Showing posts from October, 2008

Time to say NO

Today is Okhi day, a public holiday in Greece to commemorate Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas's rejection of the ultimatum made by Italian dictator Mussolini on October 28, 1940. The ultimatum was presented to him at dawn after a party in the German embassy (Fascists are nothing if not theatrical) demanding that Axis troops be allowed to enter Greek territory.

The answer, allegedly, was the single word "no".

In response to the Greek's not agreeing to their plans, Italian troops attacked the Greek border at 5.30am. See what happens when you don't invite all the dictators to your party.

On the morning of October 28th the Greek population took to the streets shouting 'okhi'. The day was officially named Okhi Day in 1942.

I like the idea of a day to say no for two reasons. There's so much happening that we should be standing up and shouting NO about. And saying no is not always very easy. My totally unrealistic work schedule is proof of that.

But there are som…

rewarding the winners

So, is it a better idea to reward winners rather than censuring or giving encouragement to the losers?

Two things have got me pondering.

The first is the news today that Botswana's ex-president Festus Mogae has been awarded a US$5-million prize, designed to encourage good governance, because he stepped down after two terms in office. (Ag shame, Thabo... if the JZ-erites had just left you alone for a few more months, you could have been in line for the prize next year). He also gets $200 000 a year for the rest of his life.

You can read about it here

The second was a meeting I attended on Friday where Clem Sunter was teaching a group of health executives about scenario planning. Fascinating stuff, and I'll write about it here later, but more pertinant to this discussion was his recounting of how the Anglo American Chairman's fund rewards pockets of excellence in our education system.

"We give money to the winners," he said. "Those schools that are achieving good…

Happy Birthday Noah

By all accounts Noah Webster was a crotchety old man when he started messing around with the spelling of English words and wrote his famous dictionary. If he was alive today, it may be difficult to see even the hint of a smile in all those wrinkles... he'd be 250 years old.

And talking of kissing wrinkly lips, his namesake "the' Noah (the Biblical one) begat three of his children when he was 500 years old. And while I can't be accused of ageism (mainly because I'll could be a victim of it myself before too long) can you imagine begatting anything with a 500 year old? Nasty!

Noah Webster was an enthusiastic begatter too... he and his wife Rebecca had eight chidren.

According to Wikipedia, he was determined to rescue "our native tongue" from "the clamor of pedantry" that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation. He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling …

interesting times

Lief Eriksson

I've always enjoyed the ancient Chinese curse "may you live in interesting times". I've loved the ambiguity of it... its the kind of statement that at first glance seems innocuous or even encouraging, but when you're not looking it comes back to bite you.

It seems doubtful that it actually was a Chinese curse, or if it is, it is like putting a phrase into babelfish or some other online translation site. You can translate it from Chinese to English but when you translate it back again, it looks nothing like the original.

If its not actually a Chinese curse, we have Robert F Kennedy to blame. He is credited with making the statement popular in South Africa, and possibly abroad. In a speech in Cape Town on 7 June, 1966, he said: There is a Chinese curse which says, 'May he live in interesting times'. Like it or not, we live in interesting times...

I like another story that came out of his visit: He saw the graffiti for the JFK gang and was touched…

leaving and cleaving

So, I'm still wondering about the whole white African thing, and a couple of things have caught my eye lately.

We were watching an episode of "Who do you think you are" recently. It's a TV show that really taps into people's obsession with their roots. The episode traced the history of Alistair McGowan, a comedian, who really thought he was Scottish. Well, he would, wouldn't he! Turns out he was Anglo-Indian, and he traced his Indian links back through about seven generations when the original (Irish) ancestor came to India.

I was fascinated to discover that the British had a presence in India from 1600 until the country regained its independence in 1947, 347 years years later. Surely there were whites who lived there who regarded themselves as Indian? And what happened to them? Are they contributing members of society, or did they all find their way back to the mother ship?

And, talking about people clinging to the past, or holding onto things way past their s…

where is my home?

I've been spending some time pondering, lately.

Is there such a thing as a white African? Or are those of us with only one passport destined to be rootless, stateless people?
Are we holding onto a land where we don't belong? And do the ordinary white South Africans have any real hope of understanding the revolution?

The pondering has been brought on by a number of things.
A few conversations in Uganda like this one:
Me: I'm South African. That makes me an African
Various delegates: No really, where do you come from?
Me: I'm South African
Delegates: No, I mean, where is your home country?

A snippet from an article in the St Georges Cathedral magazine this month, written by a Zimbabwean refugee:
"Economic Emancipation is the third and final stage of any liberation struggle; we still hear stories, about Kenya, and Mozambique etc. How people just left what they had and went with the clothes on their back, any where they could find refuge. In all these instances, the economy w…