Yippee! It’s the season to be jolly!!!

I like this time of year; the winding down towards Christmas and a well-earned break for those of us who work for a living. The chance to spend time with family and friends far away; mostly family.

Everything seems to slow down gradually, much to the indignation of demanding bosses who have projects to complete; but they gradually get into the spirit as well. Not so for retail businessmen; they become busy little bees, and will sting you with their prices if you’re too much in the spirit, or if you’re too much into the spirits, as the case may be. And except around shopping malls, even traffic becomes easier. What a joy to drive to work and back, this time of year.

However, even crass commercialization has some appeal; a visual feast for the senses with christmas decorations nearly everywhere, feel-good christmassy music coming from shops and malls, fake fir trees in windows and aisles, multi-coloured lights flashing, and most importantly, people seeming more cheerful than at any other time of year. And what about the kids? They tend to become more manageable, although a slightly heavier burden on the wallet.

For us non-believers, all this hoo-ha over what was once a pagan festival, is supposed to be exasperating, but I find it all rather charming; amusing perhaps. I really enjoy the christmas carols, even if the words have no appeal or meaning for me. However, like most normal people, I do find Boney M slightly annoying, but Andrea Bocelli or Frank Sinatra singing carols, is a real delight for the senses.

And somehow, people become more generous too at this time of year. Those beggars standing at the traffic intersections usually get something extra, and even other less fortunate adults and children from miscellaneous charitable organizations, benefit. A real pity that Christmas doesn’t come at least once a month. Imagine how different the world could be, if Christmas was about people, rather than gods.

It’s really convenient for us all that the early Christians chose to commemorate Christmas around the time of the winter solstice, incorporating it with pagan festivals such as the Celtic Yule, the Roman Saturnalia and the solstice feast of Mithras, the Roman god of light which falls on 25 December,  just before New Year’s Eve, a traditional celebration for the Roman god, Janus. And not forgetting New Years Day, the traditional day for hang-overs. Yes, a wise decision to fit it in with happy, festive times.

Here’s the deal: We’ll give you freedom of speech…

I began reading the feel-good email from my boss about things to be thankful for; went through the obvious things like the wife, the husband, the teenager, the mess to clean after a party, all the while thinking “yeah OK, I guess I could be thankful for those.” And then I came across this line:

I am thankful for all the complaining I hear about government because it means we have freedom of speech.

Obviously whoever dreamt up the things to be thankful for, is not living in the new “democratic, non-racial” South Africa.

You see here in South Africa the new government gave us freedom of speech, but then claimed for themselves the freedom to steal, lie, cheat, embezzle, and squander our tax money on expensive cars, luxury houses, houses for pals, houses that are falling down, designer clothes, expensive gifts, over-seas trips, hotel accommodation, parties, jobs-for pals, dictator-style VIP protection motorcades, investigative committees, committees to investigate investigative committees, incompetent administrators, incompetent ministers, incompetent mayors, exorbitant severance packages for incompetent CEO’s, cover-ups, covering up the cover-ups, drunken judges, dumb-ass youth organizations, even dumber youth leaders, shoot-to-kill police officers, lazy-bastard traffic officers, party-political in-fighting, a shameful education system, an in-disciplined defence force…..shit, the list goes on.

Sure… I’m thankful…

I admit it…I have the propensity to hate

When I abandoned religion all those years ago, I believed that I had also discarded my susceptibility to emotional weakness, and thus the ability to hate. So, over the years I kept telling myself that the revulsion and anger I felt towards certain things, was just a feeling of annoyance…not hate.

However, recently I’ve had to admit that I really actually hate politicians, the law (as in the police)…………. and trucks. Yes trucks, as in vehicles that transport freight (and in South Africa, everything else imaginable).

