Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crash, Boom, Bang!

The scariest thing that is happening at the moment on the planet is the amount of cash that Central Banks are pouring into the world's financial system. It's crazy. It's more "money" than what was released in the aftermath of 911.

Ostensibly this is because of the sub-prime mortgages that have been flogged as "financial instuments". The real deal is that over the last 15 years any number of financial products have been cooked up on the most spurious claims of risk and reward - see I'm not even mentioning derivates - and the chickens are coming home to roost.

I think we are just seeing the tip of the global financial meltdown. Hold on to your hats - things are going to get very messy from here on in.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Don't rock my boat

Ok so less than 2 months back on the continent and the major struggle of our time is already slapping me in the face; the 2nd Scramble for Africa is in full swing.

I have already mentioned the establishment of the "new" Afrika Korps, but that is just the tip of the ice-berg. Besides the yanks, the chinese are going mad in Africa too. Not just take-aways either, there is a major Chinese penetration going on right now.

So much so, that the Europeans, and the French in particular, are feeling particularly left out. Witness Sarkonazi swanning around in Senegal and his dubious wife sucking up to Gaddafi over the Bulgarian nurse/ Palestinian (who converted to Bulgarianism) Doctor thing. Who knows what happened there, but apparently 54 Libyan kids did die and there are some parents who still want some answers over that.

So what's the deal? Africa is no longer the "Dark" continent, it's the land of milk and honey and there is another mad scramble for Africa's resources just beginning. This time though, an X-factor lurks; people who know what is going on are none too happy about this and they are not keen on being raped and pillaged again. They are angry.

I am one of them.

Back now, ok?

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Back on the Job

Wow it's only been two weeks that I've been back in SA and boy have I been rushing round. I managed to squeeze in a trip to Cape Town before starting work, and Cape Town rocks!

The job is more than interesting, it's also a rich source of new material. As I mentioned I want to take the blog into a new direction, but still retain the elemental focus of how to win a revolution and lose the plot.

Less French, more global, from a South African perspective though. When I get some more time I'll be able to fill in the gaps, but in the meantime read up on one of SA's more notorious gangsters:

So who is Stander anyway
?

OK Now.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Mayibuye iAfrika

The title of this post means "Return to Africa".

It is something I have done, and it is something that you must do too.

I have done that. After 5 years of living in europe I have returned to Africa, my home.

For me it is about change - I've left France to it's own devices and have begun picking up the threads of my life in Africa.

Not that I ever left Africa, it is just that I have been away for while. It is good to be back though, because everyone here has been getting along just fine, and I have not been missed... ok, I have been been missed, but what I mean to say is that things are rockin' here and through no fault of my own.

I left my home for the love of someone else, but now I have returned, and through this I have learnt many things, most important of which is summed up in the bumper sticker; Eat, drink and remarry!

Ha! OK That's just a joke - although I did actually see that sticker once - nevertheless, there is a lot to be done, and this here blog will be adapting over the next few months to take into account some upcoming radical changes... stay tuned!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Vat jou goed en trek *


* "Take your things and go (Ferreira)"

I've got my ticket booked, I am outta here, this place is on a one-way ticket to hell. Finis en klaar.

I really don't feel welcome in France anymore. I could stay and fight; but it's not my battle. I could help the troops here, but my place is back home. The restistance, for me, will be far stronger amongst my own people, who already know how to fight. Europe is already lost, as far as I'm concerned.

Yes, I'm leaving France with a sour taste, but hey, I've got far more important work to do elslewhere and it is time for me to leave.

Aluta Continua!

Monday, May 07, 2007

A Riotous Welcome

Last night 270 people were arrested across France, protesting against incoming President Sarkozy. Additionally, 367 cars were burnt out.

You have to hand it to the French for relativism though, because according to the TV news reports, that is apparently how many cars get torched on an average New Year's Eve.

What?!? Some people just crack open the champagne, others set fire to cars to show their joy and festive mood in France? That, at least, is what the TV presenters would have you believe.

Where else in the world do you have violent demonstrations when a new Prez is elected?

Ok, well lots of countries I suppose, but it's been a long time since I've seen so many people unhappy with an election result - and this is probably only just a foretaste. The cops were on standby last night, and I heard sirens well into the night. They knew that this was going to happen and they were prepared for it.

I am wondering what the cops are preparing for the rest of the year; Sarkozy has promised a lengthy Parliamentary session this summer to push through a bunch of bills in support of his right-wing agenda. Canny timing it will be, because protest movements tend to die down in the summer months as France goes on holiday en masse.

If Darkozy can win a majority in the Parliamentary Elections in June, he will have a clear run through to mid-september to push through as much legislation as he can before the country wakes up to the fact that they have been sold out and shipped up shit creek without a paddle.

That's the big IF at the moment - and even though a parliamnetary majority would make things easier for Darth Vader, a Socialist Parliament may not even be up to the task of preventing the Dark Overlord's nefarious plans.

What we can be sure of though, the next 5 years will see alot more things getting burnt out than just cars.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Adieu à la France


Well its official now, Sarkozy has been elected el Presidente of the French Republic with an estimated 52.7% of the vote.

The subtitle of this blog, "How to win a revolution and lose the plot" holds true for France today. The French have elected their first truly right right-wing President since they got rid of the aristocracy over 200 years ago. Its a sad day for humanity as the light has just gone out in France.

Will we ever learn?

The French have shunned their own history in favour of savage neo-liberal capitalism, fascist authoritarianism and the racist xenophobia of a fortress police state. If I wanted to live in a country under those terms I would have gone to live in the UK.

France has thrown away an historic opportunity to forge a new vision for humanity and instead has chosen to follow in the path of Reagan, Thatcher, Aznar, Berlusconi and Bush.

The next 5 years will be hell in France.

I for one, have lived under fascist nutjobs before and I no longer feel welcome in France. I'm not going to be watching it go down the tubes.

I'm packing my bags and leaving.

Tags:

Friday, May 04, 2007

Digging in the City of Gold

As I’ve always said, “sometimes you just have to get away to know where you've been”, which made being back in Joburg only more interesting. The city is just more hectic than it has ever been.

