Nice guys these Quakers



Yesterday I came across an article in a local online newspaper about how a group of Quakers are helping the LGBTQ community flee Uganda’s absurd and outrageous Anti-Homosexuality Act. What’s more, I got to learn a lot about the Quaker community, otherwise known as the Religious Society of Friends (didn’t know that either).

Like the Amish community, Quakers are fervently religious and believe very strongly in non-violence. However whereas The Amish are very conservative and don’t adapt to change, Quakers are pretty liberal and embrace modern technology. Another thing, Quakers don’t have priests or clergymen and eschew religious symbolism, and for that alone this atheist is warming up to them.

But here’s why I think they’re simply awesome: Quakers are involving themselves in a dangerous activity by helping people escape persecution. And they’ve done it before; many times.

Quakers denounced slavery as early as the 1670’s in Barbados. Later they would play a fundamental role in abolishing slavery in the United States. They were also involved in setting up the Underground Railroad in the USA which helped runaway slaves.

It was therefore fitting that the group based in Olympia, Washington, assisting people escape the bigotry and persecution as a result of the draconian law passed by the Ugandan government, decided to call themselves Friends New Underground Railroad (FNUR).

However not everyone likes what they’re doing; even right’s activists and NGO’s within the LGBTQ community have their reservations, but I think it’s just remarkable.

Meanwhile Ugandan activists, and right’s organizations like Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG) who incidentally are critical of what FNUR are doing, are petitioning the courts to overturn the anti-gay law. I sincerely hope they’re succesful. The world does not need legislated hatred.

Black Friday Special

Cripes! While you’ve been shopping your heads off, mine has just become the number one target for two countries.

Yes folks, the list of countries where my head would be most highly sought after, has just grown by 100%. I had resolved never to visit Saudi Arabia because I feared my (non) religious beliefs would surely see me parted from my head.

But now it seems North Korea has joined the head-hunting party. Reports suggest that authorities are ordering citizens to copy that lunatic Kim Jong Un’s shitty hairstyle. There is a further report that offending long locks such as mine are being cut by university student monitors. Now I don’t know who or what they are, but I’m not about to find out.

Losing my head or long locks would be equally terrible for me.

Hanging in there

Right now I’m still nursing the big daddy of all hangovers. It seems to be a regular thing lately; this time every week.

Weekends are so good to me. But Mondays are such a bitch. Don’t know why I still do it. Moth to a flame and all that.

But I’m still alive… Until next week that is. Have a great one.

Is something wrong she said
Of course there is
You’re still alive she said
Oh do I deserve to be?
Is that the question?
And if so, if so
Who answers, who answers?

An Uprising, And Then A League Of Silly Women

Last week university students across South Africa rose up in protest against a hike in fees for the 2016 academic year.

Barring the few incidents of violence and destruction of property, it was a sight to behold. Never has the government of this country been shaken as much and by mere students, unified across racial, gender, socioeconomic and political divisions.

So frightened were the ruling politicians, that they caved in last Friday and announced a zero percent increase in fees for the next year. This week however, students at some institutions were still not satisfied, and continued protesting, mostly for the complete abolition of fees for tertiary education.

If students could rattle the ANC government this much, imagine what a unified South Africa could do. I think these are troubling times for the fat-cat rulers and their cozy futures doesn’t look so bright any more. Finally the ANC’s disdain for the citizenry has reaped a whole lot of detest.

Meanwhile, one of the embarrassing ineffectual wings of the ANC (the other being the Youth League), The Women’s League has decided this week to march on the Union Buildings to protest the “denigration of the image of President Zuma by so-called artists.” In other words (so they insist) they’re marching to protect the dignity and honor of the President, all  because an artist had the foresight temerity to paint a picture of His Loathsomess in an er, uncompromising but accurate position.

These women should be ashamed of themselves. Scratch that. They’re proud supporters of patriarchy after all. Seems it hasn’t occurred to them that you can’t protect the honor of a man who has none.

Oh well, back to the students.

For many people in this country who had given up hope of ever holding this government to account, our young generation have shown quite conclusively that it is possible. Thank you all for coming in from the cold.

