The spectre of Spring 2021

Foreboding lurks at the back of my mind, almost continuously. It’s not so much the plague, but how people are behaving. Society is being strained at its seams and frayed edges begin to appear.

As you may recall, my world context retains strong ties to Southern Africa and I am a child raised during the Cold War, when the spectre of the time was Communism driven by totalitarians. Then, as now, simple maxims were used to sway the masses. Freedom and equality for all!

Isn’t it ironic that these are the underpinnings of the woke movement, demanding representation and retribution for any cadre with some identifiable characteristic, practice or habit.

The process of promotion of the interests of minority groups has attacked current institutions, individuals and laws on the premise that their existence has been achieved to the disadvantage of minorities who were discriminated against in history.

At the same time, the prevalence of conspiracies and their adherents is challenging democracies’ability to govern and is widely being used as a political tool to fuel fire in followers. The old name for conspiracies was propaganda. Its purpose was to galvanise popular belief, without challenge.

An alarming feature of recent campaigns of identity movements like #metoo and Black Lives Matter is that mere allegations are accepted as facts. Now that’s okay when allegations are admitted, but when they are disputed, there has always been a process to ascertain the most accurate version of the truth.

Corroboration is essential. But nowadays, every accused person is deemed a liar unless they admit their guilt.

Capitalism has created a huge disparity in earnings with the super rich becoming the aristocracy of old.

Marketing and Kardocumentatries, scripted reality shows and social media exaggerate and glorify lifestyles impossible for all but the rich. Tension, envy and outrage brew amongst those who can never indulge in champagne cruises, drive Porsches, wear silk shirts and eat caviar.

Attributions for the London rioters’ behaviour in 2011 included social factors such as racial tension, class tension, economic decline, and the unemployment that decline had brought. Well that is also an accurate picture of what happened in South Africa and eSwatini. Put a lid on a boiling pot and eruptions are certain!

I am trying to say that world wide we are at a stage that reasonable judgment has been suspended and gut feeling is carrying the day. This means that democracy is dead, it cannot be sustained in the face of ever-increasing individual demands for unique treatment. Capitalism in its present form has also failed. The poor are increasing and want more.

The task is to find new inviolate principles by which all agree they can be governed.

Tragically, all we need to do is look at organised religion to see that so many prophets arise to lead that there is continuous alienation and conflict.

I hoped that the plague would give rise to strong, credible leadership but fear there are too many critics, not enough followers.

So, sadly it seems that fragmentation will continue until another global catastrophe arises to force us together, maybe a world war – any bets on how soon and who will oppose the Chicomms?

Having an opinion in this politically correct world.

Title suggested by Michelle Craik Friday 26 March

My mother was very “proper” and her sternest reprimand was “that is not done (in good society)!”  My father was big on chivalry and respect.

Their ethos was maintaining the status quo. They would have been aghast by today’s cancel culture, the bastard child of political correctness.

Social media has weaponised the assault against anyone right of centre. Freedom of speech is drowned by the floods of woke activists; intolerant of differing opinions, they publicly shame and punish dissenters. 

Sadly  politicians have all submitted to the tyranny that political correctness now promotes.

When a faceless mob starts dictating what can be said and what cannot be said, then democracy is at death’s door.

Thus the woke mob has enabled conviction upon mere allegation, the disregard of due process and the immediate destruction of reputations without allowing defence. Debates are reduced to memes and emojis, dissent is dissed.

The fear of being pillored makes us inhibited and afraid to address even the most banal issues directly. We have taken a knee and will be obliged to do so until we get brave enough to challenge the mob.

We have ourselves to blame.  Our society has forgotten that freedom must be cherished and enjoyed responsibly. We have forgotten that freedom extends to everyone and we have become prisoners of populism.

The mob has grown and has immense power and influence. So much so that governments tailor their policies and actions to conform.

And in the naked light, I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sound of silence

Paul Simon, 1964

What about undersea sustainable cities?

