29 July 2010

The Ancient Catholic Church (of Clapton)

I've long been interested in African Independent Churches, and have been collecting information about them in a database, but European Independent Churches can be just as interesting.

For those interested in the byways of ecclesiastical history, someone posted on a Usenet newsgroup a reference to the chancery case of Kings v Bultitude, which contains the fascinating story of the Ancient Catholic Church (of Clapton), which died with its priestess.

Kings v Bultitude & Anor [2010] EWHC 1795 (Ch) (15 July 2010):
The Church was founded by one Harold Nicholson. By the 1940s there were several movements, schismatic from Rome, some of which were comprised in the Catholic Apostolic Church, known as the Catholicate of the West.

Mr Nicholson had begun a house church movement in Clapton in the 1930s, moved to Thornton Heath and in 1943 was ordained a priest into the Catholic Apostolic Church.

After the Second World War Mr Nicholson's movement acquired a bomb-damaged former Baptist Chapel in Lower Sloane Street Chelsea, restored it in a high Catholic tradition and opened it as the Church of the Good Shepherd in 1947. In 1949, Mr Nicholson resigned from the ministry of the Catholicate of the West, although he maintained close links with the Patriarch. On 27th May 1950, at a service in Chelsea, the Patriarch issued a charter to the Church, creating it as an independent and autocephalus tropus of the Catholicate of the West and consecrating Nicholson as its first Primate.

The Church left the Catholicate of the West in about 1955, shortly before the Catholicate itself was dissolved. In December 1956 the Church moved to Clapton, where Mr Nicholson had started out, to premises in Rookwood Road which had been used as a church for the Agapemonites but had been disused for over fifty years. The move was as a result of the death (the funeral was conducted by Mr Nicholson) of Ruth Preece, the so-called "spiritual bride" of J H Smyth-Pigott, the "Clapton Messiah", leader of the Agapemonite sect.

Perhaps we also need a database of European Independent Churches.

27 July 2010

Putt knot yore trussed in spell chequers

I have often encountered problems with computer spelling checkers, but I didn't know that there was an actual name for it. Hat-tip to Adrian Bailey of Idiot English: Cupertino/eggcorn of the week who pointed me to Cupertino effect - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
The Cupertino effect is the tendency of a spellchecker to suggest inappropriate words to replace misspelled words and words not in its dictionary.

The origin of the term is that the spelling 'cooperation' was often changed to 'Cupertino' by older spellcheckers with dictionaries containing only the hyphenated form 'co-operation'. (Cupertino is the home of Apple Inc., and thus would be in most computer spelling dictionaries.) Users sometimes clicked 'Change All' without checking whether the spellchecker's first suggestion was correct to begin with, resulting in even official documents with phrases like 'as well as valuable experience in international Cupertino' and 'and reinforcing bilateral and multinational Cupertino and assistance actions.' Other examples include 'South Asian Association for Regional Cupertino' and 'presentation on African-German Cupertino.'

It gives a name to something that I've experienced several times. One was a book published by the Orthodox Archdiocese of Johannesburg and Pretoria, written by one of the priests, which had an entire chapter on the novel theological concept of the Divine Lethargy. I saw it in the table of contents, and turned to the chapter concerned to discover more, and it turned out that it was supposed to be "the Divine Liturgy", but the entire book was full of Cupertinos like this, and so was utterly useless. It seemed to have been done by the initiative of the printers, but no one had bothered to proof-read it.

Another one that affected me was a contribution I wrote for a book:
Initiation into Theology: The Rich Variety of Theology and HermeneuticsInitiation into Theology: The Rich Variety of Theology and Hermeneutics by Adrio Konig

Some one quoted something from my chapter in the book in an article, which they then sent to me, and I could not recognise it as anything I had written, or would have written. I then looked at the published book, and found that my contribution had been mangled by the Cupertino effect, applied in the interests of political correctness.

When I wrote my contribution, on the theology of African Independent Churches, the editor of the book, Professor Adrio König, of the Department of Systematic Theology and Ethics at the University of South Africa, called me several times to check the spelling of a word or the wording of a phrase in my article. I was impressed by his thoroughness, and was sure that this would be one publication in which there would be few or no errors. One of the things he asked me about was my use of the term "African Independent Churches", and he said that the tendency nowadays was to use the term "African Initiated Churches". I agreed with him that there was such a tendency, but pointed out that the terms were not interchangeable, and that they meant different things, and that in the article I used them to mean different things though the commonly-used abbreviation AIC could be applied to both, and also to the related terms African Indigenous Churches and African Instituted Churches.

Though he seemed doubtful, he appeared to accept my argument, but when the book was published, it seemed that he had run a spelling check, and substituted "Initiated" for "Independent" wherever it had occurred, including the titles of four books and articles in the bibliography. In some contexts in the article, this changed word turned the sentences in which they occurred into meaningless garbage, so I do not acknowledge that I wrote the contribution to the book, and would not include it in my CV. The contrast with the thoroughness with which he had checked for accuracy before publication was marked, and it amazed me that he was willing to throw all that work away by rashly letting a spelling checker make word salad of the book.

