Just Be

I watched her from afar as she presented her story, projecting a tone of confidence, and a polished appearance. Well, at least as polished as her awkward physique would allow. Everyone else was focused intently on what she was saying, how it was being pitched, and what was in it for them. Mesmerised by her ability to sell concepts that they all knew existed, but not many could articulate. It was her gift, the gift of the gab that allowed her to win political favour without appointment. But the incompleteness of her expression revealed more than the content of her story. That smile that was supposed to exude confidence didn’t fully reach her eyes, because her eyes were not party to the conversation between her mind and her lips. Her eyes were probing. Darting around the room looking for the affirmation that she needed to believe that she was being recognised.

The recognition she needed was not academic. It was what was needed to complete that smile. To smile without hesitance, or express without restraint. Never knowing if she had arrived, or if she was still fighting to be part of their journey, it left her incomplete. Each notch higher in the rungs that stretched out before her only taunted her insecurity that she hid so well. But her poise didn’t hide it. Nor did her eyes. As much as those eyes were the windows to her soul, it was also the windows to her insincerity spawned by her insecurity. Deep seated betrayals in the recesses of her childhood, played out in the anger of her adolescent years, emphasised by the rebelliousness of her young adult life when her rage could finally be financed, followed by the deep regrets of wasted years of venting left an incomplete smile in even her resilient soul. But it’s the same resilience that finally gave way to frustrations that eventually eroded the principles that all that rage fought to establish, or to oppose, simply because of the need for validation. That need to be socially acceptable, or professionally celebrated.

There’s an awkwardness that I sense when I’m around people that are seeking approval or validation. Their presence feels contaminated. They sway with the presence of authority, or the absence of it. It’s like being left to wander in the desert mustering the spirit each time a mirage presents itself on the horizon, and suddenly surrendering your spirit the moment the mirage reveals itself for what it is. I think we arrive at moments in our lives when we forget that it’s what the mirage represents that we are seeking, and not the mirage itself. Eventually reality fuses with our dreams and determining the difference between the two becomes more difficult. The only hope to awaken from such a fused state is to arrive at the mirage so that we may be rudely awoken by the fact that it was not really what we set out to achieve.

Some arrive at this point and feel a sense of futility. Often, the realization that so much of life has passed, and so little remains, leaves them feeling overwhelmed and disenchanted. This further entrenches the sense of betrayal they carried around with them since their early years turning them into manipulative brutes who seek to gain disproportionately from every encounter without apology or conscience. Others that pursued such dreams with sincerity or conviction, when faced with this realization, may be derailed for a while. Such moments of derailment will be opportunity for reflection, and hopefully renewed conviction. Fortunately, the former are not great in numbers, but unfortunately neither are the latter. The vast majority that reach this point find themselves disillusioned and deflated. They lay waste to a lifetime of struggle and perseverance lamenting their failure while refusing to place themselves in harm’s way again. They recede from the fight and choose to survive until they are no longer required to live.

I’ve witnessed and experienced first hand the betrayal at the hands of those that have spent their lives enraged by having been betrayed. Each time I found myself recalibrating my expectations, and more importantly my search for purpose. Each time my purpose gained more clarity and my convictions needed more energy to sustain. That’s not as contradictory as it sounds. With each cycle of renewed effort after a betrayal, we have that much more that we need to push aside for us to remain focused on our goals. It becomes that much easier to succumb and join the masses that we could not sway. The boulder grows bigger while the ascent steeper. With such an inevitable end, it stands to reason that we must meet our final moments feeling spent, without an ounce left to give.

I therefore cannot understand the rationale that drives so many to be someone other than who they wish to be. I think we all set out to change the world when we’re naïve about the egos that drive it. As we grow familiar with these egosystems, we resolve to break them up so that the wholesomeness of our philosophies can take hold instead. When we realize that the egosystems are larger than our best efforts, we may assume to instead work from within to undermine the structures that we could not change from the outside. Few succeed, while the rest of us surrender and become whores to the system.

Just be who you are, without apology, and the world will accept or reject you the same way they will even if you were to try to appease them. At least that way, you won’t waste a lot of life in trying to secure acceptance or validation from a race that is born into distraction and consumption.

