28 June 2006

the monk next door

A link to the only other person on LiveJournal who seems to be interested in

the monk next door

There doesn't exactly seem to have been a rush to comment here.

27 June 2006

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit: Back from the New Monasticism Learning Party

Having just written about urban monasticism, I wondered if anyone else was writing about it, and found this link, which was one of the most recent.

Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit: Back from the New Monasticism Learning Party

It's got small text on a dark background so it is rather difficult to read, but worth peering at, and has some interesting links.

Though it speaks of the "new" monasticism, I don't think it's all that new -- it seems that in every generation there have been people who have been interested in such things.

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Urban monasticism

Someone created this forum/web meeting place for people interested in urban monasticism. It seems to be for people of any religion or tradition who are interested in different kinds of semi-monastic life.

I've been interested in such things for a long time, and at one time, with some friends, formed the Community of St Simon the Zealot in Windhoek, Namibia. Not true monasticism, but at a time when the idea of communes was quite popular, we hoped it might be a semi-monastic or "intentional community".

I thought of an Orthodox example, Mother Maria Skobtsova, and wonder if there are any others.

Thinking about it a bit more, I think that if any Orthodox Christians wanted to do such a thing, they should be within range of a full "proper" monastery, which they should visit regularly.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on this suchject, or know of any examples? If so, please comment, either here or on the urban monasticism site.

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21 June 2006

Beats, Inklings, Christian literature and paganism

When I first started making my own web pages ten years ago, these were some of the themes that interested me, and that I hoped I'd be able to discuss with other people. Now, for the first time, it really does seem to be happening.

For the last few days I've been having a very interesting discussion with Luthienofold on LiveJournal, which echoes some of the thoughts I wrote in an unfinished article on Christianity, paganism and literature.

We were discussing what it was that made good fantasy literature, and what was so attractive about Beat generation authors, and I think we agreed that it was that the heroes were on a human scale. I had a vague recollection of Chesterton having said that fairy tales were appealing not because they were about extraordinary people, but because they were about ordinary people having extraordinary adventures. I have since looked it up, and here it is:
... oddities only strike ordinary people. Oddities do not strike odd people. This is why ordinary people have a much more exciting time; while odd people are always complaining of the dulness of life. This is also why the new novels die so quickly, and why the old fairy tales endure for ever. The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle him because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world.

And in another post in this blog, Notes from underground: Jack Kerouac I noted that the Beats usually write not only about ordinary people, but even their adventures are quite ordinary -- a mountain-climbing expedition where they fail to reach the top of the mountain, boozy parties, a hiking expedition -- but they manage to see them as imbued with extraordinary significance. They help use to see the ordinary things with new eyes.

So I'm posting this mainly to try to draw some of the threads together, and to invite people to perhaps continue the discussion (if you want to) in my Bravenet Forum, which you will find on most of my Christianity and literature pages, where comments are less ephemeral and easily lost than on blog pages.

See also: Christianity, paganism and literature.

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19 June 2006

The disappeared

When we commemorated on 16 June, one of the images that comes to mind is the press picture of one of the first children to die on that day, 12-year-old being carried by an older boy, with Hector's sister, Antoinette, running alongside.

But I did not know that , the boy shown carrying the dying Hector Peterson, was never seen by his family after the photo was taken, until I saw this blog:

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever

Mbuyisa Makhubu is rarely named when the photo is displayed or reproduced, and the fact of his disappearance is rarely mentioned. Another thing that is rarely mentioned, but which typifies South Africa in those dark days is that the photo, though it became famous around the world, it destroyed the career of the photographer Sam Nzima.

Last Thursday I listened to some radio talk shows, where the theme was Youth Day, and there was more on it, because it was the 30th anniversary of the , and there was some talk about the fame of Hector Pieterson. Some thought that his name had become too prominent. He wasn't the first to die, he didn't organise the resistance. It was just that there happened to be a photographer handy, so Hector unfairly got most of the publicity. It sounded as though some speakers resented Hector Pieterson, as though he hasd deliberately sought publicity by getting himself shot. But Hector Pieterson is dead, and the speakers are alive. Others speak of Hector Pieterson as the new Che Guevara, but that is an exaggeration the other way.