Another observation: why are they called spellcheckers? Witches might find spell checkers useful, but writers and publishers would prefer prefer spelling checkers. Perhaps that's why they've put a hex on so many publications.

26 July 2010

Book review: The kindly ones

The Kindly OnesThe Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I typed quite a long review of this book, and then went back to correct something and Good Reads lost everything I typed.

To sum up, this is an interesting realistic, surreal, badly writtten, badly translated, and badly edited book.

I don't feel like rewriting everything that Good Reads lost right now -- maybe another time, though by then I probably won't remember what I said or why I said it.

View all my reviews >>

24 July 2010

How are you?

I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one who gets annoyed by phone calls from people you don't know, where the caller's first words are "How are you?" or else the caller wants to know who's speaking.

a million miles from normal: The abominable sales call:
"Cell phone rings. I don't recognise the number. I answer:

ME: Hello, Paige speaking.
STRANGER'S VOICE: Hello, how are you?
ME: I'm not interested.

I want to know who wrote 'The Sales Call Manual' that all tele-sales people are working from these days?

And here's another blogger who's had enough of it MTHOKO SAYS...: Let's blow the whistle on crank callers!:
I am talking about the bully that calls you with (usually with a hidden caller I.D) and wants to know who he is speaking to. A polite reminder that the caller should be the one stating who he is and who he wants to talk to, often leads to a shockingly rude, arrogant and bossy attitude from such callers. I have had to waste many minutes of my precious time, lecturing these buffoons on the basics of telephone etiquette. Instead of being grateful and turning over a new leaf, my small attempts at civilising them seem to conjure up more aggression. It is then that I wish that my whistle was nearby.

My usual response to callers who introduce themselves by saying "How are you?" or "Who's speaking?" is "Who wants to know?" But many of them appear not to understand the question.

For the "How are you?" types, I think what is needed is a kind of written sales spiel, such as the one those callers use, to be kept next to the telephone, giving a long list of medical conditions and treatments for them, that one can read off without giving them a chance to get a word in edgeways.

Something like this:

You know, I'm so glad you asked that question. As I was saying to my friend Joe the other day when we were standing in line for our prescriptions at the chemist the other day -- have you noticed that the queues seem to be getting longer and longer? -- my doctor said that my red cell count was too low and my blood glucose was too high, and he tested it and said it was 9,3, asnd that I must eat more iron. What does he expect me to do, suck the fence or something? But the fences are usually galvanised, and I'm not sure if that gives you balanced zinc in your diet..."

Anyone got a good script for me?

22 July 2010

Arab guilty of rape after consensual sex with Jew | World news | The Guardian

I'm a bit wary of citing the Guardian after their disingenuous distortions about the Catholic Church, so this one might need to be chacked against a more reliable source. Arab guilty of rape after consensual sex with Jew | The Guardian:
A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with a woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew.

Sabbar Kashur, 30, was sentenced to 18 months in prison on Monday after the court ruled that he was guilty of rape by deception. According to the complaint filed by the woman with the Jerusalem district court, the two met in downtown Jerusalem in September 2008 where Kashur, an Arab from East Jerusalem, introduced himself as a Jewish bachelor seeking a serious relationship. The two then had consensual sex in a nearby building before Kashur left.

When she later found out that he was not Jewish but an Arab, she filed a criminal complaint for rape and indecent assault.

I've been reading The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell, the fictional memoirs of an SS officer in the Second World War.

At one point in the story the police are investigating him as a suspect in the murder of his mother, and he goes to visit his boss, Himmler, to persuade him to quash the charge. And the news story above reminded me of Himmler's reply:
Obersturmbannfuehrer, I'm beginning to know you. You have your faults: you are, excuse me for saying so, stubborn and sometimes pedantic. But I don't see the slightest trace of a moral defect in you. Racially, you are a perfect Nordic specimen, with perhaps just a touch of alpine blood. Only the racially degenerate nations, Poles, Gypsies, can commit matricide. Or else a hot-blooded Italian, during a quarrel, not in cold blood. No, it's ridiculous. The Kripo is completely lacking in discernment. I'll have to give instructions to Gruppenfuehrer Nebe to have his men trained in racial analysis, they'll waste much less time that way.

OK, it's fiction, but the rape story seems to bear out what the Brazilian educationist, Paolo Freire, said in his book Pedagogy of the oppressed:
During the initial stage of the struggle the oppressed, instead of striving for liberation, tend themselves to become oppressors, or 'sub-oppressors.' The very structure of their thought has been conditioned by the contradictions of the concrete, existential situation by which they were shaped. Their ideal is to be men, but for them, to be men is to be oppressors. This is their model of humanity.

The oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor and adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom. Freedom would require them to eject this image and replace it with autonomy and responsibility. Freedom misacquired by conquest, not by gift. It must be pursued constantly and responsibly. Freedom is not an ideal located outside of man, nor is it an idea which becomes myth. It is rather the indispensable condition for the quest for human completion.

Does the story of the rape trial illustrate Freire's thesis of the oppressed internalising the image of the oppressor, because it certainly looks like racism to me.

20 July 2010

Pleonastic sesquipedalian neologisms

Politicians and bureaucrats seem inclined, more than most people, to invent new words, but this takes the cake: 'Refudiating' Palin brings Shakespeare into Twitter exchange:
A Twitter posting Sunday from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, in which she claimed common ground with Shakespeare, started the blogosphere's week in rollicking fashion.

Palin tweeted that 'peaceful Muslims' should 'refudiate' the New York mosque being built near Ground Zero. This prompted plenty of retweets at her expense -- 'refudiate,' of course, is not a word.

After deleting the offending tweet, Palin replaced it with another, calling on 'peaceful New Yorkers' to 'refute the Ground Zero mosque plan' -- although the word she was apparently looking for was 'repudiate.'

That won't, of course, stop the misuse of "refute" -- again, mostly by politicians and sycophantic journalists who take their words at face value.

I've read dozens of news reports saying that politicians have "refuted" something when they haven't refuted it at all. All they have actually done is deny it, whereas to refute something means to prove conclusively that it is false.

19 July 2010

Mythcon 41 internet roundup

The Mythopoeic Society recently held its conference, Mythcon. The Mythopoeic Society deals mainly with fantasy literature, and especially that written by members of the literary group the Inklings, notably Charles Williams, J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Lingwë- Musings of a Fish: Mythcon 41 internet roundup:
In the meantime, here’s a roundup of some other thoughts, gathered from around the Web.

Dear Nelson Mandela

A good tribute to Nelson Mandela on his 92nd birthday

Tinyiko Sam Maluleke's Blog: Dear Nelson Mandela:
I know what we shall give you tata. We shall give you a country that oozes the ideal you cherished; the ideal for which you have lived for 92 years now – the ideal of freedom for all. Not freedom for the rich or freedom for the politically connected. Not freedom for comrades alone. Not freedom for men and not freedom for women. Not freedom for whites and not freedom for blacks. Freedom for all! For we know now that – as Jonas Gwangwa has sung it to us - freedom for some is freedom for none. We want to give you a democratic country. For your name and in your honour, each one of us will become freedom ambassadors, freedom foot-soldiers and freedom defenders. We shall teach it in our schools, practice it in the workplace, defend it in parliament, advocate it in our courts and nurture it in our own homes.

But is it within our power to give him all, or even any of those things? We are like children squabbling over the inheritence of their parents, and wasting it all on legal battles to contest the will.

Yesterday we planned to have a Requiem at Mamelodi to commemorate those in the parish who had died, and Father Frumenius, who was to have served it, was unable to be with us because there was an urgent meeting in Atteridgeville about xenophobia. Freedom is written into our constitution, and that is a great gain. But until it is written into the hearts of our people, we will not really be free.

17 July 2010

Brit media attacks on Catholics sink to a new low

I have often been struck by the biased and tendentious reporting in the British media -- such as the attempts of the Daily Mail to link every crime report from South Africa with the football World Cup. But this report in The Guardian surpasses even that.

Catholics angry as church puts female ordination on par with sex abuse | World news | The Guardian:
It was meant to be the document that put a lid on the clerical sex abuse scandals that have swept the Roman Catholic world. But instead of quelling fury from within and without the church, the Vatican stoked the anger of liberal Catholics and women's groups by including a provision in its revised decree that made the 'attempted ordination' of women one of the gravest crimes in ecclesiastical law.

The change put the 'offence' on a par with the sex abuse of minors.

Hat-tip to PamBG's Blog: If you can't abuse a child, ordain a woman instead.

Nowhere in the Guardian article is "the document" identified. There is no possibility of reading it for oneself to see what it says. All we are given is The Guardian's spin on it, and the reported reactions of various people to it, though it is not clear whether they had seen "the document", or whether they were just reacting to The Guardian's spin.

I don't know whether I would agree with the content of "the document" because I haven't seen it, and the article in The Guardian doesn't give enough information about it to enable one to identify it and try and read it -- it is as if they want to ensure that readers are exposed only to their spin on it.

To paraphrase Martin Niemoller,

First they came for the Catholics, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a Catholic.
Then they came for the Muslims, and I didn't protest because I wasn't a Muslim.
And then they came for me, and there was no one left to protest.


Someone who commented has pointed me to what appears to be "the document" referred to in the article in The Guardian -- it is Substantive Norms. And having read the document it seems to me that the article in The Guardian is not merely a piece of exceptionally shoddy journalism, but is wilful and malicious misrepresentation.