Mental Masturbation

Walking through the city of London (while attending a conference recently) and observing the locals and tourists alike, I found myself contemplating a lot of truths we take for granted back home. I use the word ‘truth’ lightly in this case because much of how we perceive the world is based on conditioning and indoctrination rather than inherent truths. If we are to assume that the perception of our reality remains to be true for us at least, then let us accept that that is the truth that we all hold ourselves to serve.

This would beg the question as to how those truths are informed. Hence conditioning and indoctrination. The reason these two points are so important is because very few of us are products of our traditional upbringing these days. Even those traditional upbringings are questionable because of influences that they inherited in centuries or eons passed. And so the waters that provide bouyancy to the truth become muddied even further. But back to London.

I stood in awe, quite literally, at how many tourists were smitten by the old buildings that hold absolutely no significance in their lives. More than this, I was also flummoxed by the crudity that I saw around me that was being celebrated as dignity. Before you accuse me of elitism, or being judgemental, please refer to the previous paragraph. Growing up as an Indian in South Africa and therefore having been conditioned by the simultaneous brainwashing of an educational system with roots in English colonialism, and the cultural force of apartheid, I was also raised to believe in the superiority of the white race and the radiant historical significance of monuments like the Voortrekker Monument and Big Ben, or the nobility of purpose in the founding occupational forces that landed in the Cape of Good Hope so many centuries ago, or the present occupational force of reverse racism that lands it butt in the butter each day that it takes its seat in parliament. And that’s when it struck me, not for the first time though, that the significance attached to these icons are simply notions that we subscribe to.

A flag is only a piece of cloth that has a pretty design on it until the ones in power imbue it with a symbolism beyond its innate nature. Those that are subservient will therefore defend this symbolism to the death and lose sight of the truth behind it. And so my mind wandered as I wandered while I noticed the conflicts welling up inside of me. As I walked through St James’ Park I kept thinking ‘Zoo Lake’ in my mind. (The Zoo Lake is the equivalent destination in Johannesburg). Then I walked down the streets of perfectly manicured trees that lined both sides with a beautiful shade of green and I was reminded of the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. And as I continued my travels through the city I kept finding myself drawing parallels between what I experienced in this foreign land and what I have available to me in my own homeland. With one key difference. Access to resources.

That realisation was accompanied by its own conflicts. On the one hand, we couldn’t compete with the global investors that pump wealth into this region in order to gain more wealth out of it, but on the other, we probably have proportionally equal amounts of wealth being squandered through corruption and incompetence. The difference? While walking through London I got a distinct sense of a collective pride that everyone had in what their country offered. It was in fact nauseating to flip through channel after channel in the hotel room only to see some or other aspect of the English lifestyle being celebrated as superior to anything else. That’s what we lack. Collective pride.

And so, in the absence of such pride, we turn on each other. We become opportunists looking to get what we can from what is available, with very little focus on giving back. We tolerate corruption by contributing to it, and we condone poor service delivery by squeezing the blood out of our labourers. There is no nation, let alone nation building. We bicker, we complain, we criticise, and we loathe, and the contradiction in this statement does not escape me, which brings me to the title of this post.

We’re a nation of mental masturbators. Extremely eloquent in defining responses or solutions, but lethargically poor at building unity and serving each other. And I noticed this same tendency building up inside of me as I walked through the streets of London, forming essay after essay in my mind about how we could be even greater if we had access to the same kind of resources, etc. all the while knowing that that is not true. If we had access to more resources than we already have, we’d just take corruption to a greater level, and dish out incompetence in greater portion sizes.

Watching the madness around Nkhandla and seeing the president laugh mockingly at the same nation he is supposed to be serving, and juxtaposing that against the American president that was dragged through the coals simply for getting a blow job, and it becomes plainly clear that we view illicit sex that others envy as infinitely more detrimental to society than showing the middle finger to the poor and downtrodden, and then speaking of it as if you are above it. That, in my mind, is the worst form of mental masturbation. The ability to speak authoritatively of morals and values when you’re the same scum that sets the standard and consistently raises the bar for such despicable norms, and then still insisting on dignity while robbing the very same people that put you in power of the dignity that they actually pay for.