Feel Good Hit Of The Summer

Man, this Highveld heat wave is torture. If this is any portent of what to expect this summer, I’m packing my bags for Oymyakon.

Time to shake the dust off an oldish record: Queens of the Stone Age. And oh, if you’re planning to take any of these substances over the weekend, stay off the goddamned roads. Have a good one…

For Shame, Saudi Arabia

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in proportion to their readiness to doubt. Ambrose Bierce.
How’s this for a kick in the teeth of civilization?
Saudi Arabia was last month elected to chair a high-profile UN Human Rights Council panel that’s responsible for determining international human rights standards and reporting on violations around the world.

So what’s wrong with that? It’s old news anyway.

Saudi Arabia still routinely arrests, beheads, flogs, maims and imprisons human beings for simply expressing themselves freely. And they have this thing about women. Won’t even allow them to drive.

I’ve written previously about Raif Badawi who already received 50 of the 1000-lash sentence, and is still imprisoned for the ludicrous crime of expressing himself through writing. Now there is grave concern for 74-year old Karl Andree, a UK citizen who was arrested for having home-made wine in his possession. Karl has already completed a one year prison sentence and still has a 360-lash sentence hanging over his head.

These are but two examples of the many human rights violations this miserable desert kingdom has incurred. There will be many more. One has to wonder whether the UN thinks it’s more important to have Saudi oil, or human rights.

Hillel Neuer, Executive Director of UN Watch frames it perfectly:

Saudi Arabia has arguably the worst record in the world when it comes to religious freedom and women’s rights, and continues to imprison the innocent blogger Raif Badawi. This UN appointment is like making a pyromaniac into the town fire chief, and underscores the credibility deficit of a human rights council that already counts Russia, Cuba, China, Qatar and Venezuela among its elected members.

Update: More Shame

Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is about 20 years old is still languishing in a Saudi prison and faces death by beheading. As if that’s not barbaric enough, the sentence includes him being crucified thereafter.

Ali was convicted for participating in the Arab Spring protests when he was still only 17 years old. I don’t know what’s worse – the sick judicial system that sentences a 17-year old kid to death by beheading, or the insane Sharia law that requires his dead body be tortured thereafter?

The end is nigh… NOT

Last week passed by as usual. The cataclysmic end of the world as predicted by the snake-oil salesmen was a no-show, as usual.

Recorded predictions for the end of the world from as far back as 66-70 CE by Simon bar Giora of the Essene Sect, to Chris McCann of the eBible Fellowship have come to nought. And it will continue to do so…


Some nitwit such as Vladimir Putin or Kim Jong-un contrive to start or cause a nuclear war or something equally stupid to cause monumental devastation of the earth. Still, some organisms may survive even that. Otherwise, we’re ended for a natural end probably involving the sun swallowing the earth. Don’t bet on being around to see it though.

But enough about end times. This is the only sort of end that I’m into right now – The Jim Morrison kind. Enjoy. It’s long; about as long as this list of useless predictions for the the end of the world: End Of the World Predictions.

Insane cover

I know some of you think cover versions of songs are a sacrilege. I don’t. I’ve admitted to liking one so much, I think it could challenge the original, namely Pink’s Bohemian Rhapsody (and some might consider me insane for thinking so).

No doubt there are bad covers, but there have been many good ones over the years. This cover of Cypress Hill’s Insane in the Membrane might not please many a purist; indeed it might please no one, but I’m just mad over it. I give you Richard Cheese:

Loathing in the time of liberation

But when a woman decides to sleep with a man, there is no wall she will not scale, no fortress she will not destroy, no moral consideration she will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about. – Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera.

Over the last 20 years, there is nothing I have grown to despise more than the ANC. Or rather the leaders who have twisted and mutilated this liberation movement so much, that it has degenerated into the rotting, ponging carcass it is today. If I were to take the liberty to alter slightly the quote above from Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, it would go something like this:

But when a corrupt politician decides to usurp all power, there is no wall he will not scale, no fortress he will not destroy, no moral consideration he will not ignore at its very root: there is no God worth worrying about.