And Mbuyisa Makhubu disappeared, like many others then and since.

There is another blog entry, dated 16 June, a reminder of another disappearance. A more recent one this time.

Holy Archangels' Monastery near Prizren, Serbia: Remembering Kosovo's New Martyrs

This picture was less widely splashed across the world's newspapers, because in the West it represents a decidedly unfashionable cause. Every picture tells a story, but often the full story goes unheard, and we don't know the story behind the picture.

These events, at different times and places, were brought together at the Orthodox youth gathering on Youth Day, where a Serbian monk spoke to South African youth.

During the rule of the military junta in Argentina that was ended by the Falklands War in 1982, it is estimated that some 25 000-30 000 people disappeared. There, attempts are being made to link some of the children of the disappeared with their families. But for many families there is no hope of finding their disappeared.

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17 June 2006

The Blogosphere - Technorati gone belly up?

Has anyone noticed that Technorati seems to have gone belly up?

Its servers have been down for about 24 hours now, but no one in the blogosphere seems to have noticed. People are still entering Technorati tags in their posts, but they aren't linking anywhere.

Oh well, it was a nice idea while it lasted.

16 June 2006

Youth day - 2006

Today is Youth Day, and I've described some of the events of the day more fully elsewhere in my LiveJournal, with more pictures.

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingFr Pantelejmon Jovanovic (in picture) spoke to the Orthodox youth on the monastic life, and Advocate George Bizos, the human-rights lawyer, spoke on the meaning of the day.

If anyone is interested in the meaning of the day, there are two books I recommend. One is fiction, A dry white season by Andre Brink, which really does tell it like it was. Names and events may havbe been changed, but these were indeed the kind of things that happened. The other book is The rocky rioter teargas show by Pat Hopkins and Helen Grange, which is illustrated by photographs and documents not available at the time, including secret cabinet documents giving explicit approval to more deaths through police action.

spoke on the damage caused by Bantu Education, but in 1976 Andries Treurnicht, the Minister of , and his Deputy, Ferdi Hartzenberg insisted that in black schools half the subjects in high schools should be taught through the medium of English, and half through the medium of Afrikaans. The irony of this was that 70 years earlier Afrikaners, in the aftermath of the Anglo-Boer War, had suffered something very similar under British rule, when Dutch was forbidden as a medium of instruction, and all teaching had to be in English. They learnt the lesson that the language of the conqueror in the mouth of the conquered is the language of slaves.

But Paolo Freire, the Brazilian educationist, points out in his book Pedagogy of the oppressed that the oppressed internalises the image of the oppressor as the image of what it means to be truly human. So true humanity becomes linked with the power to oppress others. And this clearly happened in the case of Andries Treurnicht and Ferdi Hartzenberg. They were the avatars of Alfred Lord Milner, who had almost single-handedly started the Second Anglo-Boer War in 1899, and oppressed the Afrikaners after the war.

The disease of Bantu Education was harder to eradicate, however. When it was introduced in 1954, it was part of the ideology of Christian National Education, which, as its Christian liberal opponents pointed out, was neither Christian, nor national, nor education. In 1942, when South Africa was at war with Nazi Germany, B.J. Vorster, who was prime minister in 1976, was reported to have said
We stand for Christian Nationalism, which is an ally of National Socialism. You may call the anti-democratic system dictatorship if you like. In Italy it is called Fascism, in Germany National Socialism, and in South Africa Christian Nationalism."

One thing that interested me was that when George Bizos spoke of the ravages of Bantu Education, and Fr Pantelejmon spoke of growing up as a young person in a communist country, they spoke of very similar experiences, though they themselves did not perhaps realise how similar they were. The generation of young people Fr Pantelejmon spoke to had indeed not experienced much of the repression that Fr Pantelejmon spoke of, but the generation of Soweto 1976 certainly had.

To the youth of today all this is ancient history, and history is one of the boring school subjects that is being downplayed in modern education, with its emphasis on science and technology, which our youth must learn if we are to compete in the dog-eat-dog competition of neoliberal economics. Humanities, which do not have quantifiable economic value, are downplayed. We must gain riches instead of soul, and the all-pervasive ideology of free-marketism could well be responsible for the complaint of many of the Class of '76, aired in radio talk shows and the like, that the youth of today are shallow and materialistic.