Sitting back and decrying our state because of the legacy of apartheid is again, mental masturbation. 21 years. That’s enough time to raise a child, put them through school, followed by university and pretty much obtain a degree, yet we have adults (read ‘idiots’) in power who are supposed to be educated while surrounded by the best advisers of their choice that still think that their downright incompetence and moral corruption is a result of apartheid. No, it’s simply self-loathing greed. Self-loathing because no one with an ounce of self-respect will conduct themselves as despicably as our leaders do. Unfortunately they are the icons that the masses subscribe to. But I recall my initial reaction to Big Ben when I first saw it. I also flipped out my cell phone to take that first pic, with the realisation of its impotence only dawning on me later.

So I find it difficult, as frustrating as it is, to judge harshly those that continue to vote for the cancer that is eroding the fabric of our nation. It leaves me with one defining realisation. While the non-white in South Africa may not have enjoyed much dignity in the eyes of the ruling elite at the time, we had dignity among ourselves. Now that apartheid is gone, it seems we gave up that dignity in our pursuit of the trinkets that propped up our apartheid masters but sinking one level lower. That lower level that we’ve succumbed to is because at least during apartheid we all took care of our own kind, both the whites and non-whites alike. Now, we’re too selfish and morally depraved to do even that.

So any criticism of the moral decay that we see around us is nothing more than mental masturbation from a nation that has sold its soul in favour of the aspirations of its apartheid masters. Ubuntu? Did I hear someone mention Ubuntu? Don’t make me laugh. We’ve lost even that simple truth and traded it in for individual enrichment.

The Purge

Today was one of those days when I needed to be purged of everything vile that I am compelled to deal with. It was a day in which I was reminded of the stench of betrayal, the slithery undertones of ingratitude, and the arrogance of authority. But in between all this I was faced with the feeble nature of those that are so meek in their convictions that they lose themselves in their need for inclusion amongst those they profess to despise.

Nothing was purged. Instead, I found myself recollecting thoughts from an earlier time in my life when I realised that what doesn’t kill you only makes you more brittle. I grew a little more brittle today. The intolerance I have towards the unethical was tested again, but in the absence of being financially independent, I found myself restraining my responses rather than being true to my convictions.

Perhaps a touch of hypocrisy is needed when dealing with hypocrites. Perhaps that notion of hypocrisy is needed to provide some solace from the reality that my faith faltered for long enough to make me a bitch of the system. The very same system that makes academics into sages, and sages into fools, or optional counsel at best. I have much venom in me right now and unless I purge myself of it, I know that it will take its toll. First in physical ailments, but more importantly, in unjustified rage at a system that enslaves while it pretends to be liberating.

If ever there was a time when good appeared as evil and evil as good, this would be it. Living with conviction is truly like juggling hot coals in my hands. There is no one to step up to take the coals off my hands, but the intensity of the heat is all that I can relate to and so I hold on to it affectionately. It’s all that holds any meaning or value any longer. Insincerity and hypocrisy bear a coldness that threatens to deny me any sense of peace or composure. I find an odd sense of peace in knowing that I didn’t back down in the face of a bully.

But bullies are so discreet these days. They pretend to be protecting the weak, while they shy away from challenging the strong. Their delegated authority is all that commands any respect or acknowledgement, but until that is removed from the equation, they will hold an air of superiority that only the foolhardy will question. The system has more bitches than it has purpose or beneficiaries. Each rung of the ladder is acquired only through the surrender of a due proportion of your soul.

Contentment eludes me. Sanity does too. So does the needed purge. I remain unfulfilled and abandoned by so much of this world’s attractions. I’m fortunate. Anything more and I would probably be as complacent and distracted by the trinkets as the masses of hypocrites that pretend to be victims to the system that they sustain. I’m flirting with arrogance, but again I’m reminded of an earlier realisation. If an arrogant one is not treated with arrogance, how will they ever taste the sweetness of humility?