16 July 2010

Creative community protest - Russian Style

Fed up with those VIP convoys with flashing blue lights that expect everyone to get out of their way and sometimes behave in an arrogantly authoritarian manner when people don't move out of the way quickly enough? Here's an idea from Russia The Network: CREATIVE COMMUNITY PROTEST - Russian Style:
Fed up with the blaring sirens used by government officials to get to their destinations faster than the ordinary Muscovite, a group of frustrated drivers, organized by Alexei Dozorov, is fighting back.

Using toy buckets on the tops of their cars to look like sirens, the protesters assemble in a Moscow parking lot and get their instructions from Dozorov.

Obey the traffic rules, he tells them so the police wont have a reason to pull over the drivers. Make sure your drivers license and papers are in order, and know the driving rules, he advises.

In case he is stopped Dozorov has a copy of a court decision erasing a traffic fine for a driver having a blue bucket on top of the car.

It's incidents like these that make such protests necessary: News - Crime & Courts: Cop in court for assault:
Colleagues of a traffic officer charged with assaulting a Cato Ridge woman for failing to get out of his way on the freeway tried to bar the media from photographing him yesterday.

Edward Xolani Mtshali's first court appearance was brief and his case was adjourned to May 14, so that his legal team could obtain statements.

Eyewitness News: Family slam blue-light convoy killer:
The family of a Johannesburg man who was killed when a blue-light VIP convoy ploughed into his car say the police officer responsible for his death should have received a harsher sentence.

Twenty-year-old Kyle Harris was hit by a vehicle in South African Reserve Bank convoy at a West Rand intersection two years ago.

Police officer Johannes Ramalope was found guilty of culpable homicide and was given a two-year sentence suspended for five years in the Roodepoort Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.

Legalbrief - 'Blue light' VIP case delayed to next year:
The 'Blue light' VIP escort case, in which two Pietermaritzburg policemen are charged with six counts of culpable homicide, has been adjourned to 21 January.

The Times reports that Hlanganani Nxumalo and Caiphas Ndlela have appeared in the Pietermaritzburg Regional Court. Nxumalo, who allegedly fired at a vehicle which then crashed on the N3 highway near Pietermaritzburg, is also charged with the negligent discharging of a firearm, while Ndlela is also charged with reckless and negligent driving. Attorneys John Wills and Mohamed Essa told Magistrate Chris van Vuuren that Ndlela wanted to brief an advocate to defend him.

15 July 2010

I write like WHO?

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

That's better!

I've never heard of David Foster Wallace, but the first time I tried it it told me I wrote like Dan Brown. Oh the embarrassment! Oh the despair! I nearly died of shame.

Ok, but those attempts were with blog posts. Let's try some of my fiction:

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Well, at least it wasn't Dan Brown!

Hat-tip to Aquila ka Hecate: A Blog By Nabokov?

Zimbabwe is top in literacy rate in all Africa

In spite of the last decade of misrule, it seems that Zimbabwe's literacy rate is still rising. Africa Review - Zimbabwe is top in literacy rate in all Africa:
Zimbabwe has overtaken Tunisia as the country with the highest literacy rate in Africa despite the numerous problems that continue to dog its once enviable education sector

According to the UNDP's latest statistical digest, the southern African country has a 92 per cent literacy rate, up from 85 per cent.

Tunisia remains at 87 per cent.

Post-independence Zimbabwe’s education was heavily subsidised by government, resulting in vast improvements from the colonial system.

Zimbabwean graduates remain marketable the world over.

In 2005 I was involved with some others in planting a new Orthodox Church in Tembisa, in Ekurhuleni. We met in a preprimary school, where most of the teachers were graduates -- refugees from Zimbabwe. And it soon became apparent that the Zimbabweans were way better educated than most South Africans. We looked for leaders, who could read the services, and it was the Zimbabweans who were competent and picked it up quickly.

The Zimbabweans had a head start on South Africans. They never had Bantu Education. They never had Christian National Edcuation, which was neither Christian, not national, nor education.

But there are some lessons in this for South Africa.

What did we do to try to counter Bantu Education?

We introduced Outcomes-Based Education.

In theory, that was not a bad idea. The principle of outcomes-based education is a good one -- you judge how well it is working by what pupils actually learn, and you remove the excuse of bad teachers: "We taught them that, but they didn't learn it".

It aims to replace rote learning with teaching pupils to think.

The problem is, however, that as a complete system it requires teachers who are equipped to run it, and teachers who had been trained in rote-learning under the Bantu Education system simply couldn't cope.

The best way to reverse the effects of Bantu Education would have been to engage in a massive retraining of teachers, a re-education programme, in fact. Instead, experienced teachers (pre-Bantu Education) were enouraged to take early retirement, and the number of teacher training institutions was reduced.

And who would do the teaching while the teachers were being re-trained?

Zimbabwean and other refugees, of course!

There are hundreds of them, probably working in menial jobs, their skills going to waste, and instead we deport them as illegal immigrants. That is what happened to some of the teachers at the pre-primary school in Tembisa.