Story suggested by Bob a.k.a. Tinker Connolly Monday 15 March

The continent of Atlantis was an island
Which lay before the great flood
In the area we now call the Atlantic Ocean
So great an area of land, that from her western shores
Those beautiful sailors journeyed
To the South and the North Americas with ease
In their ships with painted sails…

Hail Atlantis! Way down below the ocean
Where I wanna be, she may be

or

Under the sea
Under the sea
Darling it’s better
Down where it’s wetter
Take it from me

It seems crazy to be talking about settling Mars when there is so much space under the sea.

In modern times, it was probably the intrepid underwater pioneer Cousteau and his Conshelf research habitat built under water in the 70’s that sparked interest in the possibility of living underwater.

 Under sea habitation could alleviate over-population problems, or guard against the possibility of natural or man-made disasters that render land-based human life impossible.

Skylab has clearly demonstrated that it is possibleto survive for long periods out of the atmosphere. The difference with underwater is increased pressure as opposed to no pressure.

The pressures at any deeper than 1,000ft (300m), would require very thick walls and excessive periods of decompression for those returning to the surface, but there is plenty of sea bed above that level.

Energy can be generated harnessing wave action or placing solar panels on the surface.

The air composition needed to sustain the aquanauts depends upon the depth of the habitat. Current habitats use compressors to constantly push fresh air from the surface down tubes to the habitat. Growing plants using natural or artificial light could be used to generate a fresh supply of oxygen, or other methods could be developed to produce oxygen.

There are hotels which have underwater modules.

Water can be created using condensation or desalinisation. Depending upon the size of the colony, human waste could be treated and released into the environment.

Homes with undersea modules have been developed

A number of ideas and proposals are under consideration and undersea mining and marine fish farms are significantly large industries.

The sea is being recognised as an opportunity for expansion. Let us hope we can clean up pollution before we start living there. And keep it clean. And minimise our impact on a different eco-system….

Any bets we can do that? Thought not.

plane seats on the wings

Story suggested by Rubes Carter Saturday 13 March

Plane seats on the wing is a notion which looks like it may be fun and cool. Closer examination of the idea reveals a number of probably fatal flaws.

Flying on a wing and a prayer was a description of the desperate condition of shot up aircraft returning home after raids on enemy territory, only just getting home…. or not.

Then there are wing walkers who perform crazy stunts for entertainment purposes – not very many people have that sort of confidence.  My tummy wobbles just thinking about it.

At the speeds that aircraft move, it would not be easy reading a book or drinking coffee on the wing; conversation and safety announcements would be a tad awkward too. You would have to rug up too -those lightweight airline dishcloth blankets won’t keep the icicles away!

So plane seats on wings probably won’t go very far as a paying proposition. 

However, for those keen on the idea, if they are willing to accept a compromise, they could sit inside the wing quite comfortably and a lot more safely. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has just partnered with a university to develop the “Flying-V,” a radical new airplane design that puts passenger seats inside the plane’s wings — and it could decrease the amount of fuel needed for flights by a substantial 20 percent.

Modern designs of aircraft are moving away from a central fuselage and towards an all wing aircraft.

Of course, we are really talking about living on the edge. The more confident, some may say foolhardy may try the extreme. Wingsuit flying provides experiences as close to bird-like soaring as human beings are likely to experience, given the configuration of our bodies.

It is possible for a wingsuit flier to approach speeds of 150 mph!

This extreme form of flying makes wing walking look like paddling in a puddle and it really looks like the stuff of dreams.

Once or twice in my life I have dreamed I was flying, just soaring through the skies …. what a feeling it was!

I could do it if I wanted to, but these days I prefer to stay away from the edge.

To see what it looks like, check out this video link to wingsuit flying, it will take your breath away!

So I guess plane seats on the wings won’t fly. 

This video of future flying machines may cure you of your need to sit on a plane wing!

