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Heita All: Message for the Week

People generally    !abuse!  substances   instincts


    -and other people


of a   v    a          c             u              u         m or pain in their own lives

(LIES) –

well      b a l a n c e d      creative people don’t usually

go round drinking/drugging/fucking/moneying/killing themselves into a STUPOR – so

      if there is a culture

of excessive drinking/drugging/fucking/moneying/killing it is

because people are at a


      cant see anything more exciting (exciting???) to do and

          want to    B B  BBB  LO  T out

it is a classic escape   and like all escapes (ha   ha      h a

   has its consequences:

    the material world

   (keeping body fit for soul


either ‘sweat work’ or retreat

    into the deserts of contemplation

                 and    other worldliness

if you can’t keep up with these demands

there is usually trouble

   torpid days    dead thoughts

let me repeat:      PROBLEMS UN(DER)LIE ABUSE

     so friend

wrestle with them  and then

communicate with those who are victims

of their own weaknesses

      (those of others;

      not forgetting the despair of poverty or

      lovelessness    depression caused

        by loss of faith in living


of course

      all the above

doesn’t necessarily count

if you live in a squatter camp

how can you     be expected

to be strong in the face of so much pressure?

           the bottle or the needle or the cigarette or the little girl next shack

            makes you mad   smiles at you

over the unending brutality of your unmet needs



       foundation needs


but now I want to wish you a peaceful week

under benign inspiring influences


uplifted      fertile

yes    !                          y ee   sss

    i wish you       brothers and sisters

           alllllll the best . . .


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    December 11th, 2008 @12:14 #

    Erm, Allan, I don't think you intended it this way because generally the tone of your piece is very positive and well meaning, but the squatter camp comment comes off as very patronising.

    Socio-economic conditions don't automatically determine people's base morality and there are millions of good people who resist the debilitating pressures of poverty just fine.

    Likewise, there are plenty of rich, cultured and well educated alcoholics, junkies, child abusers, murderers and rapists.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Allan</a>
    December 13th, 2008 @11:11 #

    Lauren, thanks for yr response which is ‘typical’ of a certain social strata:–
    "Dear me, poverty has nothing to do with self destructiveness or "moral fibre'; the poor shouldn't be more violent, manic, greedy, selfish, brutal etc etc than the rich. After all, what is poverty? Just a twist of fate, a mere absence of basic human material needs that has nothing to do with behaviour. Some of my best friends who live in squatter camps are the most honest, sober, caring people I know which proves that the degenerates who rape children and steal while high on crack or stupefied by tik would have done the same even if they lived in Dainfern/Constantia."
    Aha - merely the absence of all the basics that the middle and upper classes take COMPLETELY for granted; so if the poor destroy themselves and each other it is because of character flaws and weakness - just like abusers who live in town houses and drive 4 x 4's. Indeed, Lauren, the very poor are guilty when they rampage under the influence of drink/drugs etc but they do have an argument that the general hopelessness of their situation sometimes drives people to excess – which isn't to say we can/must condone it but such people should have our sympathy even as we decry violence and abuse. So, in conclusion, don't be so smarmy about human self destruction: if the rich and the poor commit the same crimes that doesn't mean they have the same justifications.and that we should view them in the same light. It's your view which allows people to rot month after month and year after year in sub-human conditions. That's why there is no urgency on the part of our society to deal with the housing/unemployment crises – we believe the poor are ‘legitimately’ poor and must pull themselves up by their own straps; and if they fail to, then they deserve their limited, desperate lives.
    Of course, my poem wasn't intended to be taken "straight" – it is a satirical piece with mixed messages – in other words, not to be taken literally but certainly cognizant of the extra burdens of living and keeping a balance if you live in a shacktown.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    December 13th, 2008 @11:58 #

    Indeed, Allan. Deprived socio-economic circumstances are among the most significant predictors of anti-social behaviour. Perhaps Lauren was merely pointing out that it can be destructive to tar all shack-dwellers with the EXPECTATION that they will be morally depraved.