I have written many times before on this blog about the oh so many transgressions of the ANC, but I am unfortunately not as eloquent as writer, researcher, lecturer and political activist Dale T McKinley, who published an article in The Star newspaper. I will now take a further liberty and reproduce it here verbatum, because I think the whole world needs to know what is happening in South Africa.

Power, money define a modern ANC

One of the favourite sayings of ANC leaders over the years, and most often directed at those of its members who have departed the organisation for various reasons, is: “It is cold outside the ANC.”

It doesn’t take a political analyst or life-long movement activist to figure out the metaphorical meaning.

Simply put, the “warmth” inside the party is defined by being part of the ANC’s unequalled access to and use of institutional power – whether as applied to the ANC or the state it largely controls – and the accompanying material benefits (read: money) derived. Twenty years into ANC rule it is that “warmth” that has, in turn, come to define the party itself.

None other than the ANC number one himself confirmed this, even if for very different reasons, not long after he had ascended to the presidential thrones of party and country.

Speaking to the ANC Veterans League back in 2009, Zuma declared – without a whiff of contradiction or irony – that “money and positions have undermined the ANC (and changed its) character and values”.

He was quickly followed by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe who proclaimed that: “When selflessness, one of the principled characters of our movement, is being replaced by a newfound expression of selfishness, wherein personal accumulation becomes the main cause for divisions, we must know that the movement is in decline.”

No doubt both Zuma and Mantashe were attempting to present themselves as the “new” champions of some kind of moral regeneration campaign within the party. After all, they had succeeded in ousting Mbeki and his neoliberal technocrats, with Cosatu and the SACP leading the way, by claiming that theirs was a politics of returning the ANC “to the people” through a principled, accountable and exemplary leadership.

As has most often been the case with the ANC since 1994, however, the reality is a far cry from the rhetoric. Even if present before at the individual level, under Zuma’s leadership the pursuit of money and power (position in the ANC and the state) has become the sine qua non of membership and more specifically, advancement. Closely tied to this organisationally bound accumulation path is an effective “requirement” of an obsequious loyalty to Zuma himself, a willingness to defend and cover up for number one, whatever the cost.

Over the past several years the cumulative result at the macro-organisational level has been quite dramatic. The ANC has morphed from its earlier transition days as a “modern” bourgeois political party designed to consolidate a class-based system of power overlaid with narrow racial interests to an inveterately factionalised, patronage-centred, corrupt, rent-seeking and increasingly undemocratic ex-liberation movement.

In turn, this has framed more particular examples of the ANC’s inexorable political and organisational descent:

* The retreat into the political shadows of ever-increasing numbers of the “older” generation of members and leaders who have become disillusioned with the party’s trajectory and its present leadership.

* The marginalisation, expulsion and, on occasion, murder of those in the ranks who have opposed, questioned and/or exposed the conduct of leaders of the party and the state who are, in one way or another, part of the Zuma battalion.

* The ascendance of a new breed of militarised, dumbed-down, “yes baas” storm-troopers and securocrats whose core purpose is to police the masses and guard the party/state gates against unwanted questioners and intruders.

* The embracing and catalysing of a politicised ethnic identity alongside xenophobic, homophobic and misogynist attitudes and behaviour that potentially foreshadows an inward turn towards a pseudo-”traditionalist”, social proto fascism.

* The widespread disintegration of the ANC’s grassroots structures into mostly corrupt, localised factional vanguards “servicing” various party dons;

* The sustained socio-political rebellion of its “natural” constituencies among the poor and working class, the general response to which is a dismissive arrogance combined with heavy doses of repression; and

* The spectacle of professed “communists” and “radical” unionists enthusiastically espousing a politically and socially reactionary politics, defending and covering up corruption as well as engaging in the gradual balkanisation (and in some cases, liquidation) of organised working-class forces.

Such ANC characteristics have not however, as might be expected, led to a parallel decline in the number of ANC members. Indeed, if ideological and organisational coherence, actual job performance and delivery of mandates (whether as party or state leader and/or official), respect for rights enshrined in the constitution or adherence to the general letter of the law were the main criteria for prospective members, then the ANC would surely be an unpopular choice.