It’s really easy to hate politicians; in fact it’s an obligation for all intelligent South Africans. But how can one hate trucks? It seems so pointless to hate an inanimate object which cannot feel your hatred, much less amend its objectionable behaviour to appease you. It would make more sense to hate the drivers and owners of trucks, than the trucks themselves. But as a motorist on South African roads, confronted with yet another truck that’s broken down and holding up traffic, it’s natural to think out loud, “Damn truck!” or more likely scream out loud “I fucking hate trucks!” I’m pretty sure nobody shouts out  “Damn driver!” or “I hate that fucking driver of that fucking truck and maybe the fucking owner too!” Okay, this is South Africa, so there’s bound to be one or two who would, but they’re as irrelevant as those who love politicians, or the police who shoot to kill.

Taxis are pretty annoying; lots of people probably hate them too, but they don’t come to a complete halt for hours on end, across two whole lanes, backing up traffic for hours. Which happens with freakish regularity, several times a day (not the same truck, obviously), usually in peak traffic in the mornings and afternoons. And if they’re not broken down, they are either travelling too slow in the wrong lane, have lost their load on the road (for some reason beer is a very popular load to lose), or the idiot driver is trying to overtake another slow truck…on an incline of all places.

So why do trucks break down with such frequency? Are they badly designed? Are truck drivers as reckless with their trucks as politicians are with our tax money or South African cocks cops with their guns?

I suspect it has something to do with the maintenance of these vehicles. Since the state-owned rail freight company hiked its tariffs all those years ago, almost everything is being transported by road these days. And the owners and operators in a highly competitive trucking industry are literally cutting each others throats for business, resulting in hardly anything being budgeted for maintenance of the trucks. What we have then is poorly maintained trucks on our roads which naturally break down at the most inconvenient of times.

What about the other annoying truck related incidences on our roads. Trucks that lose their loads, probably do so because of overloading, poor maintenance or simply through negligence in securing the freight. Why do truck drivers think that they can overtake on an incline without hogging the road and annoying the hell out of other motorists? Who knows? They’re truck drivers, not engineers.

The solution to this problem is very simple. The enforcement of steep fines for trucks that break down. I suggest that fines be as high as R10 000 for a first incident and then climbing dramatically for subsequent infringements by the same owner or operator. If you consider the lost time and productivity that these breakdowns cause to the economy, the frustration and even personal losses sustained by other motorists  when they miss flights, important appointments, even job interviews, I think the fines are an imperative. It would teach the owners to look after their shit.

The other benefit of hefty fines for truck owners, is that the traffic cocks cops don’t have to harass ordinary motorists as much as they do, to generate revenue for their Metro Council employers. So with all that extra dough coming in from the errant trucking industry, it would leave fat-arsed traffic cocks cops free to lose weight or do some real work. So instead of lazing in the shade of a tree, or behind a bush, (c)overtly manning speed cameras all day long, they could actually actively manage traffic safety.

Are there giant gaps in religious thinking, or is there a deliberate agenda to mislead?

We have access to information on every conceivable subject available either on-line or in books, tapes, discs and other media. People are relatively free to choose what information they retain and what to discard, what to believe and what to scoff at. However, given the availability of all this information, the levels of uncritical thought among people (even those one could describe as intelligent), is unbelievably appalling.

One can never believe anything with 100% certainty. There are ranges of probability always. And choosing what to believe is not so easy, but science, or more precisely The Scientific Method, through skeptical and critical thinking provides probably the only acceptable tool for making that choice with near certainty. Carl Sagan, in his book The Demon Haunted World – Science as a Candle in the Dark proposed a toolkit for skeptical thinking. Called the Baloney Detection Kit, it provides some basic tools for testing credulity (or detecting baloney according to Sagan).

I don’t want to re-invent the stunning work done by Carl Sagan, or by Michael Shermer in the video which the link above points to, but briefly the Baloney Detection Kit asks the following questions (the video provides a more detailed explanation with examples):

  1. How reliable is the source of the claim?
  2. Does the source make similar claims?
  3. Have the claims been verified by somebody else?
  4. Does this fit with the way the world works?
  5. Has anyone tried to disprove the claim?
  6. Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
  7. Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
  8. Is the claimant providing positive evidence?
  9. Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
  10. Are personal beliefs driving the claim?