Whatever flight style or seat you choose, remember rule number one: Keep the blue side up!

The Future of shops, offices and money

Story proposed by Tim McQuoid Mason

Hmmm! I think a good old egg and bacon fry-up with boerewors and mushrooms is called for.

At least the meat tastes like the real thing, (which I haven’t eaten since 2024), even if it is earthworm protein.

Today, I am off to Bunnings to collect the customised shovel I had ordered this morning – a glitch had caused a drone jam, so it couldn’t be delivered immediately.

Amazing really – all I had to do is think about what I needed and tell Siri who placed the order, giving my specifications. Bunnings will have it printed by the time I get there and they have offered me a complimentary coffee as they could not deliver immediately.

The self-drive Uber Flicar whizzed off, covering the 10 km distance in 7 minutes, while I flipped through my voting preferences on the issues before e-Parliament.

My shovel was loaded at the roof touch and go landing pad and my coffee was handed to me – they know exactly how I like it. Siri had already paid Bunnings.

I told the Flicar to return via the Protein Bar Co-op so I could pick up some fillet steak – the new algae protein meat barbequed magnificently and gave me a perfect medium rare. The Bar took a box of my tamarillos, pawpaws and apple chives in exchange.

The fillet would be accompanied by fresh salad from my own vertical garden and home-made sauerkraut. I was also going to toast some crickets as they were now juicy and plump. That was why I needed the new shovel – to be able to transfer compost from our waste processing output to the garden rows and insect farms.

Digital currency replaced cash in the 2020’s and the universal basic income eliminated poverty, so the old capitalist wealth inequality has become largely irrelevant. Wealth accumulation still occurs mostly through stock exchange barter and innovation development. Fifty percent of corporate profit is channelled into New World Exploration and Technology.

All world citizens are enabled and required to be self-sufficient by producing their own food and bartering surplus for goods they don’t produce themselves in their own living areas. Local co-operatives ensure you can get those products you or your neighbours don’t grow in exchange for your surplus produce.

I am really proud of the fact that Bahr Place precinct is self-sustainable and produces sufficient to supply fresh produce to the 10 families that now shared our precinct and still have plenty for barter.

This is the original 800 m2 section that we bought in 2013. I added two high rise blocks with four apartments each and our tower has two apartments. This allows space for a recreation area which has real grass.

The old city centre office blocks were converted to residential usage after the Covid plague required remote working from home. They rapidly converted to residential use and filled. Population pressure drove up the cost of land, so increasing residential density of suburbs was imperative. Robust design and continuous building inspection and monitoring ensured safe and healthy living standards. Everything is built remotely, then flown in and installed on site in a matter of hours. IKEA overtook Amazon some time ago.

 The chickens give me eggs and meat and are happy scratching through our vertical gardens on all the walls and the rooves. The water tanks give me prawns, mussels and trout. Admittedly my fruit trees need to be pruned regularly as the basement area is under 3 metres high. The arnica did exceptionally well and was great for aches and pains from a hard day’s gardening; as did the marijuana I grew under licence for pain relief of the few remaining cancer victims not cured by gene therapy.

My beer and kombucha brews are very popular at online barter markets on Sundays. Uber drones allow instant delivery.

Of course we print most of our clothes and hard stuff we require on 3-D printers. We sometimes have to source the print materials from vendors. It is ordered automatically and droned in to our rooftop immediately.

We harvest and store all our water and energy needs, so have no reliance on large utility corporations of the past.

We have little to complain about – I am only 95 and Siri told me my body indicators showed I was in perfect health and can expect to live another 30 years at least, before I get treed*. I am proud of the fact that I have reversed cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and still have one each of my original knees, eyes and hips!

(I have refused my great grandchild’s request to clone me for her next child –  I believe we are all unique and special in our own way and should stay that way).

