermanence of a life without privilege

Who would have killed who? Which tribe would be in power, and where would they be based? How would the boundaries of Africa have changed, and what might they look like today if only the indigenous residents of the time had the same value system as those sent into exile to this strange and wonderful land?

Regardless of any supposition, however, we are where we are today. I am privileged. So are many other people. Of all colours and races. Many more are not. They live in hovels, eeking out a living in conditions I hesitate to imagine they are so awful.

The real question is what are we going to do about it? Black and white if you have to discriminate.

Jesus said:

“… for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in;

I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.”

Mathew 25 vv 35,36

The only question any of us should be asking is: what am I doing to alleviate the suffering of my fellow man, how am I making his load easier to carry?

As important as debate is, action speaks louder than words.

So I ask again: what are you doing?

Beyond Despair

The cardboard mound is eerily pale in the early morning light. It looks sepulchral. It isn’t there by chance. It is the night’s shelter for a young man, a boy really. People ask how old he is. Fifteen. Maybe. It is hard to tell age in Africa, especially for these young ones.

Depravation stunts their growth, so twelve-year-olds look no older than eight. He could be twenty. But he looks mid-teens. He is a sad youngster. Life has robbed him of all joy and bracketed him in despair. Not even the raucous, drug induced hilarity of other street dwellers can make him smile. If he gets a smoke, he draws on it with studied pre-occupation, glaring at it as he inhales deeply.

For the rest he sits on the edge of the pavement, his focus inward. At times he finds bottles and breaks them. He uses the pieces of glass to shave his skin, slowly, deliberately sweeping the chips down first one leg, and then the other. Red stripes appear in places. He strokes through them. His arms are black with the scars of deeper cuts.

Each day I worry that he has died in the night in his coffin of cardboard. Each day I thank God when I catch sight of him. I have spoken to many people, but no one seems able to offer any solution or help for this boy. I know his name, and where he is from. He claims to have forgotten his surname.

I wonder what atrocities were perpetrated on this young soul to bring him to this place of bleak and hideous despair. More than that, I wonder what my role must be, what is the best help for him? I fear putting him into a system that might harm him more, but leaving him to the mercy of the elements seems equally cruel even if it is his choice. Reaching him will take time and patience, and wisdom.

People warn me against getting involved, believing he will attack me. He won’t. I have given him a wrap for the nights, and food. He said ‘Thank you’. I trust that the Lord has put him in my path for a reason, and it is about him, not me. I hear the words of my Saviour reminding me that whatever I do for the least of these, I do for Him.

This past Saturday night for the first time in many weeks, he did not come ‘home’. I worried all through the weekend. I mentioned his absence to an employee on Monday. He said he had seen people talking to him, together with the police. Maybe, just maybe, he has found proper shelter.

Later I saw him walking past. He had a haircut, but his left arm was pressed into his side in an odd manner. Again he slept elsewhere. Yesterday he was back. His dejection seemed more intense.

I went to him. “How are you?” he won’t answer. He doesn’t have to. The depth of misery in his eyes, the imperceptible shake of his head say more than words.

On the pole next to us are two billboards. One says “Fight back!” I think that’s the translation. The other says “Protect our Borders”. We have elections soon. how I wish there was a sign that says “We Care” and then shows that they do.

Shortly after I left him a man walking past began to harangue my boy. I went out but he left before I could stop him. The boy went and hid himself under his pieces of cardboard although the sun was still shining.

The pile has not moved. I am scared. I want to pray that he is still alive, but a little voice says ‘Why? Why would you want this life for anyone?’