Now, if you’re still with me, I’ve just  mentioned all these things because it is leading up to the question I posed in the title of this blog post. Over the last week or two, I’ve been receiving comments on some of my earlier posts which lead me to believe that either there are monumental gaps in religious thinking which causes them to articulate innocently or unknowingly. Or there is an effort by believers to obscure their beliefs either deliberately or collaboratively through premeditation [Chapter 12, The Fine Art of Baloney Detection, Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World].

Over the years, I have observed that the debate between the evolution and creation camps has become more than just a fight between science and religion; it has come to represent the difference between belief and non-belief, the god-fearing against the heathen. It’s no surprise then that believers usually resort to dragging up this old debate every time they are confronted by non-believers.  In recent times, and with this being the Year of Darwin (the 200th anniversary of his birth on 12 February, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his seminal work On the Origin of Species on 24 November), Evolution is yet again under attack, and Creationism with its more fashionable alter-ego Intelligent Design, is defiantly being bandied about with renewed vigor, but with the same absence of credible evidence. Only these days, even though fewer people believe this creationist and intelligent design nonsense, those who still do, express their belief with the absolutist fervour that mainly religion provides.

It seems that the main problem creationists have with evolution is the gaps in the fossil record. They conveniently ignore the wealth of evidence that has been collected over the years in other areas and disciplines of science which overwhelmingly point to the validity of evolution, and natural selection. Ergo question 6 in the Baloney Detection Kit above. And at the risk of belaboring this point, consider this revelation from Richard Dawkins in his book, The Ancestor’s Tale :

In spite of the fascination of fossils, it is surprising how much we would know about our evolutionary past without them. If every fossil were magicked away, the comparative study of modern organisms, of how their patterns of resemblance, especially of their genetic sequences, are distributed among species, and of how species are distributed among continents, and islands, would still demonstrate, beyond all sane doubt, that our history is evolutionary, and that all living creatures are cousins. Fossils are a bonus. A welcome bonus, to be sure, but not an essential one. It is worth remembering this when creationists go on (as they tediously do) about “gaps” in the fossil record. The fossil record could be one big gap, and the evidence for evolution would still be overwhelmingly strong. At the same time, if we had only fossils and no other evidence, the fact of evolution would again be overwhelmingly supported. As things stand, we are blessed with both.

The other grossly dishonest practice by creationists is the constant referral to evolution as a belief system or just a theory. Invariably in my correspondence, I have also come across the veiled inference to Darwinism as a kind of belief-system or religion. It’s quite inexplicable why to date, creationists have not learned what a scientific theory really is, with all the information available on the subject. Have you ever heard them refer to the Theory of Gravity, as just a theory?  Is it laziness or plain ignorance, or perhaps more sinister; wilful ignorance? And have you noticed this pathetic attempt by the creationist lobby to bring the whole debate down to the level of worship: do you worship Darwin or god? It leaves me filled with anger.

The other fundamental dishonesty I have come across is the attempt to pass religious texts off as containing profound truths about the secrets of the world, life and death, and even scientific facts. Most claims in this regard reference the bible, although I’m pretty sure that other religions make similar claims about their religious texts too. Consider the following from one of my commenters:

…things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

If you haven’t figured out what this scientific fact is, allow me to enlighten you: everything you see is made of invisible atoms. Although why the particular text does not state ” things which are seen are made of atoms” is beyond me. However, I’ve been cautioned not to question the word of god.

He…. hangs the earth upon nothing. (Job 26:7)

Supposedly it is a great leap forward from ancient mythology when the belief was that the earth sat on the back of some animal or other creature (common belief from Greek mythology is that it was the Titan Atlas, but it has been more accurately interpreted as him actually holding up the sky on his shoulders to prevent the earth and sky from embracing). The contention is that the bible revealed long before the advent of science that earth floated freely in space. Perhaps it has not occurred to believers that by the time the bible was being compiled, people had already figured out, just by observing the moon, that maybe the earth was also floating freely in space. But it still doesn’t explain why the wording is not plain, and why the earth should “hang” on anything, even if it was nothing.

