Abandon all hope

I remember being told of a movie in the 1980’s where the hero enters a room with one bullet in his gun to find which of the people around him is whatever monster. Said monster will be betrayed by eyes that glow in the dark or some such nonsense. The hero turns off the lights and sees nothing but glowing eyes all around him. He raises the gun to his own head.

I can only imagine this is how Gwede Mantashe felt this weekend. The saddest ‘Amandla’ in history sufficed for the bullet.

Our country has always been and oligarchy but today the kleptocracy has asserted it’s power. Those who play by the rules have lost as they always do.

Let the media fuss and fret. It is done.

A corolally to The Theory of General Relativity

[Author’s note: I am sure this is the restatement of some basic law I have not read. I find it fascinating nonetheless.]

All energy is transmitted through mass-less or massive particles.

Energy transmitted through massive particles cannot be said to be travelling in a vacuum even if they are travelling through a vacuum.

Any mass-less particle, such as a photon or graviton, will travel at the speed of light in a waveform.

Any particle travelling at the speed of light experiences infinite time dilation and infinite space contraction. In the coordinate frame of the particle 0 time is taken to traverse 0 distance. It follows that any point on an arbitrary coordinate frame K in a vacuum would have an infinitely small effect on the particle for an infinitely short period of time.

To rephrase this: Any interaction between space time and a mass-less particle in a vacuum is infinitely small.




Yesterday creeps silently into the room and slips beneath the covers, bringing the scent of rosemary. My head turns as her fingers entwine the grey of my chest. Her hand drifts down to my belly, circling the years. Counting the conditions that have pertained since our last meeting. Her silhouette profiled in the light of night, the substance of her hip a reminder of all was lost that January when choice and chance made a man of the boy and a fool of the man.

We are older now, who once sat in the midnight grove dreaming of demons and lusting after angels. Who watched the morning break from the high places and drank of life in the low places. We are working our way to death who once danced.

We have sold our souls to the bondsmen who once pledged them to the hollow men. We have spawned life that is not ours, bound to the otherness of all the others. We have paid the bloodprice of the mundane and smiled our way through the terror of the everyday.

She hugs me and melts away.

I allow myself a moment’s remorse as the alarm rouses me to effort.

Why president Zuma must not fall

When one sits on the lawn in upper Houghton quaffing a more than adequate Merlot staring out on a large manicured garden, talk will eventually turn to the travails of the middle class. A group, apparently, that earns 10 to 200 times the national average in wages.

The invisible help, clearing away detritus with practiced ease catches one’s eye just as some dear soul rants about Woolworths’ prices. One blushes. The help, if the household has any conscience, earns closer to the real South African average income than any of the guests.

The sun sets on the electric fences wired to armed response. Black men with black shirts in black trucks slowly cruise the streets in search of undesirables, keeping cars parked on the tree-lined road safer than they would otherwise be. The black members of the party may wish to leave early or stay the night. Being black in this place at night is not a crime, but it does lead to questions. Being black and drunk leads to long and complicated questions.

The children running around the yard attend private schools or carefully chosen public schools. The lucky ones have full medical aid. The unlucky live in fear of dread disease, even if they do not know it yet.

Most of their parents do not budget too carefully – to spend only what one can afford would lead to a life of misery, a life without the right sort of friends and the best kinds of intoxicants.

Sniff the wind and you will smell the fear. At least one person here has been the victim of a violent crime. A few have had a car stolen. Almost all have broken the law is some significant way in the last month and thought nothing of it. All know that they can be taken from this life in an instant. Through crime, the loss of a job, illness or some other twist of fate, the blade of Damocles threatens to fall. The Precariat in this fair land stretches all the way from the bottom to almost the top.

Now some giggling idiot is jiggling the frayed cord.

South Africa is the land of fearful scofflaws. We have pretended to follow all the rules and it has meant nothing. We are sad cat. We are downhill dog. We have nothing left to fear but everything.