Where does this come from? Well, one possibility is that the current crop of ANC leaders, including some of the generation of 1976, spent a good part of their exile in Thatcher's Britain, and this may go quite a long way towards explaining the ANC's Thatcherist policies today.

But I think the image of the youth of today projected by the radio talk shows and the like is not a complete one. The people they interview are mostly "Model Cs", who often speak with Woozer (ie WUESA - White Urban English-Speaking South African) accents. "Model C" was the last attempt of the dying National Party regime, in 1992, to perpetuate Christian National Education in white schools, or at least white Afrikaans schools, by privatising them. "Model Cs" are black pupils who have attended such schools (still referred to as "Model C" schools, in spite of their having been in existence for less than three years).

The Model Cs are the ones most advertising is aimed at, and the ones most likely to make it in the broadcast media. But the young people at the Orthodox youth gathering do not fit the Model C stereotype. Their concerns may be different from those of the Class of '76, but they give me hope for the future.

Other views, and other ways people spent Youth Day

The Front Line: Youth Day, 3 Decades of Struggle.

the moon's favors: Poem for Youth Day

the imperfect poet: More irrelevant conversation

Morphological Confetti: Youth Day: 30th Anniversary

Reluctant Nomad: The day that changed South Africa for ever

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14 June 2006

Born free, but still not equal


Pretoria News, 13 June 2006

by Linda Daniels

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) has rejected
calls for the scrapping of affirmative action for the country's
"born frees".

Numsa joined the debate after a submission to Parliament by the
University of Pretoria's Tuks Afrikaanse Studente to scrap
affirmative action for those born after February 1990. The request
was made at a National Assembly's labour committee last week where
public hearings were held on the policies of affirmative action
and Black Economic Empowerment.

Tuks representative Cornelius Jansen van Rensburg argued that most
young white people born after that date knew nothing about the
former apartheid dispensation and should not be penalised when
looking for a job. Jansen van Rensburg said statistics proved the
number of black students enrolling for tertiary education had
grown by 100% while the number of white students registering for
higher education had declined by 20%.

But the South African Youth council's Sipho Masuku rejected the
scrapping of affirmative action and said the latest income
expenditure survey statistics showed the economic condition of
black people between 1995 and 2000 had worsened by 19% compared to
the 15% improvement for whites.

Numsa's spokesman Mziwakhe Hlangani said while affirmative action
should not be implemented over an indefinite period, it should
remain part of government policy until "the playing fields are
equal". "If we do away with affirmative action we will be creating

He said there had not been major economic and social changes and
that people have not seen "the great results we were supposed to

In 1994 we welcomed the inauguration of a democratic and non-racial South Africa, but twelve years later South Africa is neither democratic nor nonracial.

It's true that racial classification has been removed from identity documents, which no longer identify people by race, and identity numbers were changed to reflect this (though that in fact happened before 1994).

The essence of apartheid thinking was based on groups, group identity and group rights. It was most important to know whether you were Black, White, Asian or Coloured, and if the last, then whether you were a Cape Coloured, Griqua, Rehoboth Baster or Other Coloured. Knowing which group you belonged to (or rather were assigned to by the government) determined whom you could marry, where you could go to school, where you could live, whom you could associate with without being suspected of being a communist, what kind of work you could do and so on.

In a nonracial society one might still use terms like black or white (with a small b and a small w) to describe people, but such terms should be descriptive, not classificatory. But the news article above seems to indicate that the apartheid brainwashing was more successful than we thought, and groupthink still lingers on.

And democracy has withered too, because of the abomination of floor-crossing.

And it should be borne in mind that it was the Democratic Alliance, which now likes to be regarded as "liberal", that opened this particular Pandora's box. The Democratic Alliance, like the Democratic Party and the National Party before it, is anything but liberal. Many people will remember Phony Tony Leon's "fight back" election campaign of 1999. "Fight back" against what? Fight back against five years of democracy, that's what!