Another observation I have made is that at our Catechetical School in Yeoville, johannesburg, we have had a number of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). They got their education in French, and yet managed to cope with teaching in English far better than most South Africans. It's another country that has seen turmoil for the last 50 years or more, and yet still seems to manage to produce well-educated people.

OK, it's possible that the refugees are the smart ones, and the illiterate ones stayed at home. Dictatorial governments usually like to crack down on the intelligentsia, so they are often among the first to leave. But whatever the reason, the fact is that we have their skills in South Africa and we are not using them. If we did, we might soon surpass Zimbabwe in literacy.

12 July 2010

And so it ends

For a month we've had the soccer World Cup, and last night it ended. In some ways we're sorry. As far as the matches themselves were concerned, we watched them all on TV, so it might just as well have been anywhere else in the world. We did try to get tickets to the Serbia-Ghana match in the local stadium at Loftus Versfeld, but the online booking system kept saying that there were no tickets available, though when we watched it on TV, there did seem to be some empty seats -- perhaps those were the more expensive ones.

But even so, it had an effect on local life, and now that it is over we'll miss it. We'll miss meeting foreign teams and fans in shopping malls. One of the advertising slogans was "Feel it - it is here" and it was. There was a palpable air of excitement. And it also became the subject of jokes. The World Cup is usually held in the northern hemisphere, but here it was midwinter, and some fans in Polokwane (normally one of the warmer towns in South Africa) carried a sign saying "Feel it -- it is cold". A local radio station commented on a news report that 46000 sex workers would be converging on South Africa for the World Cup, said "Feel them -- they are here."

People drove around with flags on their cars, and yes, they probably wasted a bit of petrol, but they also were conversation starters with strangers in the street, the newspaper sellers, the garage attendants, "Who will win?" and when South Africa was out, "Who do you hope will win?" It broke through the urban reserve, and made people more friendly. And it was good to see two teams that had never won it before in the final.

Our neighbourhood crime watch predicted an increase of crime durung the World Cup, as police were redeployed to match venues. But the police who were left seemed to be extra-vigilant, patrolling more, and actually there seemed to be less crime than usual during this period. There were warnings of child abductions by human traffickers, but there didn't seem to be a great increase in those either.

The dire predictions in the overseas press (especially the British) about how disastrous it would be were never fulfilled. Some British newspapers produced an "expert" who predicted earthquakes in Durban and Cape Town during the World Cup, even though no part of South Africa lies in a major earthquake zone. In fact the 2012 Olympic Games in London are more likely to be disrupted by volcanoes. The London Daily Mail in particular appended to every report of crime in South Africa the observation that South Africa was to be the host of the 2010 World Cup. Well, there were no earthquakes, and no terrorist bombs wiping out Spanish and Dutch royalty and other VIPs at the final.

Among the high points was the referee from Uzbekistan, who reffed the opening match. Kudos to him. Among the low points was Uruguay's cheating to reach the semi-finals. We listened to the 3rd/4th place playoff on the radio as our son was watching a movie on TV, and the booing when Suarez (Uruguay's cheater in chief) got the ball was audible above the droning of the vuvuzelas. Among the entertaining diversions was Paul the Octopus's uncannily accurate predictions of the results of the last few matches, which coincided with the feast of St Euphemia the Martyr and so provided material for my sermon on Sunday morning.

The opening and closing ceremonies seemed pretty good as such things go, but then we've had experience of such things before, having hosted the rugger World Cup an 1995 and the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in 1996, both of which we won, and temporarily, at least, they helped to foster a sense of national unity. Those for the cricket world cup a few years ago were also quite memorable, even though we didn't win that time. And for this World Cup they were at least as good as the extravaganza put on at Beijing for the Olympic Games two years ago, without going on for too long.

At the closing ceremony I first became aware of the World Cup theme song, "Waka Waka", sung by Shakira (whom I'd never heard of). The song that I associate with the World Cup is the Coca Cola advertising song, "When I get older, I will be stronger", which seemed to be much more prominent, and probably shows just how commercial the whole thing is.

And here are some assessments of the World Cup by foreign journalists, some positive, some negative, noting that the core of the World Cup is big business.

Celizic: World Cup well worth the cost for South Africa:
Despite dire predictions, the stadiums were finished on time, the infrastructure improvements got done, security was leakproof and, other than some minor hearing loss, no one got hurt.

Spain won the Cup for the first time, the final was an entertaining — more so for all the fouls — match, an octopus became the Edgar Cayce of soccer psychics and the folks who keep track of such things say that as many as a billion people watched the final match.

Yeah, South Africa needs a lot of improvements in a lot of areas, just like most other countries in the world. Yeah, there are other places the reported $4 billion it took to build all the new stadiums could have been spent.

But this was money spent on an event that riveted South Africa’s attention for years and consumed it for a summer. It was money that made people feel good about themselves and their nation. It brought people from all over the world to a place they otherwise never would have visited. For the past month, I’m sure, life was pretty exciting in South Africa.