The economy is booming; for instance there are 1000 new cars on the roads a day, making traffic even worse than ever before. Sadly lacking in decent public transport, Joburg’s main arteries are choked with a bad case of “car-lesterol”. It remains to be seen if the new high speed rail link, Gautrain, will be much of an antidote.

Another notable feature of the landscape is all the construction work that is going on; not only for the Gautrain, but new office blocks, housing developments and car dealerships are springing up like weeds after the rain. There is so much new construction going on that there is a shortage of cement.

Urban renewal is taking place in the centre of Jozi, with trendy loft apartments going for over a million Rand and pavement cafes have opened up in the city centre for the first time in years. I don’t think it will reverse the trend where Joburg has become a constellation of other mini-cities like Melrose Arch, Rosebank and Sandton, which is a symptom of the extent of the urban sprawl.

It is good that the centre of Joeys is going through a rebirth and it will hopefully become a friendlier place in the process. Unlike Sandton which, in all its post-modern architectural glorification of kitsch, still lacks any soul. It will always be a plastic interpretation of what urbanism means.

Overall though, there is a palpable sense of dynamism and energy in Joburg. Everyone I spoke to had a positive attitude, and there was a real sense of people getting on and doing things – a real breath of fresh air after having been in France for so long.

Battle Royale: Part Deux

On Sunday May 6th 2007, France will go to the Polls to elect a new President in the second round of voting. In all probability it will be the day that goes down in history as the last day of France as we know it.

Facing off are Nicolas Sarkozy, a brutish right-winger, versus Ségolène Royal an insipid pseudo left-winger. Sarko has been leading the Polls from the outset and much of the electoral campaign has been about as exciting as watching paint dry.

It is really with a growing sense of dread though, that it appears as though Sarko will take the cake on Sunday. The first round of voting on April 22nd saw Sarko take over 30% of the vote and it is highly unlikely that Sego is going to inspire enough warm feelings to mount a serious enough challenge to Sarko.

This is all truly scary. Our man Sarko is a truly nasty piece of work. Deceptively populist during the campaign period, France in all likelihood will wake up on Monday to a new regime governed by Nicolas Bonaparte, Emperor of all things French.

One of the dichotomies of French politics is that while everyone recognizes that French society needs a drastic overhaul, no one is willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Sarko is promising a raft of measures to bring about such an overhaul, and is pretty close to duping at least half the population into believing that he is the man for the job. It’s not that France doesn’t need to change; it’s that Sarko will bring about confrontation rather than cooperation.

That’s his political style and it’s unalterable.

While he has been spouting forth on many issues, with a turn of phrase that appears to win popular sentiment, I think many people are being deceived by a man who believes that one's destiny is determined by genetics at the age of four months, when they should be tested for delinquent traits. There is not enough blog space on the web to go into how bizarre and twisted many of his “ideas” really are.

In spite of what he says though, the lower and middle classes will end up paying not only more tax, but will be forced to cough up more for social, health and educational services. Sarko has no concrete plan to create jobs outside the service sector, and it is likely that wages will fall further behind inflation and that purchasing power will decrease as people chase after fewer low-wage jobs.

The thing that concerns me the most though, is that Sarko will actively seek out external confrontation to mask problems on the home front and rally people behind the flag.

Yes I do mean a la George Bush style, or perhaps even more to the point; Thatcher and the Falklands War.

Yes I do mean that the only real job creation under Sarko will be in the armed forces and gun factories. The only economic growth will be for the merchants of death and destruction. Like George or Maggie, he will pick on weaker enemies and spread the chaos around a bit. As Commander in Chief, this nutjob will also have his own personal nuclear trigger and that is truly frightening.

When people wake up though, and especially those who are duped into voting for Darth Vader, the predictable response will bring people out onto the streets and it is entirely possible that the French economy will actually contract during the wave of strikes and social unrest that is sure to follow the first Sarkozist moves towards neo-liberalization of the economic and political structure.

At the end of the day though, Sarko is a career politician whose sole ambition is seeking the top-dog job. He doesn’t give a damn about the French people or the real issues facing people in their everyday lives. If there is anyone he does care about, it’s his pals in the upper echelons of French society and the big corporate companies. Only the rich will benefit from Sarko, while the rest of France goes to hell in a hand basket.

Yeesh, talk about turkey’s voting for Christmas.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Gangster's Ghosts

Johannesburg, the over-grown mining camp it is, will always be a snake-pit. There's no two ways about it. Everyday I spend here is a struggle. I know Jozi like I know the back of my hand, and there is a part of me that loves it. And a part of me that hates it.

This is place where things happen, anything. And you have to be prepared for that. Life in the fastlane, lost in the mainframe.

Over the last week I've seen many ghosts, memory flashbacks mostly, but some real ghosts too. The ghosts are here for me to see plain as day. Most of them are benign, but the sharp edge of memory is real too.

Today I went back to where I used to live in Yeoville, at the top of the ridge, overlooking the city, thunderstorms sweeping the eastern skies, the sun bearing down on Hillbrow and the city centre illuminated by bright spotlights.

My struggle is that I know how life can be different; I know this place, it's hope and misery. At the end of the day though; there are only two kinds of people on the planet. Those who were born in Jozi, and those who weren't.

Acceptance. That'd be the keyword to it all. I don't think I can fight it much longer... I have to accept Jozi and how it has shaped me.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Live from Jozi

3 years. That's how long since I was last in Jozi, and how much I've realized that things can actually change in 3 years. My piece on Johannesburg was written a number of years ago when I was on the ground, before I decided to spend some time in fortress Europe. On a short scale of 3 years, the change in Jozi is far more pronounced than anything I've seen in the time I've spent in the stagnant pool known as Old Europe.

Jozi must rate as one of the most hectic places on planet earth, but the multiplier effect here is even more intense than most people realize. This is a deadly city that has not outgrown its mining camp origins, but rather embraced them and made them a way of life. This city should have a Surgeon General's warning like a packet of smokes: Jozi can serioulsy damage your mental and physical health, in a terminal way.

