Tag Archive: challenges


It’s cold, very cold. This might be stating the obvious but I think that somehow we miss how cold it really is. As the cold front settles in and the effect of winter is clearly visible on frosted window panes and heater sales, we seem to be absorbed in how to stay warm. The result, we forget how cold it really is.

But maybe it is worthwhile to open ourselves to the reality of how cold it really is. This morning, stepping out of the house unshod was a real challenge but at the same time a real reminder that there was a bunch of people sleeping outside last night. Walking to the car barefoot in sub-zero temperatures reminded once again how privilege I am; a warm bowl of soup, followed by a warm shower and a warm and comfortable bed to spend the night.

At the same time the frost was biting at my toes I wondered how many people spared a thought for those who are not so privilege, for those to whom going barefoot is not a choice but the only reality. How many of those who laid siege to shops in search of heaters decided to invite a little discomfort into their own lives in order to gift someone else a little more comfort in theirs?

Traveling barefoot in the freezing cold I am constantly reminded, and made acutely aware, of how selfish (wo)mankind can be. Even as we talk about compassion and espouse self-sacrifice, we seldom dare to venture out of our comfort zones in order to make a real different of those who truly suffers. Indeed we are willing to help others, as long as they make some effort to help themselves and also only as long as it doesn’t really affect our own comfort.

Maybe the time has come that we choose to leave our shoes at home or to leave the heater switched off for one night (at least Eskom will be happy) or use one less blanket for a night. It might just be that we wake up the next morning with a little more gratitude which might just lead to each one of us doing one little thing that will make a big difference in the life of someone not so fortunate. And if we don’t, I venture to say that deep down there will always be that niggling feeling, that idea that we are not the great people we think we are, that we are indeed self-centred fools who are bend on our own destruction; at least we will be destroyed whilst being warm and comfortable.

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We live in an age, somewhere post modernism, after the demise of meta-narratives, somehow knowing where we are not and desperately trying to figure out where exactly we are. This short sketch is an attempt to struggle with the “exactly where we are”. I propose three common denominators for the age we live in, Digital, Networked, and Anthropocene.

Without a doubt two of the most significant developments during the late 20th century was the personal computer, which Taleb signifies as a Black Swan Event, and the web, another of those Black Swans. The Web made it’s debut during 1989 and it spread to offices and homes by 1994. Digital cameras arrived on the scene in 1990, cellphones during 1977, cellphones with cameras during 1999, chatrooms opened it’s doors during 1980, Facebook launched 2004, Twitter 2006 and an ever increasing list of portals where digital data is created and stored. The mere act of using the internet during 2011 will create more digital data about an user than the user him-/herself can generate. The dawn of the digital age broke over the earth during 2002 when more digital data was generated than analogue data. 2011 will see another 1.8 zettabytes of data created, 33% more than 2010, or in other words, the equivalent of 57.5 billion 32GB Apple iPads filled with data. Enough to build a technological wall of China, as long and as wide, but twice as high. We truly live in a digital world.

One of the mainstays of the digital era is the hubs, nodes, linking datacables, and wifi signals that create a vast Network of 1’s and 0’s. The network(s) that underlie the digital world is not merely a bunch of microchips and optic fibre, but creates an environment which allows not only digital communication and data creation, but for interactions in the “real” world with very “real” implications. We use networks to order our lives, from buying food to organizing social get togethers, from insiting revolution on the one side of the planet to exploiting the planet on the other side, from building community with family and friends vast distances away to destroying communities close by. Today more than ever before do we realize that we are part of a vast network, both digitally and naturally, where technology matters but networks far exceed the virtual world. It seems there might be truth in the saying that when a butterfly flaps it’s wings in America, it creates a tropical storm in the Orient, a truly networked society.

Last, but not least, is the realization that we live in a day an age, a biosphere where the activities of man(!)kind is shaping the very space we live in. It’s been suggested that a case can be made that we are living in the Anthropocene, a new geological age or even a new geological epoch alltogether. If the suggested Anthropocene is an age it falls under the epoch Holocene. If not and it is recognize as an epoch in its own right, it follows on the Holocene that started approximately 10 000 years ago after the end of the Pleistocene and falls under the period Quaternary, which started an estimated 2.6 million years ago. The term was coined by ecologist Eugene Stoermer and widely popularized by the atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen. The Stratigraphy Commission of the Geological Society of London deemed the proposal, to formally accept the Anthropocene as part of the Geological Time Scale, as having merit and thus the proposed addition of the Anthropocene is currently being studied. Accepted or not, we are living in an age where (wo)mankind has an ever increasing impact on the world around us.