And, on the minus side: Bye South Africa, thanks for being had by us - The Irish Times - Mon, Jul 12, 2010:
And the corporate partners know how to use the muscle. In the World Cup zone you can only use an ATM if you have a Visa card. McDonalds are everywhere. This column attended a domestic league match here during a working visit eight years ago and the walk to the stadium was a long ramble and graze through a never-ending line of street vendors. For the World Cup, that particular flavour of Africa has been disappeared. Sponsors’ tents are the only thing selling anything within the commercial exclusion zone around the grounds.

The humourless nature of this pin-striped Mafia pervades everything. The heavy-handed treatment of the brewer Bavaria Beer for its amusing skirmishes was no surprise to those who had watched the local budget airline, Kulula, suffer the threat of legal action for using the mildly amusing slogan “the unofficial national carrier of you know what”. Even the acts which opened and closed the tournament to such high visibility were bought in from a international promoter with just a token smidgin of African music thrown in.

But even being aware of that, I think the positives outweighed the negatives. And some of the positives were apparent even before the opening match. Loftus Versveld rugby stadium in Pretoria needed to be prepared for the World Cup, so the Super-14 rugby matches were transferred to Orlando Stadium in Soweto, 50 miles away. The supporters of the Blue Bulls, the Pretoria rugby team, are largely Afrikaans-speaking, and twenty years ago most of them would have been supporters of the National Party. And what took place was a minor transformation.

Our transformation challenge: The Blue Bulls show the way! - South Africa - The Good News:
“Transformation is first about behaviour and second about attitude,” a sweaty, vuvuzela-blowing, horns-in-hard-hat Blue Bulls supporter said as he offered me a Captain and Coke in a shebeen deep in Orlando West. “I used to think it was the other way around, but crossing the boerewors curtain, coming to Soweto and watching die Bulle, my manne, wen has changed my life forever” he enthused.

“And if they’d lost?” I innocently enquired.

“Ag, voetsek man!” he laughed.

But therein lies the rub. But for the change of venue 60 000 Bulls supporters would not have made it to the semi-final and the final in Soweto. They would have played at Loftus and their attitude would have stayed north of the curtain.

When residents of the still largely white suburbs of Pretoria braaied on the streets with residents of the still overwhelmingly black Soweto, something has changed, and some of the wounds inflicted by apartheid are beginning to heal.

10 July 2010

Where was that again?

I knew that many Americans had a poor knowledge of geography -- perhaps they don't teach it in school -- but I didn't realise it was this bad.

No wonder they haven't found Osama bin Laden after looking for more than 8 years.

Hat-tip to whoever sent this in an e-mail to my wife at work.

I gather that WGN9 is a broadcast station in Chicago.

08 July 2010

'Near-riot' in the sky as fans miss World Cup semifinal

Several planes carrying fans to the World Cup semi-final in Durban last night were delayed because of congestion at Durban's brand-new King Shaka airport. Now the Airports Company of South Africa (ACSA) is saying (according to this report) that they will not compensate fans who missed the match.

'Near-riot' in the sky as delayed flyers miss World Cup semifinal | Football | guardian.co.uk:
ACSA said problems arose because some VIP planes, which were supposed to land at King Shaka airport and later park at an old airport some 40 miles away, would not move. 'The congestion problem was caused by some private airplanes [which] refused to move ... after landing, therefore blocking landing space for other planes,' airports chief Monhla Hlahla told 702 Radio. 'Priority had to be given to VIPs who were caught up in the situation. We had too many flights wanting to land and at some point we had to instruct them to turn back.' The company insisted passengers would not be reimbursed.

The airport opened just two months ago, and remember what was said then:

FIFA.com - King Shaka airport ready to bring World to SA:
The newly constructed King Shaka International Airport in Durban came out with flying colours during a trial exercise on Thursday.

The mass trial at the airport in La Mercy involved the participation of an estimated 800 “fake passengers” and 300 staff members as part of the last leg of rigorous checks to ensure its preparedness ahead of its big day on 1 May, when it becomes operational.

“This trial has shown that King Shaka International is more than ready on all operations at the airport from landing and passenger/luggage transfer to safety and security, as well as road infrastructure, traffic around the airport, car rental and retail facilities and readiness of our personnel,” said it’s General Manager, Terence Delomoney.

The trial sees the culmination of the Operational Readiness and Transfer Program (ORAT) and it shows that King Shaka International Airport is now 100 per cent functional ahead of its official opening and of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™.

Spokesmen for ACSA have blamed the congestion on pilots of VIP jets who they said refused to park their aircraft where they were told to.

If that is so, then ACSA should name them and shame them

  • Name the pilots.
  • Name the owners of the aircraft
  • Name the "VIPs" who flew aboard them.

If they are rich enough to fly around in private jets, they are rich enough to compensate the fans who missed the match because of their selfish behaviour.

