State Capture

under-table-dealThis is a form of corruption whereby people in office unfairly enable favourable access to state resources for their benefactors and abandon their duty to protect the state’s interests.

I follow the news of the sub-continent of my birth and read with interest the reports on “state capture” in South Africa. This is supposedly secret corruption which lonobodys-puppetots the government revenue intended for all citizens, inflates project costs and denies fair competition.

Government ministries, processes and security services have been corrupted by the appointment of corrupt and pliant associates, apparently at the direction of a wealthy  family that has spread its tentacles wherever government money is to be had.

In Australia, the curse of the resources boom blunted governments’ abilities to ensure institutions sufficiently robust to withstand the end of the boom.

The Labor party, dazzled by the riches of the boom and driven by Unions, embedded industrial relations structures that cemented employment costs at unsustainable levels. This has stifled enterprise and competitiveness, crippled essential services and generally hamstrung the political ability to change. Looks like state capture to me.reforms-and-corruption

The recent squirms of the  Labor Party Transport Minister while being skewered over the recent train driver debacle in Queensland are interesting. Not surprisingly the whole issue had been engineered by union demands leading to a shortage of drivers. The union went on to talk about stop work meetings over the new arrangements …Talk about wielding the whip hand.

Then there is the ongoing kerfuffle with the construction union and its bunch of standover artists, holding up project schedules and threatening managers, which started over two years ago; surprisingly unresolved by the Labor government.

who-in-chargeOne wonders who is pulling the strings and for what purpose? Are the unions aware of the groundswell of opinion swaying to the right? Is the government allowing these infrastructure breakdowns to stimulate electorate outrage and thus justify smothering the unions?

The plot sickens.

When will the pain to the electorate drive government to break the power of the unions to enable economic and social reform to re-open pathways to growth and stability? Something has to happen.

The neo-liberalism of the 1970’s was essentially a swing to the right by western democracies to roll back the structures that socialism was building into society and the economy. Australia missed that bus, which was hidden by the rich dust of the resources boom.

We are now seeing another swing to the right, this time emanating from the electorate, who seem to be rejecting the status quo and the increasing faceless and ineffectual bureaucracies which are resulting in the abandonment of the middle and lower sections of society. Maybe Australia can catch this bus?

It strikes me that what government is all about is control of governcareer-corruptionment revenue, expenditure and the benefits to be derived from the awarding government contracts, (read “backhanders”).

Reading about the patronage in the American Presidential election, makes me wonder if the South African politicians are just clumsy.

It certainly puts a new perspective on the need for changes.

nice-day-for-rev

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The love of Christmas

angel-goldI could see the high treble voice soar up to the vaulted cathedral roof, so agonisingly sweet the tears stung my eyes and I looked around for my brother or my Dad, knowing their voices would have caught in their throats too…

In the bleak mid-winter, frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…

Of course, they are not here, one in Heaven and the other in the Swaziland bushveld, (which is near there). But they sent a butterfly angel which floated by as if listening…

Hark the herald angels sing…

More angelic trebles. I think I will be alright; so long as someone doesn’t sing Danny Boy – fortunately, it’s not quite the season. That maudlin, sentimental ditty catches me every time: such a simple declaration of love.

Just to top it off, here is a recording of Away in a manger, which really seized me up and dampened my cheeks. Somehow this child’s prayer has always signified much of God’s love to me.

Away in a manger
No crib for His bed
The little Lord Jesus
Laid down His sweet head

The stars in the bright sky
Looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus
Asleep on the hay

The cattle are lowingaway-in-a-manger
The Baby awakes
A little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

I love Thee, Lord Jesus
Look down from the sky
And stay by my side,
‘Til morning is nigh.

Be near me, Lord Jesus,
I ask Thee to stay
Close by me forever
And love me I pray

Bless all the dear children
In Thy tender care
And take us to heaven
To live with Thee there

Then there was the saintly King Wenceslas and his devoted page:

page-afterSire, the night is darker now, and the wind blows stronger,

Fails my heart I know not how, I can go no longer…

Mark my footsteps good my page, treads’t thou in them boldly

Thee shall find the winter’s rage freeze thy blood less coldly

There’s a message there.

 

May you all be blessed by the love of loved ones and happy memories of Christmastime.

Christmas of my childhood

“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime.” 
Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

My earliest memories were from colonial days in the 1950’s, when we lived in Swaziland. There were certain rituals and traditions some of which have lived on through the generations.

xmas-treeThe first was the hunt for a Christmas tree. I seem to recall that there was some subterfuge required as pine and cypress trees in and about the town were council property. Daddy could not participate as he was a high panjandrum in the government, so it was up to Mum.

Suitable trees would be identified during the year. As it got dark, Mum would drive to the spot (usually next to Mbabane Oval) and the tree was quickly felled with an axe and the tree stowed in the boot and we would hasten home trailing pine needles. Dad would splutter but faced with a fait accompli he was powerless.tree-decorating

Decorations came out of a box: beautifully coloured delicate globes and silver and gold tinsel, with the Star placed on top by Daddy, which made him an accomplice. Presents were piled around the foot of tree – cause of much speculation and dreaming. Quite a few presents as there were six of us and Gogo (as Granny Vialls was called), Bessie (the dog) the servants: Samuel, Lamzima, Jane and Tsabetse, our convict gardener.