    I enjoyed your poem. Performance art on the page!

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    December 13th, 2008 @19:59 #

    Wait a minute. I've just been talking to a friend about the respect Book SA bloggers show each other online, even when differing deeply. Sorry, Allan, but although you each make a good case, Lauren's seven lines (which are by no stretch of the imagination "smarmy", and certainly don't reflect the complexity of her total viewpoint) are certainly not responsible for "allow[ing] people to sub-human conditions". I can think of a LOT of reasons why this is happening, and it reflects badly on a great many, but I happen to know that Lauren works hard to be part of the solution, not the problem. I carry no particular brief for her; but I do think your response was unnecessarily severe. I like to think that if I overstepped the line, this particular community, which is an amazingly safe space, would pull me up short -- respectfully.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Allan</a>
    December 15th, 2008 @21:14 #

    i wasn't suggesting that there should be an expectation that the very poor will be 'degenerate' - that would be completely off the mark; however, that such social conditions can faciliate a moral breakdown under the influence of various substances is well documented and understandable - without being endorsed or justified. That is the point.
    With regard to use of the word "smarmy" perhaps that was excessive - i do not know lauren or what she does to combat liberal complacency - but my frustration with the shallowness and indifference of this New South Africa is reaching breaking point, whilst bearing in mind that this is a global phenomenon best expressed by the obscenity of the American consumer/casino culture which is now in shock - after plunging much of the world into a recession which as always the poorest will have to bale out. So sorry if that word seems unkind but the reality is that we are in a very naked dog-eats-dog situation and strong words are sometimes appropriate.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Lauren Beukes</a>
    Lauren Beukes
    December 16th, 2008 @11:51 #

    Sorry for the late response, I was wringing out my bleeding heart in the kitchen sink. It tends to get clogged watching my special collector's edition Live8 concert BlueRay disc on repeat while sipping FairTrade tea and warbling along to Bono. ;)

    Allan, I'm sorry if I misread you, particularly if you intended it as satire. The one point I took particular exception to was the idea that poverty might somehow vindicate or excuse child rape (the little girl next shack), which is a species removed from turning in desperation to tik or cheap alcohol

    Of course poverty is a major debilitating factor in shaping human behaviour - and society. I would never suggest otherwise, particularly in these times of economic apartheid, which is a much harder Struggle to fight.

    Philip Zimbardo's book, The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil looks at how easily environment, circumstance and context can rewire who we are as easily as flicking a switch, quoting Rwanda, Abu Ghraib and of course his Stanford Prison Experiment as cases in point.

    Of course, as a condition, poverty is more relentless than war, with a wider reach. And I'm finding Alex Perry's book Globalisation, World Peace and Other Lies a fascinating look at the alarming and rapidly escalating chasms between rich and poor that is creating massive social unrest on a global scale - and rightfully so. I've only just started it, so won't comment further on that at this stage, but I would like to touch on another book...

    There's a quite riveting study called Rat Park mentioned in Lauren Slater's book, Opening Skinner's Box, where a Canadian psychologist, Bruce Alexander, questioned why, if heroin was so phsyically addictive, did hundreds of Vietnam vets who were heavy users during the war come home and quit immediately and easily?

    He speculated that it came down to the conditions they were forced to endure in Vietnam and set up an experiment with rats to test his hypothesis.

    (I'm quoting this from memory)

    He set up two environments, Rat Heaven and Rat Hell. Rat Heaven was idyllic, plenty of toys, wheels, things to do, lots of space, nesting material and comfortable population density.

    Rat Hell was bleak, a stripped-bare environment, no toys, no nesting material, a shortage of food and major overcrowding.

    He introduced a second water source into each environment, dosed with morphine disguised with sugar (rats find sweet tastes hard to resist). The rats could choose between drinking the drugged water or clean water.