So let's hear it from ACSA -- who were they?

07 July 2010

Canada's shame

Canadian police, who were "powerless" to stop a bunch of vandals from smashing shop windows and torching police cars, showed how "powerful" they are by beating up a 57-year-old amputee.

Simple Massing Priest: Cowardly police leave "anarchists" alone and assault amputee:
As Sarah began pleading with them to give her father a little time and space to get up because he is an amputee, they began kicking and hitting him. One of the police officers used his knee to press Pruyn’s head down so hard on the ground, said Pruyn in an interview this July 4 with Niagara At Large, that his head was still hurting a week later.

Accusing him of resisting arrest, they pulled his walking sticks away from him, tied his hands behind his back and ripped off his prosthetic leg. Then they told him to get up and hop, and when he said he couldn’t, they dragged him across the pavement, tearing skin off his elbows, with his hands still tied behind his back. His glasses were knocked off as they continued to accuse him of resisting arrest and of being a “spitter,” something he said he did not do. They took him to a warehouse and locked him in a steel-mesh cage where his nightmare continued for another 27 hours.

They would have done SS Einsatzgruppe proud.

Things get done in Vietnam :: anja merret

A few years ago there were some news reports about a couple of jobsworths in Britain who stood on the edge of a pond and watched a child drown. When asked why they didn't go to the child's aid, the reply was something to the effect that health and safety regulations didn't allow them to do so unless that had had certain training and certification. They were some kind of auxiliary police and therefore subject to such regulations.

What a refreshing change this is - Things get done in Vietnam :: anja merret:
Vietnam has not been legislated out of sight. Or at least if there are laws determining the lives of Vietnamese it seems in the area of transportation nobody follows them. And of course, it works fairly well.

Now one might think that legislation and local laws are totally necessary to protect the individual in society. You would think and in all likelihood agree. But to a certain extent this protection can get so overwhelming that it stifles life.

03 July 2010

On not knowing the plot

About thirty years ago, on a 400km drive home to Melmoth in Zululand from Pretoria, I listened to tapes of lectures by Bishop Michael Marshall, then Bishop of Woolwich in England, who had visited Pretoria a couple of years earlier and spoken at a conference there. He described taking his nephew and niece to see Jesus Christ, Superstar, and was surprised to discover that they did not know the plot.

By now his nephew and niece have grown up, and probably have children of their own, and they too have probably lost the plot, or probably grew up with even less chance of knowing it.

And now another Anglican bishop, Bishop Alan of Buckingham, describes the same phenomenon in his blog Bishop Alan’s Blog: Bible and Culture 101:
Back in the 1960’s school RE was boring and worthy but predictable, and largely based on the Bible. You might decide it was a load of old tosh, but at least you ended up able to understand Shakespeare’s Hamlet or Milton’s Paradise Lost. The past becomes a completely foreign country, however, when a society obsessed with the latest of everything loses touch with its own roots, and compromises its own corporate memory.

At the age of 11 I went to high school, having grown up in an agnostic/atheist home, but I think I at least would have known the plot of Jesus Christ, Superstar, since when I was about 5 or 6 my mother had given me a book of Bible stories (by Enid Blyton, of all people), Before I go to sleep. I had never been to church, and probably knew more about Islam than I did about Christianity (from another book, King of the wind). I knew something about Ramadan, I'd never heard of Lent.

So I landed up in this church school where the maths teacher was given the task of teaching "Scripture". He handled that by getting the class to read aloud in turn from the Bible, starting with Genesis 1, while he got on with marking homework, or setting exam papers and things like that. It was a special school edition of the Bible that we had been issued with, which omitted things like the genealogies, and probably had been bowdlerised in other ways too. I found the stories interesting, and began reading ahead, and surprised my parents by asking for a Bible for my birthday, and had read it twice by the time I was 15, the second time with the "Apocrypha".

Then this morning (hat-tip to the Not-so-young Fogey) I read this -- Orwell's Picnic ~: Saving the World With Classical Grammar:
The Restoration is not only a matter of politics, or even education qua education. It is an essential re-construction of ruined thought. Imagine Western Civilization not as a set of buildings, or precious cultural artifacts like the Mass (if we may be somewhat impersonal and irreligious for a moment), or the Divine Office, or legally indissoluble natural marriage, or even any philosophical school. Imagine it is a larger thing than that; it is a framework for our thought, our creative efforts. Imagine it is the structure that makes something like Chartres or Salisbury Cathedral possible. The container for the idea of Chartres, without which no Chartres could be conceived.

And I realised that I have very ambivalent feelings about this. I was brought up to regard "Western Civilization" with something like contempt. That was because in South Africa the self-appointed guardians of "Western Civilization" were trying to implement the evil and anti-Christian policy of apartheid and being exposed to their prolonged and insidious propaganda meant that I came to think of "Western Civilization" itself as something evil and anti-Christian.