Crime and grime, pollution and prostitution, prosperity and poverty all go hand in hand in a mad dance around the roaring flames of a fire out of control. There is something here though, that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else, and that is a dynamism, a "can do" attitude that drives people, sometimes the wrong way, but generally towards something better.

How you find that is your choice. All I want to say is that I see something here that I don't see much anywhere else; living in Jozi presents you with life's starkest choices on a daily basis and where only the strong survive. Don't tolerate arseholes. Kick Back. It's hard. Deal with it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Just a note...

... to say I'll be in Jozi for 2 weeks so my posting might be even more erratic than previously.

One thing that I must admit is that it will be a joy to get away from the wank-fest known as a "Presidential Election" here in France.

So hang-tight and stay tuned for my report from Jozi.

Yes

Yes I have been keeping quiet lately. Too much else to deal with, really.

That doesnt't mean that I haven't been watching what has been happening. But read my last post, Johannesburg, 'cos I wrote the substance of it over 10 years ago but I believe it still holds true. Yes I know it still needs more work to really make sense, but I will work on it until it does. In the meantime feel free to comment on it. Everything helps.

In the big picture today is no different anywhere esle on this planet- we must understand our her and his story - to understand where we are today.

All I ask is for us not to make the same mistakes twice.

Peace Now.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Johannesburg

Way back, in early 1886, Johannesburg did not even exist.

In January 1886, Johannesburg was but a field, dull and in effect, useless farmland claimed by a few Boer farmers.

Let's start with the back-story to it all; a bunch of people left the Cape of Good Hope (who much later called themselves "Die Boers" or "the farmers") when they got pissed at the British Empire for abolishing slavery. Deciding to keep their slaves, they packed their bags and dragged themselves into central Southern Africa to establish two smaller states to be known as The Orange Free State and the Zuid Afrikansche Republiek (ZAR ). Beating up any natives they found on the journey, they claimed as much land as they possibly could on their way. This event was later named the "Groot Trek" or Great Trek.

When these Boers left the British colonies, the Brits didn't really bother with them much. A few other states and protectorates were established by the Brits for some of the more restless natives, but beyond Cape Town and Durban they didn't give really give a shit either way.

That is until the 1860's when diamonds where discovered in a field that what was to become known as Kimberley and everything changed.

Now back then diamonds where actually worth something, considerd "rare" and thus valuable. A mad diamond rush took place and a huge mother-fucker hole was dug in what used to be a volcanic pipe, creating what I still believe is the largest man-made hole on the planet. Go there. See it with your own eyes. It is something to behold.

Out of this fandango a couple of geezers got very very very rich (here's where we get people like Cecil John Rhodes and Barney Barnato). Most of the people who arrived didn't make much of a living at all. The folks who did get rich out of this set-up though, managed to get the British Empire to annex the diamond fields, (which was previously owned by the indigenous inhabitants) and set up shop in Kimberley and a far bigger Cape Colony than had ever been imagined.

Problem was, that soon more diamond fields were found, and then some more, until the point that there were just too many diamonds. In fact, in many parts of Southern Africa, diamonds are like pebbles, a dime a dozen, too tha point that there are so many of them that they really are worthless. I really can't stress this point enough, other than to say; DIAMONDS ARE PEBBLES. Ok?!

Anyways, the rich geezers figured the only way the diamonds would be worth anything would be to grab as many diamonds as possible and control the supply.

So say hello to a company called De Beers, which controls the world's diamonds to this day by setting quotas of how many diamonds can be sold. The Russians and the Australians also have oceans of diamonds too, and if they had to sell their diamonds out of their "monopoly quotas" they'd literally have to give them away.

Even today De Beers is still ripping up vast tracts of desert in Namibia to strip what diamonds they can gather in the 'Zum Sperregebeidt' (German for "the forbidden zone") where they have exclusive rights to rip out as many of these stones as they possibly can until 2010 under the original charter issued by the German Government in 18-voetsak. The Namibian people don't get to see a cent of their diamond "wealth". Neither you nor I are allowed into this area, and if you do stray into it by accident, you will be arrested for trespassing and will be body-cavity searched. I'm talking about an area of territory that is far larger and "richer" than Switzerland.

You know the saying 'diamonds are a women's best friend'? And the whole thing about diamond rings being traditional engagement rings? Well, in 1902 De Beers ran that as an advertising campaign in attempt to offload more diamonds out of their ever-growing warehouse. Pretty effective marketing campaign huh?

Tell the love of your life that you want to marry her and give her an over-priced pebble to boot.

Brilliant. Create artificial demand by using sex for your surplus product, that you are already constraining the supply of, in order to maintain price hegemony in your own private monoploy to make even more cash. This is the stuff that textbook captialism is made of.

Anyways, in case you wondering what this has to do with Johannesburg, that was just the intro. Meanwhile back at the ranch, in March 1886, some dude called George Harrison (not related to the Beatle) stumbled, literally, across some gold in a field.

Now it has to be clearly said; gold had already been discovered and previously used by African cultures for centuries, but it so happened that when this particular whitey found some gold, the whole situation went haywire. Big time.

In a matter of 900 days, a farmer's field became a boom town and people from the four corners of the earth had arrived to seek their fortune. The President of the ZAR, Paul Kruger, arrived from Pretoria to name this place Johannesburg. A city of gold, an eldorado, it is also known variously by it's inhabitants as Joburg, Joeys, iGoli and Jozi.

There was a fifth column though; the geezers who had already made it rich in Kimberley and came to Jozi, snapping up farm land as far as the eye could see, because they knew how the game worked, and began to start coining it all over again. But this time there were 2 major problems: 1) the goldfields were in the Boer's Country, the ZAR, and 2) the geology of it all.

The Boers were none too pleased by this gold epidemic, and they didn't really get much of a slice of the pie. So they went about making things difficult for Rhodes and the boys. This would be a topic for another story, but Paul Kruger, I believe, has been much maligned by Imperial and Official History, to the degree that some historical revisionism is in order to properly understand the colonial pressures that were exerted on him and his administration. By this I am referring specifically to Iraq and the sucessive American subjugation of Iraq since 1991.