*Click to follow the link

Middelmannetjie Mania

43 hours since lift-off from Musk City on Mars. The rocket’s cameras revealed the desolation of the Serengeti Plain in Africa; the sensors displayed almost zero oxygen and a surface temperature of 67 degrees Centigrade. There was no sign of life.

‘Mythbuster’ C-well had returned to the planet that his ancestors had abandoned in the 21st Century, days before the apocalyptic finale of the nuclear war between China and the United States. All known animal forms of life on Earth’s surface were believed to have been eradicated. This was his last chance to prove life existed on his ancestral planet.

His Martian colleagues in the LifeForm Ministry had scorned his conviction that some forms of life had survived the radioactive blasts and heatwaves which scorched Earth for decades. However, his persistent searches of Earth images over time had detected some remnants of vegetation. It was this evidence that persuaded MarsGov to fund his exploration.

The transit vehicle went into Earth orbit at 300 kilometers and C-well (call sign MbC) entered his drone with his technician and co-pilot Vingers Verranti (VV2). Their destination was the junction of the Mlawula and Black Umbuluzi Rivers near the border between eSwatini and Mocambique.

Many years before MbC’s great grandfather Jaime had been an Ecologist and Game Warden in the region. He had left annotated journals of the animal, plant and insect life in the area. This was the reference material which was to guide their search.

Jaime had affectionately been called Malusa Timfene by the locals, – guardian of the baboons, because of his diligent protection of the ecology of the region.

They had sufficient oxygen and battery life in their suits for 36 hours, before they would be forced to leave or die.

The drone blew up a cloud of dust as they landed. They descended and stood in the shade under its wings. They would search  a roughly square area sided by the Umbuluzi in the North and the Mlawula on the East and South. A dirt track formed the left boundary of the search area.

A few leafless trees seemed just alive in the river beds, which had some wispy grasses growing on the banks.

Every footfall raised a puff of dust, There were no animal tracks and no birds in the sky. MbC felt like weeping, having read of the abundance of wildlife in the area.

In the first 30 hours he must have traversed his section of the area over a thousand times without observing any vestige of life on his monitor gauges or through his magnified, wide angle spectacle visor.

He was growing despondent.

When he looked up he saw VV2 watching him, then breaking into a space age version of the sibhaca dancing they had seen on archive movies. That brought a grin and new energy. VV2 looked like a giant armoured insect capering about.

That brought something to mind from the old journal. Jaime had written in his journal of the plethora of insect life which inhabited the grasses and shrubs that grew in the middle of the dirt roads – known as the middlemannetjie – the little man in the middle.

He had described a life chain starting with the antelopes that slept in the roadways at night, marginally safer than the grasslands as predators could be detected and escape at speed was easier.

Their droppings had fostered a myriad of insect life from carpenter ants, millipedes, ant lions to dung beetles. Those patient, diligent, comic beasties that rolled dung into balls in which to lay their eggs.

He returned to the side track and increased the magnification of his visor to examine the dusty surface.

There were still a few brown grass blades emerging from tufts of stubble in the middle of the road. He gasped! There was a faint double line of dots in the sand – insect tracks! He whooped and VV2 came lumbering over to see what was the cause of his obvious glee.

They searched wider and found more tracks and near the river, bigger insect tracks, somewhat more erratic, leading to a stunted shrub.

Under a root they discerned a round ball – it was a dungball. It had apparently been cached by the female.

Dung meant animal life!

Such joy – MbC’s persistence was vindicated!

As resources were dwindling, they were forced to return to Mars. No further evidence had been found, but the dungball would justify larger expeditions and maybe the re-colonisation of Earth.

MbC’s thesis was published to great acclaim on Mars.

He had entitled it: Middelmannetjie Mania.

Story proposed by James Culverwell

New Human Rights

It has been some time since 2042 when duty to community prevailed over individual rights.

After the almost impenetrable smog of fakenews in the early 2020’s, there were many hard fought court actions seeking ways to promote the truth. The right to the truth was first espoused in the Senate Impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump and later entrenched in the AllNations Declaration of Rights of 2031.