I've also been reading quite a lot about the Restoration over the last couple of years (Pepys's diaries, etc). As a child I was a natural monarchist, and so I thought the Restoration was a good thing. But its main benefits seem to have been bawdy theatre and the king's numerous mistresses. The present-day Anglican squabbles about bishops who leave their wives and live with their homosexual lovers seem quite mild by comparison.

In the same vein, I've always thought that democracy was a good thing. One of the results of democracy in South Africa is that we have freedom of the press, and so corruption in government isn't covered up as it used to be in the apartheid days. And so freedom of the press means that the newspapers are filled with political sleaze, and who is promiscuously jumping into bed with whom, sexually, politically and above all, financially. But as bad and boring as it is, I think the Restoration could have shown our politicians a thing or two.

But to get back to the Bible and culture, and especially the literature part of it, someone asked me to be a friend on Good Reads this morning, and I went to the page where one compares one's taste in reading with someone else's and I saw that I had given Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey four stars. It's another book that I've recently re-read after a long interval. I first read it as an undergraduate as an English I set book, and I thought it was merely OK. The trouble is that it is a satire on Gothic novels, and I hadn't read any Gothic novels, so I couldn't really appreciate the satire.

I've now read a few Gothic novels, starting with Maturin's Melmoth the wanderer, mainly because I once lived in Melmoth (see above) and was curious about the origin of the name. Yes, I knew the town was named after Sir Melmoth Osborne (the the car registration letters are NO, the O standing for Osborne) but I wondered why his parents had called him that. But my education was incomplete until I had read The castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, which is generally agreed to be the first Gothic novel, and the start of the genre that Jane Austen was satirising. The result is that I now have a new appreciation for Northanger Abbey, far more than I ever did as an undergraduate.

And as The castle of Ortranto and The mysteries of Udolpho are to Northanger Abbey so the Bible is to a great deal of Western literature, even modern literature, and even literature written by people who weren't especially Christian. James Joyce's Ulysses is full of biblical allusions, and consider this little poem from Samuel Beckett's Watt (which, interestingly enough, has been censored from the current in-print editions, and therefore worth reproducing here for that reason alone)

But what is this, so high, so white
And what is this, so black, so low
Burning, burning, burning bright
Quenched long ago, cold long ago?
It is a duck, a duck, a duck;
An old East India runner duck,
On a mat, a mat, a mat,
A hairy mat, a hairy mat,
Oh ancient mat! O hairy mat,
Oh high white brightly burning duck,
Cush's stones are crying yet
Forth from the wall to Habakkuk,
And from the wood the answering beam
Cries yet of the appointed time
Still tarrying and of old resolves
Of wind, and sand, and evening wolves.

Secularists, and some others, fear the influence of the Bible, and say it has no place in schools or in general culture, because it belongs to "religion", and religion must be set apart and cordoned off and confined to the "private" sphere. "Religion" and "privacy" are distincly "modern" conceptions, and I have reservations about the value of modernity, similar to those I have about "Western civilization". Actually they are linked, because Western civilization gave birth to modernity.

It was interesting, therefore, to see how this worked out in Orthodox civilization (which Samuel Huntington saw as quite distinct from Western civilization). While doing research in Russia for my doctoral thesis on Orthodox mission methods I asked people about the revival of Orthodoxy and the fall of Bolshevism, and many people told me a similar story. The Bolsheviks were secularists, and they wanted to abolish religion altogether, or at the very least confine it and quarantine it in the "private" sphere. But they were sufficiently Russian to allow people to read the great works of Russian literature, many of which, however, were imbued with an Orthodox "fronima", a mindset, a set of presuppositions. So "Holy Russia" survived in literature, and as an ideal, and people read this literature and became curious about the thinking and the ethos behind it, and wanted to learn more. And in Brezhnev's time, when Bolshevism was dull and boring and conservative and stick in the mud, the thirst for something more interesting and more exciting grew and so Bolshevism was overthrown. One of my interlocutors said that he thought that this showed that the best method of re-evangelising Russia was to promote "Orthodox Christian culture". I'm not so sure about that. In the late-Bolshevik period it was the only accessible alternative to Bolshevism, but since the fall of the Communist Party from power Russia had been flooded with all kinds of literature and culture from all over the world, and so the choice is not so simple any more.

Now this, of course, is the secularist's nightmare, and shows the danger of letting religion get a toehold in the culture after all their strenuous efforts to sideline it. And I find myself out of sympathy with them, but equally out of sympathy with those who want to identify the Christian faith with the culture so completely, and use arguments like those about Chartres Cathedral that I quoted above. I quite like Harvey Cox's distinction between secularisation and secularism. I tend to favour secularisation, because, like it or not, there is a distinction between the church and the world, and I'm aware of those who see religion as so entangled with secular culture that they see other religions as an insult to their culture (some have called this "Christendom"). Secularism, however, is an ideology, and a rather narrow-minded and bigoted one at that, which sees any religion as an insult to its culture.


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