Back on point, the geology of the gold is interesting too… at first they thought it was a deposit of gold in small area. It turned out though, that this was just the top of a ridge of gold - later named the Witwatersrand - formed across the floor of an inland sea millions of years ago, as one of the richest deposits lining the bottom, in a kind of bowl shape, stretching from Johannesburg in the ZAR to Bloemfontein in the Oranje Vry Staat (Orange Free State).

Over the centuries the water dried up and was replaced with mud and rock, in fact the all the gold is embedded in rock, and in some places it is 2 to 3 miles underground. Initially the gold was extracted without a problem, but after 3 years of srcthing the surface, the true picture became apparent. It was all a bit more complicated than originally thought. The gold was there, and lots of it, but it was unreachable.

Undeterred, the rich geezers slowed up on mining and started making plans. They turned to selling pieces of paper for massive sums of money - shares in mining companies that weren't producing any gold - merely the basis of potential future earnings that might come from the gold that they couldn't reach.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange was the most happening thing in town. But these guys still didn't see eye to eye with the Boers, so old boy Rhodes organised himself a private militia and plotted to invade the ZAR and take over the show in the name of the England. The invading "force", led by one Leander Starr Jameson, fucked it up entirely. The 'Jameson Raid' was an abysmal failure.

Plan B, then, was full-scale war and Rhodes codged the British Empire into attacking the Boers, in what is now known as the Second Anglo-Boer War. It turned out to be a very nasty affair that lasted two years, really being the first modern war of 20th century.

In the beginning the British Imperial Army got a fair hiding from a bunch of farmers on horseback with hunting rifles. Eventually the thing grew into a stalemate as the Brits poured troops into the battle and adopted a "scorched policy", where victory was finally taken by the Brits when the Boers where exhausted. The peace treaty formed the basis for the Union of South Africa, which ultimately happened in 1910, bringing the old Boer Republics into something like what Australia is today, where the British monarch was supposedly the sovereign king-pin. Empire and all that.

Under this dispensation though, the head-honcho's of the mining companies had control of the land (after the war) and basically ran Johannesburg like their own private domain, owning all of it, and buying up all of the remaining lands of interest.

Already stinking rich, they got down to the business of pulling the gold from the ground.

The necessary technology had finally been invented to make it possible to mine so far underground that had never been tried before. All it required was a few extra hands.

Thus it is that SA has some of the deepest mines in the world, and the whole area underground of Joeys is heavily mined, with earth tremors being a regular occurrence when tunnels collapse - a bit like the San Andreas Fault in California, but the effect is more often and different psychologically.

Now the mine bosses needed many things, but the most important thing was labour, preferably cheap and docile. Not many Africans worked on the mines originally, just some Boers who had lost their land during the war and gold-rush happy foreigners. The mine bosses needed more workers and lots of them. Until this stage, most black Africans had been ignored by the Brits (and the co-operative Boers), but when the need for a large labour force arose they did two things - probably the two most hectic things they could ever have done: The 1912 Land Act , and the introduction of hut(poll) taxes.

The 1912 Land Act essentially divided up the land so that 80% of it ended up the hands of the Whitey colonialsts while the majority black population was left with only 20% of the land. Add to this; where someone didn't own the land, one now had to pay rent, and where they did, they now had to pay a tax on your house or head (yes, I know its was all a lot more complex than this, but this is this the nitty-gritty of it). Where people were previously self-sufficient, they were now brought into a cash economy, and in order to get money to pay these new taxes they had to work for an employer, and where was there work available? Yes, only on the mines.

Gold mining in South Africa has always fallen consistently into the category of slave labour. These workers migrate from all over Southern Africa, - there are nasty ways in which the Portuguese in Mozambique played a role in this too - leaving their families in the rural areas to live on the mines in hostels (read concentration camps) for months at a time. Add to this the fact that it is extremely dangerous and unstable to work 2 kilometres underground.

When all that rock above your head falls on you, you don't stand a chance. Thousands of miners have died in the most horrific circumstances imaginable, for the most meagre of wages conceivable. No danger pay, and until recently, no compensation for the bereaved. The disappearance of able-bodied men from the rural economy has also had a disastrous effect and helped create widespread poverty.

Some miners would send portions of their earnings back to their families in the rural areas, but these were never enough to really sustain their familie; to provide for education, health and the basic necessities was never possible.

Meanwhile back on the farm Braamfontein, (now a suburb, similar to other farm-to-suburb names like Doornfontein), things were really cooking, and Johannesburg was growing at a rate of knots.

What was originally a mining camp, was transformed overnight into a metropolis. And yet, and this is a crucial point; Johannesburg has never having lost its 'mining camp spirit'. Johannesburg is also unique in terms of human habitation. Now most cities, in fact all cities, evolve over time. Primarily they require a fresh water supply, plenty of surrounding agricultural land and a proximity to other cities for trade and markets to develop over time.

Notably, Johannesburg does NOT have it's own sustainable water supply, the foremost requirement for any city's sustainability. Incredibly, Johannesburg re-wrote centuries of city development in just 10 years by consistently colonizing it's water supply from areas far beyond it's natural watershed. The mining industry alone requires enormous volumes of water in it's day-to-day operations, accounting for something like 60% of the water consumption. Even though the agricultural land surrounding Joburg is not of great quality, it also relies on sources of water from far and away.

Inspite of this, Johannesburg rapidly asserted itself as an epicentre for trade and industry and still to this day is the financial powerhouse of Africa. But the only real conclusion one can draw, after digging this deeep, is that Joburg is an anomaly. In a sane and rational world, Joburg should not even exist.

Perhaps it was an early 20th century form of modernist idealism that allowed such an aberration to happen. Or perhaps it was the enormous financial power of the Randlords and sheer captialism or just the pull of it being 'Egoli', Eldorado, the place of gold that made it so.

But as it so happens, there is nothing particularly sane and rational about the world we live in, and this became abundantly clear in 1948, when the Boers, under the name of the National Party came into power.