And having out-Natted the Nats with his slogans of "swart gevaar", Phony Tony then tried to get into bed with them, and saw floor crossing as a means of doing so. But most of the Nats, with the eye, as ever, on the main chance, saw more gains to be made by joining the ANC. But by then the damage was done. We have an elected government for 18 months of every five years, and after that the politicans auction themselves off to the highest bidder. Four hundred people are enfranchised, and forty million are not.

So what's left of the high hopes we had back in 1994?

Well, we are still free, even if we are no longer nonracial and democratic.

Unlike the other Phoney Tony, Tony Blair, we have not yet reintroduced detention without trial (and he was acclaimed by the media for taking "the high moral ground" for doing it -- how are the mighty fallen!). Banning has not yet been brought back. The press is still free. And the constitutional court is still there to protect our freedoms.

Some people I know think of emigrating, say to Britain. Britain is democractic, but it is not nonracial and is no longer free.

South Africa is free, but no longer nonracial and democratic.

You pays your money (if you have any) and you takes your choice.

Books in Transit: Belgrave Line 1

I'd heard of BookCrossing, though haven't had much success with it, mainly because the books I am willing to part with are utter trash that I really don't think I'll want to read again, and that probably explains why anyone who picked them up didn't want to make a journal entry for them.

But this looks like a similar, though less emotionally-wrenching experience -- just makeing a note of what other people are reading on public transport.

Books in Transit: Belgrave Line 1

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Episcopalians honour St Tikhon

The martyred Oscar Romero, the Catholic Archbishop of San Salvador (who would be honored with the "Martyrs of El Salvador" on March 24), and the Eastern Orthodox Tikhon, Patriarch of Moscow, who was persecuted by the Bolsheviks for confessing the Faith; he is to be honored on April 7.

Is this the first time Anglicans have commemorated an Orthodox saint since the Great Schism of 1054?

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13 June 2006

V L O G ~ F L U X - Technorati tags censored?

V L O G ~ F L U X seems to indicate that I am not the only one having problems with , and that there may in fact be some censorship going on.

Technorati tagging not working

Technorati says there are no posts tagged , so I'm adding it to see how long it will take them to discover it.

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12 June 2006

Blogspam, Internet vandalism and Technorati

A couple of days ago I posted an entry to my blog here and gave it a Technorati tag of "prophetic witness", but at the time of writing, at least, Technorati insists that there are no blog entries with that tag.

I tried to ping, but it said the blog was last updated days ago. I then entered something on my LiveJournal, and Technorati noted that that was updated in minutes. But it doesn't seem to be updating Blogspot.

I've also noticed that Google searches are become increasingly erratic. A few months ago, you could search Google and find pretty much exactly what you wanted on the first couple of pages. That's how it got to be the top search engine. Now the relevant results can be on page 10, and all the rest of the results are just junk. So I wonder -- is the Internet getting so clogged with blogspam that it's grinding to a halt?

Are the Internet vandals finally winning their battle to bring down the Internet and drive us back to snail mail?

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10 June 2006

Eric Ehret: How the United States can live up to its own stated standards

And this also deals with the question posed in the previous post -- why are the carping critics always complaining, but never present solutions? And the answer is that they present solutions, but those who ask this don't like the solutions.

Eric Ehret: How the United States can live up to its own stated standards


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Noam Chomsky

verbum ipsum says:

Noam Chomsky is, to put it mildly, a polarizing figure. For a particular species of left-wing campus activist he's a kind of guru, someone who has penetrated the veil of illusion and seen reality as it really is. For certain conservatives and "serious" liberals he's an ayatollah of anti-Americanism, a kind of ritual hate figure.

While A conservative blog for peace says:
Noam Chomsky: Apparently his criticisms are spot-on but he doesn’t offer a good alternative

To which my response is that the same could be said of Amos, and most of the other Old Testament prophets.

When Christians in South Africa sent out a four-page document called A message to the people of South Africa, which pointed out that apartheid was both a heresy and a false gospel, the government responded that they were so negative -- criticising government policy and ideology without offering anything to put in its place.

So the South African Council of Churches and others set up the Study project for Christianity in Apartheid Society (Sprocas).