We also made streamers by cutting and plaiting strips of red and green crepe paper.

nativityCarols by candlelight were held at the amphitheatre. Daddy who loved to sing,  would sing protracted Noweeeeeeeels, much to the amazement of all in general and our acute embarrassment! There were a little crib and a live donkey: I always loved Away in a Manger thereafter.

The Christmas box was a local tradition where little gifts were given to deliverymekids-treen and service people like rubbish collectors. We carried wrapped sweets in the car to throw out to the Swazi children who would run along the side of the road calling out ma-sweeet, ma- sweeti!

Oxmas-sockn Christmas Eve we would be given orange bags as stockings to hang on the end of our beds for Father Christmas presents. We retired very early and awoke at about four a.m. to start investigating … soon rustle, rustle would turn to yips of glee and look what I’ve got’s.

The best gifts for my brother and I were a space-age machine gun which emitted a ferocious rattle and flashed sparks. No-one slept after four am that Xmas.

Gogo would make mebos (tart apricot preserve) which was a great temptation. As we would be going to communion we were not allowed to eat until after mass. The mebos suffered at the hands of early morning sinners…

Father Botta knew better than to delay his parishioners by a long sermon and we invariably passed the Anglicans as they came out of church. Dad would say: beat the Prods again! (Not very good behaviour for a papal knight!)

After breakfast, there would be tidying up and the grown ups would sip port and nibble mince pies, while we hovered around the Christmas tree where the family presents were piled.xmas-kids-and-dog

Eventually, Daddy relented and Tim and I being the youngest had to deliver presents after he had read the label.

Then tidying up again, laying the table, trying to sneak charms out the crackers and stealing nuts and mebos

Wxmas-faree still managed to eat turkey with cranberry sauce and roast potatoes, wearing silly hats and reading silly jokes… then came the pudding, bathed in blue flame with glints of silver treasure. In the pudding, Mum had inserted sixpences and tickeys (threepence) which was big money – our pocket money was tickey a week.

Then a toast to “Absent Friends” and Daddy would choke up and Mummy would finish for him.family-cricket

We’d clear the table and set up the kitchen table for the servants’ dinner; somewhat hurriedly as there was lawn cricket outside. We managed a few overs before Daddy nodded off behind the wickets.

 

We do it a bit differently in Australia these days and have Christmas braai (barbeque) on Christmas Eve, as it can get quite hot here in the day. But we still have port and mince pies and always remember “Absent Friends” which becomes harder as we grow older and the list grows longer…

One of our children has gone off meat so next year we will have vegetarian options:

  • Borshch (beet soup).
  • Vegeducken – layers of pumpkin, capsicum, zucchini and asparagus are filled with a crispy hazelnut stuffing and baked to perfection.
  • Vushka (small dumplings with mushroom).
  • Varenyky (dumplings with cabbage and potatoes).
  • Holubtsi (stuffed cabbage roll)
  • Kutia (sweet grain pudding).

merry-christmas-austrli

felinavidad

A Stairway to Heaven

stairway.jpgYesterday I re-posted a blog which ended in a quote from the Dalai Lama:  “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they got lost.”

That raised thoughts about the pursuit of happiness and whether such a seemingly hedonistic, self-indulgent goal is virtuous and whether it is compatible with a ‘good life’ in the religious sense.daily-choice

Aristotle enshrines happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. His conclusion is that happiness depends on the cultivation of virtue

You have got to choose to be good to be happy and good is not that easy, sometimes.

bee happy.jpeg

 

 

 

  • Happiness is the ultimate end and purpose of human existence
  • Happiness is not pleasure, nor is it virtue. It is the exercise of virtue.
  • Happiness cannot be achieved until the end of one’s life. Hence it is a goal and not a temporary state.
  • Happiness is the perfection of human nature. Since man is a rational animal, human happiness depends on the exercise of his reason.
  • Happiness depends on acquiring a moral character, where one displays the virtues of courage, generosity, justice, friendship, and citizenship in one’s life. These virtues involve striking a balance or “mean” between an excess and a deficiency.
  • Happiness requires intellectual contemplation, for this is the ultimate realization of our rational capacities.

In keeping with the Stephen Covey model, 7 habits of happy people are identified:

  • Express your heart – People who have one or more close friendships are happier.
  • Cultivate kindness – Reach out
  • Keep moving and eat well – “sound body, sound mind” 
  • Find your flow – do what you’re doing  because you like what you’re doing
  • Discover Meaning – a close link exists between spiritual and religious practice and happiness
  • Discover and use your strengths – the happiest people are those that have discovered their unique strengths  and virtues and use those strengths and virtues for a purpose that is greater than their own personal goalspiglets-heart
  • Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope – gratitude is one of the greatest virtues. It defeats pride which is the sneakiest of vices.

