Friday, November 26, 2004

Drinks are free 

Never blog when you’re drunk says Scary. Bollocks says Pom. We’ve just come back from a party at the house of a father of a friend of our son, if that makes sense. It’s a great way to meet people, having kids. You are guaranteed to have something in common, even if it is only bags under the eyes and stains on your carpets. This promised to be a similar occasion to the usual: lots of Mum totty, and lots of like minded blokes to have a beer with. Oh well. We only went across the valley. Five minutes drive, but we arrived in Essex, circa 1989. Wham and Prefab Sprout on the stereo – DJ hired for the evening, and lots of cool guys drinking Jack and Coke. Tight tops and too much jewellery all over the place. And that was just the blokes.

There is a certain element of Cape Town people that is a bit – how shall I put this – Costa del Sol. Normally one mixes in the right sort of circles, but this one was definitely a step in the wrong direction. Tight jeans, baggy tops and stories about Harleys. Whee hee. Maybe it’s me. The only people I felt like taking to were the barman and the guy clearing plates. Yes, barman – also hired for the evening. Catering like a posh meeting. It felt weird not to have a tie to wipe my fingers on. We chatted to the au pair too. What does it say about me that I go to a party at a nice house full of dressed up people, and the only ones I can associate with are the hired help?

Then there’s the boogie. Oh yes. I am truly back in 1989. Maybe earlier. A high school era disco – drinking too much, don’t want to dance, can’t hear the people I’m talking to. Think I’ll have another. Now back home and I can still hear the music. I’m definitely getting old.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Old men grinding axes 

I wrote briefly a while ago about the Labour government and their various bright ideas, one of which is the fox hunting ban that they have just forced onto the statute books. I was going to have a bit of a rant about it, but a grumpy old man of my acquaintance has done a much better job than I would have.

When a government starts making laws like this, then it's well past its sell by date. Would a switch to Gordon Brown do the trick? Perhaps, but then Blair's ego is only going to get in the way. So what's the alternative? Suggestions on a postcard...

Friday, November 12, 2004

We all want to change the world 

Another expat, in this case an Irishman, pointed out the other day just how long the pecking order that had evolved in the Irish civil war lasted for. His reckoning was for 40 or 50 years. He cited Eamon de Valera, who was first imprisoned during the Easter uprising of 1916, sentenced to death, then released in 1917, imprisoned a couple more times, and finally became Taoiseach, and then president from 1959 until 1973. De Valera makes an interesting comparison with Mandela, who spent far longer in prison, so was less able to influence his path towards becoming the head of his country.

It will be interesting to see just how long “struggle credentials” count for something in South Africa. For the foreseeable future, there is a pseudo aristocracy of those who did their bit. There sometimes emerges a rivalry amongst the accredited between those who stayed to fight, and those who orchestrated the revolution from exile. One group risked their lives but stayed at home, while the other, like the current president Thabo Mbeki, left their families behind to plan the nation’s future from abroad. At the moment, the political and black business elite is mostly drawn from these pools. Perhaps that is because the qualities that create revolutionaries are similar to those that create businessmen. Except for communists maybe.

Both of these are certainly better options that the English class system, in that they are at least earned rather than inherited. If South Africa gets to the point where it is a true meritocracy in a generation or so, then it will have achieved it a lot faster than the Poms did. The closest equivalent to Lords and Ladies over here is the hierarchy within tribes, which counts for far less in the cities than it does in the rural areas. Come to think of it, that is probably the case in England too.

To explore the aristocracy metaphor further seems appropriate in the light of all the Arafat obituaries appearing at the moment. Revolutionaries have never been so popular, so the terrorist as aristocrat is an interesting topic. In England, most Lords and Ladies acquired the title by being born from the right womb. Similarly in South Africa, there are some surnames that could get you a long way even without nepotism: Mandela, Sisulu, Mbeki. The scions of the great are accorded a certain amount of respect, as are those of noble birth in England, but there is still a requirement to prove yourself on your own merits, as the son of Govan Mbeki has done.

The other obvious parallel is an awarded title that is hereditary, like a baronetcy. Mark Thatcher, for example, is Sir Mark only because his father earned the title, and he inherited it as the first born male – he has done little to earn it. The closest thing in South African society is probably Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, ex wife of Nelson, who would probably not be in the public position she is in today if it were not for her association with the great man. To the credit of both societies, Mark and Winnie are regarded as something of an embarrassment by many people.

My fervent hope is that South Africa never institutes some kind of honours system. That would be taking it too far.

Monday, November 08, 2004

I try to forget it any way I can 

I’m typing this into my Pom du Cap brain dump at about 11.15 on Sunday night. I’ve just finished watching Fahrenheit 9/11, and I can’t sleep. The thing that struck me, amongst all the talk of Saudis, WMDs, and Halliburton, is the bit about the utter lack of any link between Iraq and 9/11. I realised when Moore made the point that this almost surprised me. Although I am a cynical thinker, I had almost got used to the idea that the Iraq invasion was somehow connected to the attacks of 9/11. That’s scary. Not half as scary as four more years of the same though.

Still, look on the bright side – the next president could well be a woman. I hope Bill remembers where he hid his White House stash.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

I know it's true cos I saw it on TV 

Oh crap.

I have spent a lot of time in America, and it is a fabulous and beautiful country. Some of my good friends are intelligent, witty, humorous Americans. The country’s cities are awe-inspiring, but pale next to the vast plains, the mountains, parks and deserts. It has the potential to be the greatest nation on earth. The inclusivity of the great melting pot, and the value placed on the essential elements of freedom and happiness are something to admire and aspire to.

In its darkest corners, though, America is hell. The richest and the poorest are something that any nation should be ashamed of. The selfish and short term interests of the oil barons and the old money are rightly and roundly condemned. Then there are the red neck masses – simplistic and simple, unquestioning and uninspiring. Both presidential candidates come from the one end, and the majority of voters seem to come from the other. And now the masses have elected the moron, thereby condemning themselves to another four years of business-driven government, lack of accountability and general arrogance.

Way to go guys.

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