Of course the mere suggestion of humility implies arrogance, so perhaps humility eludes me too. Perhaps I am as culpable for the system of whores that I so despise, but I pretend to be an unwilling participant that is a victim of circumstance. We’re all better than the ones we despise, aren’t we?


Islam versus Democracy

I’ve seen a number of people suggest that the current state of affairs in Egypt is proof that Islam doesn’t work. I disagree. In fact if anything, it proves that democracy doesn’t work. Then when there is an illegal coup that suits the ones with the physical might over the populace, it’s framed as the will of the people. If the will of the people could be legally expressed in that manner as an acceptable form of democracy, then the USA would not be stuck with the despicable government that it is today.

The strange thing for me is that we keep looking to have Shari’ah implemented as if it is something external to our personal lives and incumbent upon a government to enforce as a legal system only. I beg to differ. I’m  not a scholar, nor an Egyptian, and definitely not a political analyst, but it seems logical to me that if we as Muslims conducted ourselves as Muslims in a majority Muslim country (not just Egypt), then whether or not government enforced it, the principled benefits of Shariah will automatically be achieved. However, when we insist on viewing Shariah as something external to our individual selves, and we take a lethargic approach to establishing Islamic principles and practices in our lives while believing that national identities come before our identities as Muslims, then expect things to go horribly pear-shaped very quickly.

While the events in Egypt may have triggered these thoughts, it certainly does not apply only to them. Neither Shari’ah nor Islam failed, or is failing in Egypt, or in any other Muslim-majority country. Muslims are failing, and democracy was never a feasible option to begin with. If democracy was all it was cracked up to be, there would not be civil strife across the heartland of democracy in the Americas and Europe as we’re seeing it today. But we find it necessary to delude ourselves into believing that the will of the majority is automatically more informed than the will of the minority. If that were true, the majority of this world would be intellectuals and rational human beings, and retarded fads, ridiculous fashion trends, and horrific cultural practices would never stand a chance. But reality is clearly not on the side of democracy, or capitalism for that matter, both of which appear to be increasingly difficult to tell apart these days.

A rant…

And so it happened…again. My naivety led me down the garden path thinking that at some point principles and integrity will shed a glimmer of hope that not all corporates operate on the same basis. But like I said, my naivety once again got the better of me.

At moments like this I’m reminded of that proverb that says that there is no limit to what a man can do if he doesn’t care who gets the credit for it. I generally don’t care about the credit, but I do care about the paycheck, because a pat on the back or a flowery compliment doesn’t pay the bills.

I’ve been on both sides of this fence, and neither side has greener grass. Both sides have an equal amount of manure, and both sides have underhanded swines that will rather play political games to protect their fragile egos and to cloak their incompetence before they’ll do the right thing for the right reasons.

Being sincere and having integrity requires conviction. Look around you, whether in the corporate setting, or in a non-profit organisation, the ethical void is disgustingly obvious. Conviction only exists in self-preservation. Everything else takes a back seat for the 99% that are prone to declare themselves victims of someone else playing their marked card before they got a chance to play theirs first.

The human race disgusts me. That guy from Matrix got it right. We’re a virus. A disgusting virus that respects nothing but greed and self-indulgence, even in our arrogant piety we’re competing to prove that we’re more pious and more sincere than others, woefully inadequate in sincerity, and forever professing humility out of arrogance.

This rant was triggered by yet another blow to my rib cage that knocked the wind out of me. A blow that came from behind even though I knew it was coming for a long time now. But I’m a naive fool, that’s why I give the benefit of the doubt to others even if they bear all the hallmarks of the putrid souls I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with before. If I judge them prematurely, I’ll step firmly on that slippery slope that will lead me to the place of putrefaction that most of them dwell in. So for now, I’ll continue to allow others to screw me over before I take any action to protect myself or my interests. My idealism will be the end of me.

International Criminals

The best way to look at countries on a map is like a chalk outline drawn by the police when someone dies… what you are seeing with the borders are just outlines of historical crimes… past warlords… empires… its nothing to be loyal to. Have loyalty to reason, to evidence, to ideals… not to lines drawn up mostly by criminals

Stefan Molyneux (via socraticapology)

As always, context is critical. 😐