    In Rat Heaven, the rats tried the morphine water and quickly went back to the clean water supply, because morphine interfered with their ability to socialise. Even when the researcher removed the clean water supply, forcing the rats to drink the drugged water for a week or so and then gave them a choice again, they quickly reverted to the clean water, which to him, suggested that physical addiction is not anywhere near as potent an indicator of drug abuse as environment.

    In Rat Hell the rats switched to the morphine water immediately and stayed on it.

    Humans aren't rats, obviously, but I've worked as a journalist in some insanely desperate areas like parts of Nyanga which seemed an awful lot like Rat Hell to me.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    December 16th, 2008 @12:11 #

    Hi Allan, I know that breaking point very well...I fly into a rage 697 times a day at the load of lies we have been sold under the aegis of the magic word "democracy", at the fact that US banks basically set up the housing market as a pyramid scheme, and are now crying crocodile tears while the poor will pay the price for years to come, and all this as we turn the planet into a lump of coal.

    We all cope differently, and we all have different tipping points. For me, it was the tide of callous violence against women and children, all around the globe and esp here in our own backyard, that flipped my lid. I wanted to emigrate to another planet, but decided to research the problem instead. Now I'm almost finished a book on the topic (one more chapter to go). Not that this has solved anything, but the materials I've written are used as training materials (for NGOs, magistrates, law enforcement, crisis counsellors, health care workers) on four different continents (the coolest was being translated into Spanish for use in Latin America.)

    Ugh, this is coming out all wrong, and I sound horrendously sanctimonious. Like hey wow, look I actually DID something. When what I really want is for rape to stop NOW. Like NOW this second. NEVER again. But choosing some sort of action can mean the difference between sanity and despair. (I know you know this.)

    We all stumble on, trying to do our best, and that's true of every person on this list that I know personally. Kindness helps -- a bit. Wishing you well...

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">nabukenya</a>
    December 16th, 2008 @22:19 #

    I'm sorry Allan but I agreed with what Helen said, your initial response was harsh. Even though many of us have middle or upper class backgrounds does not mean that we don't do our part.

    I work for an NGO as a Programme Officer and my job has drained me so much emotionally. You give your time, energy and intellectual property and sometimes it is very rewarding. Other times, in some communities, it is thrown back in your face because the people resent you because you come from better circumstances. I do have a better life now but I had a student loan and lived on white bread and rooibos while at UCT. I never ate out, walked to campus and could only afford to but clothes once a year. Yet I never resented my friends or other students that were well off. Sometimes disadvantaged people view efforts of those that are not disadvantaged as patronizing and useless.

    The problem with a job like mine is that if we are not careful and don't impart skills to community members they become dependent on our support.

    Your poem is brilliant. However, even though poverty makes people desperate it does not mean they necessarily will have antisocial behaviours. The other thing is there are more people than you think of that have access to opportunities because of NGOs, Community and faith based organisations (CBOs, FBOs). Out of every group of community people you get those who choose to grab any opportunity or information that comes their way. Then you get the few who will take what comes their way and throw it back in your face. There are very few of those, but the point is sometimes people choose to remain in their circumstances because rising above it requires work which they are not ready or willing to do because of some other issues or reasons.

    Allan its hard. I used to feel very guilty about what I had until my Boss told me that I earned it. I put my heart and soul into what I do, and I deserve what I have. I am also aware that for all the privilege that I have, there are many responsibilities to my community, we all realise this.

    One thing I have learned from this job is not to resent people who have money and other opportunities but rather to learn from them. Please don't make people who do not live in kambashu's (shacks) feel guilty. That is what God wants for them to have and the way he has decided they should live. Maybe what I say does not make sense but I just think this is a topic which is a little more complex than just poverty causing antisocial behaviours.

    I would love to know more about what it is like in South Africa. The organisations that have hosted us in SA and also visited us are doing great work. Perhaps you should investigate that and tell us a bit about it. I guess we also need people like you to write and remind us that life is not only about self gain...

  • Sven
    December 17th, 2008 @09:09 #

    "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so, too."


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