The age we are experiencing at the moment often leaves us gasping for air, scrambling for descriptive words. There might be many such word and concepts out there, however, I want to welcome you to… the Digital Networked Anthropocen (DNA).

Barefoot

With shoes we tread without a thought. We stomp around without a care in the world! There is no need; we are not discomforted by the place we choose to rest heavily for awhile. And more often than not we leave a small catastrophe behind with each step, blissfully unaware of the carnage, for our feet are encased in foot armour.

Going barefoot changes the equilibrium; no longer can we go blissfully unaware. We move to the other side of the equation, we are increated, acutely aware of what is underfoot. Stomping hurts, not only where we choose to stomp, but it causes pain to ourselves at the same time. Maybe we should rather say, the carnage is still the same, we just become aware of the effect of our tread, to others and to ourselves.

So please go barefoot, be increated, tread lightly, and live simply. Maybe such acts of simplicity and humbleness will allow others to simply live, and by grace, maybe, with an awareness of God.

Genocide in Action

Genocide in action! This is the judgement from various groups, individuals and even some academics in regards to the violent situation in South Africa. In support of this; farm murders become the standard bearer. I hope it is possible to take a step back and ask a few critical questions? Does the crime statistics support such a view? What is the emotion behind the statement? Can we live from another perspective?

South Africa has an unnatural high occurrence of murder. Annually an approximate 26 000 people are murdered of which up to 200 is farmers. It is difficult to find the number for white people being murdered, but I venture to say that the vast majority of these cases are black people, especially woman and children. A question that begs to be answered: What is the relation of murder on black people to white people (country demographic is 9:1) and how is this influenced by the race of the murderers.

It is unfortunately also true that South Africa has an unnaturally high occurrence of extreme poverty and that the gap between rich and poor is constantly growing. This source of this reality cannot be put squarely on the shoulders of white South Africans, as the poverty levels among them is also on the increase, nor are they innocent bystanders who is completely innocent. It would also be irresponsible to claim that all crime stems from poverty or to claim that there is no link at all.

The context of South Africa therefore is one where murder per capita is high and poverty per capita is high. It is also a country where white people, in general, are still (percentage wise) much better off than black people. It would also seem that crime, in general but not conclusively, flows from poor(er) to rich or in some cases just richer.

It would therefore seem that people who have more, is more likely to be targets of crime irrespective of their race, colour or creed. This realization leads to a certain amount of fear. Fear then becomes the foundation from which such persons live, rationalize and argue. Instead of focussing on one of the real issues behind crime, poverty and an unjust socio-economic system, race is used as the explanation behind all crime experienced by one group and at the same time limiting the perpetrators to one “opposing” race. Critical questions are left untouched for example how many white people are murdered by other white people, how many children are murdered by their parents etc.

Fear also features in another way. It might just be that there exists a collective fear that the black people of the country will attempt (and succeed) in something that some white people wished for in days go by; domination and possibly even the eradication of the other. Coenraad Scheepers said in 1852 “[Whites] and blacks cannot live together, unless the black man is in a state of subjection to the white”. Hendrik Verwoerd echoed this in 1948 when he referred to South Africa as a “white man’s country where he must remain the master”. I am certain that at various birthday parties everyday Malema-type pronouncements are being made by both extremist flanks of society.

It seems to me the time has come that we look our brother and sister South Africans, across the racial and cultural boundaries, in the eye, ask what is really wrong, start addressing these wrongs, acknowledge our feelings and ask for forgiveness where necessary and start to live from the promise that is our land and diversity, and not from the prejudices of the colour of our skin or formulation of our creed.

What was and might be…

2009 was a different, difficult, disappointing and troublesome year for most. For some it was just another one of these; for many, this was a new experience all together. The good news is that “2009” and “was” is now combined in the same sentence.

Today we stand at the dawn of 2010, a new year full of uncertainty, surprises, twists and turns. At the same time I have a feeling that 2010 will be a landmark year. It is the year that has been anticipated for the last four years. Soccer World Cup in South Africa! The first time that this prestigious event will visits the shores of Africa.

If we, however, allow soccer to over shadow the whole year, we will miss the opportunities of 2010. It is a year in which we get to decide on many things. We get to decide what kind of persons we want to be, in which type of society we want to live, what type of natural climate we want to protect, what kind of world we want to leave our children etc. 2010 will be known amongst future generations as the year in which we defined our identity.

The challenge of 2010 goes even further than a defining moment. It also challenges us to action. In actual fact, our defining moment will be there where we act; in how we act.

2010 challenges us to think hard and to act with compassion and justice. Not for the few but for all of mankind; for all of creation.