President Zuma is an odious man, of that there is no doubt. There are  good arguments why he should fall, but he is not the cause of our problems. He is not the apogee of our lawlessness, nor the nadir of our stupidity. He is nothing but a symbol of our cirrhosis, the exclamation point on the death sentence of our sanity. He too will pass and when he is gone nothing will have changed. His doom is not our panacea, his metaphorical blood will not make us whole. His abuse of power is no better or worse than the average South African would commit in his position, if that said Mr/Ms Average had the sheer balls to carry it off.

I have no doubt that Mr Zuma will fall before his allotted time. In the last few weeks he has upset the only people who matter. Those who are not precarious, those who attend his dinners and bankroll his party. You can be cavalier with the state, but do not fuck with the financiers. They will forgive almost anything, but you do not screw with predictability; you do not piss in the murky soup of the markets.

Serious men are sobering up and donning their tailored suits, men usually too busy dick-swinging and golfing against each other to pay attention will soon have a word with uncle Gwede and number 1 will be toast. Ashes to ashes, they will mutter at the cremation of his career. Then they will count out the coin to smooth their next transaction with government.


And for the majority of South African’s, from the shacks of Alexandria to the outskirts of Clifton, all will be as before. There will be a new boss, same as the old boss.

Bribes will still be payed by drunk drivers to venal cops, before the former wrap themselves around a tree or kill a kid. Unsympathetic nurses will watch babies die while helpless parents cry. We will all still be emasculated by indifferent disfunctionaries hiding behind forms and procedures; and ignored by the apparatchiks of all parties.

Everyone will bemoan everyone else’s lack of respect for the law. The upper classes will continue to pay the status taxes of excessive school fees, medical aid rates, security service subscriptions… and continue to call themselves the middle class.

Jacob Zuma must not fall, the whole system must to fall. We need a Samson that will irrevocably destroy the temple of our lassitude; a Jesus who will whip the money lenders from it’s porches. A Peter who will tell us the the supposedly unclean doctrines of socialism should be reconsidered.


Father of the groom.
I keep thinking “isn’t my father supposed to be sitting here?”

King James, the sixth of Scotland and first of England was the sponsor of the King James Bible that we all know.
He also formalized the rules for many ceremonies including the marriage.

According to this, the father of the groom should do three things:
Firstly. That he should make all the guests feel welcome. I blush to do this since it is really Anne-Marie and many others that have worked hard to create the welcome here. Let me instead thank them for the welcome.

The second requirement is that I should welcome the bride into the family. Karen, welcome to the crazy.

The last requirement is the easiest. The father should prove to the assembly that the groom is capable of blushing, this being requisite in a man of good moral standing.


I remember the day you were born, how you surprised everyone with including the nurses with the speed of you birth. In fact, the only person you did not surprise was the doctor. He wasn’t there yet.

And I will pause here to say, Karen Griffen  you were, and have since been, a good and courageous mother.

I also remember you surprising me again quite recently with a phone call. Not only were you getting married, but you had joined the church. As they say in the classics, you could have knocked me down with a feather.

Luckier men than you, Justin, have fathers who can offer words of wisdom at times like this. I had, indeed, scribbled some down a month or more ago about the challenges of marriage and my unique theory of love, but after visiting Karen’s flat I realized that they were unnecessary.

So I will instead only say that if you both approach your life together as you do that flat, you will both be blessed.

You have discovered a solid structure that is going to require a bit of work.

A lot of work, really.

Work that will require thought, effort and skill. Work that will will not always be easy, but will usually be rewarding. Most of all, work that will make your lives, and the world, more pleasant and more meaningful.

Karen, Justin, I wish you both God speed in the work ahead. In the words of the old Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your backs.
May the sun shine warm upon your faces;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.


I want to write a love song

Why would a nice guy like you want to kill a genius? Why? Because they told you he was crazy? The Colonel is not crazy. The man is clear in his mind, but his soul is mad.

– Apocalypse Now


I want to write. Write until my fingers bleed. Bleed until my blood encircles the earth and fertilizes it’s soil. I want to pump out the only stuff of any import. I want to write the words.