Let's be clear about this; racial discrimination has been around since the first foreign settlers arrived over 5000 years ago. The National Party didn't invent racism, they just perfected it. The local population had been consistently subjugated,beaten up, restricted from free movement, withheld form certain jobs (the colour bar in the mining industry prevented black workers from getting senior positions which were reserved for whiteys only) and an endless list of forgotten things.

Now the Boers hadn't quite forgotten the Boer war, and they organised themselves into what we now know as Afrikaners. Now when the Boers went a great-trekking, they only really took one book with them in the ox-wagons; big family-size bibles written in Dutch, German and French, and they wandered around the wilderness with these great tomes, leading some to think that they were one of the lost tribes of Israel (and therefore god's chosen people). Not all thought like this mind you, But after the Boer war, there began a move to establish an "Afrikaner" identity. This was done by taking a dialect of Dutch that was used by the Malay slaves who were brought to Cape Town, by the Dutch in their own slave-trading days. It was the slaves who had added in words from the Khoi-San, some Xhosa, French, German and English. The new Afrikaners conveniently forgot all about the slaves and claimed it as their own, and manufacturing a dictionary and language out of it.

Next they took some of the dodgy characters from the great trek and converted them into National Heroes, making icons out of them. This wasn't just on the cultural side of things, economically they began to gather together Afrikaner financial interests, and urged their supporters and followers to invest in banks like VolksKas and insurance companies like Sanlam. Through a variety of convoluted political ideas such as the 'swaart gevaar' (the black danger) amongst others, their political engine, the National Party came to power.

Some thoughts that strike me about this overgrown mining camp, stem from it's early origins, as an environment that was all but suitable for human habitation. Vast open stretches of veld, that were barely farmable in early 1886 were rapidly transformed into one of the most crazy experiments of modern capitalism.

The rabbit warren of tunnels below the metropolis are notoriously unstable, periodically collapsing on the heads of the mine bosses, the putridily rich men who have disguised their involvement behind layers of companies and subsidiaries, sit in the Rand Club eyeing the tangential nature of the stock markets on what sued to be Diagonal Street, but now are safely in the confines of Sandton. The occasional earth tremors, less disruptive than the plate tectonics of the San Andreas Fault, are but a distant rumble. The preciousness of the metal is the apparent driving force of this Eldorado, remarkably expensive to produce - both in human and economic terms - yet at the end of the day purely constructed in its value, a human fascination for shiny metals. Yet what has it produced beyond the intrinsic destruction of the mining.

The insanity with which Johannesburg was born continues unabated to this day, more than just gold, it is the industrial powerhouse of Southern Africa attracting people from around the globe. To know it as home seems strange, as it lacks innate beauty, where people have had to adapt to harsh circumstance, and through struggle have found ways of making do.

One of the most striking features of the place is the open and conspicuous display of wealth, where the chasms between rich and poor are of horrific proportions, the most dramatic feature is the unbearable cost of life. The toll of living in Johannesburg is much higher than most places on earth. This might be one of the cheapest cities in terms of 'living costs', but the real cost are much higher. The story of water is highly significant: Johannesburg, unlike most major cities has no fresh water supply that it can call its own, having colonised water from far a- field, most of which is consumed by the mines and industry, the cost of importing the technological know how and machinery to get water here is mammoth. The same goes for the original mining equipment, the pressed tin ceilings from England, the Cell-phone network which is one of the most successful by global standards, or even the incredulous numbers of BMW's in Sandton alone. The ramifications of wealth, expressed in a western 1st world standard, all carry the high cost of importation, standards which were conceived a hundred years ago, by a few Randlords, who came to this new frontier with ambitions that were satisfied at exorbitant cost, setting the parameters for a money game that few could reproduce.

The key to it has been the gross exploitation of labour, the original mining being labour intensive, it was only payable - and still is - on the backs of cheap labour. The 1912 Land Act which divided the land, and the imposition of taxes on the population, forcing people into a currency system that was already stacked against them led to the creation of a massive pool of cheap and unskilled labour, much to the advantage of the Mining Houses and the first Industrialists.

The numbers of miners killed every year is not added to the price of gold, merely another statistic, in what is becoming a country of statistics It is also a city of dreams and visions, the pavements carry the echoes of the footsteps of many fortune-seekers, who have come to try where others have failed. It is still a city of opportunity, but the seekers far outnumber the successes,so much so that crime, in Johannesburg terms, is high-intensity class conflict, if property is theft, and the dollar is king, then just by virtue of setting foot in this town you are part of the process, both victim and victor.

The problem with sitting on the fence, is that you get slashed to pieces by the razor-wire, there is no middle-ground, it is all one. The security industry is like no where else on the planet: hired guns patrol the suburban neighbourhoods day and night, razor-wire and electric fences feed a collective paranoid psychosis. The stress levels of it all are probably higher than New York

The irony of it all though, is that while the crime is committed by only a small percentage of the population, everyone else is just trying to make a living and get by. Distorted by the media, and fed by the collective paranoia that riddles the city's inhabitants,"'crime conversations" are at the top of the menu at the dinner tables of the Northern Suburbs and the shebeens of Soweto , where everyone tries to out do the others with their most recent horror stories. One true hero in all of this was Max the Gorilla, resident of the Johannesburg Zoo, who stopped a fleeing housebreaker in his tracks. He took a bullet in the process, lived to tell the tale and become a worldwide media sensation. Every lamppost in Johannesburg sported a discount warehouse poster advertising a "Max the Gorilla Size Sale".

If there is one thing though that really characterizes life in Joburg, more so than anything, it is the unflinching steadfastness displayed during a summer thunderstorm. It conveys more than any true local would care to admit. In the midst of what sounds like a thermo-nuclear explosion, the true Johannesburger will not even spill their gin and tonic while they continue with the apocryphal urban legend they were relating. Virgins duck for cover.

The sheer pyrotechnic beauty of these thunder and lightening storms is amazing to behold, as the sky is illuminated by sheet lightening, and the explosive force of the thunder rattles the window panes. It shakes you deep down. It is electricfying and terrifying at the same time. Those who are born here and know nothing else take this place for granted now.