Instead, over the past decade or so there has been a considerable increase in membership growth. What this shows is that more and more people are being drawn to join the ANC not out of political/ideological belief or because they think the party is the best vehicle for sustaining democracy, advancing political cohesion or contributing to effective public service.

Rather, and as several recent research contributions to a special issue on the ANC at sub-national level of the journal Transformation reveal, the key drawcard of ANC membership is the pursuit of power and material advantage (most often in the form of money). This is directly tied to patronage and clientism, which have become the dominant forms of political and organisational direction and leadership under Zuma.

Flowing from the top downwards, these forms have ensured that each successive level of leadership and structure (within the party and the state) is umbilically linked to a particular faction competing for political control and position in order to access resources. In the process, internal democracy and lines of accountability become little more than irritants, pushed to the margins of rhetorical spin.

Not surprisingly, the cumulative result is that the line between party and state, at whatever level, has become more and more blurred. ANC structures, from top to bottom, graft on to the parallel state structures like parasites feeding off the bounty. The two “bodies” become progressively intertwined, the trajectory of one dependent on the other. Where there is mutual benefit to be had, the various “bodies” will co-operate, but it is just as likely that they will enter into (factional) conflict where there is competition.

Besides the sorry organisational and political state of the various ANC “leagues”, the ANC’s own core structures are in trouble.

By all accounts, a majority of ANC branches are either largely dysfunctional or racked with factional battles. The party itself has acknowledged that the majority of its provincial executives and parallel provincial structures are “unstable”. The “best practice” example of this is to be found in none other than number one’s backyard, with the conference of the ANC’s largest region – eThekwini – having to be postponed indefinitely due to infighting and allegations of cash for votes.

With crass accumulation as well as open and often violent factional conflict combined with regular exposures of massive fraud and manipulation of meeting and election procedures, the general state of things in the ANC looks more like a mass drunken fight in a casino than a 100-year-old party governing a country.

The outside world once helped us bring down the tyranny of apartheid. I fear we may soon again be calling upon the outside world to help us bring down the tainted liberator.

10 Albums


While it was tough listing my top 10 singles, putting together the top 10 albums was less so, although still quite a challenge.

So what makes a great album? I suppose everyone has their own criteria, and a lot of those would be common for many different people. For me, the criteria is pretty simple: it would have to move me so profoundly, that I would never tire of listening to it again and again, over an extended period of time – preferably as long as I still breathe. And, although I find it appealing, album art is not a factor.

It would have been easy to just choose Compilations or Greatest Hits, or even Soundtracks, but I decided I’m having none of that. So here they are in order:

  1. Throwing Copper – Live (1994)
  2. Signing Off – UB40 (1980)
  3. Under The Table And Dreaming – Dave Matthews Band (1993)
  4. 10 – Pearl Jam (1991)
  5. Wish You Were Here – Pink Floyd (1975)*
  6. Scarecrow – John Mellencamp (1985)
  7. Third Stage – Boston (1986)
  8. Razorblade Suitcase – Bush (1996)
  9. Uprising – Bob Marley & The Wailers (1980)
  10. Appetite For Destruction – Guns N’ Roses (1987)

* I was conflicted selecting this Pink Floyd album. I could just as easily replace it with The Final Cut from 1983.

And so we get to 10 albums that didn’t quite make the final cut. In no particular order:

  1. Caught In The Act – Grand Funk Railroad (1975)
  2. Frampton Comes Alive – Peter Frampton (1976)**
  3. China – Vangelis (1979)
  4. Songs For The Deaf – Queens Of The Stone Age (2002)
  5. One Hot Minute – Red Hot Chili Peppers (1995)
  6. Love Over Gold – Dire Straits (1982)
  7. Zooropa – U2 (1993)
  8. Monster – R.E.M. – (1994)
  9. Hybrid Theory – Linkin Park (2000)
  10. Nevermind – Nirvana (1991)

** Technically a compilation live album