Friday, 17 July 2015

The Need to Know Who... Well sort-of!

 ‘Hey, whose going to be the leader if you’re leaving,’ one of the girls called anxiously as her pigtails bounced.  My daughter at age seven diligently appointed a leader and climbed into the car ready to depart from school while I stifle a smile, my desire to laugh out loud and the urge to roll my eyes.  Not only did she have to make the decision, she already had a full five year plan on who was going to be the leader of their little primary school group of friends as they transitioned from grade one to grade five. 
A plan which she diligently followed as she got older and threw her support behind whomever was allocated ‘the leader’ for that particular year.  A plan which regularly provided me with high levels of amusement as she faithfully talked about the leader over the years not realising that she was orchestrating the dynamics of the group from the back. 

A plan that still makes me chuckle to this day and I periodically remind her about. 
To her credit, she strove to be faithful and fair to all the members of the group; an endeavour that did make me somewhat proud of the person she is. 

When I started this blog, it was my hope that people would follow ideas and not the person behind the scenes and thus deliberately left my name out of the site.  And while I do understand the hesitancy..., a great deal of hesitancy, I would like to know why is it that we follow people we perceive to know because we simply recognise their face from some magazine, seen them somewhere, or admire their talents, or they hold a position of power, etc,

Or why is it we are much more willing to follow people who simply tell us what it is we would like to hear instead of the truth or what we need to hear. 

We seem content to settle for an illusion of knowing someone rather than an understanding of what that person stands for or represents.   

I worry about this concept of ‘follow...’  The word has come to represent a passive activity despite its active contribution towards some of the greatest human rights violations and atrocities in history.  Its passivity allows events to happen that never would have if people understood that following should essentially be an active activity.  An activity whereby one should continually evaluate the vision and merits of the person being followed and as a result, makes an active decision to put their support behind that person because they agree with what the person stands for and what they intend to achieve.   
And so the tendency to passively follow is perpetuating a language and a culture of power.  We follow people because of their monetary worth, beauty, status, position, or what we stand to gain by aligning ourselves with those who hold a degree of power due to circumstance; ... a circumstance subject to change. 

I, the chronic sceptic that I am, cannot imagine placing my support behind someone who has no vision of what they intend to achieve and who leverages their ‘power over’ instead of seeing value in anyone else... simply because they hold a position of power (for the moment).       
So rooted deeply in my cynicism, I am in search of a leader...  one who has a vision for this country.  Someone who holds fast to the principle that humanity has value by virtue of it being a common humanity; a leader whose moral compass is not shifted by the relativity of the time and who stands for something worth standing for and not the accumulation of personal wealth and power. 

A leader whose absence seems to be increasingly apparent...   
An absence that active followers and general citizens should become increasingly concerned about... because it is seldom leaders who pay for their mistakes, but rather the followers who take the brunt of their leader’s poor decisions. 

Just ask those at Marikana...





Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Those Waves of Change

At the beginning of the year, I had four garden chairs and a table...

But it has been a rough year for garden furniture.  Well – my garden furniture anyways.  You see, the plastic table and two chairs were stolen about three months back, a feat which left two wooden chairs as they were unable to be hoisted over the fence in a hurry, as they were a little bit heavier than the plastic ones.  Now plastic chairs are not usually high on the list of thievable items of choice, so imagine that those were not the initial target when the plan for theft was being hatched.  
That said, it left me with two chairs, and I was thankful that they were the better quality items of the garden furniture.  The thankfulness stems from a South African tendency to always try and consider the worst. ‘Wow, sorry about your _________ (fill stolen item in blank), at least no one was hurt’ – standard encouragement, albeit absolute bullshit, to stifle the irritation of living in a high crime zone.  So that’s nice and all, but what about my chairs?

So like a well indoctrinated local, I was thankful until a few weeks back when the river came for a visit in the form of a flood ... So while the wooden furniture was too heavy to hoist..., the same wooden furniture floats!
And my thankfulness somewhat dissipated ... 

But while sloshing through the rubble in my goulashes, I found one of my chairs tangled up in the vegetation of the neighbour’s yard, covered with mud...  and there in the back of my mind the urge to be thankful begins to show signs of life...  But no, it was immediately squashed and a basic life question... at what point do we bury the urge for gratitude and replace it with a life draining cynicism that seems to serve the embittered so well? 
The irony of life is that disaster and opportunity are often presented as the flip sides of the same coin.  Disaster is the presentation of a situation in which change is thrust upon people, unasked for and usually unwanted – but generally unavoidable. 

The question is – are we in tune enough to recognise the presentation of opportunity in the midst of it or are we too focused on what we had and the desire to go back to where we come from?  Sadly, embitterment only ensures that the coin is never flipped over.
The problem with going back is that we are assuming that there a space for the ‘back’ in the future; which by its very nature should sound the alarm bells of impossibility in the depths of rational thinking. 

But as human beings we tend to be less then rational and emotionally carry a desire to retreat to a time in which we felt ‘safe’ or at least had an illusion of agency and influence in our world.  
Ironically the life journey, no matter to what point, always begins at its present moment.  That said; I cannot help but wish for the time when the complex boundary walls were once intact as we wait with consternation the outcomes of insurance claims which seem to be taking longer than necessary...

In the mean time, it should be acknowledged that it took the river about an hour to demolish over 200m of infrastructure, a feat which will take probably about six months to recover from.        
So on the flip side of the disaster coin, there is usually opportunity.  It is just that one needs to have the courage to turn the coin over and consider the other side.    

Thus, for the moment, all I can do is simply relax with a good cup of coffee and a clean garden chair while I contemplate what could have been, but wasn’t, in the midst of broken walls, muck, make shift fences, razor wire and plants that are struggling to recover from their unanticipated mud bath.
And when that has been fully considered, take some time to deliberate what opportunity it may provide to change things that we would have been unable to change, if all was intact as it once was...

And six months from now, when all has been rebuilt better than before, I might even be thankful. 
Until then, that niggling gratitude will have to be kept to a bare minimum while I am forced to start each day with the walls down, until that too, changes. 



Friday, 16 January 2015

New Year Ramblings

It was a completely new year before I started a new ‘how hard can it be’ project. 

I am so proud of my restraint (my daughter just rolled her eyes). 

The fact that it was less than ten days is irrelevant as far as I am concerned.  The change in date indicates a high level of restraint on the change addict’s part and that is the story we will be sticking to for the moment. 
But if we were to confess our sins at the beginning of the year, the shiny bamboo floor got to me okay... 

And I learned that when one is dizzy, it’s generally not a good idea to be up on a ladder; a condition that was probably a direct result of some serious over exposure to fumes.   
As a result, I have a good bruise on my arm and a huge one on my hip that sort of resembles a huge hickey gone wrong administered by an enormous giant with protruding teeth and is a gruesome shade of plum purple with bits of torn flesh.

But that said; I still do like things that are shiny... 
the potential of something (or someone) to be more than what it is (they are) now...   
And I learned something quite serious about change in the process. 

1.       Change can be painful. 

2.       Change requires a purposeful course of action and an exertion of concentrated and focused energy on the part of somebody...

3.       Things will always get worse before they get better.

4.       Change always starts from where you are now.   

That said, in the midst of New Year’s aspirations and good ideas, perhaps one should hold the goals and ambitions against the criteria listed above and consider the resolution in terms of action and energy instead of results. 
Action and energy are in one’s control, results may be subject to a whole other list of variables.  That said; let’s make it a year of positive change!   

I wish you all God’s richest blessings in 2015!