I fight to maintain the first person. To stop the mind slipping away into the comfort of the third. To avoid the relapse into the trite contortions of ephemera.

The pain and anguish.

This is the stuff of my life. That much is left undone. That so many pages are left unwritten. That the darkness stalks me. That the embrace of lovers and friends is so often averted. That I have avoided complication. That there is not time for the thousand visions and re-visions. That my monster is not pain or principle but simply the mundane.

Death, where is you sting?

“It is in footsteps you hear behind you. It is in the fear of the average. It is in the money you do not have and in the places you will not see. It is in Bali and Borneo. It is in the eyes of the stranger you did not meet. It is in the bills unpaid and the promises broken. It is in the ever present pain in your left arm. It is in the mark of your beast.”

Second person. Again I escape the inevitable hell. Again I do not dare approach with direct eyes the moment.

Our angels. Our saints. Those gracious souls who have tended our wounded selves. What have they given us that will not be extinguished at the moment of our dying? Why have we given them the right to bind us up in chains? They have shackled us to the alter of ideal. They have killed our souls to save our rotting corpses. We have offered to them our fear and they have consumed us. They have no right but that which we conferred. We have signed away ourselves. We have committed the unpardonable sin of love everlasting.

These things cannot be said by me, even in this passive voice.

Our demons. How we love and hold them to us. The hounds that tear us, the beasts that ravish us. The famished animus lurking in the corner of the cave, awaiting our estrangement. Constant companions, they will someday be our canine companions. They know us and we know them for what they are, if only we would acknowledge them. The hound of hell a lapdog, awaiting a scratch between the ears. The beast of our burdens a pliant ass, ready to carry the weight of unrequited yearning.

“Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs…” of yore.

Who do we pray to? We who have no gods? Where do we go who have no souls? In the quiet of this darkness, where do we turn for our salvation?

I have been provoked to words. 1:13am intones the time. I am entangled in an ordinary life that requires attention later this morning.

Let these words stand as written. Let me no nearer.

Suffer, the little children


I am tired of deformed babies and dead dogs polluting my timeline.

There is nothing worse than having my daily amble through the private lives of friends, acquaintances and complete strangers disrupted by a horrific amateur photograph with guilt text in a godawful font suggesting that I should ‘like in 3 seconds’ or ‘reply amen’ if I am a decent human being.

Since I don’t have any pretensions to decency this guileless attempt is futile. It is going to take a lot more than human cruelty to prevent me shoveling the next forkful into my face.

But even if I was a gentle soul, what is the point? If mother Theresa’s ghost suddenly possessed me and ruined my life, what kind of meaningful action could these images make me take?  There is no context. Who is that child? Where are they from and in what decade were they born? What is the cause of that dog’s injuries and is there anything that can be done about it? I could like or share the damn thing and ruin my friends’ days by pushing it to their timelines. I could comment with my true feelings on the matter and let the world burn. I could, and do, just grit my teeth ignore it.

Maybe I could write a polite message to the original poster and ask for details so I can do something useful. Just kidding. If you want to get covered in a sewer of crazy, ask a stranger on the internet a rational question. If you want to spend the rest of your week blocking trolls, ask that question in public.

What is the motivation of the poster? What journey did that picture take to get to me through various likes and shares? At best the poster is a traumatized individual expressing a deep hurt, at worst a narcissist so far gone they will use the picture of an anonymous being in pain to get 10 000 likes. In doing so, they are hardening some souls and re-traumatizing others. They are eroding the cache of empathy. The violating the privacy of the child and the sensibilities of other children. They are, in short, being destructive.

Next time you think of typing “Yes we scam” or whatever on one of these images, think about your friends. Your real friends that happen to be friends on Facebook too. Consider how making them see this image will improve their lives, the life of the image’s subject or your own.


Note: I realize that the SPCA and others use similar tactics in their marketing. These comments are not about them. I am not going to stand in the way of anyone looking to raise a couple of $$.