Sons and daughters of gold-diggers, they know nothing else. Whatever you do, don't blame them, rather listen to them, because they will have a story to tell. It will begin something like this:

When you've worked hard, when the sky above you explodes and the ground beneath rumbles, when the engines constantly roar, when the halogen night flashes with police lights, when you can tell the difference between gunshots and fireworks, when you know you are grateful to be alive, that is when you know you are in Johannesburg.

Friday, March 16, 2007

The Bunfight of the Inanities

There I was thinking that the 2007 French Presidential elections might be worth writing about. Boy, was I wrong; its worse than a Tom Wolfe novel, that much I can tell you. To a casual observer like myself, its even worse than trying to watch French TV on a Saturday night.

We are being bombarded with wall-to-wall coverage each time one of the candidates farts. Turn on the idiot-box and Nicolas Sarkozy is falling over his smarmy self again, pick up a newspaper and Selogene Royal's latest gaffe litters the front page, switch on the radio and Le Pen is ranting on about how France should dig a deep trench along her borders and cast off from Europe.

What grates me the most is that these are all career politicians (with the exception of Jose Bove), who have never done a real days work in their lives, all claiming to know what is best for France and the French people. They are being elevated to the level of celebrities and one wonders whether they shouldn't have gone into the entertaiment industry rather than politics.

Maybe the whole farce would be more palatable if Johnny Halliday was running off against Laetitia Casta - although I think neither are eligible anymore because they have "off-shored" for tax purposes. C'est la France.

On a more serious note though, if this nutjob Sarkozy gets the top dog position, I believe it will be a sign for me to pack my bags and move on tout suite. There are only two kinds of people in France: those who love him and those who hate him. If anyone has the potential to create the situation ripe for a civil war in France, it'll be our dear little Nicolas.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Hope

I hope I'm not the only crazy person on this planet

- Just give me 340 ml. -

I hope my craziness will be shared, far and wide, unspoken, unsung, but yet real and blue:

- Just like I'm in the real deep groove -

I hope I never end up on a reality TV chat show

- Just like some fat nobody -

Let it begin:

My madness, quite frankly, is personal...

yet politcal,

yet sensual,

yet life-and-like-wise,

And right now, coming at you live.

All alive, right now, but just between you and me,

I want to roll the last dice

You OK with that?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not One More Death

Not One More Death by John le Carre, Richard Dawkins, Harold Pinter, Brian Eno
Reviewed by Sean Badal

Not much of a book this, at 57 pages, and most of the essays have appeared in some form or the other, in the Guardian. But it’s published by those doughty anti-war people, Verso (publishers of entire oeuvre of Tariq Ali), and I always feel charitable towards them. Well, buying this book was an act of charity really, considering I’d read all it before. Still, it’s great to have all the polemical essays in one neat little package, and whenever I feel the embers of anger dimming against those two monsters, I just dip into this book at random and rekindle the rage, so to speak. Oh, for the day when those two are swinging from the gallows…

I’ve always liked John le Carre as a novelist, especially the George Smiley stuff, but I always thought he was a bit of an old right-wing codger, so it was especially pleasing to read his fulminations against the war in the Guardian (guess the Times and Telegraph weren’t interested). Richard Dawkins and Harold Pinter are as acerbic as usual – pity they didn’t include Terry Jones’s pieces here – it would have added a nice balance.

What I like most about this book was its sense of pamphleteering that recalls Dekker, Middleton, etc, and it’s a great loss that that more of this kind of publication - and publishing houses - don’t exist. Oh sorry, I forgot, there’s the internet.

Publisher: Verso
Year: 2006

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

God's Own Army


It was just this morning, that I was thinking about how Machiavelli was a twat and just how far Empire over-reach can really get to, when I read that the Pentagram is gearing up to establish it's own Afrika Korps Africa Command. What did we Africans ever do to deserve such an honour? Again?

Yet another bunch of white men in uniforms. Ho hum. Nothing new there.

I did stop to wonder though, after reading recently about how the Pentagram as an organization is already the world's largest consumer of oil, and what they might possibly be after this time:

Yes, the US military is completely addicted to oil. Unsurprisingly, its oil consumption for aircraft, ships, ground vehicles and facilities makes the Pentagon the single largest oil consumer in the world. By the way, according to the 2006 CIA World Factbook rankings there are only 35 countries (out of 210) in the world that consume more oil per day than the Pentagon.
But wait, that's not all, with 737 known foreign installations around the globe, the Pentagram is also one of the biggest landowners on the planet:

The total of America's military bases in other people's countries in 2005, according to official sources, was 737. Reflecting massive deployments to Iraq and the pursuit of President Bush's strategy of preemptive war, the trend line for numbers of overseas bases continues to go up.

Yes folks, that's "known", officially accounted for bases. Now we are told that there is going to be a land grab in Africa, which I guess means not only buying up hot property, but also making parts of Africa safe for oil prospectors and pipe-line builders; we have to ask ourselves what the fuck is going on here?

This is far bigger than MacDonalds. Or even Unlucky Fried Kittens (KFC) for that matter.

Thank god though that there is nary a peep about bringing democracy, peace and freedom to Africa. After the balls up of the US military invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US Administration and their cohorts of mercenaries would be well advised to just stay the hell out of Africa.

We can do well without the false propaganda shit OK?

Take your play crusader Empire elsewhere please - we already have enough real problems to deal with. NOW!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Stamp Out Dogshit

I hereby throw my hat into the ring.

I've decided to run as President of France*.

All you have to do is write "Jayzerz" onto the ballot paper and make a mark next to it, because this is a supposed democracy and you can vote for me or whomever you like.

As a first question you might ask is; why vote for Jayzerz?

Simply, unlike the other contestants, I have the following propostion to solve the issues that face a slightly-modern-France and the world today:

"Stamp Out Dogshit!"

Getting rid of dogshit from the pavements of France is the hardest first step to building a better France! Forward to a new world!

A France free of dogshit? I hear you ask that of me...

Imagine the possibilities! I say!

Like any politician, I could just say "Believe in me", but my slogan must also be translated as 'cut the crap!' into all languages.