Most of the above comes from http://www.pursuit-of-happiness.org

do-i-make-you-happyThis website has wonderful and good stuff on positive psychology and the pursuit of happiness. Check it out and start looking for your own stairways, y’all.

 

 

 

 

Post Truth, et cetera…


deeducate

I thought it was about time for me to have a rant again. Enough of these pretty birds and gorgeous sunsets schmaltz … although I must say people seem to enjoy that type of stuff more than they do my rants. Does that signify anything? Not really … read on

It’s official: there is such a thing as post-truth – cheword-of-the-yearck it out, it’s in the dictionary, nogal!

This is the post-truth era! Suddenly dishonesty and inaccuracy are fashionable and accepted!  American author Ralph Keyes says: Dishonesty inspires more euphemisms than copulation or defecation. Well, that’s putting it roughly, but it pretty much sums up the state of articulation that is accepted by the all-consuming public.

post-truth

Kathleen Higgins writes in Scientific AmericanWhen political leaders make no effort to ensure that their ‘facts’ will bear scrutiny, we can only conclude that they take an arrogant view of the public. They take their right to lie as given, perhaps particularly when the lies are transpareart-of-the-lient. Many among the electorate seem not to register the contempt involved, perhaps because they would like to think that their favoured candidate is at conspiracyleast well-intentioned and would not deliberately mislead them…

Much of the public hears what it wants to hear because many people get their news exclusively from sources whose bias they agree with.

 

Stand up for truth: check the facts before you spread them; never believe politicians ever, and reject crap!

Post-truth is a disease which must be challenged before we lose reality and all honour.

truth

Media morality

time-for-lies

Slightly off the point but …what really got me going today is the lack of  ethics and creativity of television. I saw that “Married at First Sight” has become a series.

run-by-ethicsWhat morally bankrupt, banal, conscience-less executive producer agreed to that? How can these people justify the immoral drivel they feed into people’s heaaww-newsds .  Tempting people with TV exposure and cash to perform questionable, objectionable, offensive and immoral ceremonies is disgusting. Do you remember the film of the Depression-era dance marathon of the desperate for the amusement of spectators:“They shoot horses, don’t they?”  Why don’t they re-open the Colosseum in Rome and feed Christians to lions?

That’s post ethics, not just post-truth!

Is there no social responsibility or is it just ratings and ad dollars?reportedly

 

Media Creativity

The other morning there was a riveting item on a traffic jam in Melbourne. We are in Queensland – if there were no traffic jams here, why can’t we celebrate that fact, instead of scanning the country for newsworthy items like a traffic jam? No house fire, car driving into a house, lost hiker, corner store robbery – no worries, some other state is bound to have one…

Surely there are some creative journalists that can break out of the formulaic mould of car chase, brawl, house fire, criminal court case …?

Collecting mushrooms

Imushrooms-in-the-fieldn early summer, after the first rains, Mum used to take us out to look for mushrooms.
Us being my brother Tim and Bessie our bull terrier nanny. We used to go to the Mbabane Oval, which was a grass expanse in front of the Club. Sometimes we were  looking for the foot of the rainbow to find the pot of gold… but found mushrooms instead.

All mushrooms are not the same, she taught us. The best ones are the small white mushrooms with pink-brown gills. As they grow older, their bonnets open and the gills go dark brown. Mushrooms in sauce on toast … my mouth waters even now!

But, there is a dangerous mushroom that usually grows under trees, which looks similar but has white gills. Beware, that one is deadly poisonous. So are dubiousthe pink-spots-shroompink ones with white spots and the long tall ones and most of the little forest fungi.

In those days, mushrooms were mushrooms; we hadn’t heard of fancy ones like shiitake, fonterels, chanterelles and morels. I guess they would have seriously confused our clear identification of dangerous ones!

We were quite taken aback when our big brother, who was a tree enumerator (before he was a policeman), arrived back from the forests with a sackful of the ugliest toadstools one can imagine.Oesterreich Pilzgebuehr The Swazi name for them was makowe. With great trepidation we tried some, after we had seen him eat two plates full and not die. De-wonderfully-luscious!!

However, that really messed up our simple means of identifying edible fodder: some look like the common and garden button mushrooms but are dangerous, some look like  huge frog-kin but are delicious!
amethyst-deceiver

I suppose that is how we should treat people. Just because they are
different, doesn’t mean they are poisonous and some that look the same are very poisonous!

Find out before you trust a mushroom and beware of strange ones!

 

Am I special?

This guy writes a lot of stuff that I think. I don’t think we are specialthough… but sometimes maybe wannabe?

Ends and Beginnings

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.”― Henry David Thoreau

I would consider myself a disciple of HDT (sorry to all you JC followers). I have spent my entire life wondering if I am special or ifI am living my life in “quiet desperation” as Henry David described.Honestly, I think the later.

I will make the natural assumption that to a handful of people I am “special”, tomy wife (most days), my children (all days), my…

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