He that made him can make his sword to approach unto him. (Job)

Apparently a reference to behemoths in the book of Job, describes the dinosaurs and how god made them go extinct. What the book doesn’t describe is why god would create dinosaurs in the first instance and then destroy them before the great flood that apparently wiped out his original creation of man.

There are off course other claimed references to scientific fact in the bible, but it’s not necessary to list them. I think the point is made. Some of these other references apparently point to the fields of medicine as well. Who knows, maybe there is the cure for AIDS in there somewhere, but we’re too dumb to find it. What also remains inexplicable is why the claimed scientific facts were not more clearly spelled out to enable man to use them and thus eliminate years of suffering and misery. Apparently god’s agenda encompasses a great deal of pain and suffering, then grovelling, before salvation is earned.

I have touched on a few aspects of flawed religious thinking here, but the question still remains: Is it naive ignorance, or a deliberate attempt to obfuscate? Or maybe a bit of both?

Did the powers that be, interfere with the power that’s trying to be…?

I got up around 2AM this morning in pitch darkness. There’s usually ambient light forcing its way in through the curtains, but this morning there was nothing. The missing glowing red numbers on my alarm clock told me that there was a power outage again. Superstitious people would take this as a sign of bad things to come. But I’m not superstitious.

Late this afternoon, I heard on the news that Bobby Godsell, Chairman of Eskom, the state-owned power utility had resigned. I told myself that Eskom was just setting the scene earlier this morning for the main event – the announcement of the resignation. This latest development was the culmination of several days of high drama emanating from Eskom, and another in a series of calamities which have dogged the utility in the last year or two.

The comedic series of events which started last week went something like this: Bobby Godsell, the Chairman announces on Thursday, the resignation of the CEO, Jacob Maroga. However, the  ANC Youth League [yes, those nutters again!] dispute that Maroga had resigned. Strangely, a media briefing scheduled by Godsell was then also cancelled, and no further comment came from Eskom. Then on Monday morning, it was announced that Maroga had not resigned; and this after media reports that Jacob Zuma, the President had met with Godsell on Sunday. Then later in the day, Godsell announces his resignation.

Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I smell a monumental amount of government interference in this whole mess, with the intention of saving the hide of one Jacob Maroga, for whatever reasons. We’ve had far too many incidences of government and ANCYL meddling in business, to think anything else. The simple truth of the matter is that this government can’t be trusted, and thinking the worst is the default option.

Meanwhile, true to form, the ANCYL and the Black Management Forum have responded to calls for Maroga’s dismissal by using the very popular race card tact. Perhaps there is a certain element of racism involved, but the facts about his (non)performance are pretty hard to ignore: financial losses running into the billions during his tenure,  revelations of mismanagement by Eskom management staff, and failure of the utility to supply the power demands of the nation. It’s quite simple; when someone is being paid an obscene amount of money, as Maroga is, then his performance comes under scrutiny. The public have a right to demand performance because it affects us directly, just as it did this morning when I had no electricity.

Heartening though is the capacity of South Africans to find comedic relief, in the most serious of situations. While this whole sorry saga was playing out, I received the following picture in the mail, which is now more appropriate than ever.


And just so that the government understands that we will be watching them closely, exposing, ridiculing and lambasting every attempt to defraud us, I have tinkered with the picture slightly to reflect the current situation at Eskom.


Malema in danger of blowing up

South Africans were confronted by the news yesterday that ANC Youth League (ANCYL) leader, Julius Malema will be provided with VIP protection guards because his life was apparently in danger. However, instead of the concern and sympathy that such news usually generates, South Africans responded largely (and rightly so) with derision and cynicism.