Sprocas produced six reports of about 200 pages each, cost an enormous amount in having commissions and preparing papers and writing proposals, and probably no one in the government read the reports, except perhaps the Security Police, to see who they could ban, detain, harass or persecute next.

The idea that you should not criticise evil until you can offer a practical alternative is a monstrous cop out.

Noam Chomsky is a linguist and political commentator who has been critical of US foreign policy in recent years.

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Technorati says there are no posts tagged so I'm adding it.

08 June 2006

escapist entryway: Interesting facts by association

It's nice to see that someone else likes The Dharma bums, though I must say that the bobblehead doll looks more like Thunderbirds than Jack Kerouac.

escapist entryway: Interesting facts by association
But I found it interesting that I too read The Dharma bums through in one sitting, almost, in the Durban public library. Not quite one sitting -- I was about three-quarters of the way through when the library closed, and they kicked me out. I didn't live in Durban then, so I couldn't borrow the book. And soon after that it was banned, and so I couldn't buy my own copy, or get it in any library.

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07 June 2006

Jack Kerouac

Well, someone remembered Jack Kerouac's birthday.

I didn't, but it was nice to read about how he had influenced someone else.
Erik's Choice
One of the interesting things about Kerouac is that the attractions of his writing are not all that obvious. He writes about quite ordinary things: driving or hitchhiking from place to place, meeting people, conversations, hiking, reading, going to parties. All these things seem to be quite ordinary, banal even. Why write a book about them?

What makes Kerouac's books different is that he sees different things in the ordinary things of life, and so helps others to see their own lives differently. It is as if, as Allen Ginsberg said, one drives 72 hours across country to see if I had a vision or you had a vision or he had a vision to find out eternity.

I was introducted to Kerouac's books by Brother Roger, an Anglican monk of the Community of the Resurrection, and he had, in himself, that kind of character. He could talk about ordinary things and make them seem extraordinary. I think that if anyone else had introduced me to Kerouac's books, I would not have enjoyed them so much. Towards the end of his life Jack Kerouac seemed to become more lost and alcoholic and disillusioned. But for Brother Roger it remained fresh and exciting. "Everything that happens is adorable", as he quoted a character in another novel as saying, in his paper Pilgrims of the absolute, in which he first introduced me to Kerouac and other such characters.

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03 June 2006

Churches should incorporate folk culture in lectionary, says bishop

THE Church should celebrate “festivals of commerce” as well as holy days such as Easter if it wants to remain relevant to the concerns of contemporary Britain, according to a Church of England report.
There should be a new 12-month liturgical cycle “to connect commercial opportunities with spiritual ones”, a senior bishop says. Services to meet the needs of modern Britain could include Father’s Day celebrations, the marking of Bank Holidays and a “celebration of love” to mark Valentine’s Day.

According to an article in The Times celebrations linked to events such as St Valentine's Day might revive religion's appeal.

It's an interesting thought, but the Anglican Church in South Africa brought out Liturgy 1975 about 30 years ago, and it had an interesting new liturgical cycle, based on nine Sundays before Christmas and nine Sundays before Easter. It was dropped about 10 years later, but while it lasted it seemed to have more potential for developing a folk religious consciousness than its predecessors.

About the time that it was introduced there was a popular custom of having "flowers through the church". Church women's groups (in more affluent suburbs, at least) would show their skills at flower arranging, and invite others to come and see the results of their work in the church (and make a donation to the funds of the women's guild).

These flower shows usually had a theme, and in one church the theme chosen was the Nine Sundays before Christmas (it was held in September, which is spring time in South Africa, and, appropriately enough, the beginning of the church year). So the arrangements began with Creation, and went on to the Fall, the Covenant of Preservation (Noah), the Call of Abraham, and so on.

The results were very interesting. Those who did the flower arranging embarked on some serious Bible study, and some of the arrangements were very impressive, and expressive. The one illustrating the Fall had some dry grass and bare branches left over from winter, and some charred sticks, and an apple with a bite taken out of it. It had quite an impact on those who saw it.

Perhaps the abandonment of the "theme" lectionary was not such a good idea.

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