As you know, there are many problems facing France, and the rest of the planet, but none so calamitous as dogshit...

Doing away with such merde is possible!

You really don't have to trust in me at all, just do what needs to be done: refuse to listen to the kak that all career-politicians speak.

No matter what Nicolas Royal or Selogene Sarkozy might tell you; which would be something like;
"a strong France is a France that doesn't smell of crud on your shoe as a croque on the pavement free-France like maybe entity that someday will rule the world type national thingamig might possibly bring about even more taxes type thingymajig type typething...x100**"


Everything else that they might say in the rest of the politcal debate is a load of old poop!

Vote for Jayzerz!

Vote from the ground up!

A dogshit free France is better France!

A vote for me is the first clear step towards a dogshit free France, a step towards the complete reformation of French Society! Everything else is just wishful thinking - I will deal with the fundamental problem FIRST by re-introducing the summary guillotine for those who let their dogs shit on their neighbour's doorstep.

This is the first step towards salvation. A new beginning to create a culture where France may finally take it place in a civillized world free from the shackles of its present pavement malaise.

Zero Tolerance for dogshit! I just don't want to stand on the stuff anymore.

There is a huge problem, not just in France, but in the world today...

That problem is the fact that too many people are accepting too much crap in their lives today**.

My response is for you to put your foot down and say: "No more shit in my life!"

When we all do it, we can clean up the shit and prevent it from happening again. So say it. Out aloud, and altogether now;

"No More Shit!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

It's not about me, it''s about you!

So this is my Election Manifesto; deal with it.

Vote Now! Vote Jayzerz! OK!

*Just because everyone else seems to be doing it these days; anyone with a fax machine and a dog is running for president today. It's a friggin nightmare of democracy gone wrong. The French Left has gone pear-shaped; so-called would-be left and right-wing-contenders are appearing out of the woodwork every day and everyman Jack is running for prez. I can't really do it - as I am not a so-called French National - so just play along, ok? In fact, why not send a postcard or Rizla® vote in from wherever you are, to the Palace Elysee so I can see how many votes I get!

** So here is the real news: I am sadly disappointed by French politics. I thought it might be interesting to cover, blogwise, the next French Pesidential election, post-Chirac and all... but it has really has been a third rate dog and pony show thus far, so don't get your knickers in a knot quite yet, I'll report in when there something interesting to finally cover...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

For What It's Worth

For What It's Worth
Buffalo Springfield

There's something happening here
What it is ain't exactly clear
There's a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware
I think it's time we stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
There's battle lines being drawn
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind
I think it's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side
It's time we stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you're always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away
We better stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, hey, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, now, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down
Stop, children, what's that sound
Everybody look what's going down


I wish I knew. I wish I could see.

There is one thing I can tell you tho'...

Its all pretty Ducked-up Alfredy!

Wooopsa daisy, that shoulda been;

pretty Fucked-up Already!

but really, there is only one response:

Revolt! Now!

OK or nothing!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Iran Awakening

Iran Awakening By Shirin Ebadi
Reviewed by Sean Badal

On December 10th 2003, Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, becoming the first Iranian and the first Muslim woman to do so. It was largely for her work as a human rights activist and her support for children’s rights. There was widespread controversy about the award, with many, both inside and outside Iran claiming it was politically motivated. Well, what is the darn point of awarding the peace prize if it isn’t politically motivated – even helping the poor is politically motivated these days. Just ask Jimmy Carter. Hell, just ask that other JC who was nailed to the cross for helping the poor.

In her book Ebadi chronicles the extraordinary series of events that led to the winning of the prize.

Ebadi was working as judge during the Shah’s regime when the revolution happened. Like many Iranians, she was a fervent supporter of the revolution and enthusiastically welcomed the overthrow of Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was installed by the US in a CIA-planned coup that overthrew Iran’s first democratically elected leader, Mohammed Mossadegh. The Americans and British were pissed off that he dared to use Iranian oil for the benefit of the Iranian people.

If there is one thematic link in all three of these books, it is in the almost mythical presence of Mossadegh. He crops up all over the place, a wistful remembrance of a (perceived) time when things were better.

For an insight into the full horror story on how Mossadegh was deposed, see here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mossadeq

And if you think it was all in the past, historical baggage, I have one word for you.

Venezuela.

The whole dirty bag of tricks is currently played out again by those scheming bastards in Washington.

As we all know, things didn’t quite work out in Iranian. There was no golden age of democracy under the mad mullahs. Ebadi charts her despair as the religious fascists tightened their screw with their own unique brand of woman-hating government. She lost her jobs, her life was constantly in danger and the Iranian middle class just seeped away, leaving for greener pastures. It is a sad and devastating tale, and the author’s great courage is the only thing that sustained her.

Somehow she shines through and lives to present a truly inspiring story.

Published by Rider Books – 2006

We are Iran

We are Iran By Nasrin Alavi
Reviewed By Sean Badal

It’s a bit weird seeing blogs in print format. I’ve never really liked it. They always remind of those faux blogs that get published in the Financial Times cos they look so trendy.

What’s the point, you might well ask.

Well, there’s the language barrier for one thing. Most of the blogs published here were written in Farsi, a language of which my knowledge is limited to about five words (and that’s excluding all the Persian words that have crossed over into Urdu and Hindi).

Another is a sense of cohesion in the manner in which the information is presented (indeed the book is so judiciously edited that sometimes it feels like one voicespeaking. Not a good thing when you’re presenting disparity). Even if you did speak Farsi, you be hard-pressed to wade through the sheer volume presented here. Iran apparently has more bloggers than most other countries. There are approximately 64 000 bloggers online in Iran and Farsi is the fourth most popular language for blogging.

The author’s purpose is of course overtly political. Iran has a repressive regime and one that is getting worse, certainly from a media point of view, so the voices that come through are unfiltered and raw.

And what voices they are!

Poignant, ghoulish, miserable, poetry and politics – all mixed up to provide an extraordinary glimpse into the life of ordinary Iranians (okay, they might not be so ordinary as they have access to computers and most come across as middle class) but this book is a fascinating glimpse into the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iranians.