Let’s consider why:

  • Could it have something to do with Malema’s recent run-in with the law for speeding, where he illegally made use of flashing blue lights reserved for police officers or VIP protection officers? Is it possible that Malema (or his spin-doctors) concocted a story about death threats, that would mitigate his illegal use of the flashing blue lights on the day he was stopped for speeding recently? Is it a mere co-incidence? A large number of people familiar with the character (or lack of it) of Malema seem to think it’s no co-incidence at all.
  • Why should a member of an organization affiliated to the ruling ANC government (as opposed to governing party), who do not form part of the elected members of government, be afforded VIP protection at the taxpayers expense? Shouldn’t the ANC cover these expenses themselves from party funds? Why should the ANCYL, an organization closely resembling a bunch of delinquent boy scouts, be considered as more worthy of protection than the general public? Is it because of a recommendation by a group of public servants within the Police Ministry known as crime intelligence officers? Or are there more sinister forces at work here, taking these decisions? What are crime intelligence officers, anyway? Does the current state of rampant lawlessness in the country point to any intelligence emanating from the Police Ministry?
  • Isn’t it rather convenient for a degenerate lout who has no respect for anyone, let alone the law, to have at his disposal the services of a VIP protection unit, to flagrantly speed through the streets of South Africa, looking like an important prick politician, so reminiscent of dictatorships the world over?
  • Assuming that the death threats are real, is it not true that he brought this state of affairs upon himself, by threatening on an almost daily basis, big business, opposition political parties, institutions of learning, the media and even ordinary people alike, with anarchy and mayhem should they not adhere to his warped sense of morality? Why should we now protect this loud-mouth fool?

The thing is, Malema is probably more in danger of  blowing himself  up, through the gaseous build-up of methane from all that ignorant bullshit he is so full of, than being in danger from any opponent. And, an even greater probability is that the ANC government are just trying to screw the South African public over once more. This is just another opportunity to defraud us, the taxpayers, to keep their cronies happy, and in their back pockets.

We should resist this latest attempt to swindle us, with everything at our disposal. And I’m not ruling out using the same anarchy and mayhem that Julius and his unruly youth league cohorts have threatened to unleash on us, on many an occasion.

Our Swinest!!!

Despicable pigs! Low-life scumbags! Fat-arsed, speed-camera-hugging, slobs! Intellectually challenged assholes! Bully boy, power-abusing lackeys who hide behind their badges. I’m talking about South Africa’s finest; or should I say swinest. Our very own traffic police!

In most countries around the world, they’re highly respected. They are upholders of the law. Bred to protect and serve. They’re proudly declared as the finest. Not here though. In a country where the elected politicians strive to reach new levels of immorality, ineptitude and  crass stupidity, the custodians of road safety are only too keen to emulate them.

In the past, I’ve alluded to their criminal behaviour; even dedicated posts to their laziness and ineptitude. I’ve painted them as mere collectors of revenue for their Metro Council employers. And rightly so, too. These blobs in blue have no intention of policing or ensuring road safety; they’re just there to impose fines. Fines, that Metro Councils need desperately to keep the machines of bureaucratic ineptitude and wanton wastefulness, forever turning; but more importantly, to feed the greed and lust for power of the masters of these public institutions.

But today, my exasperation with these contemptible dumb-shits has reached an all-time high. While on my way home from work today, I witnessed them doing something really despicable; even more despicable than hiding behind trees, snapping pictures of cars moving safely, but moderately faster than normal. More despicable than causing huge back-ups in peak-hour traffic, by setting up road blocks to catch out motorists defaulting on payment of their traffic fines. These fucking ass-hats were harassing an informal trader on the side of a road near Ruimsig; confiscating and loading his wooden artwork onto the back of a police truck.

I mean, what the hell is going on here? Are the Metro Councils now supplementing their traffic-fine income through the confiscation of the goods of hapless informal traders. I pass this guy every morning, on my way to work and I have not witnessed his trading activities causing any hindrance to the motoring public. Those who do stop to make a purchase or enquiry, do so in the ample space at the side of the road, and without interfering with normal traffic. I can see no reason to stop the informal traders activities, apart from those already listed above.

The law enforcement agencies in South Africa have been known to complain that they are not respected. And they never will be, for good reason too. How can the public respect these agencies when they have no respect for the public? Or even the badges they wear?

Am I being unduly harsh on the traffic police. Perhaps it’s unfair to the few good cops we still have…