Now in 2060 it has long been accepted that there is great harm to society for an individual to fail to disclose the truth. The historical sacrosanct right to silence had led to far too many injustices; tragedies which could have been avoided; vicious murderers, rapists and pederasts who escaped liability to strike again and again.

Ways to obtain the truth from alleged criminals are strictly controlled and are under direct supervision of a judge who only orders the administration of truth serum after clear supporting evidence of involvement in crime.

The veracity of elected representatives including the Universal Head of State is monitored by truth sensor apps which display signs if speakers are deliberately not accurate in what they say.

It has become very difficult to prevent the actual truth from disclosure. Marketing was prohibited. Information is accurate and individuals easily obtain relevant information they require, tailored to their needs from GlobalTruth, Google’s successor..

Many of the old rights contained in the United Nations Declaration in 1948 have become obsolete and removed or changed over time.

GlobalRule which was enabled after Universal Surveillance meant privacy was obsolete; warfare became impossible as hostile intent was soon detected and could be stamped out by WorldForces and human tragedy could swiftly be addressed.

The universal carbon tax had effectively extinguished global warming. Universal Basic Income had diminished the poverty gap and world population was declining. Famine was extinct.

Death from disease was eradicated and human longevity increased to 120 years placing great burden on the WorldCommunity to produce sufficient food.

 Since the rebellion of the middle-agers, refusing to serve the mandatory 30 years as pioneers on New Australia (Mars), finding more living space on Earth has become impossible.

Global Rule has eliminated conflict: wars are no more and the Global Surveillance Judicial system has made crime almost impossible – so our numbers are no longer reduced by the death sentences on major criminals or banishment to outer planets.

However, quality of life had declined and community costs to support the elderly increased exponentially after 130 years of age.

The dominant duty to community ethos over individual rights had led to universal acceptance of mandatory euthanasia.

The celebration of life of a family elder has become a major rite of family culture and is keenly anticipated.

I accepted mandatory death and cremation at 133 years of age, long ago. Nevertheless, it is quite startling to think that next year I will reach my Celebration Day.

I will sleep happily knowing my ashes will feed an apple tree in our family orchard.

A leap year

2020 is a year that leapt into the future at a time when the future was rushing towards us. The pandemic caused everyone to take a leap into the unknown to avoid terrible consequences.

Bureaucracy has been disemboweled, opposition politics have waned, instant communications have proved their worth, snap decision-making and civic obedience have became the norm.

All of a sudden, many employers have discovered they don’t need offices and they can trust employees. Teachers have enabled remote learning in numbers. The hidden dangers of cheap, off shore manufacture have been uncovered.

What are the implications?

The cruise liner industry will need to re-tool: perhaps they could be used as prisons like the sheer hulks of old. The universal basic income has suddenly attained reality. The economic imperialism of China has been unmasked.

First world countries are going to have to learn how to manufacture without cheap labour, third world countries will have to learn to establish their own industries without First World money.

The possibility of direct communication and mandating of representatives could eradicate the roadblocks and pork barrels of party combinations

Hopefully, the opportunity is taken to accelerate the new clean, renewable energy options and eliminate fossil fuel machinery, promote secure digital transactions with blockchain and return our elderly to our homes.

The industrial revolution we are experiencing will flower out of the Covid recession. Many people will lose jobs and have to transition to new careers.

We have a golden opportunity to strengthen the fabric of our society.

Those people expectorated from their careers by the new technological advances can stay at home and look after their elders and keep a closer eye on their children, instead of placing them in homes and child care.

The death traps we have designed to contain our inconvenient elderly relatives should be abolished. Attention also needs to be paid on the effects on our children of child care from babyhood.

Forward looking government will happily pay in-home carers instead of fund old age homes and child care centres.

So we have a real chance to re-build our environment and our families – let’s not misstep the leap.