Published by Portobello Books – 2006

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran

Mirrors of the Unseen – Journeys in Iran By Jason Elliot
Reviewed by Dean Badal

I’ve left the best for last.

Jason Elliot’s book is a distillation of a couple of trips that he made to Iran, to the cities of Tehran, Persepolis, Isfahan, Mazandaran, Yazd and a few other places. I’ve not used the word “trip” lightly – there’s something hallucinatory about the writer’s journey – as if he was chewing qat the whole time but still in possession of all his faculties.

The author’s font of knowledge is truly frightening. The bit where he reels of a list of Persian accomplishment to the store of human knowledge is breathtaking and all the sadder, now that this great nation is ruled by a bunch of religious thugs.

Although there are interesting vignettes of people and places, Elliot’s serious obsession is in the architecture of Iranian, mostly ancient architecture. He is very dismissive of modern construction, and rightfully so, as anyone who has ever travelled to the middle east and seen the horrors inflicted on the landscape of once great cities, knows.

Now, I’ve never been a lover of books as objects of beauty, but I have to say (at the risk of sounding metrosexual) that this book is ravishing.

Someone else wrote that this book would make a great birthday present for Tony Blair, and for George Bush - if only he wanted to learn. I concur, but doubt very much it’s going to happen, but hey Cherie, if you reading this, PLEASE slip it into your husband’s stocking.

Published by Picador - 2006

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Own Private Iraq

Hell's bells and buckets of shit! Long Time No Blog (LTNB), yes, but I've had plenty of other crises, like xmas, to deal with... but hey, Happy New Year and all that crap.

So what's happened in the interregnum?

Saddam: swung. Bush: took the piss out of the American population with his "urge-to-surge speech". Iran: carried on working on a civilian nuclear program. Israel: practised bombing raids against Iran. US Naval Command: deployed a second carrier group into the Gulf and crashed into civilian shipping. Iraq
: Got hit with a new oil-privatization deal.

What a mess.

Should I start a deadpool website on when exactly the date of the start of the 3rd World War actually began? As will be recorded by future history books? My vote is for December 11, 2000, the date on which the country bumpkin was handed the US Presidency by the Supremes.

Here is the real rub of it all; George's little war is really being fought by hired guns:

100,000 mercenaries, the forgotten "Surge"

By Barry Lando

01/10/07 "Alternet" --- - What is striking about the current debate in Washington - whether to "surge" troops to Iraq and increase the size of the U.S. Army - is that roughly 100,000 bodies are missing from the equation: The number of American forces in Iraq is not 140,000, but more like 240,000.

What makes up the difference is the huge army of mercenaries - known these days as "private contractors." After the U.S. Army itself, they are easily the second-largest military force in the country. Yet no one seems sure of how many there are since they answer to no single authority. Indeed, the U.S. Central Command has only recently started taking a census of these battlefield civilians in an attempt to get a handle on the issue...

The private contractors are Americans, South Africans, Brits, Iraqis and a hodgepodge of other nationalities. Many of them are veterans of the U.S. or other armed forces and intelligence services, who are now deployed in Iraq (and Afghanistan and other countries) to perform duties normally carried out by the U.S. Army, but at salaries two or three times greater than those of American soldiers.

They work as interrogators and interpreters in American prisons; body guards for top U.S. and Iraqi officials; trainers for the Iraqi army and police; and engi-neers constructing huge new U.S. bases. They are often on the front lines. In fact, 650 of them have been killed in Iraq since the 2003 invasion

Their salaries, are, in the end, paid directly by the U.S. government - or tacked on as huge additional "security charges" to the bills of private American or other contractors. Yet the Central Command still doesn't have a complete list of who they are or what they are up to. The final figure could be much higher than 100,000.

The U.S. Congress, under Republican control until now, knows even less.

Yet these private contractors man their own helicopters and Humvees and look and act just like American troops.

"It takes a great deal of vigilance on the part of the military commander to en-sure contractor compliance," William L. Nash, a retired general, told the Washington Post. "If you're trying to win hearts and minds and the contractor is driving 90 miles per hour through the streets and running over kids, that's not helping the image of the American army. The Iraqis aren't going to distinguish between a contractor and a soldier."

But who, in the end, do these contractors answer to? The U.S. Central Command? Their company boss? Or the official they've been assigned to protect?

A recent case in point: The former Iraqi minister of electricity, who had been imprisoned on corruption charges, managed to escape in broad daylight in the heavily fortified Green Zone. Iraqi officials claim he was spirited away by con-tractors from a private security detail that had been hired when he was minis-ter.

Which raises another question. Who has jurisdiction over these private contrac-tors if they run afoul of the law in Iraq? Also, are they supposed to follow the Geneva Conventions? Or George W. Bush's conventions?

For instance, according to The New York Times, although 20 civilian contractors working in U.S. prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq - including Abu Ghraib - have been charged with mistreating prisoners, none has ever been successfully prosecuted.

Another point, which brings us back to the discussion about increasing Ameri-can troop levels in Iraq: It would seem that the Pentagon could outsource a "surge" by a simple accounting sleight of hand, quietly contracting for another 10,000 or 20,000 mercenaries to do the job, and the Congress and press would be none the wiser.

Barry Lando, a former 60 Minutes producer, is the author of "Web of Deceit: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush." He also blogs at Barrylando.com.


100 000 mercs??? And a good number of these are South Africans??? I have no time for my fellow country persons who are classifiable as dooses.

As far as I am concerned, these are so-called "South Africans" who must be considered as war criminals who should be jailed immediately! Thankfully, we have laws against mercenaries, and right now I'd support a tax increase, just to fund an interevtion force who brings these mercs to justice.

Bearing in mind that these mercs, whose numbers can be inreased without any "report mechamism", at any time deemed necessary, we all should bevery afraid, because, what is clear is clear is that George W. is dead set on expanding his war.

What we all need to realise is that George's war touches all of us - you are either for or against it, and we all have to be clear in our choice of which side we are on.

But add to all of this, that which what we don't quite really appreciate, yet; just how this World War III has already been privatized!

OK. But what if... now... already? Oh! OK Now!